**Illustrated with photos by the incomparable Ben Ernst- from my latest tour of Holland!**
I don’t think there’s a single freelance model around who can live and work full time without touring. That isn’t to say that touring is a last resort or a bad thing- I’ve written a lot about how much I love to travel- so much so that I can’t imagine staying in one place! Still, I often read posts on modelling forums asking how to go about planning tours in the first place. For the first two years I had no idea what I was doing so made a tonne of mistakes and lost a tonne of money. I still enjoy the shooting more than the planning but I no longer assume everywhere is a couple of hours away and have to take a last minute sleeper train across Germany…
BREAKING NEWS: you can’t get to Dusseldorf from Berlin in three hours- you heard it here first!! 😛
This is the foolproof guide to planning a tour:
So I don’t have to write fifty addendums, I’m going to assume your first tour is in Western Europe at the absolute furthest. America is a legal nightmare, Australia requires some logistics gymnastics and I don’t know a thing about visiting Asia. 🙂
1) Decide where you want to go.
Are photographers constantly asking you to go somewhere? If so, go there. If not, ask on social media and networking sites. There are probably many photographers who want to book you but don’t know you’re about to start life as a touring model. I’d advise going somewhere at least four hours away from your home base as most people wouldn’t travel four hours each way for one photoshoot (though I have had a photographer travel from Sweden, which was a lovely thing to do!)
2) Check your dates- it helps to be flexible.
I usually book my tours 2-3 months in advance. It helps me not panic as days slide closer and closer, and I can rethink my plans if my location looks to be a “touring model hotspot”. Try to make sure that other models aren’t touring there at the same time. It isn’t a total disaster if there’s more than one of you but work can be thinly spread for all involved. (If you do find yourself in the same area as someone else though, it can often be a lot of fun meeting up and either getting booked together or doing something touristy!)
If your tour books up faster than you expected, if you have a day or two either side, you can extend the dates to fit demand.
3) Snoozing and cruising!
Once you have your dates set, you need to know where you’re sleeping and how you’re getting around- then it’s just a case of booking work.
If you drive and are staying with someone, you’re sorted. If not, check train costs on nationalrail.co.uk and nationalexpress.com. Those are the main train and coach sites. This is when it helps to have flexible days as travel costs can vary. For a place to sleep, check hostelworld.com, airbnb or any hotel booking site you like. I recommend laterooms.com though others swear by booking.com
Unless you’ll be absolutely bankrupted if you aren’t booked solid on your planned tour, book the above *well* in advance. It really is cheaper- especially if you’re coming by train. If you have left it a bit late, don’t worry too much- have a look at coach times and fares. Eurolines often have some amazing deals if you’re travelling internationally. If you’re in the UK, try Megabus. There’s usually a hostel available in any city at any time*, but if you’d like to be a chooser rather than a beggar, make your booking quickly.
* Except Amsterdam. If you are going to Amsterdam, book your bed NOW.
Once the above is planned out, that’s the scary part over.
1) Start casting
If you’re already working as a model, you know how to post a casting call and advertise on social media. I don’t bother with flyers but I know a lot of models make a nice flyer advertising their dates so that people can share it as an image and get the word of the tour out more easily. If you want to do that, go for it.
I contact photographers who have already expressed an interest in working with me before I start posting public castings as it gives them a chance at a first refusal which is usually appreciated.
2) Language skills
– If you’re going to another country and know the language, say so in your casting. Even better, write the casting in both languages. (Keep it short though.) If you don’t know the language and are going to be working with several photographers in quick succession (for example, a workshop or studio day) check that the organiser or studio owner can help with translation! Nothing is worse than being yelled at by six people at once in a language you don’t understand.
– I almost always list my rates in the currency of the country I will be shooting in- it makes things easier for the photographer booking me if they don’t have to convert cash.
– In the body of your casting, emphasise anything popular in the country- are there any fashions you would suit? (For example, if you work to nude levels, you may get a flurry of bookings in a conservative country that has a large photography scene.)
– I shouldn’t need to say this, but use correct grammar. No txt spk. Try to use spellchecker if you aren’t sure. Not only do you look more professional but if you’re advertising for work in a country speaking a different language, you’ll be difficult to understand if you’re sloppy when advertising.
3) Locations for dummies
I never used to charge travel expenses thinking “what’s a tenner here and there?” Well, my first ever Scotland tour had four days filled by two half-day bookings on each day- a decade ago, I was charging £100 for a half-day. I was commuting around an hour or two each way and sometimes to EACH shoot. Not a particularly hard commute- I like travelling- but the £20 or so (not booked in advance of course- I wasn’t sure exactly where the studio would be in relation to the station) mounted up. By the end of my tour, taking off the original travel costs to and from Scotland, travel expenses in Scotland, accommodation (even though it was just a hostel) and food, I was left with £500 profit. After a six day tour in which I had run myself ragged. It was heartbreaking but a good lesson in why booking in advance and charging travel expenses when you leave your host city is so important.
Many years ago, I also made the mistake of judging all countries by the UK’s size. So I went to Germany and booked two full day photoshoots- one in Berlin, one in Dusseldorf. To my horror, I realised my mistake halfway through the first shoot and in my lunch break, booked a night train very quickly and moderately expensively. I got to Dusseldorf in time, pretended I’d come from the suburbs and the photographer never knew…. until now. 😛 Make sure you know where you’re going and how you’ll get there!
If you’ve done castings, shouted all over social media and still have gaps in your schedule, consider taking a day off to explore. If that isn’t an option, can you shorten your tour or try another place? (For example if you are casting for Leeds, try Manchester too).
Bear in mind that tours can be unpredictable. I’ve expected visits to sell out in hours and they haven’t, and trips I added as an afterthought have had to be extended by days! If it’s your first tour, you have no client base there… yet. You need to get the ball rolling and things may start slowly but if you’re a skilled model with a good reputation, things will pick up.
1) Insurance of all kinds
A lot of things are up in the air at the moment due to Brexit but if you’re travelling outside the UK, get health insurance- you don’t want to lose your hard earned money in hospital. There is no reason not to- peace of mind is priceless.
Just in case- because you never know, pack that little leaflet your bank gives you when you travel, as well as the emergency numbers of the country you’re in.
2) Time travel.
If you’re travelling to a different timezone, remember that you may need a day or two to get over any jetlag from long-haul flights. If you travel back and forth a lot, you’ll know how long you need. If this is your first time, set aside a couple of days after arrival and you should be over the worst of it. Keep one thing (phone, alarm etc) on “home time”- especially if you’re on medication or the contraceptive pill, which should be taken at the same time every day.
I can not stress the importance of references enough. In your own town or country, at least if something happens you can speak the language, call the emergency services, find the nearest train station or taxi company, get cash out etc- it’s familiar territory.
If you’re on the other side of the world with little knowledge of the area, what are you going to do? It is so vital that before you confirm a photoshoot with someone, you contact two or three people they have already worked with to make absolutely sure that they are okay. It’s important in your own area, but doubly so when you’re touring.
Have a walk around when you arrive. Is there a tourist information point? Any pretty places to look around? Always know where your food is- if your shoot finishes late and the cafes are closed, knowing where your local supermarket or 24-hour store is will save you from breakfasting on anything you can see when you wake up starving. This has actually happened to me in Spain- I finished working with two other models and had luckily noted the 24-hour shop down the road. So we went shopping and had a bed-picnic!
I came to realise that I was travelling to all these amazing places but relying on location photoshoots to show me around! On my days off, I mostly curled up in my hostel to read and do admin work. Set up an auto-reply on your e-mail to let clients know that it may take you a little longer to answer queries, and take yourself somewhere on your free days. If you look in the lobby of where you’re staying (especially in hostels), you’ll find they usually advertise budget tours. Modelling does not last forever and while you’re doing something so amazing, make the most of it!
p.s. I couldn’t decide which version of the “wrapped up” picture to post! Which do you prefer? The full colour one of this one?