For 10 years now I have worked with, consulted for and advised talent.
Models, Dancers, DJs and well... every professional comes across one common issue in their profession. Pay.
Being a talent manager & photographer, I typically do not have the "Need" to pay models when I want to shoot for fun. If I feel like being creative or practicing something new, I have an extensive list of models willing to collaborate without compensation. Doe's this mean I don't respect models? What about the opposite side of the story, if they don't offer me my $300-$500 rate should I be offended? Simple answer... NO!
There is no right answer, some models pay me hundreds of dollars, others expect to be paid hundreds. Everyone needs to find their own happy medium. As a talent manager one of the first things I do with clients is adjust and balance their paid work. Making sure they are in the range they deserve and using that as a base. For example: Lets say a model expects $200 an hour with a 2 hour minimum. I would suggest the model makes that her known rate. Don't be shy, be bold. If someone asks to book them we immediately ask; "What is the date, location and pay of the shoot." This get's the uncomfortable questions out of the way. If they say its far and zero pay, we decline the offer. If they say the pay is under their expected rate, we reply. "Her rate is generally $200hr with a 2 hr minimum." ... There is always room to negotiate. If it's an hour of work for $150 and close to home she might take it, if it's an internationally known photographer who normally charges $1,000 a shoot and it's not paid, she might take it.
But how do you even get to the point where you can charge as a model?
Step 1: Well, just do it.
First, you need to be, look, act, present your self professional. Build a portfolio FIRST so at least a photographer can see you're worth paying. Than, set a rate your comfortable with. Even $100 a shoot.
Step 2: Turn down work!
Don't be afraid to say no to unpaid work. Chances are if you turn away a photographer for unpaid work, they will return with paid work one day because they now know they can't push you around. If you give in and do the work for less than you asked or free, they see you as a push over, and they tell other photographers. (Yes they talk a lot)
Step 3: Make it known !
Keep posting that you are only taking paid work, If old photographers you have shot with for free ask to book you again, let them know you only have time for "Paid shoots right now." (Again, don't be afraid to turn down work) Eventually photographers see you as a model that only does paid work.
Step 4: Make progress...
If needed, PAY A PHOTOGRAPHER to get some AMAZING PHOTOS of your self, this will show larger photographers/clients your potential. Book discounted/free shoots with AMAZING photographers and have them sign an agreement not to discuss the pay with anyone.
Step 5: LOOK BUSY & BE BUSY!
If you use your facebook, instagram, social media once a month. The world assumes you are not a model people want to work with. If you post on social media every day with a new HIGH QUALITY PHOTO than people assume you are doing a lot of paid work, and thus they are willing to pay you.
Step 6: Be The Best You Can!!!!!
As a model, you are selling your self as a product. Your customer wants the best product for the lowest cost. I do not believe a model has to be 5'11 or size zero, but I DO think you need to be the best in your field. Be in shape, do your hair, take care of your body, do your nails, hit the gym. I FULLY support every woman feeling empowered and sexy no matter her size or shape ! RIGHT ON!!! But understand specific bookings seek specific looks. Victoria secret probably wont be booking too many 5'5, thicker hispanic pin up models, but there is someone who is seeking just that. Find the industry that SEEKS OUT your look, and start there.
Hopefully this helps someone out there understand a few ways to start getting paid.