Where Is the Money? Real Experience from a Freelance Model.


Welcome to Mutsumi Takahashi’s Model Bible.
Last time, we talked about “Two Hidden Traps That Freelance Models Can Fall Into”.

What other things do freelance models particularly pay attention about?

I just got an offer for a job but I’m not entirely sure if they will pay me or not.

I want to hear about real stories about troubles that happened in the past.

To answer requests like these, this time, we would like to talk about real stories that have happened to freelance models in the past about money.

There are people that run away without paying what is due or some people even have no intention to pay from the first place.

Several models came out to talk about what had happened to them so that others wouldn’t have to go through what they have gone through.

Stories have been altered slightly in order to protect the privacy of those involved.

Model A: An Offer from a Movie Director through Social Media

One day, Model A received an offer from someone who introduced himself as a freelance movie director via social media.

The Model had a solid career as a model, having been appeared on movies and commercials. After hearing the story, he was very interested and with the director’s nice personality, he decided to take the offer. As he found out that they needed more actors, he began talking to his friends.

As the number of people and money grew, the Model asked the director to sign a contract beforehand specifying terms and conditions. The director said yes and signed the contract with no trouble.

The Model thought everything was taken care of and he and his friends have gone through the shooting with no trouble.

However, he couldn’t get the payment even past the due date. The Model tried to contact the director but he couldn’t get hold of him at all.

Runs Away after the Shoot. Even a Lawsuit Doesn’t Get You the Money

It then occurred to him that the director might have run away without paying. He, again and again, tried to contact him but he never seemed to respond at all.

Since the shoot is already done and he couldn’t leave his friends unpaid for a very long time to keep his reputation, the payment had to be made. The Model decided to bring the case to the court.

However, the director didn’t have the capability to pay what he owed and he couldn’t collect the debt. No matter how specifically you set the terms in the contract, the payment isn’t likely to be made if the obligatory doesn’t have such capability.

The Model ended up paying his friends out of his pockets which added up to a couple of thousands of dollars.

To add to the story. the director was divorced from his wife beforehand. Maybe this seems like a normal divorce but under Japanese law, a married couple is jointly held liable for debts and it seemed that the director had a divorce so that his wife wouldn’t be held liable for his debt.

Model B: TVCM Offer from a Friend

Model B accepted an offer from her good friend to appear in a TV commercial. She confirmed it with the producer and she had a wonderful shoot.

However, the Model was caught by surprise when it came to signing a proper contract after the shoot is wrapped. They asked for a buy-out but the pay they proposed was so little that she couldn’t agree to it.

Buy-outs refer to contracts that basically allows the sponsor to use in any ways they want. In most cases, the use of advertisements is restricted to a specific time period and they pay an additional fee for the extension.

However, when you accept an offer for a buy-out, not only you won’t be entitled to such extension fees, you may be excluded from jobs with restrictions depending on the product they advertise.
Therefore, you will have to make sure that the pay is fair when you accept an offer for a buy-out.

(More about restrictions: “Four Reasons Why You Want to Be a Exclusive Model (Restriction, Promotion and More Opportunities”)

She tried to negotiate with the producer to remove the buy-out and put a five-year term instead as well as the fair pay but the producer didn’t seem to agree to it.

In the end. they could not use any of the footage they shot on the day and both the Model and the production company ended up wasting their time.


In reality, some people give in in fear of standing up to a big production alone. The world consists of many different people. You have to think twice before accepting an offer.

Where Does the Accountability Lay? Do You Have an Eye to Judge?

Capacity to pay and responsibility are the keys to the stories that we talked about today.

In the case of the Model A, the problem laid within the fact that the counterpart was an individual instead of a company who would’ve had more liability to pay.
Of course, we are not saying all individual freelancers are bad. However, under the current system, they are easier to default on their debts and go bankrupt because they have only themselves to protect.

However, things wouldn’t go so easy when the counterpart was a corporate. They have a lot more to keep in minds such as their employees and their families.

If an agency is involved, the agency will pay the model regardless of whether their clients pay them or not and that is usually specified in the contract between the model and the agency. The Model A knew it more than anyone and he paid his friends out of his pocket but it was a heavy burden to have on his shoulder alone.

Why Do You Sign with an Agency When It Is Becoming Easier and Easier to Go Freelance.

One of the great things about being with an agency is that you will get paid for what you do no matter what. Also, when it becomes necessary, the agency will take care of dirty jobs so that you don’t have to give them a bad impression.

The Model B also said to us that she could’ve negotiated better if she had an agency on her side. It is very sad to see their friendship sour because of something like this.

Agencies utilize every piece of knowledge to determine if a client is really legitimate or not.

What purposes will it be used for?
How long are they going to use it.
Will they pay attention to health and safety during the shoot?

Agencies won’t pass on jobs to you unless they can be certain about the things above. Needless to say, they need to guarantee your pay will come through even if the client goes bankrupt.


Despite the fact it is becoming easier and easier to go freelance these days, agencies still have their place because they are there to make sure things like these won’t happen.

Debt Collection is Difficult for Someone with 25 Year Experience

There are more and more people working as a freelancer, not just as a model but also in the production department and people see nothing wrong with it.

However, if there’s one thing to say to all freelance models, then it will be don’t let them look down on you.

Like a lot of other industries, our industry also deals on credit i.e. they pay you later. Dealing on credit means that there’s nothing more important than credibility.

Even after spending 26 years in the industry, we still find it hard to collect the payment. Even a well-established company may not be able to meet the due when they are struggling financially or are in under bankruptcy.

It is even more true to those working as a freelancer and people tend to look down on you. Make sure to keep these things in mind when working as a freelancer.

Next time, we will talk about how to leave a great impression when having an interview with an agency.

高橋 睦実(Mutsumi Takahashi)


President of Free Wave Co., Ltd.
Born in Mito, Japan. In 1989, appointed as the Head of Japan office of Star Dance Connection. Established Free Wave Co., Ltd. which represents and manages international dancers and models later becoming one of the top international model agencies in Japan. She likes jazz and cats. She is also working towards saving animals from cruel treatments