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Freelance Model Rates: How much can or should you charge?

Dasha – One of the best freelance models I ever worked with

I constantly see this question: “I am a model. How much should I charge?” from amateur- and freelance models and most of them actually think that there is a general answer to this question. While agencies work with fixed rates and fixed commissions, the rates for freelance models can range anywhere from $0 to $infinite. Generally, a model’s rates are dependent on the model and his or her market (location). As in all business, the price is determined by supply and demand. Ideally, the price is set where supply and demand cross to reach an equilibrium. This is economic theory, but everyone who does business should be aware of the effects of supply and demand. If there is more supply (here: the model) than demand, the price is lower. If there is more demand than supply, the price is higher.

Market Competition

As a model, it is important to determine one’s own value and compare it with the competition in the market. There are several factors that will determine ones own place in the market:
1) How does your look and your stats compare with other models in the market?
While “look” is a very subjective issue, there is also something very objective about it. A 5’10” model with a perfect facial bone structure and perfect measurements will generally be able to charge a higher rate than a 5’3″ model with bad skin and a round figure. When you look at different kinds of photography, you will quickly see that there are looks that are more marketable than others and can hence command a higher rate.
2) What kind of experience do you have with respect to modeling?
Models are mostly hired based on their looks, but it can help to have experience and a portfolio to show for it. Personally, I like models who know what they are doing and who understand the commands a photographer will give them. It saves time for everyone involved and adds more personality to the pictures, so it’s a good selling point.
3) What kind of photography are you available for?
Certain types of photography, such as fine art nudes can command a higher rate than other types of photography where the model does not take off her clothes. Some photographers call this stripper rates, but in the end it’s just the supply and demand cycle all over again – Less models are willing to pose nude, so there is a smaller supply which increases the price.

Each market is different and that is something you need to keep in mind when setting your rates. See how you compare with other models in your market and charge accordingly. The above list should help you determine your own position and if you can charge more or less than average.

Negotiation Basics

When a photographer contacts you about a shoot, you will most likely either quote your rate or enter into negotiations. Quoting a rate is the easiest thing to do, but it may cost you work or money. The one who quotes a rate first is usually the one who gets the short end of the stick. Let’s say a photographer has a budget of $150 for a four hour shoot and your rate is $300 for four hours. If you quote your rate first, the photographer will probably not hire you. Now let’s say that a photographer has a budget of $600 and your rate is still $300. If you quote your rate first, the photographer will hire you, but you only get paid half of what he budgeted.

Agency Competition

In addition to other models, there are also agencies who you compete with on pricing. It actually amazes me when I see agencies charging $50 (+20% commission) per hour and freelance models in the same market charging $75 per hour or more and complaining that they do not get any work. It just does not add up. Freelance models have a much lower overhead than agencies and hence should be charging less if they do not have as much work as they want to have.

Target Market

Most photographers that are willing to pay freelance models are amateurs and hence you should consider the amateur photographers your target audience. Most professional photographers go through agencies and it’s usually the client of those photographers who pays for the models. The reason for professionals of going through agencies is simply the expected level of professionalism. Amateur models have a reputation of being a risk factor because they may flake on a shoot. With amateur photographers, that risk does not come at a high cost except for time. On a professional shoot on the other hand, a model that does not show up may incur thousands of dollars of costs in rental equipment, wages, etc.


It is hard but not impossible for a freelance model to make a full-time income with modeling. Nonetheless, even though there are no agency requirements for freelance models, models that conform with a certain look will largely do better than the ones that do not. Most amateur models who do not have an outstanding look will find it almost impossible to make money without taking off their clothes. That should not discourage you to at least try. Just keep in mind to do your research beforehand and be wary.

9 thoughts on “Freelance Model Rates: How much can or should you charge?”
  1. Priestess Gemini June 20, 2012 on 4:07 pm Reply

    Thank you Sven for your insight. I have been trying to find some truly logical perspective on the freelance vs. Mainstream marketing, and you have provided sir. Thank you so much. Please feel free to look me up so we may speak more about these practically lovely concepts.

  2. Timothy Jenkins October 30, 2015 on 8:31 pm Reply

    Hi, I am an artist and photographer and place adds on craigslist for models needed. Is there a standard payment for us? What if the model or woman contacts me about my offer? I am paying $50.00 an hour for up to three hours of basic modeling. I prefer to work with women that have not modeled before because I can get what I need out of them. I am using the photos as a reference guide for my artwork. Like Vargas used to do in the old days of pinup art. So, is $50.00 an hour too much, not enough, just about right? I am not making a ton of money right now so if I am overdoing it please let me know.
    Thanks for the info or any help you can give me on this matter.
    Timothy Jenkins artist/photographer

    • Svenler October 31, 2015 on 3:16 pm Reply

      Hi Timothy,

      It largely depends on your market, but $50 per hour seems like a lot for inexperienced models (especially since you use regular looking people).

      I’d take a trial approach and offer $50 per three hour session to see what I can get and increase the rate if the results aren’t satisfying.

      I hope this helps.


  3. Lei November 25, 2015 on 12:42 am Reply

    Hi, I’m from Ontario. I’m Asian, long hair, basically tan but with Spanish breed. I’m 5’5″, 129 pounds, 36-28-38, slim (??). they say I am good looking. I want to be a freelance model but no nude pics. I’m a professional but modelling is my passion. I am inexperience. Will my stat qualifies for a model?

    • Svenler November 25, 2015 on 1:17 am Reply

      Hi Lei,

      It’s hard to tell without seeing any pictures. Your stats exclude you from fashion modeling, but commercial work is always an option.

      Shoot me an email with a link to some pictures and I’ll let you know if I think you would have a chance in commercial: http://www.svenlerphotography.com/contact/



  4. Amber Schroeder January 4, 2016 on 12:27 am Reply

    I’m interested in getting into fashion/alternative modeling but have no idea where to begin. I’m 6′, 175lbs(a fuller figure but I’ve had many say I’m not “fat’ just more curvy), dark hair, blue eyes, very fair skin. I live in the pacific northwest in a smaller city but am willing to travel a bit for better opportunities. This is really just a shot in the dark but I would love to know your input.

  5. Mel February 28, 2016 on 2:52 pm Reply

    A 5’10” model with a perfect facial bone structure and perfect measurements will generally be able to charge a higher rate than a 5’3″ model with bad skin and a round figure. This article should be fucking deleted just because of nasty and vile statements like this one you just made. I’m 5’3 and have a beautiful ROUND figure, great skin and have made money. Piss off. You can have a ROUND FIGURE and still be beautiful.

    • Svenler February 28, 2016 on 10:37 pm Reply

      Hi Mel,

      I’m sorry you felt the need to get this aggravated by what I wrote.

      It was never my intention to say that round figures aren’t beautiful and I believe it was never implied within any of the statements made. The fact remains that women who fit a certain mold (5’10” @ 130lbs with a certain bone structure and perfect skin) will have a much higher chance of succeeding in this industry than women who don’t fit that mold.


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