DON’T PAY UPFRONT FEES & NO HARD SALES TACTICS
If a contract isn’t being offered to you first, there is no reason why an agency should be asking you to pay upfront fees for services like training, portfolio creation, comp card printing, etc. Additionally, it is not appropriate for an agency to pressure you to sign a contract right then and there without allowing you to take it home to look over for a few days.
Anytime an agency makes it seem like they’ll snatch the opportunity away if you don’t get on board on the spot, take it as a red flag and politely decline. If they’re asking for personal financial information like a credit card, definitely get up, walk away and don’t look back.
SUGGESTED PHOTOGRAPHERS VS. USING YOUR OWN
Your child has just gotten signed to an agency and you couldn’t be happier. Now it’s time to create those marketing materials that will allow the agency to do their job: headshots, comp/zed cards, portfolio, etc.
Many agencies will offer a list of recommended photographers to work with. This is common practice because they’ve undoubtedly worked with a fair share of photographers and want to know they can trust the quality of the images they receive.
However, the agency should not force you to use their photographers. The ideal situation would be to get this list with the understanding that the use of their recommended photographers is optional and that you are free to select anyone you want, as long as the quality of the work is up to their standards.
If you’ve got a photographer you want your child to work with that isn’t on the agency’s list, don’t be surprised if the agency wants you to provide a link to that person’s portfolio. Again, they want to make sure the quality is what they want so it’s only fair that you show them your choice is a good one. If they agree, then you’re golden. Should they not agree and tell you to find someone else, don’t get discouraged, especially if you’ve got other options of your own to consider.
At the end of the day, it should be your choice whether or not you go with your own photographer or select one of theirs–not a decision you feel pressured into making if you don’t want to or can’t afford. A legitimate agency will work with you, not against you.
DON’T IGNORE YOUR GUT
When attending open calls and interviews pay attention to the atmosphere in the agency offices. Are the phones ringing, do the bookers appear to be busy and interacting with clients and models? How are the staff treating you? Do they seem genuinely engaged with you in conversation or are they a bit snooty and act like you’re in the way?
Don’t ignore your gut. But that doesn’t mean you should over analyze and scrutinize every little thing. Make mental notes of how you are treated, if there are any awkward moments or if you felt completely at home the entire time. Think about the conversation you had with the agency staff and how they handled any questions or concerns you raised.
Remember: the modeling agency you end up signing with will be people you’ll be interacting with for the duration of your contract so you want to make sure you’re picking an agency that you look forward to working with. Even if an agency is the biggest and the best, if you feel uncomfortable or get a bad feeling that something’s not right, it’s likely a sign that it’s not a good fit.
Most importantly: how did they interact with your child? Make sure to ask your son/daughter afterwards how they felt about the experience and take their feelings into consideration when making a decision who to move forward with for representation.
LOOK AT THE CONTRACT
Getting a contract offer is the goal but don’t sign on the dotted line if you don’t know what you’re getting yourself into. Legitimate agencies allow you to take the contract home to review and will give a deadline for when to provide them with a signed copy if you’re on board.
If your goal is to sign with more than one agency, don’t sign an exclusive contract and vice-versa. Find out how long the contract is going to last. Not sure if you want to commit long-term to an agency? Then you’ll likely be more comfortable signing a 1-2 year contract and not a 3-5 year one.
Understand how to get out of the contract if you want to terminate the working relationship early for whatever reason. Knowing where the “Exit Clause” is in the paperwork and what steps you need to follow to exercise that right will be important to identify before signing.
How much commission is the agency charging? 10-15%? 20-25%? These are things you need to know.
Don’t be afraid to ask questions and get clarification on anything you don’t understand. It is the agency’s job to educate and inform you about their contracts and methods of operation.
Make a list of questions ahead of time so you don’t forget anything during the open call or interview you really want to ask. It’s also a good idea to do your homework and check whether or not the agency’s website has an FAQ page. Oftentimes that alone will answer most questions you probably already had in mind.
Find out how many models they have in your division and roughly how often they send models out on castings and go-sees. Ask what the agency’s process is for setting up test shoots for building your portfolio and creating headshots and comp cards. Learn about any slow seasons during the year you should expect or if there are any ages or “looks” for child models that tend to be more popular than others.
These are all run-of-the-mill questions agencies are accustomed to addressing so there should be no reason why they should give you a hard time, get defensive or otherwise not provide you with answers. The way an agency interacts with you in the beginning is a great way to get an idea of what moving forward with them would look like once you accept the contract offer.