Realistic pay in the TV / model industry in Shanghai

Shanghai, like all developing cities, is in that interesting space of having little to no regulation, in many different areas.

As it is developing, certain rules, cultures, accepted behaviours and laws are lacking codification, understanding and enforcement.

This can be a bad thing or a good thing, entirely depending on your perspective, and your stake in the issue at hand.

Moreover, there are many situations in China in which ‘agents’ are used. Because of the more fluid and unregulated nature of many processes, there are self-employed ‘agents’ which act as intermediaries — particularly when ‘foreigners’ are involved, and language barriers also become an issue.

The world of TV work, acting, modelling, voice over work and such in Shanghai is one of these areas.

The agents have all the power.

The ‘foreign’ workers have no specific reputation or ‘career’ in the field.

Those last two sentences could apply to so many job/work types in China.

‘Modelling’ is our example here, so let me explain what this means:

For all the TV commercial, photo shoot, hosting and other modelling in Shanghai or China, the agents have all the jobs in their hand.

The ‘models’ are not internationally famous models. They are people who either (1) do as many of these types of job as they can to earn a living, or (2) do this kind of thing just every now and then for some extra cash.

So the agent says “the job costs this much”.

Because of the numbers of available foreigners, people are often scared that they must take this job, so they just accept the rate.

But the rates offered by some agents are ridiculously low, so that the agent can then keep more to themselves.

Not that these agents are being ‘blamed’ for this, they are just trying to make a living also, not run a charity operation.

BUT, if you are new to the area and do not know how much you should be paid, here is a basic guide to fair costs:

TV commercials:

Role as a background extra: at least 200 RMB per hour (and it should be at least 3 hours minimum, i.e. you would get 600 RMB even if it takes 1 hour or any time less)

Role as being featured ‘doing something’ in the ad: at least 400 RMB per hour (with an agreed ‘minimum’ pay of at least 2500 RMB)

Speaking role in TVC: at least 8000 RMB minimum for 8 hours

Child modelling: children should be paid almost double of an adult, with a minimum of 5000 RMB for any type of job, any time-duration. If your baby or child is having their face shown in the ad (like the normal ad you see on TV for baby or child products) then the pay must be at least 15,000 RMB or more.


Voice-overs should not be paid per hour unless the rate is AT LEAST 1500 RMB per hour, because an hour voice-over recording can result in just a few minutes of used content.

Even a voice-over which results in just 10 minutes should be at least 3000 RMB+ for the job.



The companies that need commercial work done, are paying a production company to do their entire TV ad or whatever.

And these kinds of jobs cost at least several hundred thousand or a million RMB.

So never listen to an agent who says ‘sorry the budget is very low’.

They will probably pay the agent 10,000 or 15,000 RMB at minimum, so if the agent can convince you to do the job for just 1,500 RMB, they can pocket the rest for themselves.

Try to value your part fairly and don’t accept any excuses for needing to take a low rate.






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Categories: Work


Foreigner in Shanghai


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One Comment on “Realistic pay in the TV / model industry in Shanghai”

  1. amit
    February 17, 2014 at 1:23 pm #

    hi ! can you help me know any company in shanghai who provide this service or providing expats for TV commercials

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