Saturday, April 30, 2011

Child modeling from a mom's perspective.

Nordstom Holiday 2010
My daughter age 3 1/2 has been modeling since she was 6 months old. Her fist job was a month after we signed with JE Model in San Francisco and was for Pottery Barn. Since then, she has worked for Macy's, Mervyns, Nordstrom, Old Navy, Hannah Andersson, and the latest, Children's Place. It is a very interesting business filled with mystery for those who are interested in having their child be a model. I thought I'd write about things that people seem to be most curious about. I asked on my FB page & got a few responses as well as a few emails. So ... here are my experiences.

How did you get your daughter into modeling? By chance actually. I had a cousin who threatened me if I didn't submit my daughter's pictures to JE Model in SF. She knew someone who knew someone who they represented. I went online & followed the submission guidelines thinking that would be the end of it. They called back the next day & she was signed a week later after meeting my daughter and I.

How do I get my kid into modeling? There are several agencies in the Bay Area. We are with JE Model in San Francisco. There is Models Inc, Stars, and Marla Dell. Maybe others, but these stick out in my mind. Each of them have submission guidelines on their websites. Just follow those carefully. If they like your child's look they'll call you. I can only speak to JE, but they'll request an in person meeting to see the child's personality. Your child has to, in general, be ok with strangers and well behaved.

Do I have to pay the agency? I've kind of addressed this is other areas. but No. They get paid if and when your child gets paid. I met a mom who bought a "modeling kit" for $250 from her agency. She was surprised to see none of the other moms there had this kit ... it had hair products, wipes, and plain white diapers and some other stuff. Not $250 worth for sure.

What is the time commitment? This is a tricky one. All three of my girls are signed with the agency, though only the oldest has ever actually worked. The business in the SF Bay Area has really slowed down as companies have closed (Mervyns) or moved their shooting (Macys, Gymboree, GAP) I can tell you what is involved. You (the parent) have to keep an online portfolio updated. The agency wants to see current pictures. Think of how much a 6 month old baby changes every week! The agency wants good pictures too. So, I spend a lot of time taking, uploading & editing pictures. The agency picks only about 10% of the ones I submit ... so that is a lot of work. You have to keep their work permit updated, which is just mailing in a form once every 6 months. Then there is the actual "work" or work getting work. Most jobs, you have to go to a "go-see" or an audition. You can get a call a week before, or two days before ... something like, your child has been requested for a go see on Tuesday between 10 - 2 in San Francisco. I have been at some that take 5 minutes, other times I have waited for 3 hours. Then, if your child gets the job you find out anywhere from again 1 week to 12 hours before. Literally. The last shoot, the calls were put out at 7 pm the night before, and the location was 1 1/2 hours from my house! On a side note - when you go to anything work related, it is only the child and an adult that can be there, no siblings. Last year we went to 6 go-sees and 3 of them resulted in work. So far this year, we have done 5 go-sees, and one job.

Is all of the work last minute? In my experience, pretty much no more notice than a week out. We actually got a call last year to be in San Francisco ASAP for a shoot. The company had forgotten to call the agency about my daughter shooting that day. It was the middle of the day & I had just put my girls down for a nap. We made it & it went great. But, I was holding my breath the whole time. (I did take my other daughter that day ...)

What is the money like?
It isn't a lot, so far what we have done & I don't know about things like being on a pampers box BUT generally the catalog work pays about $100 - $200/ hr with a 2 hr minimum.  If the picture has more "usage" like a clothing hang tag, the pay is higher ... around $1000.  Your agency takes 20% (and this is the ONLY money they get from you ... if someone wants you to pay them more run the other way.) This is just for the actual shoot. You are not paid for the go-sees, and you have to get to the location which can be anywhere in the Bay Area!

One of the head shots ...
What are the expenses? Aside from gas being $4 - $5 / gal and getting your child to all of the places for work & go-sees, there is a small fee every month for your child's online portfolio. After age 3, they should have professional pictures done. This can be from $200 - $450. Other than that, not much that I can think of, unless you have to miss work and want to count that.

What are the shoots like? There is no typical shoot. One she did we were in and out in 20 minutes, literally. One other time we waited for 3 hours before they shot her. Really you are at work. There are a lot of people involved to make this happen. Sometimes 20 or more. Your child is just one piece of the puzzle. Most are pretty kid friendly in that they are people who know how to work with kids. Sometimes, as kids, they are just not having it. I have seen more than a few meltdowns. Usually for smaller kids they hire a backup child in case #1 is having a bad day. That's another thing, your child could be the backup & though they get paid never get their picture taken. Yeah, you get the money but no picture.

What advise would you give? First, you have to not take it too seriously or personally. Looks are trendy and not every child has the look. It doesn't mean your child isn't beautiful or cute or the best baby ever! Especially with the lack of business in the area I was told the agencies are really picky and maybe they just have too many kids that have your child's look. Also, if you are working and don't have a flexible schedule or someone (like a grandparent) who can take your child places last minute, it is really pointless. Each job represents possibly 2 days you will miss from work. Lastly, not every kid likes it & some LOVE it. My middle daughter runs and screams at the camera. We almost stopped with my oldest when she was 2 1/2. She did not seem to like it at all. The "deciding" shoot, was a great one with a child wrangler who made it like going to a party. My daughter has enjoyed it since then. Also, it is a JOB.

Do you get to keep the clothes? People ask me this all of the time! Nope.

Another from her head shot shoot ... I got to play stylist.  
Any other questions? Post in the comments ... I'll answer. Have other experiences? Post please! I'd love to read about them!


  1. Great blog...straight up to the daughter is signed with JE as well...

  2. Thanks for the comment! Maybe we'll run into eachother sometime.

  3. Just had my daughter sign up with JE Management. Not sure how it goes after that, but my girlfriend is looking for it to be a fun experience. Hopefully, what she makes can cover the cost of doing it, and we will have a great time.

  4. Congratulations Keith! Shannon / JE are great. Don't take it too seriously ... it is fun. Just remeber to take a backpack of toys & non-messy foods to endure the possible long waits at go-sees & jobs.

  5. Hi Laura,
    Nice post! do you have any special advice for 1st time go-and-see????
    My daughter gets shy around too much people sometimes, specially if she's tired!

  6. 1st time & every time ;) make sure you are relaxed. We all know our kids totally pick up on our emotions and if you are nervous / anxious she will be too. Bring a lot of toys & some snacks as we have waited up to 2 hours before. If there is a window of time, pick a time realistic for her (avoid nap time!) Depending on how old she is ... I like to explain to my daughter what is going on before we get there ... we are going to a place to have your picture taken / there might be a lot of people etc. With my oldest (3) we work on introductions & shaking hands saying nice to meet you etc. If you make it fun & relaxed for her, she'll (hopefully) be relaxed. Also, be prepared for her to totally freak out and have to leave with out having the picture taken. Don't be upset ... it happens. Try again next time. Let me know how it goes!! Love to get the feedback & your first time experience!

  7. Thanks for replying fast Laura!
    She's 20 months old & still on naps anytime around 12-2pm. I hope she does ok! I'll take your tips around bringing toys & no-messy snacks!
    I'll let you know how it went, it's this Friday!!
    Thanks a lot!,
    P.s. I couldn't find your email in your webpage, so that's why I'm writing you here :)

  8. Love the comments on the post ... others have the same questions so it is great to be able to answer them! You should be at the go-see, I am excited to hear how it went / who it was for / your thoughts!

  9. You actually answered the question I posted on another one of your posts. Princess models through a boutique and I thought about sending her pics to agencies in NYC to see if she's get picked. I remember modeling back in the day, and it was pretty hectic. Just as you described, sometimes you can get a last minute call and you'd have to be there at the drop of a hat. I remember booking some pretty nice gigs, but couldn't make it because I was out of the country or missed the call. You have to be ready! Seems like there's no down time, even when you think there is. Your kids are adorable!