It is essential for young photographers to build their portfolio if they plan to make a career for themselves. While building a portfolio, you'll need to set up several "test" shoots. A test shoot is when you collaborate with other aspiring professionals (hair stylists, make-up artists, models, and [clothing] stylists) to perform a shoot where everyone walks away with images to add to their portfolio. You can't get paid gigs if you don't have the work to back it up. I try my best to schedule a "test" shoot with a model at least once a month.
I was lucky enough to work with a very talented model, Casey, on a test shoot recently. We've been planning on collaborating for a while and finally found the time. Casey has extremely long straight hair, striking eyes, and a great range of fascial expressions that makes any photographer's job easier.
We didn't spend much time planning the shoot. We just wanted to have a decent wardrobe selection and let ideas come to us as we worked together. We made the mistake of shopping at Forever 21 for the wardrobe. Their clothing is just fine but their return policy is horrible. Without getting into detail, save yourself the trouble and purchase clothing from H&M if you plan to shoot and return the clothing. 30 days and no questions asked. Just make sure to keep the tags and your receipt.
Starting out as a professional photographer can be tough. If you don't have the luxury of assisting a seasoned pro, your only option will be to learn for yourself using trial by fire. If you surround yourself with optimistic people and keep the right state of mind, you'll be more likely to succeed. This is true for more than just photography, FYI.