What Is a Model Agency?

  • Melissa Keen

If you’re interested in becoming a model, you may have come across the term ‘modelling agency’.  A modelling agency is a company that represents a whole range of models. Most agencies tend to specialise in one particular area, such as plus-size or child models.

The Model Database

The success of a modelling agency is dependant on how many models they represent, but each one normally represents a few hundred. Larger modelling agencies can represent a few thousand.

Each agency aims to create a model database (which customers can search through to find models to meet their requirements). This provides outside businesses with thousands of model options in one easy place.

Model agencies generally make their money by taking a percentage of a model’s project fee if the model is successful in finding work.

What Are the Advantages?

The advantage of being represented by an agency is that they can help to find you work. They note your unique features, circumstances and your personality and then market you to relevant companies that they think are appropriate for your style and look.

Finding work can be notoriously difficult for models, so having an agency do the hard work for you can be a time saver.

In short, they do a lot of the ‘paperwork’ side of modelling for you.

Getting Signed to an Agency

You may recognise the names Storm, Elite, FordIMGFMPremier and Select from your research. These are all internationally famed model agencies in London. Most models dream of being signed to one of these, but don’t panic if you’re not signed to one of these powerhouses – you can still become a successful working model without having one of these as your agency.

In order to be represented by an agency, first you must get signed. Being “signed” is the industry term that refers to a modelling agency officially agreeing to represent a model.

There are a number of ways to introduce yourself to potential agencies. If you’re incredibly lucky you may be scouted (or “spotted”) by an agency scout and then be invited to attend their offices.

You will more than likely have to approach modelling agencies yourself, as there’s a lot of luck involved with being scouted. It’s heavily reliant on being in the right place at the time.

The Portfolio

To approach a modelling agency you do not need to create and build a professional portfolio, but having high-quality images may be an advantage. It can help you to stand out from others as it will allow potential agencies to get a good idea of your look, modelling versatility and your presence in front of the camera.

UK Models specialise in creating high-end, industry-appropriate portfolios for models. Check out our website now and fill in a quick online application form to start the process off.

If a modelling agency is impressed with your portfolio, they may take some Polaroid shots of you. They’ll then provide you with all of the relevant information and forms for you to sign up with them. It is therefore extremely worthwhile if you pay for a portfolio as a way to boost your career.

The entire process of legally signing with an agency will be explained to you in great detail by a member of the agency team. Make sure you ask any questions you have and don’t be afraid to take a friend or family member with you if you need some support.

UK Models Can Help!

Here at UK Models, we pride ourselves on giving models the confidence and know-how to succeed in such a competitive industry. We’re not an agency so can’t guarantee you’ll find work, but we are a support service for those wanting to take their first steps in their modelling career.

We have years of professional experience which has allowed us to work with thousands of aspiring models to help them achieve their career goals.

During our time with each model, we offer:

  • Experience in front of a camera
  • A full photoshoot experience, complete with hair and make-up
  • Expert advice
  • The choice to purchase a selection of tailored portfolio photos that will match the requirements of the industry
  • Continued support for a duration of twelve months

Although we don’t work in conjunction with any model agencies, we are able to advise you on the good and bad ones, how to approach agencies professionally, and the best ways of finding work.

We can give you a leg-up on the competition by guiding you through the process of starting your modelling career.

Which Agency Is the Best?

The industry is saturated with agencies all claiming to be able to turn model potential into the next big thing. However, it is vital that young hopefuls stay level-headed before gullibly believing every word that modelling agents say.

The flattery and excitement cloud even the most sensible of characters with the possibility of becoming a professional model. The desperation can lead to dangerous situations or handing out huge sums of cash with little in return.

It’s vital you stay smart and cautious when deciding which agency is the best for you. Unfortunately, there is no set formula to determine which organisation is the best. They all claim to be, yet it is up to the model to be headstrong and find a legitimate establishment that is trustworthy and has their best interests at heart.

Never sign a contract unless you fully understand every aspect.

Will a Modelling Agency Accept Me?

When you meet with an agency, they will ask a lot of questions to assess your suitability to the company. As well as judging your looks and statistics, they may ask you about why you want to be a model and the type of modelling you wish to enter.

Everyone hopes they will be signed immediately to the first agency they meet, but it’s important to remain realistic. Many professional models have been rejected in the past and it is vital you don’t take it personally. Your look may not fit the theme they are trying to create. Don’t let it upset you; remain confident and positive, and keep trying!

And remember, this meeting is just as much about them as it is about you. Take this opportunity to ask questions and get to know the agency better. Are you happy with their ethos? Are you comfortable with their cut of your earnings?

Don’t rush into any agreements before you’ve thoroughly looked into it.

What to Look for in a Modelling Agency

As an aspiring model looking for their big break, approaching an agency can be a daunting experience. Trying to suss out how the industry works is very confusing. Take your time to research the agencies that you are applying to.

  • Check the size of the agency. This is just as important as their reputation. A large company with endless models on their books means more competition to land modelling work, but their opportunities may be greater. A new model may be more suited to a smaller agency who will be able to focus on them. Only you can decide which to go for, but do you research before deciding.
  • Look into the agencies clients. This research will provide valuable insight into the type of markets they cover and the standard of the agency. A commercial model will be looking for an agency who has connections and links in this field.
  • Ask what types of roles they secure for their models. Their answer will determine if they can offer the jobs that you’re dreaming of. As a high fashion model, you’ll prefer more runway and editorial work, whereas catalogue models will be seeking an agency who books more commercial roles.
  • Be upfront and ask their commission rates straight away. With all the figures out in the open, it will be far easier for you to make a decision. It would be amazing to be asked to travel to New York for a shoot, but if you’re footing the bill for airfare and accommodation it might seem less appealing! Always check the small print when you sign a contract to avoid hidden costs.

A quick Google search may provide the information that you need. You should be able to find reviews (both positive and negative) and other models who are signed up that you can talk to and ask questions.

Remember – do not believe everything you see, but do take opinions on board, especially if a lot of people are saying the same thing.

Is the Agency Legitimate?

Many top models have spoken out about their treatment in the fashion industry, with many agencies coming under fire. Late payments (if paid at all), false promises and sexual harassment are all too common in the modelling world. It’s a reality that is being discussed more than ever and its important potential models are mindful of bad agencies so they can avoid them.

It is up to models themselves to distinguish the good from the bad. Be confident and business-minded; never be afraid to speak up when being mistreated. Always thoroughly read a contract before signing it, and don’t agree to anything you feel uncomfortable about.

It is the scam artists that pose as either legitimate model agencies or friends of the agency that must be watched. A professional agency will never message you on social media asking to Skype or for you to pay them a large sum of money. An easy way to expose the predators is to ring the agency directly. Simply ask if the individual works there.

Avoiding Scams

Many use well-known names to lure naïve hopefuls into a trap. The increase in social media allows for more ways to contact teens. Agencies such as Storm Model Management receive calls daily about scam agents – a figure that has risen from just once a week two years ago. In the UK, 327 cases of scam recruiters was calculated for last year alone.

Be vigilant and smart. Don’t let the excitement of the job obscure your judgement. Always read documents thoroughly and don’t sign anything you’re unhappy about.

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Posted by Melissa Keen

Melissa's experience in the beauty and fashion world as a writer and blogger spans over five years. Her other interests include reading, yoga and music.