5 Questions You Should Ask a Modeling Agency Before Signing

Female visiting a model agency with portfolio in hand
•••

webphotagrapheer / Getty Images 

As a model, you should be interviewing the modeling agency as much as they are interviewing you as a prospective model. When you first meet with a modeling agency, they'll ask you all sorts of questions about why you want to be a model, the type of modeling you want, and why you chose their agency. These basic questions will help the agency get to know you and your personality so they can determine if you’re a good fit for their business.

However, just as they are sizing you up for a place in their firm, you need to be evaluating the agency to see if they will be the best fit for you.

Questions to Ask a Modeling Agency

As important as the interviewer questions to you and your answers are, it’s also important to remember that you’re interviewing the agency as well. Before signing with a modeling agency, you need to show them you’re professional, engaged and excited about your modeling career by doing as much research as possible (spend some quality time Googling them or calling around) and by asking them the right questions.

Let the agency lead the interview, but don’t be afraid to say what’s on your mind when the time is right. And remember, there’s no shame in asking the agent to repeat something or explain it further. Joining an agency is a big deal, and you need to be 100% sure of what you’re signing up for.

Be ready to do some active listening as you ask these questions. You may even want to have a notepad and pen handy to jot down their answers.

Do I Have to Attend Your Modeling School?

There is nothing wrong with going to modeling school—you just don't need modeling classes to become a model. None of the top modeling agencies in New York, Paris, Milan or Tokyo require that a model goes to modeling school before being signed.

If an agency requires you sign up for their classes before they will represent you, you might want to look elsewhere.

A Boutique Agency or a Larger Agency?

Landing a contract with a great agency should be your top priority, but the size of the agency is just as important as its reputation. Large agencies with many models on their roster may have an endless stream of clients knocking on their doorstep, but that also means there’s more competition between the models. As a new model especially, you might not get the personal attention you need to further your career.

So, if you’re just starting out, you may find that a smaller, boutique-style agency is more your style.

Who Are Some of the Agency's Clients?

Hearing about the agency’s top clients will give you insight into the quality of the agency as well as the types of markets they cover. Some agencies focus more on glamor type modeling, while others may book more jobs for commercial or editorial models. There is no sense in signing with a high-fashion agency if you are primarily a commercial model.

What Types of Jobs Do You Book for Your Models?

It’s useful to know the breakdown of the types of modeling jobs within the agency. How much is the runway and how much work is editorial? Also, ask about the percentage of commercial work, print media exposure, and promotional.

Their answer will help you determine if your career goals match what the agency has to offer.

What Are Your Commission Rates?

You need to understand the contract they use. In the United States, legitimate agencies make their money off commission. The rate varies, but in general, agencies deduct 10% to 20% from what you earn. In other words, they only get paid when you get paid. The agency may also charge the client up to an additional 20% as a service fee.

Keep in mind that models are considered to be self-employed contractors rather than employees of the agency. This means that it’s perfectly normal for models to invest in their own start-up costs that have nothing to do with the agency, such as model scouting services, website profiles, comp cards, and photoshoots. It is also up to you to file your taxes and make quarterly estimated tax payments.