Do you have Kate Moss’ cheekbones, the charisma of Winnie Harlow, the legs of Naomi Campbell, and David Gandy’s piercing Blue Steel gaze? If modelling is your calling, you’ll want to know how much you’re going to get paid. Clearly, Moss and Gandy will get more than models featured on a knitting pattern, so what’s the score when it comes to money, and how can you make a mint from your beauty?
- The basics of model pay
- What are the pay rates for different modelling jobs?
- Do you need a modelling agent?
- Which modelling gigs pay the most in the UK?
- Instagram modelling—a new revenue opportunity
- How much do male models make in the UK?
- How do models get paid?
- How can I ensure long-term earnings as a model?
- What else do I need to know about UK model pay?
OK, first the bad news: You probably won’t be earning big money—or even medium-size money—straight away. For a prestigious magazine, a 20-hour shoot might pay a flat fee of only £150, “and if you’re flying yourself somewhere, the debts can rack up,” supermodel Karen Elson told the Guardian. “The biggest misconception about modelling is the money. Most working models are barely getting by…. I’d get home from a shoot, and once all the expenses were added up, I’d be in debt.”
Yes, modelling can be a glamorous profession, and if you’re successful it’s possible you’ll be very well paid, but you have to put the hours in. So it might be a good idea to start thinking about a backup job like waiting tables or nannying to give you the flexibility to pop out for “go-sees” (modelling auditions) and photo shoots at the drop of a couture hat.
The flip side of a glitzy industry promising fame and fortune is that lots of people want in—and unscrupulous types know it. There are plenty of stories about young models being taken advantage of either financially or otherwise, so if you’re an aspiring model keep your wits about you. No reputable agency will ask you to pay for anything upfront. If you’re asked to pay for professional photos, think twice about who you’re dealing with.
How much you’re paid depends on what kind of modelling you do, how much experience you have, and how high-profile you are. According to the Models Kit UK, the average British model gets paid approximately £40,000–£50,000 per year, with hourly rates starting at £40 and day rates ranging from £150–£1,000. However, that isn’t the whole story.
Nineties supermodel Linda Evangelista famously said she wouldn’t get out of bed “for less than $10,000 a day,” but that’s not the reality for most jobbing models.
The amount a model gets paid varies depending on the job. A big-name high-fashion model walking the runway for couture shows will earn a different amount than a commercial model booking jobs in catalogues and ads, which tend to offer less money—but a more stable income.
Catwalk modelling may be the most visible type, but it may not be the best paid—especially when you’re just starting out. According to the Marie Claire, back in 2015, new model Molly Bair earned just £1,700 for working in 48 fashion shows.
Equity industry official Karrim Jalali says the union doesn’t set minimum rates of pay for models like it does for actors—but it does recommend rates. For example, for this year’s London Fashion Week, the pay is set depending on the turnover or size of the company that’s hiring the model.
According to the Equity rates, if a big fashion brand like Gucci or Burberry hires you, you’ll earn a minimum rate of £1,501 per three-hour session. Rates taper down for a small business, which will pay you around £340, and a debut fashion week newbie who will pay around the minimum of £172. There are also payments for fittings, and Equity has fought for welfare guarantees like food and snacks for models working LFW shows.
Some models don’t have agents, instead working as freelancers, negotiating their own fees and booking their own jobs. But many depend on an agency to find work and provide them with support in what can be a cutthroat industry.
That doesn’t come for free, though—agents will take a percentage of your earnings. However, freelancers have to do their own taxes, arrange their own accommodations, and deal with a lot of logistics away from the catwalk.
A modelling agent can provide vital support, and if they’re any good, they should get you work while also making sure you get paid on time. For starters, consider our list of UK modelling agencies. If you do go the agency route, make sure you know how your money is being dealt with. While your agency will sort out transport, portfolios, and any extra costs, you’ll be paying for it eventually out of any fees you earn—so be sure to keep your head in the game financially. Read any contracts, and if in doubt, don’t sign.
According to the British Fashion Model Agents Association, model agencies are required by law to pay you within 10 working days of their receiving payment from the client. If your agent isn’t transparent about how much you’re being paid, know your rights and act on them.
Walking in fashion shows and doing editorial work in magazines might give you a higher profile, but it’s commercial work that usually brings home the cash. The big money often lies in advertising campaigns, which can earn even the least experienced model around £15,000 per gig.
Endorsements from big-name fashion brands can also bring in major cash. Kendall Jenner’s position as the world’s highest-paid model was bolstered by her deals with brands like Adidas, Fendi, Estée Lauder, Marc Jacobs, and Calvin Klein. An unnamed industry executive told People Magazine that she could have been paid between $400,000 and $1 million for her Pepsi endorsement.
With traditional catalogue work in decline, much of that business has moved online. The good news is that brands still need models for their clothes, and the even better news is that this sector is booming thanks to websites like ASOS and Net-a-Porter. Companies like this often provide regular work; and according to Glassdoor, big UK fashion retailer ASOS pays its models an average of £84 an hour.
Jalali says that models should be aware of the worth of their image. “Often, modelling income isn’t just for the initial shoots and associated use of the image on a particular campaign,” he says. “Significant annual income comes from the fact that images can be used in breach of the agreed licence or contract for their use.
“We regularly support our members to gain appropriate compensation when this happens,” he continues. “The compensation can also vary hugely depending on the circumstances of the original work and the misuse. For example, in two recent cases for misuse of two different members’ images, we successfully supported one member to gain a £20,000 settlement for misuse of an image; in the other case, we successfully supported our member to gain £600 for misuse.”
Another income stream for models is social media platforms. Klear did a report on how much Instagram models and influencers get paid per post. Anyone with over half a million followers can earn upwards of $4,600 for just one video post.
UK Models claims that a model can earn as much for one selfie online as they can for four days of regular work. Posting online is also a great way to market your brand, boosting your profile and your earnings. The most successful models have an instinct for self-marketing, so get on board.
Male models earn significantly less than women in this industry. According to UK Models, women earn 148% more than their male counterparts. That’s because the female side of the fashion industry is worth more and brings in more money than its male equivalent.
Child models are also likely to earn less than adults, since they can’t work as long as adults due to legal restrictions.
If your agent is taking a cut or if you have to shell out for expenses, it’s important to consider how much you’ll actually get paid once the work is done. Some designers and brands will ask models just starting out to work for nothing or will pay in clothes rather than cash.
If you and your agent think it might benefit your career to walk that very en vogue designer’s runway, then go for it. Sometimes it’ll be great exposure, but don’t get taken for a mug. Remember, you can’t pay the gas bill with that stylish hand-woven jacket you took as payment over cold hard cash.
Most top-earning models don’t earn the bulk of their cash from modelling, but rather through associated pursuits. Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is a very successful model, but she’s also a very successful entrepreneur. She launched her own beauty line—Rose Inc.—and has a long-term partnership with Marks & Spencer.
Supermodel Heidi Klum is another case in point. A very successful former supermodel, she’s now a businesswoman who has launched clothing lines with Amazon; she’s also a TV producer on “Project Runway.” She designs clothes for brands like Birkenstock, runs her own lingerie line, releases music, sells her own paintings, and writes books.
Broadening your income streams as a model is not only great for your bank balance—it’s also an insurance policy for the future. We hate to break it to you, but youth doesn’t last, and models who are solely dependent on their looks will see their earnings taper as they get older unless they plan for a life post-catwalk.
If this all sounds a little daunting, there is help at hand. Keep your eyes peeled for modelling gigs, and remember that in addition to your agency, there are institutions keen to help out if you need it.
At the top of that list is Equity, which has been representing models for over 10 years in addition to actors. The union has given models a collective voice, which is great when it comes to negotiating terms, payment, and contracts. For example, Equity negotiated with the British Fashion Council to agree upon industry-standard rates for London Fashion Week. The union will also give you template contracts to use if you don’t have an agency working on your behalf.
Equity confirms that being part of the union can really help models when it comes to sorting out any money issues. “Models put up with a lot more than they should for a lot longer than they ought to because of the freelance nature of the industry,” says a representative.
The chain of payment between model, agent, and client can get murky, so having a union to fight in your corner is always a good idea. Remember, successful actors like Jamie Dornan and Cara Delevingne started out as models.
There’s also the Model Alliance, a U.S.-based nonprofit created in 2012 to help give models a voice in their work and fight injustices. Additionally, there’s the British Fashion Model Agents Association, which is a great resource for aspiring Naomis.