Maybe you’ve decided that you want to be a model and one of the many questions looming on your brain is: How much do runway models make? While you may want to jump straight into the job and start attending casting calls, it’s probably a good idea to see what your life would look like on a model’s salary first. So, how much do runway models make?
As with many professions, it’s hard to give an exact estimate of what to expect. It often depends on where you’re working, what designers you’re working with, how high your demand is, and which fashion events you work.
How much do runway models make?
Runway models are often compensated hourly, and the pay isn’t always as glamorous as the job. According to Cosmopolitan, runway models can make anywhere from $0 to $20,000 or more for a single show. Gisele Bundchen, one of the most in-demand models of our time, made $30 million in one year alone. Models like Karlie Kloss and Kendall Jenner are in extremely high demand and are treated as celebrities, with designers willing to shell out millions for them to model their clothes.
Runway models with lesser reputations, however, aren’t so lucky. According to Business Insider, it’s not uncommon for unknown models to be paid little to nothing for a show, instead being compensated with free clothing, food, or simply with exposure. These models will often have to choose between less glamorous gigs that pay or high profile shows that offer little but networking opportunities, like New York Fashion Week.
Which brings up the question: are models able to live off their wages alone? Again, there are almost too many variables to tell for sure. In 2016, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the median annual salary for models was $21,870, with one-fourth of all models making $19,010 or less a year, a wage that makes it difficult to live in bigger modeling cities like New York or Los Angeles.
Another important factor to remember is that not all the money goes straight to your bank account. One model told Business Insider that most talent agencies keep an account for each of their models to help pay for flights, hotels, photoshoots, etc. However, models are expected to pay back their agencies for all of these expenses, and for some, that means funneling all of their paycheck right back into the agencies. For others, it means being in debt to these agencies until they can afford to pay them back.
So is modeling the most fruitful profession? Probably not. If you’re only considering modeling in hopes of fame or to pad your bank account, you might want to reconsider your career options. While modeling might give you some great networking opportunities, it probably isn’t going to help you pay the rent.