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The modeling industry is a very open market, and this makes it a little challenging to navigate if you are completely new. Many aspiring models are faced with the decision to either stay freelance or get signed to a modeling agency. If you are thinking of starting a career in modeling (part-time or full time), here are a few things to consider:


How much time are you willing to invest in your craft? Whether you are a freelance model or represented by an agency, you have to make time to learn. Aspiring models assume modeling involves walking and taking nice photos. Modeling is a lot of work and because it is a people-based industry, working on yourself never stops. What is trending and celebrated today, maybe shunned tomorrow. Constantly learn about the industry and adjust your craft accordingly.


Many models especially in African countries have received an insane shock on just how much they spend to build a career in modeling. This is a topic that many individuals in the industry, including agents shy away from talking about. If you are an aspiring model, whether freelance or represented by an agency, you will dig into your pockets in the beginning. You will need to invest in proper training and professional images.


Building a career in modeling is like building a house. Envision the final product, then create a plan on how you are going to get there. List down the tools (skills) you need to finish your house, invest in good workmanship (trainers), and be patient. Many aspiring models do not take off because their vision is limited or misguided. When faced with the question, Why do you want to become a model? a good percentage do not have an answer. You need to be very clear on the type of modeling you want to do and give it the attention it requires. If you do not know the types of modeling, order a copy of The Beginners Guide by Velour Models.


This is a crucial factor in determining the starting point and life span of your modeling career. Where you live and the opportunities (including agencies) at your disposal, play an incredible role in shaping your career. Many models in Africa start their journey a lot later as compared to those in Europe, Asia, or America. Their education system and societal prejudices force many with the potential to delay their career launch. Some African countries are yet to embrace the fashion industry as a sustainable career path.

Many of the modeling standards used in Africa are not set in Africa, and very little consideration is made of the African body. If you get a chance to travel to the fashion capitals when you are 17/18 your chances of building a career are higher. In Kenya for example, many aspiring models make their first attempt at the age of 19. This is a good age to start, but where are the opportunities to propel a good career? With 1 credible fashion show a year, that all models look forward to, it becomes a daunting climb.

These are just a few things you need to consider before you even think of becoming a model. There is a lot of work behind the glam, are you willing to make the sacrifices? We have put together a few similarities and differences between freelance models and models represented by an agency. If you are an aspiring model, we hope this information guides you in making a smart decision for your budding career.


A freelance model is a model who works independently or has signed a non-exclusive contract with an agency. An independent freelance model is a business person who offers the services listed under the jurisdiction of the “model”. This is including but is not limited to, photography, advertising, and spokes modeling. A freelance model who has signed a non-exclusive contract with an agency works with that agency on specific jobs. The agency may or may not offer the same services it offers to its exclusive models, such as branding and marketing, etc. In both cases, the model is managing 50% or more of their career.


Models represented by an agency, are models who have been assigned a company “modeling agency” to represent them in the fields of modeling. The agency, therefore, acts as a manager for the model, offering services, including but not limited to guidance and career growth, branding and marketing, and networking. Many modeling agencies act as a bubble of protection for their models. Models who have signed exclusive contracts with an agency, cannot sign non-exclusive contracts with other agencies. Modeling agencies can however sign their model with other modeling agencies (in most cases, bigger agencies) and eventually release them when their contract period ends.

Freelance Models

The decision to stay in a modeling agency or work freelance is entirely dependent on the model. A few pointers to note, however:


A freelance model has the liberty to work with any brand they want to work with. This gives the freelance model a lot more exposure in the field. This exposure is good, it builds networks and allows you to solidify your name in the industry

Models represented by agencies cannot work with any brand they want to work with. Many modeling agencies will protect their brand image, therefore they will only choose brands that align with that image. Modeling agencies are responsible for building a career for the model, this means they know when a brand will kill your career before it starts or if it will propel you to greater heights. The tough decision on who to work with or who not to work with therefore falls on the agency.

One mistake many models make both freelance and in agencies, is not thinking about their career long term. Many models especially when starting out, are hungry to do everything. This can reduce your modeling lifespan. Established models, the likes of Adut Akech, Gigi Hadid, Kendal Jenner limit the brands they work with. Your face is an asset, people/brands will overuse you in one year, then jump onto the next hot face. It is therefore important to seek guidance before taking up work.


Great liberty invites greater responsibility for self. A freelance model has to do their homework on the industry and the market they are in, before taking bookings. To avoid falling into the traps of con artists, you will need to make a lot of model friends. You need to extensively do research on clients and individuals who wish to work with you. Go the extra mile and know how the industry operates so that you are able to ask the right questions.

Models represented by an agency have the advantage of protection from predators and scammers. In most modeling agency contracts, you will find a clause that stipulates- the model is required to disclose to the agency any offers of work and forward such offers to the agency. This is necessary so that the agency does a background check on the clients. Some models ignore this, take up the job, get short-changed then start involving the agency. A point at which the agency cannot do anything. Yes, modeling agencies also get scammed and so do their models sometimes. The chances are however greatly reduced.


A freelance model has the liberty to decide how much they will charge for a particular job. The model will work on their rate card and communicate this to the agencies they have signed non-exclusive contracts with. The agency will therefore only call you for work that pays the amount on the rate card. Some freelance models are paid higher than agency-represented models.

Models represented by agencies do not negotiate payment for themselves. The models’ rate card is created by the agency, and yes, even models in the same agency may receive different pay for the same job. This is highly dependent on where you rank in the agency, Main Board and Special Booking models are generally paid the highest, followed by the Development models and the Fresh Faces. If you are not familiar with these terms, join our Catwalk Training Sessions and learn these industry basics. In many scenarios, the model receives communication on the job and the payment for the job. These models may also decline jobs that they feel should pay higher.

It is sometimes unfortunate that clients look for freelance models because they assume the freelance models will take less pay. Clients have discovered that many models do not know market rates, and are desperate to just book a job. As a freelance model, your career is a business you are running on your own. If you ignore the business aspect of the career, you will hate the industry, so learn.


We like to say there is no competition in modeling. This is true to some extent, many models are booked based on their physical attributes. Competition comes in when building a career. You can have the height, the face, the body but if you do not have a professional work ethic, you will not have a career. A freelance model has to really create a professional front at all times. When people and brands know that you take your work seriously, they will take you seriously and treat you professionally. This is what sets you apart, this is what gives you a career.

In an agency setting, the same rules apply. When a model first joins an agency, you cannot really tell their character and personality. After a few bookings, it becomes very clear. Your work ethic will determine if an agency sends you to work or not, remember you are not the only model in the agency. Getting signed to a modeling agency should not warrant laziness.

If you are just thinking of getting into the industry, take time to learn about the industry. Grab your copy of The Beginners Guide by Velour Models and learn a few things, Join our modeling classes and learn some more.

If you find this information helpful, share it with a friend.

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