Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How do I find an agency?

Contact information for modeling agencies in your area can be easily found on the internet. Most will have a website.

Some agencies accept walk-in appointments, some take applications through the mail, and some have monthly or quarterly 'open calls' where aspiring models can meet with agency representatives.

You'll want to contact each agency in your area to find out the following:

1. Where is the agency located?
If you sign with the agency, you will need to be available on short notice to meet with potential clients. So, if you are more than 1 or 2 hours drive away from the agency, it may not work out for you or the agency.

2. What are the agency's guidelines for age, height, weight, and size?
If you don't fit their guidelines, don't waste any more time. 99% of the models that apply to most agencies are never contacted because they don't fit the agency's guidelines.

3. What kinds of clients does the agency work with?
The agency's answer should match with the types of modeling you want to do. Beware if the answer is something like, "We work with all the big names", or if the agency is hesitant about telling you what kind of clients they work with. Most agencies are very proud of their clients, big or small, and will have no problem telling you who some of them are.

4. Does the agency have mandatory classes or training programs that models have to pay for?
Agencies that provide and expect models to pay for expensive training are usually a rip off. So, the answer to this question should be no.

Some legitimate agencies do offer optional training and workshop sessions to their models, but it should not be mandatory.

5. What is the procedure for applying to the agency?
The answers to this question will tell you what to do next if you decide to go to the next step with the agency.

If an agency is interested in representing you, they will offer you a contract that formalizes the agreement between you and the agency. As with any contract, you should do your research and check with references before signing.

Please note: most worthwhile agencies won't offer you a contract immediately. Instead, they will ask you for photos that they can send to some of their clients for review, and if some of their clients like your look, then the agency will consider offering you a contract.

Some agencies (particularly the larger ones) may even have you do a few assignments for their clients as an independent contractor before offering you an agency contract, sort of like a "test drive" before making a commitment.

Be highly cautious of any agency that requires you to pay for modeling classes, pressures you to sign a contract right away, promises you big-money modeling work in the Northwest(remember, there isn't any), or asks you to pay hundreds of dollars in up-front costs before they can start booking modeling assignments for you.

If you don't fit the height, size, age, and weight guidelines for any of the legitimate agencies in your area, or if you live more than two hours away from all of them, then you're probably not cut out to be fashion or commercial model.

That doesn't mean you can't be a model, but you should probably look more seriously at freelance work that you can get without an agency, such as glamour, figure, or promotional modeling.

Should I Have to Pay My Agency?

Real modeling agencies make most of their money by taking a percentage of each modeling job you do for one of the agency's clients. This percentage is usually between 10% and 20%, and should be stated in your written contract with the agency.

So, if the agency is finding work for their models, they are making money on those percentages. That's their motivation for finding you modeling work if you sign with them.

In smaller markets like the Northwest, the profit margins for agencies are small, so most of them will also charge nominal fees for some of the services they provide to models, but any agency that asks you for hundreds of dollars in up-front fees or makes you pay for unnecessary training is probably not legitimate. Beware of bogus agencies that are just fronts for modeling schools or outright scam operations.

Some of the fees you can realistically expect to pay the agency might include the following:

• Some agencies have a small sign-up or application fee. Typically this fee is only a few dollars, or just enough to cover the cost of the application paperwork. Since many agencies are deluged with applicants, charging a token sign-up fee helps ensure that only those people that are serious about modeling actually apply to the agency. However, beware of any agency that asks for a large amount of money for signing up or for any other reason. Also note that application fees are prohibited in some jurisdictions.

• Some agencies charge a small fee to list the model on the agency's head-sheets. Typically this fee is less than $50 per year, but will vary depending on the agency. This listing should be optional, not required, but is highly recommended for being seen by the largest number of potential clients.

• Some agencies charge a small fee to display the model's photos and statistics on the agency's web site. Typically this fee is less than $50 per year, but will vary depending on the agency. This listing should be optional, not required, since very little commercial modeling work is found through web sites.

• Most agencies charge a fee to make copies of the model's composite cards to distribute to agency clients. Each agency has its own preferred layout and logo design for its model's composite cards, so the model's first batch of cards usually needs to be created by a print shop that works regularly with the model's agency. Once the first batch of cards is used up, many reputable agencies give the model the option of going to any print shop to get extra copies printed. This allows the model to shop around for the best deal on printing if he/she wishes. However, the cost of printing extra composites is often cheaper through large modeling agencies because of volume discounts offered to those agencies by their preferred print shops.

Before a model can start working, it is not unusual for the model to spend several hundred dollars on photography and composite card printing, but often a model pays the photographers and print shops directly for those services, rather than paying for those services through their agency.

The agency may recommend a list of photographers and printers to you, and they may even have a staff photographer available to you at a reasonable rate or a print shop that already knows the agency's comp card format, but your agency should not demand that you use a specific photographer or printing service.

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