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Understanding the Different Types of Agencies

By: Britney Wittes

You’ve decided you want to apply for an agency, good for you! Now comes the daunting task of picking one–but then you run into different types of agencies, and you’re not sure what each offers.

We broke down the different types of agencies, services they provide, and how they can help further your career below. There is no right answer as to which type of modeling agency is best; you will have to decide what you are looking for in an agency and then find the agencies that fit that.

Mother Agencies

A mother agency is meant to coach you, nurture you, and develop your skills as a model. This type of agency is going to offer classes, set up test shoots for you, and help you build your portfolio.

Their main job is not to get you gigs; it is to teach you and help you learn to become a model. They can get you jobs, sure, but that is not their main focus. They want you to feel comfortable going to set and knowing you are capable of being professional and handling whatever might be thrown your way. Once they feel you are ready, a mother agent can then schedule interviews with other agencies and pitch you for their roster.

If you are then signed to a modeling or talent agency, the two agencies (your mother agency and your new agency) will split a commission if you are booked on jobs. You do not ever lose your mother agency just because you signed with someone else–unless you specifically terminate your contract with them.

Talent Agencies

Talent agencies can book you for modeling, commercials, live events, theater shows, acting jobs, and so on. The sky's the limit with this kind of agency if you have a passion for doing more than just modeling, because they are all-encompassing–but that’s not true of a traditional modeling agency.

If you want to do commercials or acting, you usually have to have a talent agent (not just a modeling agent). Talent agencies are also usually the agencies you need to be with to do projects involving video. If a project involves both video and stills, make sure you’re signed with your talent agent for both–if you’re with a talent agency for acting but a different modeling agency for stills, you may not be eligible for the project.

Modeling Agencies

Modeling agencies can book you on any type of modeling. Mother agencies and talent agencies can do this, but this is the center focus and forte of a modeling agency. Meaning, talent agencies have a lot of different types of projects they work on, so it can be harder to get a standard modeling audition, while this is all a modeling agency does, so they have more clients for print or runway, and more castings for this.

Unlike mother agencies, modeling agencies expect you to know etiquette, how to perform on set, and posing with little-to-no instruction from them. They assume you know all of these things already–especially if you were placed with them by a mother agency. They do not provide classes or much guidance, but you should do check-ins with your agency every 6 months. If you haven’t been booking much, check in more regularly.

How to Get the Most Out of Model Agencies

No matter which type of agency you decide to apply to or even sign with, make sure to ask as few crucial questions when you have the interview. Ask where they see your career going, what type of brands they see you working with, and what they need from you in order to better prepare to be on their roster. This can be things like updating your portfolio, getting new digitals, how often to get a haircut, and so on.

These questions are important because if they don’t know how to answer them or they skirt around the question, then they have not actually put any thought into your career with them or in general. You want to sign with an agency that believes in you and has goals for you that align with the ones you have for yourself. If it is an open call you are attending, I would still ask these questions. But keep in mind that in this setting, they might not have seen your portfolio or even known what you look like before that day, so they might not be prepared to answer fully. If you do get a contract offer from them, make sure to follow up on these types of questions before signing.

It is not a one-size-fits-all with a type of modeling agency or a specific agency.

Just to give a bit more context, all of the girls on the Why Not Petites team are either freelance or with a talent agency. Talent agencies are usually the easiest to sign with as a petite model, because you do have other ways to get booked, specifically, as an actor or doing commercial work.

However, if you want to be signed with strictly a modeling agency, a lot of them have a height requirement. DO NOT LET THAT STOP YOU. Just because it says must be 5’8” doesn’t mean they don’t make exceptions. Be the person that changes that, be the person willing to do it. What do you have to lose? Even if they say no, someone else might say yes.

There are successful models who applied four times to the same agency before they said yes. Don’t ever give up if there is an agency you want to be with, keep applying every 4-6 months as you update your portfolio and they have models changing around. You never know what the reasoning is, so keep trying, and help the rest of us petites change the industry!

Again, everyone is different for what they want in their careers, and therefore they need different things in an agency. It is not a one-size-fits-all with a type of modeling agency or a specific agency. There are so many out there that you can apply to, do not get discouraged if you don’t hear back or hear no from some. Keep applying because the right fit will be the right fit, you just have to find it.

If you have more questions or aren’t sure if what an agency is asking from you seems legit, you can always send it to us and we will double check everything to make sure. Good luck on your search, and know we are always rooting for you!

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