Modeling: How to Choose an Agency

Some of you have dug through my past posts and found this one about my children and modeling.  I have had so many emails asking how we got started and where someone who is intersted in modeling should begin.

Since there are so many traps out there, I thought I would share a few insights after what we have learned ourselves or from other parents during the past seven years…

Turkey Hill Twin-Mint Ice Cream Ad

If you watch Dateline NBC, 20/20, or 60 Minutes, you can see the horror stories from parents who were stopped in the mall or other public places by someone claiming to be a recruiter for a modeling agency. These recruiters promised that their child had what it takes to be famous. (Let’s face it, we all know that our children are the cutest and most talented of all the kids we know. It is flattering when a talent agent confirms our own beliefs, right?)

Those news stories go into depth showing how less-than-reputable “agencies” milk parents out of money on the promise that their child can be famous. These agencies can suck you dry monetarily by requiring professional photo portfolios, expensive modeling/acting classes, and annual membership fees. I can tell you right now that if you come across one of these situations… run away, FAST!!!

Let me tell you that ANY good and reputable talent agency will not charge you anything up front to take on your child as talent.  They will require you to come in for an interview and will base their admission of your child solely on how well they feel your child will book for them, should they sign you.

Tips on How to Choose a Modeling Agency for Your Child:

    1. First, your child has to want to do this.  If he/she doesn’t want to model, you should not force them.  There is nothing more that an agency or casting agent dislikes than a stage parent with a crying kid.
    1. Good agencies do not advertise… as their reputation is such that they do not have to.  If you see an agency advertising on the radio, TV, or internet, it is highly likely that the agency has a hard time hanging onto talent because most of its income is derived from fees.
    1. Casting calls at hotel ballrooms are usually nothing more than hooks trying to get your child to join a purported agency’s expensive modeling classes.  An agent will interview your child, and then they will tell you that your child has all the intagibles to be a star, but that he/she needs some polishing to hit the big time!  Stay away from all of these!  Newspaper ads are scams!
    1. Call around to local casting agents, advertisers, and businesses and ask them which agencies they use when they need models for print/commercial work.  If one or a few agency names are consistent across these lists… then you know you likely have a good agency.
    1. A legitimate modeling agency will not charge you an administrative fee to join their agency.
    1. The agency should not refer you to a professional photographer (expensive session fees) to put together comp cards (which are also expensive).  Those agencies that refer you to a “highly sought-after” photographer whom “the agency uses” are essentially getting a huge kickback from the photographer.  These are often called Photo Mills.  A good agency may provide you with a list of local photographers that you can go out and price, or you can book your own through a family friend, etc.  Your child should only need an 8×10 headshot, with his/her name printed on the bottom.  We take annual headshots through a family friend, edit our own cards with Photoshop, and print them out at Kinko’s.
    1. A reputable modeling agency will only charge you a commission, usually 10-20%, from the jobs you book for them.  The best ones charge the client that amount on top of the pay the talent will be given.  (For example, if your child books a half day commercial shoot (approximately $400), the agency will bill the client $480 and then cut a check for your child in the amount of $400, keeping the $80 for them.)
    1. When you have your short list of agencies, call the Better Business Bureau and check them out.
    1. No matter how flattering an agency may be when talking about your child, remember that you are checking out the agency just as much as they are checking our your child.
    1. Ask the agency how many children are in your child’s age-based talent pool. This can give you an indication of how saturated your child’s age group can be in that agency.
    1. Ask the agency how many auditions its talent in your child’s age group had booked in the the previous month.
    1. The agency may ask your child to go on a test audition, which will be filmed. This is normal, as it gives the agency an idea of how well your child will slate him or herself on a true go-see or audition.  He/she may be required to memorize lines for that audition.
    1. Never sign a contract in the first meeting. Take it home and review it thoroughly (asking on all specific points and fine print, “Why would this language be included?”).  If you have a family friend who is an attorney, have them review the contract first.
    1. Try whenever possible to get a non-exclusive contract for areas outside your local area.  (Exclusivity in your local area is OK).
    1. After the interview, send a follow-up email or card to the agency stating simply “Thank You”.  It shows that you appreciate the time it took for them to take a look at your child.
    1. After signing, and you enjoy the agency you are with, drop by every once in awhile with your child to say “Hello“.  You may possibly even drop by some goodies.  Big Hint: As the booking agents are the ones referring children to casting agents or client photo shoots… they tend to refer those children they can recall off the top of their head!
    1. After you sign with an agency, as you take your child on auditions, ask the casting agent which agencies they prefer using and what they think about the talent from those agencies.  You will be suprised how much they will tell you.  This can help you evaluate what they think about your agency as compared to others.
    1. After you sign with an agency, speak often with the parents of other talent to see what their experiences have been and how they like the agency.  This is particulary insightful when you speak with parents of talent from other agencies as you go on auditions.  Once again, you will be suprised how much they will tell you.
  1. Don’t have your child model for the money, as the bookings come very few and far between. Stardom results are atypical. Modeling can be a fun hobby, like ballet or piano lessons, but you may be able to tuck a little bit of money into your child’s college fund as a result.

Fortunately for us, we have had a very good experience with modeling and it hasn’t cost us much more than a few printed photos, gasoline, and our time on auditions.  We are very level-headed with our expectations, and as long as our girls enjoy it… we will continue.

I am hoping that if any of you have interest in your child modeling, you will be careful in how you choose one. If you know of anyone who has commented to you that they would like to get their child into modeling, please email them this link, or at least link to this post on your blog or Facebook where they can see it. There are too many parents out there who could be taken advantage of, and they need to know how to make an informed decision on a reputable agency for their child.

The agency that we use, may not be the right fit for your child and vice versa. There are great ones out there. So far our girls have had bit parts in two movies, four TV and radio commercials, and many photo shoots; however their most fulfilling modeling jobs to date have been on one little website called Adopt a ‘Do – Cute Girls Hairstyles!

* Note from Mindy: I want to give a special thanks to Stephanie who emailed me with the ad posted above. This one was done so long ago, just after we first started, and I hadn’t known that the photo was used in the final advertisement. Obviously, it was long before I dreamed up this hairblog!

Happy Hairdoing!

* Note from Mindy: Don’t forget to follow us on BlogLovin, a new easy-to-use blog reader!

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  1. I wish I had known this before. My mom signed me to an agency when I was 12 because it was my biggest dream, and they charged her over 1000 dollars upfront! I only got to go to 1 casting call and had 1 small job. What a rip!

  2. Thank you for the information you sent. My daughter loves to model, and we are curently looking for representation. There is an agency that gave us a contract & would love to represent her, but I am just so worried. I read everywhere that you should not have to buy a bunch of pictures. This agency earns money on commision – 10% for commercial print & 20% for acting. However, they will pay for postage, etc to sent for jobs, etc.; however, they require that we get our own pictures done & submit a copy of a disc of pics to them. They did recommend a photograph they use, but said we can use anyone we want so they can get the comp cards made & headshots. Their photographer woudl end up costing us $900 for both kids & then comp cards/headshots $175 & then we have to keep paying to get more printed when they run out. We don’t have the money to do that now & I’m assuming this isn’t a legitimate company. I did check the better business bureau & they have an A+ rating. I don’t know what to do. Any suggestions woudl be so appreciated…

  3. Im trying to sign my 4/12 month old baby in to an agency but I am unsure of this only one I am looking in to. Can you tell Me if You know any sister agencies from the agencies that You have Your children in? Im located in Central L.A There are TONS of agencies Here but its hard to find one that takes the requests seriously.

    Than You for the Information.



  4. Hi Mindy! I love following your website and have heard from a lot of my friends that they saw the link on my blog and follow it now too. I went to Hillcrest and did Cheer but I was a lowly sophomore when you were a senior so you probably don’t remember me. I also used to work with Tawna at Alta Canyon. Anyway, my daughter is getting into acting and modeling and I was wondering which agency you use. Are you in Utah? We use Craze. Your girls are just gorgeous. Thanks for sharing all your cute hair do’s!
    Nicky (Capps) Soulier

  5. My daughter modeled for 3 years and then decided one day that she was no longer interested and I let her immediately stop. I think you’re right on with saying that you can only do it if the child “wants” to. Quite honestly, I was relieved because it was much more of a time commitment than I had realized. 🙂 Your daughters are beautiful!

  6. Mindy,

    I have been a fan of your website for the last few months or so (since I saw you on Good Things Utah, whenever that was). Not only have I enjoyed learning new hairdo’s for my girls, but I have really enjoyed reading about you and your family. I was particularly touched by your adoption story that you posted recently.

    Thanks so much for sharing the info about modeling and agencies. I have been trying to research that out myself as we have thought about it for a long time and have been approached several times by so called “talent scouts”. We, like you are cautious about this and have realistic expectations.

    I would love to know the agency you use and any others you may have heard about that might be good.

    Thanks so much!

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