From Iceland — Side Hustle: When Opportunity Knocks

Side Hustle: When Opportunity Knocks

Published July 10, 2024

Side Hustle: When Opportunity Knocks
Photo by
Joana Fontinha for The Reykjavík Grapevine

Andrea Geirsdóttir’s side gig takes her into the wild

Every now and then, Andrea Geirsdóttir escapes the routine of her day job to go on adventures around Iceland or beyond. As a model for brands, she is always up for the challenge, even if it takes numerous shots. Here’s how Andrea balances her full-time job with spontaneity and mountain peaks.

Andrea Geirsdóttir, 33, a counsellor

I work as a counsellor at BUGL, the child and adolescent psychiatric department of the national hospital. On the side, I do photoshoots for different projects, usually for advertisements. It’s not a steady gig. Sometimes they come in bulk and it’s a very busy month and sometimes there’s nothing. A lot of the time, there is also casting — you make yourself available for the job and then the photographer or the producer choose someone else. It’s very unsteady and unreliable, but if you land a good job, it often pays very well.

The Yes Effect

When I was in university, I was asked to participate in a shoot for some ads in a flyer. It was a small gig. I had done it twice before for a company called Icelandic Mountain Guides. From that, I received more offers and jobs, and I started to make connections.

Snyrtilegur Klæðnaður, a casting agency, once asked me to do an assignment for the Blue Lagoon. I told them if there was anything related to the outdoors, like climbing, ice climbing, kayaking, running, cycling, or mountain biking, that I would be up for those kinds of projects. And then some of them started to line up.

“It’s so nice to leave your normal job for a minute and get paid to do these things.”

Once I was guiding a trip up to the highest peak in Iceland, Hvannadalsjökull. It was a sponsored project and since Icelandair was one of the sponsors, they sent a photographer. I was chatting with the photographer on the way down and we got to know each other. Some time later, he contacted me because an individual coming to Iceland was looking for a person for a photoshoot and I fit the criteria. I said, “Yes, I’m available.” That was a project for a fall catalogue for Black Diamond. From that, I got offered another job with a company called Backcountry — it was a big project, 10 days of hiking, mountain biking, fishing, and all kinds of stuff. Then the ball just started rolling.

I made a connection with a photographer that works with Mountain Hardware and they offered me a similar trip to the Himalayas in Nepal. You just make connections and get to know people and they contact you if there’s something that they think you would be a good fit for.

Go-with-the-flow attitude

I mostly love the opportunities and getting to know people. It’s so nice to leave your normal job for a minute and get paid to do these things. When you’re travelling, you stay in nice hotels, they pay for dinner and you also get paid for the assignment. It’s always a bit of an adventure. Even though the shoots are sometimes short, it’s nice to get to know new people and face new challenges, trying to do your best and deliver. I don’t remember a project that has been boring or let me down.

The worst part, however, is the unpredictability. Sometimes it’s very weather dependent, sometimes the crew asks you to hold five days available, but then you may be shooting for two. Making yourself available is the hardest thing to manage — you might take time off and then the shoot is being moved so you need to arrange your schedule at work again. That can be annoying, but it’s manageable. I have a lot of flexibility [at work] and I’m very thankful for that. 

I’ve mostly been contacted with offers. I don’t seek these opportunities out. Once they asked me if I wanted to be on a roster, but you need to register and fill in your measurements like height and weight. That’s where I kind of wanted to draw the line. Just the thought of it made me feel a bit pressured. What if I gain weight, or lose weight? I’d need to send in new measurements. I didn’t want to have to keep that in mind or think about it. I decided to be kind of carefree about it. If it comes, I’m grateful. If there’s nothing, it’s fine.

Workday adventures

My favourite memory? The trip to the Himalayas was insane. It was six weeks long and I had to train for it. All expenses were covered, but you still lose income because you have to take time off from work. But that’s one of the highlights that I’ve received from this side gig. There’s also so many small moments. On the Backcountry assignment, we shot again and again, driving over the Þórsmörk rivers. We had a vintage Land Rover Defender and I got to drive it because a lot of Americans don’t know how to drive stick. It was just so much fun. Something that I wouldn’t be able to do just on my own at home. 

Another highlight would be when we went to the Westman Islands and walked all the peaks there, shooting along the way. I love being active and exercising, so this side gig is also ticking that box. Afterwards, we ate — there are two restaurants, Slippurinn and GOTT — and I would definitely travel there again just for the experience of eating there.

Braving the elements

Usually, I’m very patient with multiple takes. But the worst conditions are if the weather isn’t nice and you’re poorly dressed. If you’re cold and doing it again and again, you’re just waiting for it to be over. It can be a bit miserable. Once, we were shooting on a glacier and the photographer wanted me to put my hands into a river and drink from it — we did about 14 takes of that. I couldn’t feel my fingers afterwards and I thought, “Oh, well, this really sucks.” In times like that, it’s hard to have a positive attitude.

Need a model for hire? Contact Andrea at @andrea.geirs on Instagram

Want to share how you’re making ends meet? Email us at with the subject line “Side Hustle.” We’ll happily keep your identity anonymous.

Follow along with the Side Hustle series right here.

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