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Free Modeling Jobs

Is It a Good Idea to Do Modeling for Free?

You may come across numerous modeling projects that don’t offer any cash compensation but instead offer experience, publicity, or other intangible benefits. In the highly competitive modeling industry, these projects may be worth going after for some models.

Here are the five situations in which working for free is worth your time and effort.

#1 Gaining Experience

If you have never done modeling or you have limited experience, these unpaid jobs will help you gain more experience and learn the ropes. If you are an aspiring or a beginner model, instead of focusing on compensation, focus on doing and learning different types of modeling such as print, commercial, and runway modeling. Once you do a few gigs in each category, it’s a good idea to be more selective about what benefits you get from modeling jobs.

#2 For Instagram

Models with all experience levels can opt in for non-paying modeling gigs to improve their portfolios and resumes. In the short term, you spend time without getting paid. However, in the long term, having more experience and showing that you are a working model will help you book well-paying jobs. 

In the past, resumes and comp cards were very common in the industry. Models needed to update them as they worked on more jobs. Sometimes, updating them meant printing out physical copies of resumes and comp cards.

Today, your Instagram account is your both resume and comp card. It’s your complete modeling portfolio. Casting directors check Instagram accounts to see models’ looks, past experiences, and even get a glimpse of their personalities. Keeping your Instagram account updated with more modeling work pays off in the future even if some of this work is unpaid.

Learn about Time for Portfolio (TFP) work.

#3 Making Connections

There is something to learn from everyone. More importantly, every single person you meet may later share an opportunity with you or introduce you to a decision-maker in the industry. A modeling job you do for free today may lead to a 5-figure nationwide commercial in the future.

I have a personal goal for the modeling jobs I do: Meeting with at least three people and connecting with them on social media. These people may be other models working alongside me in that project or they may be members of the production crew. I continue to notice the positive impact of this personal goal in my modeling career. Whether it is a paid lifestyle photoshoot or a runway walk, the source of the opportunity is sometimes a person I met at an unpaid job in the past.

#4 Limited Options

Especially for runway modeling, the paid opportunities are limited. You might have seen open model calls with hundreds of models in the line. Because of this demand, most production companies don’t pay to models to walk at their shows.

If you are a runway model, you may find yourself wearing designer clothes under the spotlights without getting paid even if you have years of experience. Experienced models do unpaid runway walks for the reasons I listed above such as building portfolio and making connections. They may also do it just for fun!

#5 For Fun

Many people have full-time jobs in other industries and they do modeling for a change in their lives. The need for a change combined with meeting with creative people and sharing glamorous posts on Instagram and TikTok make free modeling jobs more appealing.

The unpaid modeling job might be riding an ATV for a commercial, posing on the beach for a swimwear brand, or walking at a Fashion Week Show. Especially if it’s for a few hours, it may be a fun change in your life. I see especially retired seniors doing modeling to get out of their daily routines. I am glad they do! It’s always a joy to work with elderly folks on sets.

How to Handle Judgement

You may feel like wasting your time and energy on unpaid modeling jobs especially if they are demanding and stressful. What is worse is that being asked by others about why you do it. You may hear others saying “They should pay you for this” or “Know your worth”.

If you have one of the five reasons above to work on an unpaid job, I recommend ignoring the opposition voice inside you and the voices of others. For some jobs, the trade-off is worth it. Pros outweigh the cons even if the money is not one of these pros. However, it’s important not to let the crew be very demanding on a free job. It should feel like a collaboration rather than a corporate work. And if you are not comfortable with the type of work, don’t hesitate to leave.

For example, here are some of the red flags working with photographers.

Especially at the beginning of my modeling career, many people asked me why I worked for free. Even my best friend repeatedly told me to stay away from unpaid jobs. But it was the experience, connections, photos, and videos I had at those jobs that opened the doors for me to well-paying opportunities.


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