By Natalia Zurowski
Most models on their first contract have stars in their eyes, assuming they'll soon be earning a lot of money. Although this is the case for some models, not all models will end up in the black. As a result, they'll end up not paying back their expenses and/or be sent home, which is common in Japan. This usually happens for new faces on their first couple trips but even models who have worked well in a market before can have an unsuccessful trip. In modelling, you can never fully know what to expect.
Before you start feeling down about yourself, it's important to consider the following factors as to why your trip was unsuccessful.
Did you come at the right time? Work season is a key determinant when it comes to how well a model will work in a market. For example, if you go to a market in Europe in August, due to the month-long holiday in most countries, chances are that there won't be much work. Before you go to a market, it's important to ask around about the best season so you can make the most of your contract and pay back those expenses quickly. But even if you go during what's supposed to be the high season, markets can be unpredictable and there may be other factors at play.
Did you sign with the right agency? Even if an agency has a good reputation, they may not have the right clients for you and your look. If you're 5'7" (170cm) and find yourself going to castings for primarily editorial and runway clients, there is a problem. This happens to models often and it shouldn't deter you from going back to a market. If anything, consider this trip a learning experience; after becoming more aware of the market and what agencies are in town, you'll know who might be a better fit for you. It's a good idea to take a look at your host agency's board to see what type of models they represent and if you see yourself integrating into it.
The model-booker relationship is also a crucial component of how well a model works in a market. Did you make an effort to get to know your bookers? Did you tell them about yourself? After all, they're the ones who are promoting you to the client, even after your casting, to help you get the job. Although it may seem juvenile, your booker will want to promote you to clients if they have a friendly relationship with you. It's pretty simple really: people are more inclined to work with you if you're nice to them, no matter what industry you're in.
Take your experience as a lesson to get to know your future bookers; or, maybe you and your booker didn't get along. It's important to try and make an effort with people but sometimes you just can't connect with them, no matter how hard you try. In this case, look into working with another agency in the future. You should feel comfortable with your booker and have a solid working relationship.
Looks and timing
Looks of the moment are always hard to predict. One season clients may love blondes and the next they may prefer brunettes. Your look may not have been what clients were looking for at the time you went but you may be exactly what they're looking for next season. Good timing is key.
Some markets also have a general preference for specific types of models. Does your look fit in with what clients are generally looking for? For example, agencies and clients in Bangkok almost always prefer Eurasian or Eurasian-looking models with slightly bigger hips (especially for commercial work). In this case, if you're a blond editorial model and with a mainly commercial agency, your chances of booking work may be slimmer than your brunette housemates.
Competition & Portfolio
If you went to a market for the first time during high season and found it difficult to work, chances are that there were a lot of models in town ranging from new faces to industry veterans and top models. If you're new to the industry, you may not have a strong enough book to compete against experienced models. Be patient with yourself and remember that success in the modelling industry takes time and commitment. You can always go back to a market once your book has developed.
If you are a seasoned model and have a good book, perhaps your pictures didn't suit the market. Each market has specific types of photos they look for in a model's book. For example, if your book is made up of primarily editorial tear sheets and you're in a commercial market like Miami, you may have a harder time booking work.
Before blaming external factors, it's important to take a moment for honest introspection. Did you put forth your best effort at castings? Did you maintain your contractually agreed upon measurements? Were you nice to your bookers and clients? Did you prioritize work instead of partying? If you put your best foot forward and gave each day 100%, then don't feel bad, it's not your fault! Modelling is an unpredictable industry, so it's important to be kind to yourself and remember some things are out of your control.
If you may not have represented yourself as best as you could have, chalk this trip up to experience. Try to do better on your next trip. But remember, if modelling is something you're very serious about, you need to be at the top of your game. There is a line of models behind you, ready to take your place.
If you didn't make money or if you got sent home, it's not the end of the world. Be happy with the experiences you had. Not many people are afforded the opportunity to travel, so be happy you got to experience a new city and culture. Although you may feel upset and discouraged, your next contract might be very successful. It takes time in the industry before a model begins to see results and actually earn money. Remain persistent and continue to do your best and if this industry is meant for you, success will follow.