Is fashion modelling a real career?

A career and a job as a fashion model, like with everything else in life, are two completely different things. You could know enough to successfully work a few modelling jobs but to build a career takes passion, dedication and discipline, like with all other fields of work. You need to make a decision about what success really looks like for you before you go ahead and try to build it.

Most people, when they start out, have this idea that modelling is a fast-track to living a high life: parties, cash, luxury everywhere. In reality it’s like every other career path: you have to start at the bottom, learn and work your way up to the higher earning roles. If you’re not in it for the long run, you may get some well-paying modelling jobs but you’re not going to stand out from your competitors as a worthwhile investment to any agency that’s charging big bucks for an hour of talent on site.

The good thing about fashion modelling is that whether you make a career of it or you try it out for a while and pursue something else, the skills will always stay with you and you’ll have that inner fire of blazing confidence to draw on time and time again from the career path that you do eventually settle on.

How much money do fashion models make?

Fashion models start out probably being exploited for volunteering their talent. ‘TFCD’ is a mismanaged concept today and there are red flags popping up everywhere you look. There’s a difference between what we believe should be happening and what actually goes on around the world.

Here’s what should happen:

  • If you haven’t modelled before: it’s okay to volunteer to network, get yourself some entry level work and possibly get yourself scouted. The pay is anywhere from a few hundred rand to just over a thousand if you’re working for more established organisations.
  • If you’ve volunteered as an extra or walked at a show before: you can negotiate for a slightly higher fee once you’ve had some experience working with a production team. Depending on who you’ve worked for or with, you can use that to your advantage.
  • If you’ve completed a beginner’s course and have no experience yet: Depending on who you’ve been trained by, you can use this to your advantage. We at CAFB have been training aspiring models since 2012, and we’ve enabled people to go from our courses directly into model agency talent books. This kind of work can earn you anything from a stable minimum wage with travel and fitness benefits, to moderate or high paying freelance work.
  • If you’ve completed a beginner course and have between 3-10 jobs in your portfolio: At this point you have momentum and a few references for your portfolio or CV (resume). You can earn a mid-weight salary if you’re working full time for a single professional agency, doing a mix of photographic, runway and commercial bookings.
  • If you’ve completed advanced courses and have worked for more than 20 bookings: This is where you start earning well enough as a professional model, and you’ll most likely be managed by an agency. Professional models often prefer letting someone else worry about contracts and admin, and show up to do their best work, leave and get paid for it. 

How can you earn more as a fashion model?

There are times when it feels like you’ve hit a wall as a fashion model. You’re getting regular bookings but either it’s the same thing over and over, or it’s not paying what you’re aiming to earn. You can use the following ways to increase your earnings as a fashion model:

Perfect your technique

Do the basics really well and you’ll stand out as an asset. Doug from Mira 9 Group tells us every year that hardly any of the models at professional castings, screenings and auditions get the basics right. Do you know what a model stance is? Is your posture correct? How do you actually transition from standing to walking?

This is precisely why we’ve made the basic lessons available by email so you can learn the right techniques and perfect them from wherever you are in the world.

It seems almost frustrating how simple these things are: sitting, standing, walking. Do them really well and show that off at your auditions and you’ll book more jobs, develop a reputation as someone who knows what you’re doing and open doors of opportunity to higher paying jobs in the process.


Every career can be furthered through networking. Who knows you is just as important as what you know. Fashion modelling is no different.

Expand your network to include people who can mentor you and introduce you to project managers, commercial directors and other creative professionals. Today you have the advantage of social media networks like LinkedIn and Facebook as well: use them. Networking doesn’t mean shoving your profile under the nose of every creative project decision-maker either, so be mindful of how you open and maintain these relationships.

Diversify your portfolio

This applies to you as a fashion model as much as it does to an investor. If you’ve only ever auditioned for runway shows, try out for commercials or photographic work. Modelling for stock photos is another option, and even working as an extra on a set for a series or movie. You can earn more by trying something new.

Toss out the prejudice in your mind because you don’t know how good you are at something until you try. Really try. Not just half-bake an attempt at it because you’ve decided that you’re no good anyway. Choose something you can try and then apply, audition and show up for trials. That’s how you’ll earn more.

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