Posts tagged ‘money’

August 11, 2011

On Integrity & Professionalism

Recently, I was slapped in the face with one person’s unprofessional behavior and dishonesty.  What’s more is that after expressing my disappointment in the situation, the offending party showed little remorse.  However, another person involved has shown what true professionalism & integrity are, which lessens the sting… sorta.  Here’s the story…

It started with a verbal agreement regarding compensation for working an event.  A few weeks before the event I was told (in person) that compensation would be $50 for the day, a selection of images for portfolio use.  I was also told I’d be in the designer’s catalog.  As an added bonus, I’d get a sketch of me in what I was modeling.  Typically, my rates are $50 an hour or $325 for an 8-hour day, which is how I’d have billed it since it’s cheaper.  However, because I’d be getting portfolio images & a tear sheet (plus a cool sketch), I made an exception and accepted the job at a significantly lower rate than normal.

Fast forward to the day of the event.  Call time was 12P & everyone was on time & ready to start getting to work.  In the beginning, things were running nicely, people were having a good time, & it was shaping up to be a great event.

Around 3P we started getting hungry, but there was no food.  Based on previous experiences, I expected there to be food provided at a 7-hour event, so I just brought a drink & a small snack.  Now, I wasn’t expecting caviar & chocolate mousse, but something to snack on throughout the course of the day.  Veggies, pretzels, cheese cubes, & sliced fruit are pretty typical of events because that stuff can sit out & is easy to eat.  But there wasn’t anything.

Normally, one would ask the person in charge what was going on, but he stepped out for an undetermined amount of time, leaving his event coordinator & assistant completely in the dark regarding wardrobe & accessories.  That meant that the models that were ready to shoot we weren’t able to, so 2 of those girls took a walk to find food.  Their options were limited at 3P on a Sunday on the Near West Side of Chicago & all they could find was Chinese, which they brought back.

As we were eating, the guy in charge came in & immediately reprimanded us for having food.  He told us we were unprofessional for eating food that wasn’t “proper model food”.  He then demanded it be put it away & said we shouldn’t be eating, but that if we were hungry we should’ve been eating something like fruit.  So, apparently, everyone should have just gone without food for 7 hours.  Talk about a morale-killer!  Besides, nothing makes people enjoy an event more than crabby models with no energy, or worse, models passing out because of low blood sugar.

If someone running an event wants his staff to eat certain things, it is up to him to provide that kind of food.  If he can’t provide food, then the professional thing to do is notify people that there won’t be food, & ask them to bring their own, limiting it to whatever he finds acceptable.   It is not unprofessional for models to eat behind the scenes, while waiting for styling and/or instruction, while still dressed in street clothes.

But then came the real knife-twist.  Shortly after the food was put away, we were handed a compensation agreement & asked to sign it.  It was different from what I’d been promised.  Suddenly, we had to choose between $50 for the day or 10 unedited images & 1 edit of the photographer’s choice.  No mention of the sketch.  I tried to ask the guy in charge a few questions, but it was pretty clear he was too busy to listen to me.  So, I sat & thought quite a bit about things, & really weighed my options.

If I walked, I’d have wasted almost 4 hours for nothing, literally.  No photos, no money, no sketch, no tear.  Leaving could’ve damaged my reputation with the other industry people who were there, & I’m not one to back out on my commitments; I act like a professional & respect people enough to stick with something once it’s started.  So I chose to stay, keeping my reputation intact & getting a little something for my time.

So I had to choose: a small amount of money, or one edited image.  I figured I could work with the photographer individually if I really wanted to, so I opted to take the $50.  Broken down, it’s $7.14 an hour.  If you factor in the $8 or so I spent on food & drink (which I wouldn’t have bought if I wasn’t working), the total compensation drops down to about $42.  Basically, I worked the day for about $6 an hour, & that’s not even factoring in the gas I spent on the nearly 60-mile round trip.

It bothered me that the compensation changed, & I wasn’t notified in advance.  I wasn’t even notified promptly at call time, which is when I would have been comfortable leaving.  Advanced notification of the change would have been the professional way to go about things.  Instead, it was just sprung on us nearly 4 hours into the day, when we’d already invested time & money.  But, I sucked it up & did my job as if I was getting paid my standard rate: with a smile on my face & without complaint.

After the event was over I asked the guy in charge about the sketch.  He acknowledged that that was, indeed, part of our deal & made a half-assed attempt to find it.  After a brief search, I was told he couldn’t find them, & that was that.  So no sketch now either.

Initially, I intended to just deal and learn from my mistakes.  But later I decided that if I didn’t speak up, no one would, & this schmuck would go on taking advantage of people because no one called him on it.  So the next day I wrote him a letter addressing all my concerns & asked to be compensated as originally promised.  I chose my words carefully & made sure it was written in a concise, professional manner.  I didn’t just pound out an angry note and send it off.

The next afternoon, I received a response.  He said that an agreement was made, but things didn’t go as expected, so the agreement was modified.  I signed it, & if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t have been used for the event.  He went on to say he was sorry I wasn’t happy, but the only thing he could do was live up to the written agreement.  Then, he had the gall to tell me that a lot of work went into the event, & he felt congratulations were in order.  He also thanked me, as if that would make it better, & told me that if I had a change of heart & wanted to work with him again, I should let him know.

Then, he called me not too long after responding.  I told him it wasn’t a good time because I wasn’t ready to speak with him, & hung up.  After careful consideration, I wrote him back & said that any discussion could be done in writing, as he had made it abundantly clear that he didn’t respect people enough to honor his spoken agreements.

He wrote me back the next day & said there’s nothing to discuss.  Shortly afterwards he posted on the private group for “preferred” folks involved in the event (which I am still part of) telling everyone, “Don’t ever believe that I don’t appreciate you all.  I am so glad that I choose each & every one of you to be a part of this journey.”  Uh huh.

There is a lesson here, though.  From now on, I will ask for a compensation agreement in writing, in advance, for every event I am booked for.   Upon arrival, I will not do anything without reviewing any paperwork that needs to be signed, & if that paperwork does not match up with what I received prior to the event, I will be leaving.

This might limit who’s willing to book me for events, as well as whom I choose to work with, but I’m ok with that.  I am tired of being taken advantage of, & I am no longer willing to allow it to happen.  If that means I book less events, then so be it.  As a hobbyist, I can afford to be picky.

I heard he “changed the agreement” when it came to numerous other involved parties, so the models weren’t the only ones who got screwed.  To top it off, it’s all just pouring salt in the wound, because everyone who worked the event was asked to promote the event through various means, invite friends, & really hype it up (and many of us did).  Some people’s names are attached to this person’s, and who knows what kind of effect that could have down the road.

Then there’s the true display of integrity & professionalism I mentioned at the beginning.  The photographer involved called me last night & we talked.  He had been unaware, & completely beside himself, that the person running things was using his product to pay people & that we were forced to make a choice so suddenly.  To “make it right”, he has offered all of the models involved a shoot at no charge.  He’s not comfortable providing the images from the event to the models, because it would violate his agreement with the event host, so he’s doing what he can to do something for us as a “thanks, & I’m really sorry you got screwed over too”. Yup, you read that right… he also got screwed.

So now what?  Well, I’m going to stay in touch with the photographer & start thinking about what I want to shoot, & communicate ideas back & forth with him.  Ideally, I’d like to shoot something he can use for his portfolio as well, because it’s only fair.  Chances are, I’ll wait until late fall to work with him, mostly because I’m sure he’ll be busy with previously booked work as well as with the other models involved.

A few people I’ve talked to about this have suggested I take legal action, because the “bait & switch” tactic he pulled could be illegal.  I’ve decided it’s not worth it to bother with screwing around with that, especially for such a small amount of non-monetary goods.  Chances are, this person will get what’s coming to him.  Word of unprofessionalism like this gets around fast in the modeling industry, as people don’t appreciate busting their asses to work with people who lack the integrity to honor their promises.

One can only hope that this person has the decency to not treat his paying clients the way he treated his staff.  I can’t imagine working with someone on what amounts to one of the most important days in your life & dealing with some of the unprofessionalism he exhibited.  Hopefully, when dealing with actual clients, this person is honest, sticks to his word, & is professional enough lets clients know if circumstances change & he cannot deliver as promised.  If I were in the situation to be working with him as a paying client, I most certainly wouldn’t take the chance.

I will definitely not be working with him ever again.  This person’s utter disrespect for the people he hired & abundant display of unprofessionalism has completely, totally ruined any chances of that.  I will continue to leave his name on my credits list in hopes that people contact me to check references.

UPDATE! August 30, 2011

I did finally get a money order for the $50 that I was owed.  I had to ask for it though, and was told on August 25th that the check had mailed the morning of the 24th.  I let this person know that it would have been nice to know of the delay, since the agreement said checks would be delivered by the 21st and not mailed on the 24th.  This is the response I got regarding that:

i didn’t mean to make you feel small. I appreciate you.

I told him, “Appreciation doesn’t pay the bills. Not that that matters, because going back on your word and not notifying people you’d made agreements with until well into the event doesn’t say “appreciation”. No, Robert. THAT says “I don’t give a crap about you and expect you to just be a doormat and accept it”. Nice try. I expect my check to be delivered by Monday the 29th. I’m giving you way more leeway on this than most people would…”.  Yes, cold and a bit heavy-handed, but frankly, I don’t care.  No one deserves the kind of treatment he has shown, and I’m not about to sit quietly and let him think that treating people the way he has done is ok, because it’s overwhelmingly not.

This was his response to me on the 25th, verbatim:

When i say I didn’t mean to make you feel small, I really was trying to let you know that you’re acting soooo small and UNPROFESSIONAL.

But you were even too small to even have caught on.

Now I’m BLOCKING you. And that’s what’s nice about facebook.

What ever it is that happened to you to make you so emotional is just not everybody else’s fault. And if emotionally you can’t handle life, go to doctor and get help, but whatever you do, DO NOT SLANDER OR HARRASS ME.



Wow.  And yet I’m the unprofessional one, for desiring to be treated respectfully and compensated as promised, and for being the “squeaky wheel” in making sure that promises are delivered upon when the source has proved to be unreliable.  Right… anyway…

My money order came August 29th.  It was dated August 26th, two days after I was told “the check’s in the mail”.  It has been deposited.  Largely, I am happy.  I hope, however, that this person has learned that he can’t get away with treating people like shit.  If, that is, there’s anyone left in the area who’ll work with him…

August 21, 2009

Today’s Public Service Annoucement

Models, if you’re struggling with posing and expressions, and can’t get through a shoot without “freezing up” because you’re so nervous, then chances are you shouldn’t be asking to get paid.  It might also be wise to

Typically*, photographers pay models that have something to offer them (when they’re hiring models for things like private projects and portfolio building–when it’s a client that pays, this may be a different story).  Chances are, if they hire a model who’s nervous and constantly gets stuck posing/emoting, and ultimately has one look and a handful of stiff poses, they’re going to feel a bit short-changed at the end of the day.

Just some food for thought.

*Note: I did say typically.  Some photographers do hire based on things like looks and measurements before they hire based on experience.  But many feel that a model needs to have something worth paying for in order to be, well, paid.

June 28, 2009

“Why Aren’t I Getting Paid?!”

Ten Reasons You’re Not Getting Paid

1. A lot of it has to do with your location. If your town is a small blip off the interstate in the middle of cornfields, chances are, it’s not a great market for regular, decent paying work.

2. If you live in the middle of a cornfield, it certainly isn’t very economical for you to travel to and from the nearest major market to go to castings, go-sees, or whatever else on a regular (possibly even last-minute) basis.  Provided, that is, that your major market is one that has modeling agencies and/or clients looking to hire models.

3.  Bigger cities often have events going on. Certainly if any photographers in a major city are going to hire someone, chances are, they’re going to look nearby first.

4. What kind of work are you looking for? Your portfolio needs to reflect the kind of work you’re looking to get.  Certainly photographers aren’t going to pay a model to stand in their studio, smile, and look pretty when they can find a bunch to do it trade.

5. Get a thicker skin. Someone suggesting you be a housepainter isn’t rude.  If you think that’s rude, find another “full time job”, because modeling is much more harsh than that (especially if you make the move to a larger market).

6. Go to college and get an education. Modeling is a career that typically doesn’t last forever.  An education is something you will always be able to fall back on.  At the very least, take some courses on business, marketing, and personal finance, as they will be very valuable in both the modeling business, and the housepainting one.

7. It’s “accepting” not “excepting”. Presenting yourself professionally will help you get treated like one, which might improve your chances of getting paid shoots.

8. Number 6 also applies to the escort BS. You don’t need an escort on a shoot.  Especially if you’re modeling full time–certainly then the shoots you’re going to have full hair, makeup, wardrobe, and possibly even art directors on set…  but if you’re shooting with regular folks off MM or other modeling sites, doing your research on them first may help.  These articles are good to read: Safety & Due Diligence by SLE Photography and What is Due Diligence in a Model/Photographer Environment? by Curt Burgess

9. Stop using the word “edgy”. It’s meaningless.  Seriously.

10. Figure out what makes you worth paying. Once you’ve done that, market the hell out of yourself.  Here’s a hint: it’s not your height, your hair, how much you rock on the runway, or how much you love modeling… because there’s always going to be someone taller, with the same hair, who can rock the runway better, who loves modeling more.

November 24, 2008

“I’ve been modeling for a month, pay me!”

On one of the modeling sites, a new model posted up that she has been modeling for “about a month” and is looking for paid jobs. She asked for advice on getting paid jobs, wanted to know what she should do about her wardrobe (admitting to being a college student who owns nothing but jeans and flip-flops), and mentioned that she won’t do nudes. Here’s the advice I gave her.

Being ‘a model’ doesn’t automatically entitle you to getting paid lots of money. Just like spending 4+ years in college doesn’t entitle you to getting a decent paying job (let alone one in the field you studied) right out the door.

In fact, if you’re not signed (and especially if you’re just modeling as a hobby), chances are you’re going to end up spending more than you make on things for shoots (like wardrobe, shoes, traveling to shoots, stylists and MUAs, etc.). And let’s not forget the hours spent networking to make sure people know who you are and have a desire to hire you.

If you’re looking to make money, get a job at the grocery store close to your college campus. That’s a sure thing. Modeling for a month and then looking to get paid? Not so much.

Chances are, at your height and measurements, you’re going to have a hard time getting signed to an agency (unless you find a commercial one that can place someone with your look). And if you’re not signed, and not willing to do nudes, the market that will pay you (especially with only one month’s experience under your stilettos flip-flops) will be quite limited.

What will “guarantee” you money from modeling? Nudes and fetish work. There are fetishes that don’t require nudity, but you have to be comfortable with the idea of someone getting off to images of you. If you’re not comfortable with either of those things, chances are, you’re not going to make money modeling. Hell, you’ll be lucky to break even.

Now, as far as your current wardrobe goes, you’re 20 years old, and will soon be out in the professional world. You might as well start investing in some quality, classic pieces that will last you: black pumps, a dark suit, a couple modest dresses. The holidays are coming up. When people ask what you want as gifts, explain that you would like to start building your professional wardrobe, and ask for giftcards to places like The Limited, Ann Taylor, or Banana Republic. You don’t need to buy frumpy pieces, just make sure they’re not too tight or too trendy. Well-made pieces with classic lines will last you quite some time, and it’s worth spending the money on pieces like that.

For shoots, you can find a wardrobe stylist to hire, or you can try finding stuff at places like TJ Maxx, Goodwill, Nordstrom Rack, or even H&M. And always hit up the sale racks. Hell, borrow from your friends if you can’t go out and buy stuff. Figuring out where you want to go with modeling, as well as planning shoots with photographers in advance, will also help you find wardrobe pieces.

I built the basics of my professional wardrobe on holiday gifts. I use the holidays as a time to re-evaluate what I have and update it if necessary.

I rarely, if ever, buy something for a shoot that I can’t wear either to work, out, or just in general.

Oh, and I worked my ass off in college taking unpaid internships, freelancing for family friends at reduced rates, and taking on projects for my sorority and other groups I was involved in to get experience. All that hard work paid off, and I landed a job 2 weeks after graduating.

As a model (a hobbyist mind you), I worked purely on a trade basis for over a year before I felt comfortable quoting rates to photographers who asked. If I didn’t see a value in working with someone, I simply said no. I’ve worked my rear off to get people to recognize my name, my face, and want to work with me. It’s paid off, but it was a long, frustrating, tiring road, and one that needs constant maintenance.

My advice? Get a ‘real job’ if you need money, and model as a hobby if you find it enjoyable.

November 20, 2008

OMGz! Paying a Model? WTF?!

I am tired of working trade.

I’m tired of being asked to work trade by photographers who’s work isn’t on the same level as what I have in my portfolio, and either not hearing back when I respond with rates, or being told off when I respond with rates.

The economy is bad and money is tight for everyone. I get it. Starving students can’t afford to pay models. Believe me, I get it.

I have a dayjob that pays my bills, so I don’t need the money. I’m not a “real” model, just a mere hobbyist. I’m too short to “go anywhere”. A new model will do the shoot “for free”. I get it. All of it.

But my time, efforts and energy are all worth something. The hard work I put into a shoot, before and during, is worth something. Doesn’t seem like many hobbyist photographers get it.

But there’s a big benefit when it comes to paying an experienced model. And it doesn’t seem like many hobbyist photographers get that either.

The biggest benefit you get when you hire a model with experience is that you get someone who is comfortable in front of the camera, knows how to move, how to work with various lighting scenarios, how to emote in front of the camera, and how to follow direction. You don’t have to deal with nerves, stiffness, “deer in headlights”, or inability to follow directions. And having someone in front of your camera who knows what she’s doing?

Some experienced models, like myself, make an extra effort to make sure they’re on the same page with the photographer. Before the shoot. I personally make sure that our ideas jive, that we are both in agreement about what kind of shoot it is, if it’s trade or paid, who is taking care of what expenses (studio, makeup artist, etc.), and whatever else. I also make sure that I know where I’m going, when I need to be there, and that the photographer and I have exchanged contact info (cell phone numbers, most importantly). Most experienced models can also provide you with a ton of references, lessening the likelihood of the dreaded “flake”.

Bottom line is, if you hire an experienced model, you’ll end up with better images the vast majority of the time. Of course, it should go without saying that hiring an experienced model won’t automatically improve your lighting, shot composition, and all the other things that make a shot great. But it will get you some better stuff for your portfolio. And better shots mean more people will want to work with you, which will give you more chances to learn and improve your craft.

So the next time you’re looking to work with someone, pause for a minute and consider the value of hiring an experienced model. There are many of us floating around the Internet. Some of us are even going-nowhere, day-job-having, not-agency-represented, not-real-models hobbyists 😉

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