An expert tells us how much models really earn (and it's a lot less than you'd expect).

A model’s life looks glamorous. There’s expensive clothes, top hair and makeup artists, long limbs, constant jetsetting, champagne filled parties and beautiful photoshoots. We know of course, the reality can be very different.

It’s hard work, long hours and turns out, often very little pay.

When Mia Freedman spoke to Chelsea Bonner, former model, founder of plus size modelling agency Bella and daughter of model Nola Clark, on No Filter, she shared how much models really earn.

It’s likely a lot less than you’d expect – and probably less than you.

Listen: What do models really get paid? Post continues after audio.

“What people don’t realise is that a model is paid, for a day rate for editorial, $180,” Bonner said.

“And that’s before your commissions [to your agency]. So you end up with $96 in your pocket. That works out to be $12 an hour for an eight hour day.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re a top model like Elle Macpherson or Kate Smith doing her first job, the price is the same.

So why bother?


“Everyone does editorial cheaply because that’s what you need for your portfolio which then gets you the advertising jobs. That’s where the real money is,” said Mia.

For an advertising campaign you could be looking at anywhere from $3,000 to $10,000 a day, depending on the model. When you hear the earnings of some of the big names like Kendall Jenner, who was 2017’s highest earning model with a cool $22 million last year, followed by Gisele Bundchen at $17.5 million, that’s where they’re getting their money as well as other endorsements.

Covers and spreads get you attention and status but they don’t fill your bank account. The ads do.

2018! Harper’s Bazaar @harpersbazaarus & @solvesundsbostudio

A post shared by Kendall (@kendalljenner) on


While the editorial fee may seem low, sometimes that’s even the higher end of the scale.

Lauren*, a 25 year old model, told the BBC in 2016 that pay rates had fallen in recent years.

“All the first jobs I did were free. When you do a commercial job for a High Street brand or a big ad campaign they pay money, but editorials – everything you see in industry magazines – you don’t get paid for those at all. It’s an unwritten rule in the industry that you have to do them to get your profile up,” she said.

Listen to the full interview with Chelsea Bonner. Post continues after audio.

“You’ve got quite a lot of girls who can’t afford to live and are going to the agencies to ask for advances on money and are getting into debt. The bookers laugh at them for asking for handouts.”

Interestingly though, it’s not just the top models that can command top dollars. Fairfax Media reported in 2014 that child models can earn up to $50,000 a year. Agents also told that some children can earn up to $10,000 for a single job – about $200 an hour.

“The jobs range from $100, to thousands of dollars, and some are just for free clothes, but we do it because she loves it,” Anna Warr, mum of child model Imogen told

The fashion industry has always prized youth, after all.

Do you agree/disagree with this experience? Tell us below.