One of the things I hear most from models starting out and freelance models is that they want to be with an agency. I don’t quite understand this panacea for them, but many models have set this as their goal in modeling or at least as one of their first steps. It is as if almost every model who says this thinks that the agency will give them plenty of work and millions of dollars. In reality, an agent is just that: an agent. What does this mean to you as a model?
Agents are people who help facilitate you being a model. You don’t work for them as a model. Instead, you are your own business. You are still expected to get modeling jobs on your own. You still need to do go sees and test shoots with people in order to be recognized and to learn modeling. They will often place additional requirements, check out the people who you work, and protect your image for the industry. But, they will not usually pay your way until you start making money for them. Remember, they get paid off commissions from the paid work you do. They make nothing off of the free work you do. They also will help you find additional work but it is still your job to find work with people yourself. An agent has access to additional people who want solid models – people with a look who know what they are doing as a model. They have to constantly be on time and very reliable. If they aren’t, the model wouldn’t be working for them. I will repeat this: as a model, you still need to find your own work and impress people with your skills as a model. An agent can’t hand work over to you on a silver platter and guarantee you constant work.
What kinds of things do models pay? Pretty much the same things that they pay if they wouldn’t be working for an agency. These are things like education as a model, a website, social networking, comp cards, books (portfolios), headshots, and prints. In addition, you may be restricted to getting them done like the agent requires. This is more for consistency and carrying their brand which adds value to you as a model. Your book, for example, will probably be one they specify with their logo on it. You won’t be able to just go buy something that will do or choose one of the current fad albums – they will specify exactly the one you need to purchase. You should expect this. You should also expect to purchase new comp cards every 5-6 months (at the least), and replace the images on them with newer ones each time. This is just part of being a model. You also have some of the more regular items: clothing, accessories, and makeup. If you freelance, you know how these add up already.
What about the money they advance me as a model, you ask. Well, most smaller agencies don’t advance you money. Worse, if they do, that money comes at a cost called interest. You need to pay the agency for them advancing you that money. This is typically at 18 percent or higher. This adds up quickly.
Also keep in mind that you don’t get paid until the agency gets paid (usually two or three months after you do the work) and that the agency processes it. Some of your clients will pay quickly, but some take their time. As a freelance, you get paid the same day you model in most cases.
So, why do you want to work with an agency again? Don’t get me wrong here. Just know that many models who have gone the agency route have felt like they have been mistreated by the agency because they had many bad experiences. A lot of this is because the model expects the agency to do all the marketing and work for them as a model, and the model doesn’t realize that they are a business themself. Keep this in mind and know what you are getting into when you join an agency. There are advantages, but it isn’t the holy grail of modeling that many models make it out to be.