Money makes the world go round! And maybe you're feeling the pressure of the endless outgoings in this very expensive city. Modelling is a career that really requires you to live by the rule "speculate to accumulate", and taking care of yourself, looking fresh and feeling good tends to cost a lot of money. Get your pennies in order using the links below!
If you're new to America, or are yet to build a credit score, you should get working on that. Your credit score is the way that lenders of any kind figure out if you're a reliable person to lend to. It’ll make life easier when you want to rent an apartment, get a phone contract, or get approved for a credit card. The irony in this situation is that without credit its hard to build credit. Things like paying your cellphone bill on time will help, but the the best way to build a credit score is to open up a secure credit card.
Bank of America offer a good one. You will leave a deposit with the bank which will equate to your credit card limit (for example, if your deposit is $500, you can only spend $500 per month on the card). You pay off your card each month, and when you are ready to close the card, you receive your deposit back. It’s a speedy way to build credit (sometimes as short as 6 months if you are diligent and always make your payments in full).
Once you have credit, it’ll be easier to get a credit card, which can be a great option particularly for work expenses that will be paid back to you eventually. Lots of cards offer points for dollars you spend, which you can then use for travel or fun things (points make prizes!) Do some research on where you think you spend your money, and what points deal you can get at the time of purchasing. The Points Guy is a good place to start looking for information on this:
At some point you may want to consider separating your business and personal expenses into two separate accounts, or two separate credit cards, to help organise your finances in anticipation of your annual tax return.
It is worth considering that in Europe, an American Express is accepted in fewer places, so if you plan to use your credit card for business expenses, you could start with a Visa, in case your travels take you across the pond.
Taxes are stressful!! It’s ok, I’m here for you. Or more realistically, your accountant is there for you.
If you spend more than 182 days per year (that’s 6 months) in the United States, you count as a resident for tax purposes, regardless of your legal resident status. That means you need to pay taxes here. If you spend less than 182 days here, you may be entitled to a tax rebate, but you still need to do a return to get your money back. You should expect to pay 30-35% tax depending on your income. If you are not an American citizen, your agency will withhold 30% of your income for taxes, but if you are American, you need to save that yourself - maybe a separate account is a good idea for this.
A lot of the work for tax season will be done by your agency, as your statements will be keeping track of how much money you earned during the year, and where you earned it. The rest is up to you. A tax return will cost between $500-$1000 depending on how much work your accountant has to do to prepare it for you, but I would strongly recommend spending the money - those forms are incomprehensible. That fee also counts as a tax write off on your next return, so maybe that takes the bite out a little bit, too.
First up, find an accountant. Your agency might have a recommendation that lots of girls use. Ask them for a contact number. If not, I’d start with a Yelp search, and give a few people a call to discuss how things will work. Don’t be afraid to say you’ll think about it and call back.
Some questions to consider before you employ someone to help with your return:
- When and how can you be reached? Can I contact you after the April due date if necessary?
- What do you charge?
- How are your fees calculated? (by the hour or a flat fee per project? Will you be charged for questions and phone calls?)
- What records and receipts do you need from me?
- Do you offer electronic filing? (This will allow you more time on your return)
The tax year runs January 1 to December 31, and your return is due in April for the previous calendar year i.e In April 2018, you will submit the return for January - December 2017.
As a self employed person, you are permitted to deduct expenses that are required to run your business during that period. Save your receipts or some way of tracking your expenses like bank statements, in case you are audited, and need to prove the money you spent was business related. Below is a list of tax deductible expenses that you can send to your accountant as relevant expenses.
- Beauty services - dermatologist, facials, manicure/pedicures
- Beauty supplies - makeup, skincare, toiletries
- Health/wellness - gym memberships or personal trainer
- Local transportation - job-related transportation (Cars service, Ubers, subway)
- Professional services - stylists (hair, makeup), coaching (runway training, acting, etc.), tax and accounting services, photographers (test shoots etc)
- Travel for business - flights, hotels, car rentals, food
- Clothing - Items purchased specifically for jobs and castings
- Utilities - Telephone, Internet, dedicated home office space
- Insurances - health, general liability
- Medical/dental expenses (including mental health)
- Postage/Shipping - Job-related mail (Messengered Photos, Portfolios, Work-related Docs)
- Charitable donations
- Meals for business (i.e., taking your agent to lunch, etc).
- Website expenses (if they are related to your modelling career)
- Computer/technology purchases (if the computer is used for work)
If you are not an American citizen, you may also need to complete a tax return in your home country. Call the tax collection service for your country to notify them of the changes in your circumstances. Ask for help in working out how and when you need to pay your taxes.
Similarly, if you work in another country, you may have tax to pay, or a rebate owed to you if it is automatically taken out from your payments. In this case, contact the accounts department of your agency to understand the next steps for your situation.
The most important thing related to taxes, is to stay on top of them - don't get behind in your payments, or neglect to save to pay them at the end of the year. As always, knowledge is power, here. Understand what is required of you so you can plan ahead.
Sometimes, at the beginning of your career, cash flow can be an issue. You’ve started working, but because invoices can take such a long time to pay (sometimes up to 3 months) you still may feel cash poor. Most agencies can give you an advance, but they will charge you a fee, normally about 7-10%, so if you need $500 advanced to you, you’ll pay around $40 to get it.
If you have moved from another country, and you have access to money in another country, Transferwise is a great option to send cash over the the states without spending big on transfer fees and exchange rates. It shows a full breakdown of the fees, and you transfer at the daily exchange rate. More info at transferwise.com
In New York, the most expensive city maybe ever, money can quickly become a stress in your life. And if this is the case, it might be time to find some part time work that will keep you afloat until clients and/or checks come rolling in. Jump on any opportunities that come your way, as jobs are snapped up fast. The saving grace is that staff turnover in New York can often be quite fast, so be prepared with your resumé, and keep an eye on your modelling schedule so you can be prepared to start a job when it comes up. When applying be confident, enthusiastic, and persistent, but, as always, stay safe, and don't feel you have to stay in a workspace or interview you don't feel comfortable in. Now go out and hustle, girl.
Below are some ways that people in your position have helped to supplement their income while starting their modelling career:
- Indeed is a huge job search website where you can easily browse the types of jobs you're interested in, in your area.
- Babysitting. If you've had some experience in childcare, this is a great way to supplement your income, and make some personal connections in the city! Websites such as Care are more formal tools to connect you to families, and involve interviews etc, while SitterCity allows you to create a profile, and apply for specific jobs, or families can contact you through the website. A lot are looking for part-time/full-time nannies, but keep your eyes peeled for one-off sitter jobs, and eventually you can grow a roster of families you could help on a more flexible schedule; allowing you to work within your commitments to modelling. Ask your families to pass on your info to their friends - word of mouth can get you a lot of extra cash!
- Dogwalking. Schemes like wag! allow you to sign up and schedule walks around your other commitments, in an easy app on your phone! Like Uber for dogs. Sign up at wagwalking.com, or go old school, and pin up a dog walking flyer in buildings near you and let the calls roll in. Similarly with childcare, word of mouth can really help you here, so ask your clients to recommend you to any friends in need of a walker, and you could have a pack of dog friends, and some cash in your pocket, in no time.
- Waitressing/hostessing. A great way to make some fast cash, especially with waitressing tips! Put together a resumé of any experience you might have, and keep your eyes peeled for vacancies around town (sometimes these are just posted in the window of the establishment!) Hells Kitchen is a good area to explore, as, being near the theatre district, restaurants often employ actors, or other people with unpredictable work schedules, so you'll be in familiar company, and employers might be less put off by your inability to work a committed timetables.
- HomeFront Lifestyle is a recommended agency that can help to connect you with short term part time work in various areas like nannying, PA work etc. Sign up here http://homefrontstaffing.com/candidates/
Please note, if you are a foreign national, working in the US on an O1 visa, or something similar, you are lawfully only permitted to carry out the position stated on your visa. Double check with a lawyer before entering into any type of paid work that isn't modelling.