How I Earned $20 an Hour By Getting Naked — Without Getting Arrested

art model
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So, time to bare all about my past: In college, I used my naked body to earn money.

The good thing: It was legal — and it paid $20 per hour.

How’d I do it? I worked as an art model.

If you’re looking for a side gig you can do no matter where you live, keep reading…

What is Art Modeling?

Drawing the human form is one of the most basic — yet difficult — artistic expressions.

And the best way to get good at it is practicing with a real, live human. (Remember Titanic?)

So, art teachers are often on the hunt for people willing to work as models. Since it’d be a bit strange for students to see a fellow classmate naked, they usually outsource this task.

Which is where you come in…

Do You Really Have to Get Naked?

In my experience, it depends.

Though the instructor would’ve preferred I get totally naked, I wore a small nude thong. It allowed me to feel comfortable, and didn’t really interfere with the artists’ ability to see my body.

I’ve seen some job listings that require full nudity, while others state you can remain clothed.

Once you’re naked (or close to it), it’s time to pose.

The instructor may ask you to sit or stand a certain way, but usually you’ll have the freedom to choose your own position. Get comfortable, because you’ll have to hold your pose for at least 20-30 minutes.

Being naked and on display can be weird, especially at first. But if you’re posing for a legitimate art class, you’ll quickly realize the students are there to draw — not ogle — you.

Oh, and don’t worry if you don’t have a “model body.”

This isn’t a swimsuit catalog; it’s art. And most students are happy to practice drawing the human body in its various shapes and sizes.

How to Find Art Modeling Gigs

I found my first art modeling gig on Craigslist, but that was several years ago — but that wouldn’t be the first place I’d look now.

With the explosion of Craigslist ads and online scams, your best and safest bet is to reach out to local schools.

In addition to many other resources, has a fantastic list of places that hire art models.

If you don’t see one in your area, look up local art schools, community colleges, universities and continuing education programs. You could also contact local art galleries and studios that offer drawing classes.

While some schools create online job listings for art models, it’s always a good idea to call and ask. Sometimes, there’s a single person (such as the head of the art department) who’s in charge of finding models. Other times, you might have to approach each instructor individually.

Once you’ve found a gig, be sure to ask questions like:

  • How many students will be in the class?
  • How long will I have to hold each pose?
  • Will I receive breaks between poses?
  • How much will I be paid, and when?

Knowing some of the details beforehand should make your first art modeling experience go smoothly. If it works out, you might get asked back, or referred to other teachers and artists.

The great thing about art modeling? It only gets easier.

And, since there are art classes everywhere, this side gig can follow you wherever you go!

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Susan Shain is a freelance writer who is always seeking adventure on a budget.