Location, Location, Location

"This is the single most important thing needed to be successful as a model. You need to be where the jobs are!" -- R&L Model and Talent Management, Inc.

"You need to be able to travel to shoots and meetings on very little notice -- sometimes a few hours. Only people who are local can do that." -- Margaret Pelino, booking agent, Ford Modeling Agency, Manhattan

"Most agencies are not going to be interested in (or respond to) you unless you are in their immediate neighborhood." -- Frank, Blackwood-Steele

Location is a significant factor which can determine not only an aspiring model's chances of being discovered, signing a contract, and finding work, but also the risk of becoming the victim of modeling scams.

Aspiring models, generally speaking, live in one of three areas:

1) in a major modeling market;

2) near a major modeling market; or,

3) nowhere near a major modeling market.

The major modeling market of the world is, of course, New York City. The other top international modeling markets include the other three fashion capitals: Paris, London, and Milan.

In the U.S., the major modeling markets besides New York City include these large cities: Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Phoenix, San Francisco, Seattle, Atlanta, Miami, Tampa, and Orlando.

1. Living In A Major Modeling Market

If you live in a major modeling market, you can look up modeling agencies in the Yellow Pages or on the internet, and visit them.

Call ahead to find out if they have weekly open calls, or if you need to schedule an appointment.

When you live in a major modeling market, it is a very basic process, simple and free. You can literally walk into the modeling agency as an aspiring model, and walk out with a contract to be their model.

You do not need to spend any money. You do not need to get pictures taken, or go to a modeling convention, or model search, etc. You can go directly to an agency, and avoid all the middlemen, and all their expenses.

2. Living Near A Major Modeling Market

If you live near a major modeling market, follow the same guidelines as for those who live in a major modeling market.

In the summer or during your vacation you can visit the modeling agencies in the city.

At other times of the year, you could take a day off school or work, and visit the agencies, after calling ahead to find out what types of models they want, and when they have open calls.

This is how Cindy Crawford did it. Her father took a day off work and drove her from Dekalb, IL, to Chicago, IL. They got a copy of the local Yellow Pages and started visiting the modeling agencies in the phone book.

By this simple approach you do not need to spend any money, except for gas. Similar to those who live in the city, you do not need to get pictures taken, nor do you need to go to a modeling convention, or model search, etc.

You can go directly to the agencies, and avoid all the expensive and unreliable middlemen, and whatever they present to waste your time and money.

3. Living Nowhere Near A Major Modeling Market

If you live nowhere near a major modeling market, you can either schedule a trip to one of the big city markets so you can visit the agencies, as outlined above, or you can send your photos directly to them.

It might be better not to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars to fly to the city and stay for a week or a month unless and until you have first sent in your pictures AND at least one agency (preferably several agencies) expressed a keen interest to see you in person.

The photos you send should look good but they need not be professional; two good shots (showing your face and figure) should be sufficient.

Modeling agencies, including Ford Models in New York, allow aspiring models to send their pics, and specify what types of models they want, and provide their mailing address online.

The further you live from a major modeling market, the more likely you are to become the victim of modeling scams: most modeling scams being reported nowadays target people in the more remote areas.

Those who live nowhere near major markets are offered model searches, modeling conventions, modeling schools, modeling jobs, etc.

The traveling salesmen and women advertise in the newspaper, in a magazine, on TV, or on the radio, and ride into town.

The responses by hundreds or thousands of young people and their parents across America seem to suggest it does not take much to get them to drop what they are doing and open their wallets.

This openness could be the result of modeling scam artists not having to sell the dream; for the media has already sold it for them.

The scam artists are already half way to taking your money before they even start their sales pitch, because for many young women (and some young men) modeling is part of the American Dream.

Living far from the big city modeling markets can put the aspiring model in a more vulnerable state, however, because opportunities to be discovered are extremely rare or infrequent.

It may be like living on an island. There is increased stress over the idea the company which is coming to town may be their only hope of making their dream come true, their only option to "get off the island."

Whereas the potential model in the large modeling market can make a serious attempt to be discovered in any given week, simply by walking or driving to a modeling agency for a free open call, the potential model nowhere near the top markets may only see a serious opportunity to be discovered once in any given year, when a model or scout company visits from out of town.

The fewer the opportunities for an aspiring model to be discovered, the greater the chances are of him or her being emotionally manipulated by a scam company into making a quick decision, without diligent research or careful thought.

A lot of aspiring models and their parents are not prepared for out-of-town modeling firms. They can be asked to sign contracts the night of the open call, pressured by hard sales without time to go online, call the BBB, or check references, or learn the basics of the industry.

Out-of-town modeling firms

Too many times when out-of-town modeling firms show up and deliver a sales pitch, aspiring models have given them their money far too quickly.

Why do aspiring models give their money so quickly to complete strangers?

No office in the city

The victim of one modeling scam paid for a service offered by a modeling agency based in another state which visited his city. Somehow the modeling agency led him to believe they could find work for him -- even though they did not have an office in his city.

When he did not get work and he realized it was a scam, he concluded the modeling agency should not be targeting aspiring models in cities where it does not have offices.

ALWAYS be suspicious of a modeling agency which makes great claims about how much work you can get through them, or how much money you can make through modeling jobs they will get you, when they do not have an office in your city.

Reputable modeling agencies, including the big ones in New York City, have offices in major modeling markets outside New York City. They can get models work in Chicago, for example, because they have an office in Chicago, and people who work in Chicago.

The ability of a modeling agency to get models work is significantly affected by where its offices and bookers are located. They need to have a physical presence to do serious business or to make serious money. Clients do not just want to deal with people over the phone: confidence comes from meeting in person. Having an office in a city shows commitment to the city.

The last thing an aspiring model should do is accept a sales pitch about potential work in their area without first asking for and receiving proof of the previous work the agency got its models in the same city during the previous year.

Who were their clients? When did their clients book the models?

Call their claimed clients.

The onus is on the modeling agency to prove it can get work for models even though they are based in another city and indeed another state, and they do not even have an office in your city or state.

The other problem, of course, in being represented by a modeling agency thousands of miles away, is accountability. You cannot visit their office if they do not help you. They can and do change their phone numbers without notice. Or they just hang up on you.

[Dial tone...]

Modeling Conventions

Potential models who do not live anywhere near major markets are pitched the idea of attending conventions to offset and overcome the distance.

Unfortunately, too many times the modeling convention organizers do not explain the inherent problems with conventions, and those who attend them do not think it through.

A model who went to a modeling convention said:

The first thing I ever got into was a Model Search America convention. I got a call back from a casting director in NYC, and they told me if I was ever going to be in the area to give them a call and they would send me on auditions.

A mother who took her daughter to a modeling convention reported:

If you get a call back, you go to one of two rooms -- with lines filling out the door -- just to hand someone your picture, and then they say you have to live in NY or LA or be available to be there within a moment's notice! So if you aren't looking to relocate with absolutely no promises, contracts, etc... DON'T GO.

A mother who was thinking of sending her son to a modeling convention based on the recommendation of his agent asked if it was a good idea.

My handsome, 6'2", 165 lb., well-built, 17-year-old son is very interested in fashion modeling. He has been with an agency for only six months. So far he has had two small modeling jobs and he is currently preparing to go to the Mille Lewis AMTC in Charleston, South Carolina, in January.
Which brings me to my question. Has anyone heard of the AMTC? I have looked at their website and have heard a few good things about this convention but it seems that not too many out there have actually attended. My son's agent thinks that this is going to be good exposure to the industry for my fledgling son. Any comments?

Then she said:

The intention was not for him to move permanently, but when booked for model work to travel to wherever for that amount of time, complete the assignment and return home.

Roger, a modeling industry professional, responded:

I see this all the time. That's not how it works.
You don't get booked and then travel, at least not at the beginning (first few years) of your modeling career.
First you travel, you compete for jobs there, and then you work there, if you compete successfully. That's why you have to relocate.
There is a certain amount of direct booking from comp cards, or into overseas markets -- but certainly no reason to go to a convention at considerable expense for that.
"Mother agencies" can do that for you (if at all) right from where you live.
Again, I suspect there isn't a lot of market for a 17-year-old male model... for direct booking, but someone else who does more of it than I do could give you a better answer.
They can also go over the expenses vs. expected returns (and the expenses of two of you traveling overseas can get a bit much).
Perhaps another of our contributors will add to that.

Mona, who works at an international modeling agency, placing models in American markets and different markets around the world, added to that, saying:

Roger is, as usual, right on target with everything he says.
While you may not have plans for your son to move permanently at this point in time, in essence it is the only way this business works.
There are simply too many models that take their career as serious business that are ON THE SCENE in each city/larger market.
Which one do you think will be booked? Someone available, living and located in the market, or someone that is "away," not always knowing their full availability?
This is much more work for the agency than booking a model within the city.
Models do travel to wherever for direct bookings all the time, and many times are only away for five days or so, depending on the booking, and complete the assignment, and return home.
These are professional models with schedules set up and the agent knows their availability. These models are also more established and have already been located (relocated?), and available in the city where they desire work.
The client already knows the model is professional and can handle traveling, being prepared, and will arrive dependably fresh from the plane, ready to work.
The models booked in this manner have a track record of work with their agency, and their agency has a track record with the client.
To send new models in this manner would be professional suicide for the agent/agency, and probably for the model as well.
It simply would not be fair to expect the new model to know just the little things the seasoned models take for granted.
I do not believe an agency would entrust such an assignment to an untried newbie model.
I do not mean to come across as a smartass, but, quite honestly, I always wonder why people think modeling is so different from any other job or profession.
Just for fun, and as an example, let's say plumbing, for instance. I do not know, but if your pipe bursts in the middle of winter, are you going to bring in a plumber from lower Alabama, just because he wants to be a plumber, but doesn't want to relocate? I believe you will hire/book the plumber that lives in your city and is located there.
In so far as conventions go, the Millie Lewis convention is one of the older and better conventions IF you have the time, the funds to spare, as this becomes very much the expensive weekend.
The model wants new clothes, family has to be presentable, everyone has to have meals, hotel rooms... and if you and your son are not prepared for him to move to another city just yet, I would postpone the convention, seriously, as he is young.
It is true there will be all these agents/scouts in one place, and we do attend some of these from time to time; it is also true there will be an overabundance of potential models in this same place desiring the attention and a contract from the above mentioned scouts.
Although there will be numerous scouts the ratio of scouts per model is not good; percentage discrepancy not quite as large as the power ball; it just seems that way.

Another mother of a model responded, saying:

I have to totally agree with Mona re. relocation. Models need to be available on a moment's notice to attend go-sees and castings.
Clients are not going to wait for your son to hop a plane when they have hundreds of models living in their city.
My son and daughter have been in the business for many years, and we get calls even at 11 pm for go-sees the next morning.
This is a very fast-paced business, and the competition is fierce. The odds of being a successful model are tough and even tougher in male modeling.
This is coming from someone whose son has been scouted by at least four of the top agencies in NYC.
Your agency should be able to place your son internationally if he has the "LOOK" without attending conventions.

This last statement is exactly right. A competent, responsible, experienced, and networked agent does not need a convention to get their job done. Clients and the industry do not wait for conventions.

They don't say, "Well, I wish I could place this model in another city, and another country, but there is no convention, so I guess it won't happen."

In their extensive guide for aspiring models, R&L Model and Talent Management, Inc., a New York commercial modeling firm, is very emphatic about the importance of location, naming it as the most important issue:

This is the single most important thing needed to be successful as a model. You need to be where the jobs are!
It’s possible (remotely possible, not likely) that you may be flown to a job at client expense some day. It happens. But it only happens after you have been selected for the job – and that takes place where the client and the market are. For us, it happens in New York City.
Here’s how it typically works:
Clients call agencies and tell them what their requirements are for upcoming jobs. The agency matches those requirements against the people in their files, and selects the models they think are likely to be chosen for the job.
The comp cards for those people are sent to the client, who then selects the models that he actually wants to see – and those people then go on a “go-see” or “casting.”
Sometimes the first part of this process is omitted, and agencies simply have their models “go see” the client.
There can be as few as one and as many as hundreds of models at these go-sees, and usually a considerable majority of them sent out by their agencies won’t be selected for the job.

(One agency said only 1/10 of the models they sent to go-sees were selected.)

This is a competitive business, with lots of competitors and, at any given moment, few winners.
You don’t get paid to go to castings, go-sees or auditions, so a great deal of a model’s time is spent on things like go-sees that don’t actually make them any money.
And nobody pays your expenses to get to these things, either. That may be OK for someone that lives in the area and can afford to take time off from whatever else they do for an hour or two. But it is simply impossible for someone who lives in Ohio, Texas or even Maryland to commute to these things hoping that they will get a job. The economics don’t work.
If you are going to be in the commercial modeling business you have to live within a reasonable commuting distance of the marketplace. We generally advise no more than 50-60 miles away, and even that makes pursuing a modeling career very difficult.
If you want to stay home, and home is more than 100 or so miles from NYC, we can’t do much for you.

Finally they summed up the importance of "Living Near the Market" very well, saying:

This is a very expensive item, but also a critical one. We do not advise commercial models to move to New York just to be a model here – but if you aren’t within an hour or so of the city, it is very difficult and expensive for you to compete for jobs.

Parents of models have recounted how their daughters moved to New York to work as models, with all the expense that went with it, but they either did not get any work, or barely enough modeling jobs to break even.

You must live within driving distance of the modeling jobs. This is an issue first and foremost for the model, but also for the agency. The agency has to be able to recommend reliable models, and how reliable a model can be to show up and be on time certainly depends on where the model lives.