Alice Keith

Working in Fashion

Alice's Top 5 Tips

August 18, 2021 by Alice Keith, of The Advocates

Tip #5. It's Not As Hard As Becoming A Rock Star (Or Is It?)

So, you've mastered your craft. You've differentiated yourself. You've shot editorials for a couple of magazines even – amazing!!! You have a solid book and have been at it for maybe two or three years.

But NOW is when it gets hard, because you're STILL not making much money at it, and you're not sure what your next steps should be.

Here's the rub with working in fashion: until you break into the upper crust – the circle of people who "Work" – the creatives that elite brands want, and trust, to sell their products – there's basically no money to be made.

By the numbers, I'd guess there are thousands of aspiring fashion photographers in Canada (if you can count the ones who've never set foot in an agency – see #1), and only approximately ten photographers who book MOST of the paying fashion brand work. There is an even smaller group of stylists who get all the work. So wow... I actually can think of more Canadian musicians who've made it big than I can photographers.

I think the (well known) reason for a lack of paid work for middle of the road photographers is that competition is so stiff, most people will take on anything resembling an "opportunity" for next to no money (or free). And I've seen a million photographers, like this guy, cry about it. But to that I say, sir, I promise you – there are some photographers making money. Just not you. Don't whine about people undervaluing your work. Look at the reality (it's called a free market) and decide if the sweat and tears of pursuing this career is worth it for you.

It's no coincidence that most of the successful photographers have a bit of gray hair. It's because they're old... j/k. But really, even if you're very good, to get somewhere you will (possibly secretly) work other jobs year after year to make ends meet, and network like crazy. Until suddenly – BOOM – you're "in!" I know a great stylist who for years was struggling, but she kept at it, and just this year it seems like all of a sudden the dawn has broken for her. She has entered (or is very near to entering) "the circle."

I don't know as much about the experiences of those looking to work at an agency or magazine, but I do know that the starting salary for modelling or creative agencies, offered to the minority of people who are lucky enough to get a job after interning, is a grand total of about $25K. And you'll be expected to work hard and increase the agency's bottom line for it, because while it may not seem like much to you, it's a lot of money out of a small business owner's pocket in an industry with tight margins. You'll need to be a star to stay employed.

One Last Thing: There's Always Geoff

I have to point out that some talented f*ckers are virtually overnight successes, like photographer Geoff Barrenger. Here's how describes the start of his career: "A tall, lanky kid in regular jeans and a grey T-shirt, his hair grown midway into a ‘fro, walks into a modelling agency with a portfolio of pictures (schoolmates and the odd vacation shot) - not too promising a scenario. But for then 21-year-old Geoff Barrenger, it was the tipping point that launched him into the world of fashion." So hey, you can always just warm your heart to the thought of Geoff if things are seeming a bit frightening. It could happen for you too.


Blogs We Follow

Cailin Hill (The Model Burnbook)

Natalia Zurowski & Jasmine Chorley Foster (The Business Model)

Madison Schill & Addison Gill's (Mind Over Model)

Ania Boniecka (A n i a . B)