Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Understanding Motivations

I've maintained for quite awhile that art modeling honed more skills than knowing how to pose. But I've also struggled to articulate exactly what these other skills were. "I, uh, I've gotten better at organizing stuff, and managing logistics! And networking! And, um, some other stuff!"

It was not a very convincing argument.

Since backing away from full-time modeling, and spending more time outside of that realm, I've gleaned some insights into exactly what those other skills were. They certainly aren't academic, and they aren't even the types of skills that are usually identified as useful. But they sure are handy.

One of those skills is understanding motivations. As a freelance model, you communicate with a whole slew of people. Even working within a very limited genre, I encountered all kinds of folks. As it is a field which has some risks associated, understanding the motivations of people was incredibly valuable. Why is this person contacting me? Why are they offering what they are? Is this compatible with my goals? What risks am I exposing myself to here? These questions are almost never explicitly discussed, but they are questions which you can answer as you being to develop the ability to understand others' motivations.

There were two events which led me to realizing that this is a skill that is honed by successful freelance models.

The first was entirely outside of the realm of modeling. I recently acquired a freelance writing gig. There were a few red flags associated with this particular gig, but not enough to fully throw on the breaks- just enough to proceed with caution. I took to referring to it as my "might-be-a-scam-job" right up until the first check cleared- which, by the way, it did. But at each step of the way, I evaluated what a legitimate company would be getting out of the deal, what a scammer would be getting out of the deal, and my own vulnerability by proceeding.

While chatting with another writer friend, she commented that she's always afraid that writing gigs on Craig's List are scams, and therefore doesn't pursue any of them. That was when I started realizing that working as a freelance model had helped me identify and understand motivations. I don't just know what obvious red flags to look for, but how to examine the subtleties of each situation. This helps me write off true scams- even sneaky ones- and take advantage of legitimate opportunities.

The other event which helped me realize that understanding motivations is a useful skill was a forum discussion on Model Mayhem. A model had been offered a truly obscene amount of money for a shoot- the rate was well above standard market rates. Red flag. She had done some background checking, and everything was coming up clear. She started a discussion about the situation to see others thoughts.

Many of the responses were along the lines of, "Oh my God, SCAM, it's obviously a scam and the photographer expects sex." But a few highly experienced models chimed in with alternate experiences. Sometimes people really do have that much money to burn, and decide to use it this way. Sometimes photographers do offer rates that are twice, or more, what a model generally quotes. It's something which requires some deeper digging to make a final call, but if that all checks out- sweet! Payday!

Understanding motivations comes into play in other aspects of freelance modeling, as well. What types of imagery does this photographer want to create? Will it be more appropriate for me to be quiet and business-minded, or dive into upbeat banter? Is this shoot going to be a therapeutic experience for the photographer? Or is he just looking to get his rocks off? Being able to identify motivations and intentions based off of unspoken cues is hugely important.

If, as a model, you don't hone this ability, you will sink. You'll get in over your head with scams and photographers that don't send up obvious red flags, and you'll miss legitimate opportunities that are suspicious on the surface.

It's a skillset that I developed as a model, but that continues to serve me. Anytime I'm working with other people, for any reason, I am considering their motives. Once I know these, I can make sure that everybody's interests are met- win-win all around. It's subtle, it's hard to pin down, but make no mistake- it's important.

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