Is It Okay to Turn Down a Modeling Job?

Spectators watching fashion models on catwalk
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Say no to a booking? What kind of model would do such a crazy thing? A smart and informed one, that’s who!

While it’s tempting to take each and every modeling job that comes your way, especially if you’re a new model trying to break into the business, there are a few special circumstances in which it’s perfectly acceptable to say, “No thanks!” As scary as it is, the decision to walk away could be the best thing you do for yourself and for your career.

So when is it okay to turn down a job?

When It May Affect Future Bookings

Aaron Marcus, the author of How to Become a Successful Commercial Model, shared an interesting anecdote on his blog.

His agent sent him an email about a pharmaceutical print job. Normally Aaron would be quite excited because, in the commercial modeling world, pharmaceutical print jobs typically pay the best. This particular job only paid $500, but it was one little phrase in the fine print that really set off his alarm bells: “in perpetuity.” 

“In perpetuity” means the company wants to be able to use the ad forever. The problem with this is, if they’re going to use the ad until the end of time, Aaron is never going to be able to do another job for a similar product. For $400 (the day rate minus a 20% agency commission), he’d be putting himself out of work for that type of product for the rest of his career. So after careful consideration, Aaron called his agent, thanked her very much for the offer, and explained how he didn’t think it was a good business decision to accept it.

Note: As with all things, there are exceptions! Aaron has accepted better-paying jobs with the perpetuity clause in the contract. The only difference, aside from the higher pay, was that the ad was for an obscure product with little to no chance of interfering with future work.

When You're Already Booked

If you’re working with two different agencies, it’s possible that you’ll be offered one job when you’re already booked for another. Obviously, you can’t be in two places at once, and as hard as your agent may try it’s not always possible to switch around the shooting dates or times. So what do you do? 

Typically, the best decision is to keep your commitment and turn down the second job. This can be tough to do, especially if the other job is more lucrative, but it’s usually best in the long run. If you release the first booking, your agent will have to contact the client, explain why you backed out, and either find a suitable replacement or lose the commission. This strains your relationship with your agent and the client and can burn bridges—something you never want to do in the modeling industry (it’s a small world out there!).

When It Violates Your Religious and/or Moral Beliefs

Many models have certain lines they will not cross. Some refuse to pose nude or semi-nude, or with cigarettes, alcohol, fur, or another specific product that goes against their principles. If the shoot requires you to do something you’re uncomfortable with, you’re totally within your rights to turn the job down. It’s possible to make it in the modeling industry while staying true to yourself!

When Your Gut Says “No”

If a booking doesn’t sit right with you for any reason, you should talk over your concerns with your agent. Your worries might turn out to be nothing, but they might turn out to be something, too. If your agent can’t smooth over the situation and ease your nerves, then you should listen to your instincts and politely decline the job.