Becoming a Fitness Model and Finding a Sponsor

One frequent question we get asked is how can a bodybuilder / powerlifter / strongman / fighter / wannabe fitness model get sponsorship to help him / her achieve his / her goals. Sometimes these requests are from someone who’s just competed and placed high in a good competition, but some requests are from someone who’s been training six months who thinks they deserve to be given free stuff!

All too often the athlete / competitor is asking what they can get. If this is going to be your approach then forget it. Sponsorship is a two way thing.

Before even asking for sponsorship you need to be asking what can you do for a prospective sponsor. This needs to be a lot more than the odd mention of the company on internet forums, Facebook or Twitter, or even more than wearing one of the companies’ T-shirts (which they gave you for free) down the gym now and again.

If the company is giving you free items, then you need to be well aware that this is costing them money. Most companies are small and giving away a few hundred pounds worth of freebies every month is going to be something they feel. Sure, some bigger companies will have a huge budget for sponsorship and this is why they sponsor top level competitors.

About Fit Body Promotions

Fit Body Promotions came about when competitive bodybuilder Tom Watters received a phone call from out of the blue to be an extra in the film John Carter. He was found by the casting director from footage of a show he had done. Like a typical off-season bodybuilder, Tom couldn’t get into the desired shape in the short time-frame he was given, but the casting director told him that they had real trouble finding decent guys with good physiques, especially really big guys! As Tom obviously had a number of friends who would fit the bill, he contacted his friend, James Collier, promoter of bodybuilders and events, and the two of them formed Fit Body Promotions Ltd.

But due to the high workload, Tom’s wife, Renee Watters came on board to do the day-to-day running of the company. Renee had worked on the 2011 IFBB British Grand Prix & Fitness Expo Weekend as event co-ordinator, and was well aware of the industry.

Becoming a Fitness Model

There is no magic road into fitness modelling; like everything, it involves hard work and dedication. When we get an application, there are several factors we look at:

  1. Are they in good shape?
  2. Are they attractive?
  3. Are they ‘marketable’? This is distinct from the two points above, as someone may not be classically ‘pretty’ but would be sought after by companies because of certain attributes
  4. Where are they located? Sometimes it is both a blessing and a curse to have similar looking models in the same area; blessing because if one cannot do it, there is another model that can do it, curse because they will always be fighting for jobs.
  5. What are the photos like? Remember, think of your potential employers when sending in photos, a fitness agency is all about bodies, so why send a picture of you wearing a full winter coat?!
  6. Can you string a written sentence together? We don’t want applications where there is no effort made, lousy spelling and grammar or, worse still, text-speak! Make an effort!
  7. Think about your ‘about me’ section: is it relevant that you have dogs, cats and a goldfish? Or that you like long walks in the park with your mum? Only put down what’s useful in selling yourself.
  8. Make sure you give correct details. If you provide the wrong email and phone number, how are we supposed to tell you if a client wants to book you?

After you have got the good body and you have got some good pictures, what next? We always say shows are a great way to get noticed, you may have 500 people in an audience, all taking pictures are even if 30 of them put them on Facebook, these pictures can be seen by thousands of people!

Always make sure you are in the best shape for a show; do not enter if you don’t feel you look your best. You may want to get pictures done, but remember, stage condition is hard to keep, and are those the pictures you want a potential sponsor or film casting director to see? Remember, three months after a show, you probably won’t look like that.

Now you are ready to go, you have your photos, you have done your show, you are on the Fit Body Promotions website and you are available to work. What happens at our end? We not only proactively look for work; we also get a lot of enquiries. In this day and age, with Facebook, your own website, etc, why would you need an agency taking 20% of what companies are paying?

This is why: This industry is harsh; it doesn’t care if you are sick and it doesn’t care if you cannot get childcare. It cares about money!

If a photographer is paying you for a shoot, he hires a studio at £150 and a makeup artist at £80, and the morning of the shoot you wake up with chicken pox, who is liable for that money? You are, depending on what contract you signed. And how many of you are versed in contract laws?

You may have signed a contract that enables the photographer to sell the photos to anyone (including unsavoury people) they like! Then you also have to consider the lengths people go to in order to make something look genuine when it is not. Fake websites, promised huge sums of money and fake references can seem tempting and are easy to get carried away with, but sadly, these can be sinister.

When a casting director or a company contacts us, they may want a particular model; if they really want that individual, location will not matter, they will travel, even fly the model. But the vast majority of the time, they will ask where they are located.

If the shoot is in London and you live in Leeds, they may be unwilling to pay your travel. Most of the time they will say ‘I am looking for someone, x build, height, age and location, who do you have?’ Sadly, this is the case in this day and age. Make no mistake, casting directors are harsh, and they will tell it like it is! Some of the more delightful phrases we have had are ‘she looks like a 10 year old boy’, ‘you could ski off her nose’, ‘a face like a leather handbag’ and ‘he looks like he has eaten 50 pies’.

So sometimes, we have to be honest when people apply to the site, and they may think we are harsh, but believe me, if you cannot handle the gentle critique we give, you will not be able to handle the world outside. So, when we say ‘the client felt you were not right’ and leave it at that, don’t push it further, as we really don’t like to repeat what they say sometimes!

Being a fitness model is all about balance, body, mind and attitude. There is nothing less appealing than a bad attitude. When you start out, you may be offered ‘free’ work. We are not against it if it benefits you.

If travel expenses are paid and you get a free product or photo-shoot and it’s only one day, go for it. But if they want a lot out of you for nothing, don’t de-value yourself. Look at things long term: a job might not be a lot of money, but maybe a good client and maybe a potential sponsor.

There’s been a few times where a model has turned down a paid job that is not enough for them, we have found someone else the work and that person has been given further paid work with a higher wage and additional promotional photo shoots. Be grateful: if you get paid and someone gives you a free T-shirt or a free tub of protein as a little bonus, be thankful; plug them on Facebook, Twitter, etc. A little bit goes a long way.

Get the balance right between being keen and being annoying. We have over 150 models to manage, and if we repeatedly get messages like ‘can I do this job’, ‘I’ve seen so-and-so is doing this job, why not me?’ Whilst, it’s nice that you are keen, it can stop us dealing with actual work enquiries!

Never give up but do be prepared to change. Look at the people who are out there and building a profile: what are they doing; how are they different to you? Learn from them. Read magazines, look at styling of fitness models, poses and clothing. It is arrogant if you are not prepared to change. Likewise, for jobs, within reason, do what the client needs. If you are a guy and the client wants a bit of stubble, don’t shave for two days. Don’t make an issue of it.

Don’t take disappointment personally. You may diet for a shoot and on the day, it is cancelled. It would be understandable to be upset by this, but it’s not personal; remember, people have budgets to meet, money may be tight or their venue may let them down. It’s even not uncommon for models to arrive at a casting after travelling a long way and to simply be turned away; again, very disheartening, but it happens.

Now, don’t hold grudges, but do remember how people have treated you. Sometimes, you may be let down by a client for a genuine reason, and choose to work with them again. But if they repeatedly let you down, don’t work with them – likewise, we won’t either. Indeed, this works for us with models: if a model lets us down or is late, or complains all the time, we don’t work with them, simple!

Don’t shoot the messenger; as agents, we get lots of enquiries and 75% may be either unsuitable or not genuine. If we contact you about an enquiry, it doesn’t mean for sure you have the job, we may just need to know if you are available. And sometimes we give quotes, and the client never gets back and never returns our calls. In this case, if a model is negative, saying ‘you got me this job and nothing happened…’ it makes us not want to work with them again.

Finding a Sponsor

The advice above also applies to finding a sponsor; remember, you will be representing them and if you don’t look good or you have a bad attitude, then don’t expect them to keep you. Contracts will have clauses covering all this and some may even include clauses saying that you have to pay back any payments paid to you by the company if you behave in an untoward manner; so beware!

  • Be loyal. This is perhaps the most important message. If you are sponsored or really keen to work for a brand, be loyal to them. With social media it is so easy to see if someone is plugging another company. Be humble; getting a big ego, even if you are successful, is the ugliest thing in the world. Be polite and friendly, but remember, people in this industry can see through fakeness. As an agency, we can see though it, as can clients. Don’t become a ‘protein prostitute’: if you jump from one company to another, whoever’s offering you the best deal at the time, companies will notice and will realise you’re disloyal and unsuitable. Also, your fans will realise you’re fake: how can you plug one product one month and someone else’s the next month?
  • Don’t overdo the promoting. Posting on Facebook about having one of your sponsor’s products for breakfast, lunch and dinner may be unrealistic and people will see through this. Plug the company, but not too much.
  • Never be negative: sadly, there are not enough jobs out there for everyone, and being negative about it will only make you less employable. Don’t post anything negative on social media sites, nothing from your personal life that is not positive: don’t moan about an ex-partner or someone you’ve fallen out with: always be positive. Potential sponsors will look for this and positivity will make you more attractive. There is nothing more off-putting than bad social media users! If someone is promoting themselves as a healthy living person, yet they are out every night getting drunk, bragging about drugs and sleeping around, make no mistake, if we can see it, potential employers and sponsors can too; we can’t help but wonder if this person will be reliable.
  • Always have a good attitude: be friendly, smile a lot and be sociable. Also, if you have some knowledge of nutrition and exercise this is a huge bonus. A supplement company is more likely to employ someone who can give advice on a promotion stand than someone who just looks pretty!

If you are successful and you do get plenty of modelling work and find yourself a sponsor, there are so many perks!

First off, you get to do what you love and spread the message to people with people looking up to you. Of course, there are the monetary rewards, whilst pay is rarely phenomenal, it is something; plus, there’s often free product; you may be saving yourself a couple of hundred pounds a month on supplements and clothing. Then there’s the photo shoots: you’ll get to keep a copy of the photos and use them in your portfolio.

More importantly, you will have amazing experiences including celebrity birthday parties, expos meeting, your idols, getting exposure.

Photo of author

James Collier

James first started bodybuilding as a teenager back in the 1980s and obtained his degree in Nutrition and Dietetics from the University of Surrey back in 1995. After qualifying he worked as a clinical Dietitian for the NHS in various UK hospitals.

Having competed several times during the 1990s, his passion now lies in helping other bodybuilders, strength and fitness trainees reach their goals.

He is a Registered Nutritionist and a full member of The Nutrition Society in the UK. James is also co-founder and developer of Huel, nutritionally complete food.

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