Everyone tells you your dimpled darling should be a model, but does your child have what it takes? Do you?
We asked two of the top agents in the business and the mother of a child model to share their insights and their best tips for breaking into child modeling. Find out what modeling is really like for kids and parents and how to start a career.
Does your child have what it takes to be a model?
It takes a lot more than a pretty face to make a good model. Temperament and personality are just as key to a child’s success.
“No one will book a kid if they’re not nice,” says Patti Fleischer, owner of Generation Model Management in New York. “Being sweet is important. But most important, a child should be well behaved and able to take direction.”
Carey Olsen, of Ford Models in San Francisco, agrees. “Temperament is very important. A child must be comfortable speaking with strangers and taking direction from them. She should also be able to handle large crowds of kids and stay focused on the audition.”
Most successful child models are also small for their age. That way they can play the part of a younger child but have the maturity level of an older one.
Before you pursue modeling for your child, ask yourself whether he’s comfortable around a lot of other children and adults. Is he generally outgoing? Can he pay attention for long periods of time? If the answer is yes, then your child might have the right personality for modeling.
Laura, a BabyCenter mom whose 28-month-old daughter has been in modeling for a year, says her little girl’s temperament has helped her be successful. “My daughter is very outgoing. She smiles and laughs all the time. Personality definitely comes through on camera. If you have a shy child, there’s no point in forcing her into modeling. She won’t have a good time, she probably won’t get picked for jobs, and it will make you miserable. ”
Also consider whether you and your child can handle disappointment. Olsen cautions, “You can expect to go on many go-sees before you get a job. Just like in the adult world, you hear many no’s before you hear one yes.”
Even moms whose child has been modeling for a while can be bothered by such rejections. “My daughter once had a job and got paid, but they ended up using another girl in the catalog,” says Laura. “I was devastated. It hurt so much that they thought someone else was ‘better’ than my daughter.”
Another key question to ask yourself: Does your child want to be a model, or do you want your child to be a model? Most babies will let you know whether they’re comfortable around strangers and enjoy the attention, but it can be harder to tell with an older child. Some kids say they’re interested in modeling just to please their parents.
Without the drive to succeed, most children won’t do well in the industry. “It has to be something a kid wants to do and something that’s fun,” says Fleischer.
Do you have what it takes to be the parent of a model?
The bulk of the work behind a child’s modeling career is done by the parent. Be prepared for plenty of driving and waiting. Parents with a lot of free time do the best.
“It’s definitely much more stressful for me than for my daughter,” Laura says. “You’re usually given about a day’s notice for the go-see, sometimes just a few hours. You show up, fill out a form, and wait your turn. Your child is called in, they take pictures and interact, and then you go home. If they want to book you, they call your agency.”
The amount of time spent driving to various jobs also depends on where you live. The major markets for modeling are New York, Los Angeles, and Miami, but both Fleischer and Olsen caution against relocating for your child’s career.
“A family shouldn’t relocate for representation,” says Olsen. “New York, L.A., and Miami have more opportunities than a small town in Georgia, but an agent can’t guarantee anyone work.” Since kids typically work just a few times a year and make only a few hundred dollars for some jobs, an expensive move isn’t worthwhile.
For most child models, it’s not a get-rich-quick scheme. They make, according to Fleischer, “a fraction of a fraction” of the amount adults make.
“Children make anywhere from $82.50 an hour to $1,200 a day and up,” says Olsen. “Each job has a different budget and different rates. It would be wonderful to say that all children will make enough money to help them with a college fund, but we can’t predict the future.”
Laura describes the typical payment for a job as follows: “My daughter gets paid between $50 and $200 per hour, usually around $100 per hour. She’s booked for minimum times. So if she’s booked for two hours but the shoot only lasts 45 minutes, she still gets paid for two hours. The agency takes 20 percent, which is standard, and then writes her a check for the rest.”
How will your child benefit from modeling?
Modeling can be hard work, but it can also be a wonderful experience for your child and a great opportunity for the two of you to spend time together. It can also introduce him to a wealth of new experiences.
Another big benefit: It can develop your child’s social skills and self-esteem. “It’s wonderful for an agent to see a child grow into a vibrantly confident kid,” says Olsen. “They get to socialize with kids outside their normal social circle. It also helps them learn to speak to adults and take direction well. Children can expect to gain confidence, interview skills, and wonderful memories.”
Laura is “absolutely happy” that her daughter is modeling. “I don’t think I would ever make this a full-time gig for her,” she says, “but she’s young and having fun. The second she says she doesn’t like it anymore, we’re out.”
Plus, if your child is successful, there is money to be made. Just don’t expect to get rich.
What steps can you take to get your child into modeling?
Step one: Get photographs of him. Step two: Find an agency. Sound simple? It is, if you know how to go about it and can avoid certain pitfalls. To get you started, here’s advice from people who know the business:
- Never pay any money up front to get your child into modeling.
“Make sure no one charges you for anything,” cautions New York agent Fleischer. “Anyone who charges a fee is not legitimate. Companies make money by a percentage of the model’s fee, not by charging a fee to work with the agency.”
- Good photos don’t have to be expensive.
To be seen by any agent, you’ll need the right pictures of your child. But, says San Francisco agent Olsen, professionals pictures aren’t necessary.
So, what are the “right pictures“? For her toddler, BabyCenter mom Laura emailed a simple snapshot of her daughter to a local agency. “Plain old snapshots, updated every month or so, are sufficient.”
“Unfortunately,” she says, “there are many scam artists in this business, just looking to jump on parents who think their kid is the next Olsen twin. Young children do not need professional head shots. They change too often. ”
Agents are looking for clear pictures that show off the child. The photos should be “very simple,” says Fleischer. “The child should be facing the camera. No hats, no sunglasses. Only the child should be in the picture. She shouldn’t be wearing any makeup.”
You can easily take this kind of picture at home with a digital camera. Make sure the pictures show your child’s features and take a variety of poses, including head shots and full-body shots.
- Don’t worry about whether your child is exactly what the agency is looking for.
What appeals to agents is variety. “I want everything from redheads with freckles to African Americans with afros,” Fleischer says. Olsen adds, “Each client has their own specific needs, and our job is to make sure we have a variety of kids to meet those needs.”
- Find a reputable agency
Once you have the pictures, find an agency that’s registered with the Better Business Bureau in your area. Fleischer recommends looking at the websites of companies that you’d like your child to model for to see which agencies they work with.
Some agencies have open calls for children. This can be an easy way to check out an agency in your area. According to Olsen, most agencies will only represent kids that live within a 200-mile radius of their office. You can telephone first to ask about the agency’s policies. Remember, a reputable agency won’t charge a fee for an open call.
You can also try searching online for different agencies, always checking to be sure they’re registered with the Better Business Bureau. Many adult agencies have a kids’ division or may be able to recommend a reputable agency that has one.
Which child model agencies are the best?
Here are a few reputable agencies to try:
381 Park Ave. South, Suite 821
New York, NY 10016
20 West 20th St., Suite 1008
New York, NY 10011
New York, Los Angeles, and Miami
What’s the best age for kids to get into modeling?
The right time for children to start modeling depends on their personality. A child’s suitability for modeling can also change with age.
If you’re thinking about getting your baby into modeling, remember that sometimes babies who are comfortable with strangers become shyer as toddlers. Fleischer recommends an early start so that “by the time they’re 2 or 3 they’re not fazed.” Call the agency you’re interested in working with ahead of time to find out its age requirements.
For an older child, “the best time for children to get into modeling is when they express interest,” says Olsen. “The kids that do best are the kids who want to model and the parents are along for the ride.”
An early start can also mean a longer career for a young model. Many kids’ modeling careers slow down at age 5 or 6, when they start losing their teeth, and the vast majority of child modeling careers are over by the time a child is 5 feet tall.