A Model Tells Us How Much She Really Makes

Hattie Watson on the art of hustle

Money remains one of our biggest taboos — bigger than sex — and yet we spend more time earning it, spending it, and thinking about it than almost anything else. We’re bored with people presenting us with their seemingly effortless lives instead of the messy reality of their finances. So, here’s our attempt to turn it inside out: People talking honestly, and realistically, about their relationship to money.

Tell us about your relationship with money. Write your response in Medium at the bottom of this post or leave a note with a link to your post.

Hattie: I hate money.

I absolutely loathe money. It ruins relationships, it ruins friendships, it just puts so much stress on your life, it’s unreal.

Go on.
It’s $5 for a soda and candy and that used to be like $2, you know. If you want to have a coffee, it’s $5. Everything’s so inflated. It doesn’t make sense.

How do you make money?
I’ve been a model for five years — that’s where I make the majority of my money — but I’m starting to transition into becoming a photographer.

What does your average day look like?
My day to day varies since I’m completely freelance. But most days consist of me waking up and making tea and answering emails and doing social media to build a brand for my modeling. I do promotion for three to four hours — posting, interacting with people on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter, Instagram.

I’m basically interacting with people and trying to make new connections constantly. It’s all a really big hustle game. If you stop working then you lose a chance of being able to work with someone else or you lose a chance of having that time to be able to make connections, and so that’s a constant, that’s all day.

I don’t have a glamorous life.

Do you model on a regular basis?
It varies. Some months you get more work than other months. Sometimes you get that one big paying job out of nowhere. I used to go to NYC every other week and shoot for a week straight. It would be for clothing brands or hair products or just for content to put up on social media websites. But shooting comes and goes. These days, I’m trying to shoot more and promote myself as a photographer instead of a model.

How is that going?
It seems to be going all right. I have friends who model and want me to take pictures, which is good, but that’s not what I’m looking to shoot. I like documenting life. That’s why I’m moving to L.A. in a couple weeks — to establish myself and pursue photography. Though, I’ll be happy if my car makes it all the way to the West Coast.

Your car — would you say that’s the most expensive thing you own?
Yeah, I mean it’s paid off, but to keep it working, yea. My car’s 11 years old and it’s only got 160,000 miles on it. It’s a Scion XB, and it’s completely beat up. Aesthetically, it looks horrible — there are no bumpers anymore; the East Coast ice took off my trunk handle last year, so now it’s taped on. A few winters ago snowplow ran into the left side of it and busted my tail light. NYC refused to pay for it. That’s two or three thousand dollars right there. I had to replace the brakes this year, and the year before that, I got new tires. I’m just pushing it to the limit.

What else do you spend money on?
I hardly ever buy myself anything. I’m not a high maintenance person and I’m not materialistic. I do like nice things, don’t get me wrong, I spent $500 dollars on this sheet set from Restoration Hardware. That was the first time in like 5 years, I bought something nice for myself. So, some things are nice to invest in and, like, treat yourself to. But these sheets are probably the most expensive things in my house right now. Now a days, transitioning to photography, my money is going towards gear.

Do you have any other luxuries, other than the sheets?
I am very lucky to have my friend Genessa who is a hair stylist — otherwise, I’d hardly ever get my hair done. When you want a trim they charge you $100 — that doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll pull all my hair forward and cut it myself. I never get my nails done, I never get my toes done, I never get massages. I never do any of that — the only kind of luxury is going out to eat. I love food. I love trying new restaurants. That’s like our traveling.

How often do you go out to eat?
Most of the time we cook at home. But every now and then we might go to a little diner and just get eggs and toast. Or like a pancake or something. We split a lot of meals.

Do you split rent too?
Right at the moment? No. I had a roommate and then she bailed on me, and so I told him my boyfriend that he should just come here and move in with me. He just finished his movie so he’s still in this transition phase, getting back on his feet. We do make money together — we work together and shoot for companies — but all of the money just goes towards the bills. And anything leftover, we put aside or we go to dinner or buy groceries. Most of it is just food. That’s all we spend money on — food.

And since we’re moving to LA in a few weeks, we’re selling everything. So right now my house is really bare. And cold — we almost never turn the heater on because the electricity bill is so expensive.

How much is it?
I have a 500-square-foot apartment. My electricity bill was $140 last month.

How much is your rent?
My rent is only $950. It’s a small two-bedroom, maybe it’s more like 575-square-feet, but it’s really made for one person or a couple.

What other monthly expenses do you have?
Groceries probably for both of us are $60–$100 a week maybe. Then I have a phone bill which is $100. And I pay for my website, which is like $20. Car insurance is $100. My internet is $80. And I have other little bills that come out every now and then, ya know.

How much would you say on an average month you and your boyfriend make?
In a good month we could make two grand.

Do you save anything?
Sometimes. It’s just anytime I say I’m saving this, then something happens.

Something always happens.
Like my car breaks down or my car gets broken into. That’s the story of my life. But when I left my hometown of Port Neches, Texas, five years ago, I had the same amount — about two grand. And honestly I have less money than that now, but it’s not that much less, and I would kind of stay like about the same. It’s been like livable, but I haven’t been able to actually save-save.

Why did you leave home?
I just decided it was not the life I wanted. I was working in the oil refineries, at hardware stores and feed stores; I was a manager at O’Reilly’s. I was about to get married at 24. And, I was just like, I can’t do this anymore. This is not what I imagined myself doing, so I just took off. I’d been modeling a little bit, and I saw other girls that would book these photo shoots and get paid, and it would allow them to travel, so I thought maybe I can do this. All I cared about was traveling the country and seeing places that I’d never been.

How old are you?

What would you say like your annual income is?
The first year I modeled, I was making minimum wage. It was like $30,000. But this past year was probably like $15,000. I got lazier with modeling. I’m just kind of over doing it so I don’t really like to work quite as hard. And plus I’m stationary now. When I’m traveling I make a lot more money.

And would you say your boyfriend made about the same last year?
I have no idea, we’ve only been dating six months.

Photograph by Elena Jasic
Photograph by Elena Jasic

Is your work consistent? It’s completely sporadic.

And do you get anything from sponsors ?
We don’t ever get like financially supported, but companies will pay us to shoot for them sometimes. Like I charge for an Instagram advertisement.

How much?
It depends, honestly. I usually ask for $100, for one post. I have an aesthetic, and I don’t want to post certain things that I don’t care about or that don’t represent me, you know. I know a lot of people charge way more than this, but I only have 65,000 followers on Instagram. And my friends have like half a million, so they get paid, like, thousands of dollars.

You should ask for more.
I feel bad, almost. I’m like this is a photo, on a small platform. It’s not like a fucking billboard, you know.

So how much do you make for a model shoot versus when you actually photograph, something? What’s the difference?
I do like $600 for half a day or $1200 for a full day. Maybe I’m under-selling myself, I don’t know but… you know, I’m not famous. I’ve seen girls charge way more than that, and sometimes I have a hard time even getting what I ask for. People always think there’s room for negotiation. There is to some extent, and I’m nice, but I’m also not gonna get taken advantage of.

How much do you charge when you shoot?
Photography-wise, I’ve just started charging…maybe $300 for portraits. That’s just like a basic rate for a two-hour session.

How often do you worry about money?
All the time. 24/7. I constantly check my bank account to make sure the bills came out. Or if I need to buy something. I try and figure out how I can make it work. Money is my main stress in life. And my parents would absolutely fucking hate to hear that. They get worried all the time, but, well, you know, that’s a part of it — I’m an artist. I’m not gonna work a 9–5 corporate job. It’s not gonna happen. I’m very minimalistic. I don’t need a lot in life, you know? I got my crystals, and some skulls and bones. I like those things. I like tea. I like a comfy environment. And a nice place to live.

Photograph by Holly Burnham

And do you have any investments or assets or anything like that?
No. I don’t even know what that is.

Look, we’re both artists so we struggle a little, but not to like an extensive amount. And we would never flaunt that to people. We’d also never be like, oh we’re rich. We would definitely be like ‘hey listen we don’t have the budget for that right now, so we can’t do that. Artists are known for their names, not really for their financial security.

What’s your favorite part of your job?
I get to do whatever I want to do. I control my life. The more I want to hustle, the more money I can make. I can pick up and go anywhere and do this job. Anywhere. I’m my boss.

Tell us about your relationship with money. Write your response in Medium at the bottom of this post or leave a note with a link to your post.

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