Sometime over the last year or so, I was finally able to cut the strings of feeling judged for deciding I didn’t want to pursue a paid modeling career, at least in the usual sense, anymore.
My Realization of the Problem
For years, I’d been struggling to find paid photoshoots in the Metro Detroit area. I felt like if I tried hard enough, I could find shoots. I felt like other people were booking shoots in the area or at least they were talking about it. I also remembered being told that if you try hard enough, you’ll find the paid work.
Slowly, I began to realize it just wasn’t going to happen for me. When I first came to that realization, I thought it was just me. I started picking myself apart trying to rationalize why I wasn’t booking the paid work I felt I should have been. I was being told I was great to work with, I had people from all over the world asking me to come to them to shoot, and I’d done very well before in a different area.
This was incredibly hard on my self-esteem as a model and a person.
Not Wanting to Let Go
Modeling was the one thing I felt I was good at and that I could earn an income doing. My health and anxiety issues have always made a standard job a poor fit so as soon as modeling started to become a source of income for me, I had been thrilled. But I had moved, for personal reasons, from a market where I was very popular and hired often to one in a bigger city where there really wasn’t much work for me.
In my last-ditch effort, I reached out to some model mentors and explained my situation. They all told me pretty much the same thing: they were staying booked by traveling and it seemed like I was doing everything I could as a local model. Traveling has never been an option for me so I knew I needed to find another path.
This was all incredibly frustrating considering the rest of my life was going very well. I was enjoying (and still enjoy) living in Detroit, co-producing events, and, of course, having finally found a supportive and wonderful romantic relationship.
Struggling to Find a Solution
Still, I craved that personal fulfillment and satisfaction. I also really felt I needed to be earning more.
I’d started a Patreon a couple of years back and it was doing okay. I wasn’t really making much with it, but it was something and I had fun with it. I had Zivity, too, and I was making a little through that, but it had gone the way of explicit content that I don’t do.
At some point, I had a few conversations with other models, my husband, and maybe a couple of friends and I finally started to realize that with all the agony it was causing me, pursuing modeling for hire was sucking the joy out of things for me.
I started to examine what I really enjoyed about modeling. It certainly wasn’t chasing paid shoots or dealing with fifty messages to only have one ever really pan out. I enjoyed collaborating with people, I enjoyed promoting my work, I enjoyed sharing my work, I enjoyed playing dres- up, and more and more I was enjoying shooting self-portraits.
I gave myself a timeline. I told myself that I would give booking paid shoots one last full effort and then after that, I would let them go and focus on my Patreon where I was happy. I did give it a good effort. I crafted posts for local groups, I over-hauled my ModelMayhem and my website, I adjusted my rates, and I made an effort to reach out to photographers.
I ended up with a fair number of responses, but I was quickly pulled back into the “wishy-washy” aspects again. Photographers would seem interested, but then they’d fuss about my rates or they wouldn’t have access to a location to shoot. They weren’t willing to book the incredibly affordable studio I’d arranged opportunities to shoot at. I was being strongly reminded as to why I needed to get out of the cycle.
The Real Issue
And at some point during all of this, I realized what was holding me back: I was afraid I would be judged as a lesser model if I wasn’t doing shoots for hire. It wasn’t about the money. It wasn’t even about personal fulfillment as I had thought all along. It was about losing the respect I’d worked hard to gain over the years.
Prior to being a model and becoming involved in that community, I’d rarely felt respected in any community, especially by my peers. I was always “so tiny” and “so shy” that people seemed to either avoid me or treat me like I was a child. I didn’t always hate it. Sometimes it was nice having others take the reins. But I was growing as a person and I enjoyed finally having a place where people were coming to me for help and where I was actually able to help them.
Helping others is a cornerstone of my personality. I enjoy it. It gives me a purpose.
So the thought of losing all of that scared me.
How I Finally Let Go
But once I sat down and really thought about it over time, I realized that I was doing what was best for me. I was being practical. And also, why was I thinking that my experiences or my advice were any less valid because I was choosing a path that was right for me? If anything, I was following my own advice and letting go of what was no longer working for me.
I think that’s the key point, too: I let go of what was no longer working for me. Modeling for hire is fantastic for a lot of models, just as traveling is. Patreon has been wonderful for me, but that’s not the case for everyone. The point isn’t what I did, it’s why I did it and what the overall outcome was.
In my case, the overall outcome is a dream coming true.
I’m still working on it, but I now enjoy every shoot I do. When I collaborate with others I feel like I can guide the shoot just as much as the photographer does. When I shoot self-portraits, I can shoot whatever I want and know that my Patrons are supporting me. In fact, some of my odd little experiments have ended up being among the most popular among my Patrons. Instead of the emotional drain of dealing with wishy-washy photographers, I get to seek out new Patrons and talk about all of the things I love about what I do. Of course, there are times when things get a bit frustrating, but I still feel solid in what I’m doing and I’m no longer literally in tears about my creativity.
My take-away from this experience was that there is no one path in modeling or any kind of creativity that is standard or the best. The best path isn’t the one I took, though I do believe it was the best for me. The best path is whatever works for you. It takes time to figure that out and that’s okay. The first step is acknowledging the problem, then you can start to work towards a solution to fix it.
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