Most seasoned models understand the importance of choosing the right modeling agency. If you choose the wrong one, it can make your career as a model, very miserable. With the right one, it is a marriage made in heaven. So, how do you choose the right agency for you? What do you look for?
Know what a modeling agency is.
A modeling agency is a legitimate business that recruits fashion models for their fashion and at times non-fashion clients. A modeling agency is not a modeling school or a talent agency. Modeling schools typically attempt to train you on basic model etiquette (how to walk, dress etc. to look like a model). If you sign with a legitimate model agency, you do not need this. Your booker will take care of this. Talent agencies typically represent actors and actresses, stylists, photographers, but you will come across some that are full service whic means their representation also includes models.
Make Sure you feel good about your booker
From the very first time you meet with a modeling agency, beyond looking carefully to see how professional they arel and asking questions about their business and how much work they get for their girls, you should meet the booker and make sure you feel a good vibe/chemistry with the booker.
A booker manages every aspect of your career as a model. As a new model, your booker helps put your portfolio together, have you shoot with photographers, gives you a makeover to highlight your strengths and market you to the agency’s clients. Also, your manages your work schedule/availability for go sees/castings and model jobs. Bookers help refer you to other important professionals if you need help like doctors, accountants, personal trainers etc. So, you see the importance of having a good relationship with your booker? If you do not, you probably will not see many jobs come your way.
Choose an Agency that will NOT Ask for Upfront Fees
A legitimate agency works on commission. They are expected to put up the cost of developing you as a model to market to their clients. The agency absorbs the initial costs of getting you marketable but many will require you to refund those expenses once you start getting paid for the jobs they book you. If an agency says to you, you need to pay, “consultation,” “registration,” “administrative” or any sort of fees for that matter before you make money, say “thank you” and leave.
What are the examples of upfront fees that the agency pays for?
An agency should pay for your test shoot with photographers, comp card (your quick photo resume), portfolio (your book with pictures showing your flexible look), modeling lessons if they think you need one.
What is an Agency Not Expected to Pay for?
While an agency will cover the upfront fees described above, they are not expected to pay for your food and transportation when you test shoot, build your portfolio or when you travel for go sees/castings. Neither are they expected to pay for the clothes, makeup or accessories and shoes for your shoot.
Should I Choose a Small or a Big Agency
A small agency, especially as a new model, might seem like a wiser choice. In a small agency, you do not have to compete with other models for a job or for the attention of your booker. If there is a problem, because of the size of the agency, the booker will be able to quickly notice and work closely with you to help you improve. In contrast, in a big agency with so many models, bookers and departments, you can get lost and your needs ignored.
A small agency, becuase of its limited financial resources, has a greater incentive to work real hard for you because they depend heavily on your success to stay in business. In contrast, a large agency is not as dependent on you. They already have established clients and models that help them make a profit.
Inspite of the disadvantages with a big agency, it might still make sense to choose and sign on to a large agency. A large agency has the brand name and resources to help you work with only the best in the industry so you can have a very lucrative career.
How much of my paycheck will an agency take?
An agency takes 15-20% from your paycheck as commission for helping you book your model jobs. In addition, many will ask you to refund/reimburse for all that upfront fees they put up for your portfolio, test shoot etc. Typically, for payment, you are given a voucher. Your voucher has the agency’s contact information and address. When you show up for your modeling job, you hand over the voucher for the client to sign after you have completed your shoot. You give a copy to the client, keep one for yourself and give one to the agency (usually the original). The agency invoices the client and once they receive the check, pays you minus their commission and the fees explained above.
(Updated Sept. 2015)