There are plenty of ethical modeling agencies that genuinely look out for the best interest of their models, and work hard to help them be successful. Unfortunately, there are a few bad eggs out there who may try to take advantage of new models.
When red flags are popping up all over the place on your journey to becoming a successful model, it’s best to pull the plug as soon as possible before you end up spending money with an agency that promises big things but will never deliver. Quite often, if something feels off with an agency, it is. However, if you’re not familiar with the modeling industry, certain things that are commonplace might throw you off if you don’t know better. Here are five questions to ask that will help you figure out if a modeling agency is legitimate or just out to take advantage of you.
Is the Agency in Good Standing With the BBB (Better Business Bureau)?
The BBB is a system for rating businesses and their ethical practices to give consumers feedback and help them make smart decisions. The BBB has certain standards for businesses to be accredited by them. If you’re seeking information about the legitimacy of a modeling agency, this is a good place to start. It’s a very positive sign if the agency is recognized and accredited by the BBB. The BBB is also a good place to find out if there have been reports filed against that agency claiming it has been practicing unethically or taking advantage of aspiring models.
Do They Promise Huge Numbers to Start?
We are all used to seeing photos of supermodels living luxurious lives and earning millions of dollars a year; this might have been a guiding factor in your decision to start modeling. While modeling certainly can be a financially rewarding career, it takes time, hard work, and a great agency to get to this point. If you are a new model, and an agency is promising you numbers that sound way too good to be true, to begin with, chances are, they won’t deliver, and you may even end up losing money rather than earning it.
Does the Agency Insist on Modeling Classes?
There is absolutely nothing wrong with taking modeling classes if your goals are self-improvement and having some fun. However, it is a red flag if an agency insists that you take their classes before they represent you for jobs.
Models should never be required to enroll in modeling classes, and if an agency requires it of you, it is a sign that the agency earns its income on classes rather than booking modeling jobs.
A lot of new models live in smaller modeling markets outside of New York, Paris and Milan, therefore, finding an agency that can survive by only booking modeling jobs can be very difficult. Having a modeling school attached to the agency is the only way for the agency to find new models who may ultimately become the next supermodel. So, if you live in a smaller market, don't dismiss them right away, but use your best judgment to determine whether or not they are the right agency for you.
Does the Agency Insist on a Specific Photographer?
Sometimes an agency will have an "in-house" photographer and will insist that you purchase photo shoots or portfolio packages from them and their photographer. It usually means that the agency is simply a front for a "photo mill" and should be a huge red flag.
Again, this is the time for you to use your best judgment since many legitimate agencies may prefer that you work with photographers that they are familiar with, and whose work they know will lead to you getting bookings. Agencies in major markets will usually provide test shoots at no upfront cost but will deduct the cost from your first job.
Keep in mind that professional photos are never required before you meet with agencies to determine if you have the potential to become a model. Simple snapshots are just fine and are often preferred by agencies that just want to see the real you without special lighting or makeup.