Sunday, September 2, 2012

Small town modeling tips inspired by Jett from my YA novel Careful

Hey Girls,
Jett, a Japanese aspiring model and one of Estella's best friends in my new YA novel Careful, dreams of getting out of their small town,Willow Ridge (inspired by my hometown in Central, NY), and to the big city.  Although, Jett has booked some good modeling work right in Central, NY, sure, it's not national advertising campaigns but she has grown her local modeling experience greatly. Something any aspiring model can also do.

"Willow Ridge isn’t a big metropolis like New York City; it’s just about twenty minutes outside of Syracuse, New York. Still, I bet that just about every single person in Central New York has seen Jett’s face at one time or another. She’d been in the local grocery chain commercials, ads for spas and jewelry stores, and billboards advertising the shopping mall." ~From the book Careful.

Ironically recently I've been asked by a couple aspiring models for tips on finding opportunities in smaller cities. NY and LA are where a lot of the work is, but you can still find good gigs and start to grow a portfolio in a smaller city. Actually a lot of big brands that work with models are not based in NY or LA, more like St. Louis, and may be surprised to learn that right in your city or state there are modeling opportunities, of course you need to know how to approach the right agencies, have the right photos, a realistic mindset and know how to get these opportunities...I've written about this before on, but inspired to share some more insight on small town model marketing.

Five tips to finding modeling opportunities in your small town

A big city might seem ideal, but keep in mind there is a lot of competition in a big city, and a smaller town/or city might be the perfect place to start spreading your wings and gaining experience.

1. Focus on getting photos that will be marketable. In a smaller town most likely the photos you need are a lot less about glamour and allure and more about you just being you. The shots involve less makeup and have less of a fashion appeal, they are more natural and casual, not a high fashion type shot with a serious expression. Personality is totally needed. Print modeling is about personality and if you are petite, print modeling should be your area of focus. Of course you need to know what print modeling is first. So spend time understanding what print modeling is and the photos you need, and start planning to create the right photos you need. Here are tips on the photos you need no matter what size your city to pursue print modeling. And find a photographer who understands what print modeling is. I'd have that headshot, great smiling shots and shots that show your personality, nothing too fashion forward.

In a smaller city the models typically are attractive but also real-life looking, so you can cut back on the bold eyeshadow colors and lipstick, stick to more natural looks. This is because you want to relate to the type of modeling jobs you would realistically get a smaller town. Most of the time the products and brands they could be working with could be local boutiques, local stores and chains and mom and pop start ups and family run companies. Study the ads for the brands and products based in your town, you will see it doesn't typically look like an ad in Vogue. Sure, some well known national brands are based in smaller cities but also consider you could be modeling for a grocery store or local tech store or jewelry store or the many pharmaceutical companies out there. So you can see why a bikini shot that has a glamour appeal just doesn't work for that sort of thing.

If you want the work in a smaller city you have to target your photos that fit the type of work that is available there. Shots that show personality and smiles are ideal, you want to have the appeal of a happy person, friendly and approachable. When you are planning your photo shoots for a comp card remember to make sure your clothes do not take away from your natural glow and personality. By being prepared with the right photos and choosing to manage your photography you can also save money and time and prevent scams from hassling you. ***Again, do the work and know what photos you need, be a savvy marketing minded model and work with a photographer who understands print modeling. It might be best to start with a photographer who shoots headshots for actors, make sure the photographer has a commercial print vibe within his portfolio and client list.

2. Know what agencies are based in your town. Start by Googling "print modeling + your city or near by cities."  Agencies like their models to live nearby, not hours away, so stick to agencies within a 30 min drive if possible.  Are there any print modeling agencies or do the agencies seem high fashion, a lot of times small town agencies have modeling schools, classes, teach runway and tell you that even though your 5'2" you can be a fashion model and should know how to walk a runway...Ummm, no <--- don't need that, it's not a must-do and in my opinion it's a waste of money and a big lie. Focus on targeting yourself to the right agencies, and consider not just print modeling agencies but talent agencies that work with actors as well for local commercials and on-camera TV spots. The local news station might use models for lifestyle segments involving trends so consider working with talent agencies as well. There is a lot more here on my blog about using your comp card and getting your own modeling work to grow your portfolio and experience in a smaller town or city, it all comes down to your own marketing ability. How ambitious are you and how good of a marketer you are and how good of a researcher are you? 

3. Become a networker.
In Careful, Jett works with an agency in Willow Ridge but if you are having a hard time working with the agency and have the will power to hustle up your own work I suggest becoming a savvy model marketer. You can still find your own modeling work in a smaller city but you have to be smart and very perceptive about it and be able to tell the differnce between what is worth your time and a waste of time. Your goal should be to grow your experience and modeling portfolio and you should have modeling goals already in mind.  Based on your modeling goals you should target the type of modelig work that will help you gain the experience you need.

Attend craft shows and retail and fashion events in your town. Get to know the aspiring designers and those who may need a model for their product catalog. Bring your comp card and hustle. Introduce yourself and that you like their products and you would be interested in chatting about modeling for them if they need a model in the near future.Think about accessories, hats, handbags, jewelry, products and goods that don't have a height requirement to model them. (Keep in mind you might not get paid much for working with an aspiring brand or designer but you should get copies of the photos and the catalog, etc.) But it's not just about the money and bringing in the big bucks when your new to pursuing modeling and trying to grow your portfolio, it's also about the experience and making sure it is a valuable experience that fits your goals. Approach hair salons, nail salons, local stores and companies, restaurants that have been advertising already and ask who to speak with about their marketing and advertising and explain that you an aspiring model. Take yourself seriously and others will as well.  Be prepared to be your own agent, you might need to discuss payment and when you will receive it, the hours you are working and getting copies of your work.

Now I would NOT take this approach if you do not have any experience infront of a camera and do not know how to model naturally products. Being a model marketer is not something for the naive but it's a good idea for a model who wants to get the most out ofher smaller city and has some experience already.

4. Beyond the modeling agencies. If you've submitted to the agencies in your town and you're having trouble hang tight, remember there could be other ways to round up some work. Know as much you can about the smaller sized production companies, ad agencies, and even local magazines based in your town. Who are the photographers working with these ad agencies, local magazines, newspapers who are shooting for the local ads?  Who are the art directors or photo editors? What tradeshows take place in your town? (Sometimes there is a list of vendors for shoe brands, swimwear, etc., posted ahead of time and you could reach out to some that might need a model, and maybe you'll get booked for the tradeshow.)  Be prepared with your headshot, resume and comp card ready. Although this is the Internet and digital-age you still need these important professional model marketing tools.

5. Grab your bootstraps!  It takes confidence and professionalism, professional photos and a go-getter attitude, to book your own modeling work no matter the size of your city, but these days being a pretty face isn't enough, especially if you are shorter and the underdog, so becoming marketing savvy, knowing how to market your best assets, staying positive and becoming a great researcher is key.

Other handy model marketing tools:
A journal, a cute one like this is perfect to keep your schedule, plans, thoughts and goals organized while you are stomping the pavement and making your dreams happen.
Makeup case or pouch, something small and compact is good for castings and jobs. I'm currently using this one from Muji
Travel size everything beauty, I love travel size items, lotion, toothpaste, brush or comb, deodorant, small tweezers to these Fresh mini mascara wands (my favorite and sad they are no longer available at Sephora). Perfect when you're on the job. Other mascara mini's which are great for girls on go!


P.s: Has your own model marketing lead to great results? Share your story and submit to be petite of the week. Email me your story and a headshot and full body shot at


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