Model FAQ: do I need an agent to be a model?

how to get a model agent

To become a model you must get an agent. Not just because that’s how you get to go on castings and book jobs, but for your safety and well-being. An agent acts as a ‘buffer’ between yourself and the client – if there’s a problem between you and a client, then the agency will be the ones to sort it out. Your agency will negotiate your fees for your jobs (they have decades of experience and know exactly how much to charge for each and every shoot), they will invoice the client and make sure that you get paid. They also handle your day-to-day schedule, taking ‘options’ for potential jobs and making sure that nothing clashes. If you do have more than one job option on any one day, your agency will decide which one you take, whether it be because it’s the higher fee or the better publicity.

Without an agency, most clients wouldn’t even look twice at a model – in fact, without an agency, most models wouldn’t even know who the clients even were! It would be extremely difficult to arrange an appointment with a (good, reputable) photographer or catalogue client without an agency – there are hundreds – thousands - of girls represented by top agencies, so why would they make time to see someone who wasn’t represented?

Let me also set a little scene for you (and this goes back to the points in the first paragraph): you see an ad in a paper and it says “models wanted – no experience necessary.” OOH! you think – that’s me! I could do that! So you call up the number and a nice friendly man answers and gives you directions to a studio off in an industrial estate somewhere. You travel to the location (all excited and keen!) and when you get there you do some pictures. Now, let’s assume for the moment that a) you don’t get asked to take your clothes off (by a stranger?! Are you mad?!) and b) you don’t get sexually molested or attacked – lucky you! (I’m not saying, by any means, that all photographers advertising for models in a paper will be dodgy, but you can imagine that this is the perfect ‘career’ to prey on enthusiastic, good-looking young girls.) So far so good – you have pictures. Are they any good? Probably not. A proper, reputable agency will get you these types of shoots for free, with good, working photographers that don’t have to advertise in the Woking Herald or the Springfield Gazette. Where is Mr Paper-Ad Photographer going to place your photos? Will they end up in Cosmo, Elle Magazine, Harpers, Tatler? I’d place money on the fact that the pictures will never see the light of day – at least not for anything that will remotely benefit an aspiring model. Next question: are you going to charge the photographer for your time? Maybe not for this shoot, but hey – you want to make a living out of this modelling thing, surely? How much are you going to charge? What’s the going rate? Do you think you’ll get the ‘going rate’ just by asking nicely when you get to the job? An agency wouldn’t even let you go to a job until they had a signed confirmation sheet from the client detailing exactly how much money they were going to pay for your time.

Does the whole ‘agency’ thing make a bit more sense now? I hope so! There are so many little bits and bobs that need explaining, but in general, think of it like this: without an agent, there is no job. No proper, money-making, safe job, anyway. Even if you are lucky enough to make your own contacts / get spotted by Vogue / ‘win’ a contract with Wonderbra, you’ll still need a team of people behind you to manage your bookings, introduce you to big agencies in other countries and make sure that you’re kept safe.

A couple of points:

1) A reputable agency will never ask for money upfront. Any photographic tests, model cards, portfolios and so on will be added to your account so that when you start earning they get paid off. You would very rarely have to pay for any ‘start-up’ costs yourself.

2) Reputable agencies do scout on the streets and at festivals or exhibitions, but they will always have an official card to give you with the name of the agency they belong to. Always look up the agency online and ring their main number to speak to the person that scouted you and that way you’ll know that they are genuinely working for the agency they say they are. (I hear of all kinds of dangerous cons going on!)

3) Don’t get expensive portrait photos done to show agencies – you just need two or three snapshots. They could be from a recent holiday! One of your face and one showing your figure (but it doesn’t have to be in underwear, not at all!)

4) A list of great agencies in London can be found here: Association of Model Agencies

29 comments

  1. Also, just to add in that they haven’t seemed to have rotated since the day I signed up- They still have the same girls on the site, under “Girls”.

    If you want to check out the site it’s http://www.assetsmodels.com/

    The girls category I was to be listed in is under Commercial. Thanks again! xx

  2. Hi Ruth :)
    I’m 14 but last year I went to an agent to sign up and be represented by that agency.
    They told me that they needed to charge us a fee (I think it was around €80) to be in the agency. This was yearly.
    They wrote my details on a small whiteboard and took a photo of it with a (okay, expensive looking) camera. They then brought me out back and took around 15-20 photos, not posing or smiling.
    They told me that some people are booked by a client after 2 months while others could be 6 months.
    It’s been around 7 or 8 months and I’ve gotten no call, information or anything. My photo is not on the website (I’ve checked all the categories, they do have a section for girls, women and actors).
    We visited the agency in maybe September and they told me that all the photos of people and profiles that they put on the website were on rotation and every couple of months they rotate and put different people on, and I just haven’t been chosen to be put on the website yet. They also told me that the client sometimes gives them a “look” (e.g redhead, skinny, dark) and they choose a suitable model or actress, as I signed up to be represented for acting as well.
    The agency does have a big reputation but I just don’t know if this whole thing is the norm (the whole rotation thing and the fee seem a bit fishy to me). I’m new in the whole modelling business and I would appreciate some advice from a genuine model who knows the industry.
    Thanks a lot! xx

  3. Dear Ruth,

    I am a a young male in college in Seattle considering, with encouragement from a friend and my mother (or possibly two mothers), a part-time job to pay for things. I know that there is a route to decent pay people often take through a social site like modelmayhem, and there is a route through an agency. Could you highlight the differences if you are knowledgeable of both?

  4. Hi Ruth! I’m 18, half-Asian, from the US and my absolute dream is to become a model, but I live nowhere near NYC. I’m actually from Raleigh, NC (if you know where that is) and am headed off to college this fall. What would you recommend for a girl like me to start out? Should I go to an open casting call in NY and see what they say? Also, sometimes I come off a bit shy with first impressions – does personality really matter as much as everyone says it does when modeling? What about mixed races..? Sorry about all the confusing questions.. Thank you sooo much!! Love you! :)

  5. Hi Ruth! I’m thirteen, 5’5, 90lbs and really want to have a career in modelling when i’m older. I know i’ve still got growing to do and three years of school left and there appears to be only one reputable modelling agent in my city (tamblyn) would you say that when the time comes I should risk it and send photos or go to an overseas agent?

    • That depends on whether you’d like to model full time or just for fun – might be best to contact a local agency to start with, and then if you like it and want to do bigger things, look to a more international agency! x

  6. Hi . I’m trying be model I have done my portfolio but loads of agency are scam and I don’t know where I should send my portfolio;(

  7. Hey Ruth, loving the website and this is a great post! I’m with Models1+ myself but there have been so many agencies that turned me down before or told me to lose 10 inches of my hips (which I wasn’t willing to do/wasn’t realistic). Most of those were dodgy ones anyway which seem to keep reinventing themselves every 6 months. And so true, without an agency it’s close to impossible to get any (decent) paying jobs!

    • Yes, I do think that Models1 are an exceptional agency – especially their attitude to health and bodyshape. I love them! xx

  8. how tall should a 13 year old model be?? x

    • A model shouldn’t be 13, really – not for high fashion. It’s kind of pointless thinking of heights at that age because you have so much growing to do, it’s impossible to tell! x

  9. Hey Ruth, first thank you for your insight and advice. You are very charasmatic so it is easy to fall in love with your site. Here is my question, have you ever heard of people being accepted into an agency because they have a unique “flaw” and could model for specific shoots? I am an attractive 26 year old girl with facial scars (they are faint, not very dramatic). I have been giving a thought to modeling for the mere fact that I could be used to skincare products? Do you recommend I give it a shot? Thanks a bunch :)

    • Hi Gabrielle,
      Are you thinking of doing this just for fun, as a hobby, or as an occupation? Because just modelling “beauty” (skincare products) is very, very, very limited work! It really depends what you want to get out of it, really! The best thing to do would be to send a headshot (just a clear photograph of your face, not professional) to an agency. You can get a list at the AMA! xx

  10. What about if its not high fashion, I’ve been told by a lot of people that I’d be a good model but I’m only 4’11, and look much younger than my age.

  11. Whats the height requirement for someone to model at 20?

  12. Thanks so much Ruth! I will do that ASAP. Yeah, I wish I would have told them where to shove it but professionalism comes first :). I really love “A Model Recommends”. Ive been obsessed with it! Always something new to learn from you.

  13. Hi Ruth,
    I was dropped by my agency this summer for not losing weight when they asked me to (Im 5’9, measurements are 32, 24, 35. Yeah, they are insane). That was the only major agency in my city, or even this region. Should I send my pictures and stats to an agency in another city? Im not sure what to do but I dont want to give up just because someone told me “(I’m) not good enough”.
    Thanks for your help.

  14. Thanks Ruth! I certainly will. X

  15. P.S Sorry about my grammar I’m having to use mobile internet at the moment and its not the easiest of things. Ha

  16. Hi Ruth! I’ve been modelling for various shops, newspapers in my city all with out a pay :( this past year. I know I’m not going to make it as a fashion model as I’m only 5’6 but I would love to continue modelling but not very surehow to go about it. Don’t know of any agencies who take on someone with my height. I don’t feel like I’m getting anywhere and can’t help but feel like I’m been used most of the time! Any tips? Or do you know of any agencies who take on a more petite Model? Any help would be appreciated. Thanks x

    • @Ashley you definitely shouldn’t let yourself be used like that! Newspapers have a budget and that’s shameful not to be paying you! The best thing to do would be to contact some of the agencies on the AMA list – email them all the same email, and ask them who they know of who would take a girl of your height. Maybe attach a photograph so they can get a good idea of your appearance! You will never know until you try – don’t waste any more time worrying about it! xxx

  17. I love your style of writing! You make everything sound so captivating that I have to read on even when it’s a post about modelling – something I have no aspirations of whatsoever as I’m so petite!