Your money-making expert. Financial journalist, TV and radio personality.
Ever been told “you look just like that person off the telly”?
Think you could deal with people gawping at you for hours on end and pestering you for a photo?
Well, with a new wig, the odd prop and a bit of make-up you could be making big bucks with regular work as a lookalike.
Now, obviously this isn’t going to be the ideal job for everyone, because most of us only look like, well, ourselves! However, if you’re keen on the idea, the wonders of modern make-up could help transform you into a dead ringer for the rich and famous.
If you seriously want to take this up as a part-time job and become a lookalike professionally then you should already have a reasonable idea of who you want to be. To make a decent amount of money you really do need to look very similar to the star in question, otherwise you’ll have trouble getting an agency to sign you up, let alone get bookings.
Also bear in mind that unless you’re the spitting image of an A-lister you aren’t going to have a constant stream of bookings and are unlikely to make a full-time wage from this. Only the more popular celebs tend to get regular bookings so think about this too when you embark on your new freelance career.
To get the most authentic look possible, you’re going to have to kit yourself out with the right costume. Depending on your character, this could mean a fancy wig, stiletto heels or even goofy fake teeth.
You’ll have to study your lookalike very closely to get the outfit and make-up perfect, and remember it’s the most iconic styles that will go down the best with crowds. Think Madonna in the infamous conical bra or Johnny Depp in full pirate mode.
Your local costume shop is a great place to start. Many sell pre-made outfits of iconic stars, and these shops can be incredibly useful for research. If you don’t find anything quite right, look online for the wigs, clothes, and props you need.
Here are a few of the most popular outlets for fancy dress:
Ideally, if you want lots of repeat business and to be taken seriously by agencies, you should really think about getting some professional photographs taken. For the best results, you’ll have to contact a local portrait photographer. You can find one by doing a quick Google search and shop around for prices and the best-reviewed studios.
However, professional photographs can be a little pricey, so for your first shots you might just want to get hold of a friend who’s handy with a camera. Make sure you take plenty of snapshots if you’re choosing this option so you have lots to choose from.
If possible, try to have your friend use a proper DSLR camera. The results will be far more professional looking than photos taken on a phone. Good DSLR cameras start at around £200, but you can rent one from sites like Fat Llama. This usually only costs around £20 for the day!
Before your photoshoot you should study your character and take note of their mannerisms and typical poses, as this will be very important for getting work. Try to take the photos in the kind of surroundings your celeb would ordinarily be in for added authenticity.
If you don’t have suitable surroundings for your character, taking them against a white wall gives a professional studio look.
Depending on where you live, there may be a lookalike agency close by that could help you out. The best way to find out is to do a quick Google search. Also depending on your location, you may be required to travel long distances to events that you’re asked to work at, so consider this when applying to certain agencies.
When applying to an agency, you’ll often just start by filling in a simple form on their website with some photos and a description.
If you have any accompanying skills, be sure to highlight these on the form. A Britney Spears lookalike that can sing will be far more valuable to them than one that can’t!
Here are a few national agencies for you to get you started with:
Remember, the more agencies you contact, the more likely you are to get on their books and be offered regular work. So contact every agency you can to boost your chances of getting hired.
Once you’re signed up to all the agencies you can, you should eventually start to get bookings.
The amount of bookings you receive can vary to the extremes of once a year to every few days. This will all depend on the demand for your celeb, the quality of your pictures (that’s why it’s always best to go professional where possible) and of course how much you really do look like the star in question!
Getting a booking normally means you’ll be required to turn up at parties and events to entertain the general public or guests. That could simply mean meeting and greeting or depending on your talents, the odd party trick here and there. You may also be required for modelling, TV adverts or just about anything media related. The work can be completely varied so there shouldn’t ever be a dull moment. Just be prepared to get stopped in the street for autographs on your way there!
While working at events, particularly parties and commercial functions, it will be really important to have your celeb’s mannerisms down to a tee and if you can do the accent that’s a plus. Remember, the more talents and extras you can offer your clients the more likely you are to get repeat bookings.
Pay can range from £350 upwards for a day’s work. This will normally depend on your character and how popular they are, but will also be down to your location. Once you’ve started to get regular work you should get more through word of mouth. Talk to people and hand out business cards.
Carry your business cards all the time. These should have contact details and a few words about what you do. You can get really good cheap cards at Vistaprint. They’ll do you 100 business cards for about £10 and they have other good offers too, such as personalised stationary, branded clothing and digital marketing!
Actress Caroline Bernstein is regularly in demand as various lookalikes including Sharon Osbourne, Cherie Blair and even Margaret Thatcher (from her days in power).
She says that with wigs and make-up on she has sometimes been mistaken for the real thing. “I was doing a PR stunt in central London as Sharon Osbourne with a lookalike who does Ozzy,” she says. “And we stopped traffic. Everyone was taking our photographs and tourists were coming up in the street to talk to us, thinking we were the real thing.”
Bernstein is also an impressionist, so she brings extra skills to her work such as doing the voice for each character and even singing. Lookalikes increase their saleability by learning the voice or other aspects of the personality they embody.
“There are some really good David Beckham lookalikes,” says Bernstein. “And one of them has learnt some great footballing tricks.”
Looking like a star is vital, but there are other things you can do to increase your popularity in the field.
Like Caroline, who teamed up with an Ozzy lookalike, you can really turn heads and get fantastic publicity with a double act. If you’re lucky enough to look like a celebrity and know a friend who resembles their famous spouse, bandmate or otherwise, you could become very popular.
But if, say, you’re the spitting image of Catherine Zeta-Jones but don’t know anyone who resembles Michael Douglas, suggesting the possibility of a duo to the agency may spark their interest if they have someone you could team up with.
The most popular lookalikes have an international reach. So you might get some work looking like a fairly well-known British politician, but it’s the Thatchers and Obamas that are instantly recognisable to all.
Heavily costumed characters can be easier for many people to pull off, because personality and stage presence count for a lot. If you do an awesome Austin Powers impression or can embody Dame Edna, then the wigs and glasses can help you round off the look.
If you’re very entrepreneurial, you could try advertising your services independently on sites like Gumtree or Fiverr. Bypassing the agencies means you could take home a larger fee. Have a browse to see what’s in demand. Otherwise, do try the agency route, as they’re well set up to find you clients and regular work!
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People say I look like John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin. My brother looks just like Aaron Rodgers and my friend looks like Amy Winehouse.