IDENTIFY YOUR AREA’S LEGITIMATE MODELING AGENCIES
Legitimate modeling agencies work by earning a percentage of the work they book for their models. The industry standard is this:
- 20% from the model (commission) and
- 20% from the client (agency fee).
For example, if the modeling agency books you for a full day for $1,000, they will bill the client $1,200. When the model gets her check, it will be for $800. The agency’s profit is $400. That is how a legitimate model agency earns money to stay in business.
If a ‘model agency’ asks you for money, get out fast! A legitimate modeling agency will NEVER ask a model to pay a signing fee or a promotion fee, or any kind of fee for any reason. It’s just that simple. A legitimate modeling agency will NEVER ask you for money.
IDENTIFYING MODELING SCAMS: Here Are Some Red Flags
Scam artists preying on young models are very creative in their attempts to get your money. There are many fake ‘modeling agencies’ around and here are some ways you can identify them:
1. The modeling agency business is a Monday-Friday, 9-5pm business. If you are contacted to attend an “Open Call” or “Talent Review” make sure it’s between these hours. Be very suspicious if they ask you to come in later in the evening or a weekend. Legitimate modeling agencies don’t do weekends!
2. Look around at the caliber of the people in the waiting room. Legitimate modeling agencies have a rigorous screening procedure. They simply don’t want to be bothered with a room full newbies with snapshots.
3. Be suspicious if all of the models waiting with you recently went to a modeling convention. Most of these fake modeling agencies buy leads from conventions. They will pay up to $5.00 per lead get your name and phone number.
4. What kind of credentials are hanging on the wall? ALL agencies must be licensed. If they are not, chances are there’s a reason.
5. Listen to what’s going on around you. Are the phones ringing? Do you hear actual work being booked? Does the staff look busy? Don’t base your opinions on decor or photos on the wall. Fake agencies will cut ads out of magazines and place them on the walls, pretending they have launched famous models’ careers simply to impress inexperienced models.
6. Is the space quite large with lots of different rooms? If so, be suspicious that this is actually a training center rather than an agency. You can further protect yourself by asking around before you even get there. Contact some other models and talent see if they have had any experiences with this company.
7. What does the Better Business Bureau have on file? If there are any complaints against this agency it will come up for all to view.
8. Contact some of the local casting agencies to see which model agencies they work with. If the company you are considering is not mentioned, then it’s not worth your time.
9. Check out their website. A real agency doesn’t “sell itself” to the public on its website; it presents the talent for clients to view.
10. Most important! Be cautious of any agency that advertises in local papers or on the radio.
Once again: Legitimate agencies earn money by taking a percentage of the work they book. The industry standard is this: 20% from the model (commission) and 20% from the client (agency fee). A legitimate modeling agency will NEVER ask the models to pay to advertise or for promotion of any kind.
Which brings me to the next subject.
THE PHOTO MILL AND COMP CARD SCAM
By far, the most popular scam is what we call a photo mill. This is ‘modeling agency’ that makes its money by sending models to photographers that are ON STAFF to produce expensive photos, then produce a ‘comp card.’
These ‘modeling agencies’ don’t make any money by booking work, only by selling pricey photography. They will sign up anyone with a credit card.
Be suspicious of any ‘modeling agency’ that forces you to be photographed with a certain photographer. You should be free to interview photographers and choose your own.
IMPORTANT: A legitimate modeling agency might give you “a testing list.” This is a list of various photographers in your area that you’ll be able to contact; but you choose which one you want to work with and you are not required to use anyone on the list.
A legitimate modeling agency will never force you to use its printing company; if you ask for a referral, they might give you one or two names, but will let you choose the one you want to hire.
Also, a brand new model should never print more than 200 cards at one shot. If you’re new, chances are your first card isn’t going to be strong. It’s simply just a way to introduce you to clients. Continue working with various photographers to gain experience, then update your cards within a few months. So, 500 cards is too many. 100-200 cards are enough to get started and they shouldn’t cost more than $1.00 per card to produce. Check out Vista Print.
DO NOT write a check to the ‘modeling agency’ for printing or for photography; pay your vendors directly.
THE ONLINE WEBSITE SCAM
Another scam is the ‘modeling agency’ that tries to sell you their online website. Most agencies have websites, and yes it will cost you something, and yes this is a good tool. However, you shouldn’t be forced to sign up for this. If you feel pressured to sign up for an offer that won’t be available tomorrow, get out of there fast! A legitimate modeling agency will never pressure you. NEVER.
Check out WordPress for a no-cost website so you can display your photos and write a bit about yourself and what you have to offer.
Conventions are not necessarily scams. They usually deliver exactly what they say they will, which is the opportunity to show yourself to a panel of agencies at one shot.
Here are some tips to save you time, money and dashed hopes:
1. Make sure you are choosing the right convention for your type. Most conventions cater to the fashion model types so if you are under 5’9’ in height you’ll get few callbacks and end up getting lost in the sea of long legs. There are other conventions designed more for commercial types. Check these out if you are not the fashion type: very tall, very leggy, very pretty.
2. Before signing up for a convention, ask for the list of agencies that are attending. Check out their websites to make certain that they work with people of your physical type. If they do, then call them to confirm that they actually will be attending. Make sure that the modeling agencies are established, not new agencies just starting up. Also, it never hurts to check with the local Better Business Bureaus regarding complaints.
3. Be very clear about what the convention fee includes. These conventions make a profit from the registration fee you pay as well as ticket sales, dinner banquets, required photo shoots pre-convention and mark ups on your hotel room.
4. Look for a convention that is all inclusive and doesn’t require you to photograph beforehand with a staff photographer. It should be a flat price.
5. The convention should not require you to stay at the host hotel, as you can often find less expensive hotels nearby. Hotels offer a discount on convention room rates because they will be booking up the entire hotel for a weekend. This is big business! The convention will sometimes mark up the room rates for another source of income. No convention should cost you more than $600 total; and remember, it’s not a scam just because you didn’t get any call backs. Usually there are 800 plus attendees and it’s difficult to stand out in such a large crowd. You need to weigh the good and bad and then decide.
Modeling is a business based on appearance. By looking at catalogues and magazines you can determine if you are a fashion type or a commercial type, or if you have a specialty. Some examples of specialties include: sports model, hand model, foot model, body building model, young parent, senior citizen, executive, petite model, full figure model. If you can determine your strengths, you can be pro-active in marketing yourself as a model.
If you want a little bit of experience, I have affordable one- and two-hour workshops in which I can teach you to flow effortlessly from one pose to another. (Models under 18 years of age, please bring a parent or adult guardian.) Other ways to gain confidence include dance lessons and gymnastics. There are full time modeling schools in Portland, but they are generally not agencies. They sell courses, but do not necessarily get you work. You can learn some things from a modeling school, but be sensible and be cautious. If your gut tells you someone is hustling you, trust your instincts and walk away.
I wish you much success in all your life’s pursuits!
This article was written by Miss Irene
Irene Elena Rose has been a professional event, portrait and headshot photographer for over twenty-five years. She describes her photography style as a unique blend of classic and contemporary, and prides herself on excellent customer service. She lives in Portland Oregon with three cats who are occasionally willing models. She is a longtime vegan, but the cats love her anyway.