Many young girls dream of getting scouted at the mall, plucked out of our hum-drum lives and plopped right onto the runway at New York Fashion Week. Unfortunately, those kinds of rags-to-riches stories are few and far between. There are a lot of scammers out there who would love to prey on aspiring models, but don’t worry. I’m here to tell you the red flags to watch out for.
Be cautious of people in your Instagram DMs claiming to be from a top agency. While scouting does occasionally happen on Instagram, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. An easy way to tell if they are legit is to go to the Instagram account of the agency they are claiming to be from. If the agency isn’t even following them, that’s suspicious. If you still aren’t sure and want more confirmation, most agencies have emails listed on their websites, you can contact them directly and ask if this person is connected to the organization or is an imposter.
Email scams are also pretty common. Again, check with the agency website or official email and confirm their identity before giving out any personal information. Many websites will have info like the Ford website shown above, detailing how to deal with scammers.
The truth is, top agencies do not have to advertise. Their reputation speaks for itself and models seek them out, they rarely have to seek out models. So, any agency that is aggressively advertising online or in the newspaper may have a hidden agenda. Be wary of agencies that do not clearly list their models and clients on their website. Look at the quality of work their models are doing by looking through the agency’s social media and website. If the work doesn’t look professional enough to be used in an ad, that’s a red flag.
An example of an agency clearly showcasing their models on their website.
When an agency signs a model, they are hiring you as an employee. They choose their models based on who they think will make them money. The way they make their money is by taking a percentage out of any jobs you book through them (industry standard is 15%-20%). If an agency does not think you have the potential to book jobs right now or in the very near future, they will not sign you. That may seem harsh but that is the reality. (You can continue building your portfolio and skills, and finding your market until you ARE ready to sign with an agency. Or work freelance!)
Agencies make money by taking 15%-20% commission off of the jobs you book.
That being said, a legitimate agency will never make you pay them money up front. If an agency can book you paying work, they do not need money from you. You are not the client; you are the employee. You should be receiving money (although it might take a while to book your first job). Be wary of “agencies” that will only work with you after you go through their paid “modeling school”.
When signed with a legitimate agency, you are the employee, not the client. You should be making money, not spending it.
Here are some good rules of thumb:
Don’t sign anything until you show a copy of the contract to a lawyer. If the agency refuses to let you do so, red flag.
Do your research. Type “xyz agency scam” into google and see what comes up.
Contact former models or students and ask about their experience.
If the agency uses pressure tactics like saying “if you leave today the offer is no longer on the table”, that’s a major red flag.
If they demand you pay to shoot with their specific photographer, that’s a red flag.
If there are any fishy fees, like a “finder’s fee” that they try to put on top of their commission, that’s a red flag.
If they promise you will book jobs if you go through their paid training, that’s a red flag.
If anyone asks you to send nude pictures: R-U-N!
Don’t let the scammers discourage you. Your talent is needed in the world and you WILL find a way to let your light shine, whether that’s through an agency or by being a badass freelance model. Stay safe and stay smart, and you can fight off those who will try to take advantage of you. And the good news is, you don’t need to get scouted to sign with a top agency! I’ll be making a blog post soon on how to apply to agencies and take digitals that get you meetings! Sign up for my email list, so you won’t miss this important info.
If you want to hear my story of how I got signed to a modeling agency in less than a year, click here.