Models need more than ambition and high cheekbones to get ahead in this industry. They also need an agent. Agents are the link that joins the talent (the model) with the employer (clients who have jobs for models). Since clients prefer to work through modeling agencies, most models are represented by one or more agencies.
An agent's job may begin when a client contacts the agency with a possible job assignment. The client, for example, a retail store or an advertising agency, usually will have a specific "look" in mind for the model. The look may include such aspects as the model's hair color, age group, body type, or ethnicity. Once the specifics have been established, the agent refers to his or her "comp board," an area displaying composite cards of models represented by the agency. Composite cards, used much like business cards, are sheets (or digital files or Web sites) containing photos of the models in a range of poses and have such information as the model's name, measurements, and agency affiliation. Comp boards are often arranged according to such factors as the models' current locations, hair color, or ethnicity. Comp boards make it easier for agents to locate a particular model for a job.
The agent may then send a group of models to the client for an audition, more commonly known as a "go-see." There are two types of auditions—a general go-see, which means the client requests a specific look (for example, blondes), and a request go-see, which means the client asks for particular models. If the model is chosen for the job, then he or she is booked, or given the assignment.
Many times an agent is also responsible for arranging a photo shoot for the model as well as transportation if the assignment is out of town. A call sheet is a notice containing all pertinent information regarding the modeling assignment, whether it is a photo shoot, fashion show, or product demonstration. Location and time are listed on the sheet, as well as how the model is expected to look—full makeup and styled hair or clean face and hair. Vouchers, detailing the time worked and hourly wage, are signed by the model and client and returned to the agency for billing purposes. The agency is responsible for billing the client and making certain the model is paid for his or her work. In return, the agency earns a commission from the model, which is typically 15 to 20 percent of the model's total earnings, as well as a commission from the client, which is usually about 20 percent. Some larger agencies will advance a weekly or bi-weekly salary until the model's assignments become more regular or the client has paid for the job. Due to the short-lived careers of most models, agents now wisely provide them with financial planning and advice.
Agents spend a considerable amount of time preparing models for work. Newer models often need help with their portfolio, which provides a list of a model's previous assignments and tear sheets (examples of their work "torn out" of magazines or other publications). Many publications are now offered in print and digital; most models have tear sheets in print as well as the digital images from the publication on their Web sites.
Many times, models need professional help in perfecting their image. They may be pretty, but might need some advice on developing a look and a sense of style. Agents may send models to favored stylists for a major change such as a new hairstyle or different hair color. Sometimes, the change may be something subtle such as giving the eyebrows a different arch. Agents may also groom new models in other ways; for example, agents may work to refine the way they walk or otherwise "carry" themselves.
While agents maintain good working relationships with established clients, they also look for new clients and more assignment possibilities. New retail catalogs are just one source for additional job prospects. If an agent discovers a new catalog, they find out where the company's headquarters are located and where they shoot the catalog. If the company seems like a good fit, the agents sends a few comp pictures to gauge interest.
In addition, agents are continuously searching for new models. Modeling shows and conventions are held through the year all over the United States and abroad. Agents attend such shows to scout for young people, interview and access their modeling potential, and hopefully, sign these promising new talents to modeling contracts.
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