How To Become An Alternative Model: Get Started & Make Money

Learn how to break the mold of traditional modeling and showcase your unique style as an alternative model.

Our simple guide will teach you the fundamentals and help you start today!

close up of female model with tattoos & piercings

As an alternative model, you can showcase your individuality and stand out from the crowd.

Let’s explore the steps you can take to become an alternative model, including finding your style, modeling opportunities, and building a solid portfolio.

Whether you’re into gothic, punk, fetish, or any other subculture, you can start your journey to creative self-expression and financial success.

And if you are primarily interested in modeling your tattoos, check out our dedicated post on How To Become a Tattoo Model.

Plus, you may be interested in some of our other modeling-type posts;

What is an alternative model?

An alternative model is a kind of model that typically doesn’t follow the traditional beauty standards set by the fashion industry.

You will notice unique and unconventional looks, with features like piercings, tattoos, and brightly colored hair.

Work gigs can be booked in various niches, from gothic, punk, fetish, and pin-up subcultures.

Alternative models can also cover a broader range of modeling styles and genres that are not mainstream, such as cosplay, avant-garde, editorial, and art modeling.

They may find opportunities in alternative fashion, music, and subculture scenes, as well as in the art and creative industries.

male model with large nipple hoop piercings

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How to become an alternative model

There are a few essential steps you need to work on if you want to be successful as an alternative model.

From establishing your style to networking your services, let’s look at the fundamentals.

1. Find your style

Experimenting with different looks and aesthetics is an essential part of alternative modeling.

You can create a unique and unconventional look that expresses your individuality and creativity by trying out various styles and looks.

As an alternative model, you want to differentiate yourself from traditional models and create a distinct brand or image.

One way to create a unique look and style as an alternative model is to draw inspiration from alternative fashion and subcultures.

You can incorporate elements from these inspirations, like clothing, makeup, hairstyles, accessories, and body modifications, into your overall look.

2. Take a modeling course

Knowledge is power.

And while some individuals are born with that particular modeling genemost people can benefit from learning about their field of interest.

I’ve had some great experiences with Udemy courses since they offer affordable in-home learning, often taught by professionals in the field.

I’m listing some of the highest-rated modeling courses on their platform.

Some of these courses are often bought together, but you can review which course descriptions best suit your needs.

Modeling 101: Fundamentals of Modeling

online modeling 101 course

How to Become a Model: Modeling 101

how to become an alternative model course

How to Apply to any Model Agency – The Model Course

Udemy model agency course

Make Money Modeling: Become a Model & Gain Representation

learn to make money as a model online course

3. Work with a professional photographer

Working with a qualified photographer specializing in alternative modeling should be your goal.

While the basics of photography stay the same, the right niche photographer can capture the best angles and poses.

Make sure your portfolio includes both close-ups and classic headshots.

4. Create a comp card & portfolio

Your comp card serves as both a CV and a business card in modeling.

Comp cards are also called composite cards, sed cards, zed cards, or z cards, depending on where you live.

Plus, comp cards and portfolios go hand-in-hand when looking to secure modeling gigs.

Composite Card

Consider your comp card as a collage of your most appealing pictures and personal information.

Your comp card should be your portfolio’s first document, typically measuring 5.5×8.5 inches.

Most comp cards have your name and headshot on the front and are double-sided.

The back is where you would include your stats and 3-5 pictures.

Your stats should include your;

  • Height
  • Bust or chest size
  • Waist
  • Hips
  • Eye color
  • Hair Color
  • Shoe size
  • Piercings & tattoos

If you still need to sign with an agency, you’ll include your details on the back for now.

Ensure your comp cards are good-quality stock (request a sample).

And always remember to bring a handful of comp cards with you to Go-Sees and other meetings.

I’ll list some comp card options further down. 


Start assembling a professional portfolio once you have your images ready to use.

You’ll need to bring your portfolio for castings or Go-Sees opportunities.

Stick with industry standards; you’ll want a black portfolio that measures 9×12 inches.

Plastic sleeves should be included in the portfolio to safeguard your photos.

Always place your best photographs right after your comp card.

Your selection may be limited as you start your career, but you can easily swap the images as your portfolio grows.

back view of female alternative model

5. Make a website

While you certainly don’t need a website to get started, having an online presence can improve your visibility in the field.

Not all castings are in person; your website is a great way for agencies to review your portfolio online.

Keep things light and fresh, featuring your best work in beautiful photo galleries.

You can create a website using a free WordPress theme like Kadence and start with a shared hosting plan with BigScoots.

You can also use services like FORMAT or Pixpa to help you get started.

6. Promote your work

When first starting, your success will rely heavily on self-promotion.

The best way to stand out is often through social media.

Create profiles on the top social platforms like;

  • Instagram
  • Facebook
  • Snapchat
  • Tik Tok
  • Twitter

Instagram is the most popular choice for models.

Here are some popular hashtags for alternative models for 2023.

Instagram Hashtags

#alternativemodel #alternativegirl #altmodel #model #girlswithtattoos #alternative #tattoos #tattoo #photography #inkedgirls #altgirl #ink #tattoomodel #girlswithink #inked #photoshoot #goth #modeling #fashion #piercedgirl #chickswithtattoos #girlswithtattoo #photooftheday #tattooink #tattooedgirl #tattooing #worldofink #tattoolazo #tattoofollow

7. Apply to modeling agencies

You don’t need a successful modeling career when sending your application to modeling agencies.

But there are a few important steps to take;

  • Carefully read the submission requirements, as each agency will be different
  • Submit the requested digitals
  • Provide the necessary measurements & personal details

Make sure that you are submitting the exact poses each agency requires.

Watch for agency open calls; gaining a few moments with an agent can sometimes be the difference between success and failure.

Here are some modeling agencies you will want to check out!

8. Network & apply for modeling jobs

You don’t need to wait for an agency to sign you to start searching for gigs as an alternative model.

You can look for networking and jobs opportunities in a variety of places;

1- Talent agencies and businesses may hold open casting calls for new projects or product launches.

2- Sign up for Latitude Talent Studios, a platform connecting aspiring models to public casting calls.

3- Check the classifies for possible modeling jobs

4- Collaborate with photographers, makeup artists, and hairstylists; check out Model Mayhem

5- Attend any relevant conventions (tattoos, piercings, cosplay)

6- Apply to brands seeking models like InkAddict

7- Lookout for social media promotions for events or festivals

8- Sign up for possible exposure & jobs on sites like iNKPPL

female model with dreads, piercings & tattoos

FAQ – Become an alternative model

While we covered many of the main topics and steps for you to become an alternative model, here are some important details.

1. How much can a tattoo model earn?

Unfortunately, the statistics listed for alt models are incorrect; they link to irrelevant jobs.

But I did pull the numbers for the closest job description; tattoo models.

According to ZipRecruiter, the national average in February 2023 is $79,648 per year, with annual salaries going as high as $266,000.

2. Where can I order a comp card?

If you are on a budget or don’t have access to a local business, you can order comp cards from sites like Zazzle.

In my experience, Zazzle has provided great quality products and customer service.

Type “model comp cards” in their search bar, and the available templates will pop up.

You can also check out businesses like;

Spotlight Printing or Bunker LA

3. Is physical beauty important to alternative modeling?

Physical beauty remains an important aspect of the modeling world.

However, as time passes, we see more inclusion toward different body shapes, sizes, looks, features, and more.

What’s more important is your style, personality, hygiene/grooming, and skincare.

Become an alternative model: final thoughts

Becoming an alternative model can be a rewarding, lucrative, and enjoyable experience.

Building a solid portfolio will help showcase your amazing and unique style.

Networking with industry professionals is the second piece of the equation.

Being professional and prepared when applying for jobs can help you get your foot in the door.

Be authentic and let your uniqueness book that gig.

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How To Become An Alternative Model: Get Started & Make Money