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Can you be a freelance model?

  • 3 min read
  • Last updated 8 Mar 2023

Being a freelance model is very much possible. You can technically freelance in anything. 

Advantages to being a freelance model

When you model for an agency or a brand, your contract is often an exclusive one. Whilst you may earn more stable and consistent income when you’re signed with an agency, there are certain advantages to modelling freelance:

  • Fewer aesthetic restrictions (you can have piercings and tattoos and model your natural shape)
  • You manage your own work schedule
  • All of your earnings are yours – you don’t have to divide them with your agency
  • You can work for whoever you want 
  • You can carve out a niche for yourself

What to consider when you go freelance?

Working freelance is very different to being signed to an agency. You are in control of when you work and who you work for, but this means that you don’t have the security of a contract.

That said, often being signed for an agency won’t guarantee you regular work so financially, the difference may not be that big. But there are a few things to consider before taking the plunge:

  • Do you have enough clients to maintain a steady stream of income?
  • You’ll have to build your own portfolio which may include paying for some initial shoots to showcase your different looks
  • Starting out, your budget may be tight
  • You’re responsible for paying your own tax

How to pay tax as a freelance model?

If you’re modelling freelance, you’ll be part of the self-employed workforce. Whilst this is liberating in many ways, many people dread having to do their own taxes. But it’s not as complicated as it seems.

Here are three important steps to take:

  1. Register as self-employed

This means letting HMRC know that your income is untaxed. To do this, you fill out what’s known as a Self Assessment. You basically have to declare what income you have coming in and where it’s coming from. 

This has to be done online by 5th October.

  1. Record your income and expenses

The tax year runs from 6th April – 5th April. For the 2023/24 tax year, that’s from 6th April 2023 to 5th April 2024.

tax year jargon

During this period, you must keep a record of all your modelling income and any expenses that you incur. Example expenses could be:

  • Travel costs to jobs
  • Camera equipment
  • Space hire for shoots
  • Photography printing
  • Marketing costs
  • Gym membership (this is on a case-by-case basis – read more here or speak to HMRC

You can claim back any expenses that you incur whilst doing work for your modelling business. When it comes to paying your tax bill, you will deduct the cost of your expenses from your overall earnings. You’ll therefore only pay tax on your profits.

  1. File a tax return 

The final step is paying your tax bill. You must do this by 31st January following the tax year that you’re paying for. In the 2023/24 tax year, for instance, the deadline to pay online is 31st January 2025.

The options to pay are:

  1. Do it yourself via HMRC online
  2. Pay an accountant to do it
  3. Find a low-cost alternative provider (like TaxScouts)

What tax do I need to pay?

As a self-employed model, there are three taxes to be aware of:

  1. Income Tax – this is based on how much you earn
  2. National Insurance – this qualifies you for state benefits like the state pension or Job Seekers’ Allowance
    1. Class 2 National Insurance
    2. Class 4 National Insurance

Click the links above to read more about what these taxes mean.

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