So you want to get into modelling? I did too when I was about 16, so I set about sourcing local photographers to work with and build a portfolio. In 3 years, I did a few TFP (time for print) shoots, a couple of published fashion editorials for a local magazine, and a handful of catwalk shows – mainly for charity. Not really the model life I had hoped for. When I was 19, I was approach by an “agency”. I was ecstatic! A three year contract with an assigned talent coordinator, an agency who had worked with numerous big, household and high-street brands, and they were looking at me! The only thing was I had to pay around £200 for “representation and admin fees” upfront to cover the three year period. “That’s not too bad if I’m going to earn from it” I thought. Wrong. Fast forward 3 years, my contract has ended, and I didn’t receive a single phone call from them, let alone an assignment. I’m not going to name names, but you can read a very similar story here featuring said “agency”.
Now, I’m 25, a hell of a lot wiser and can spot a modelling scam a mile off. I’ve decided that although modelling is fun, I want it to be my hobby and something I can enjoy in my spare time. But if you’re looking to become a model, whether part-time or as a career, here’s 6 ways to avoid being scammed (like me).
1. Research agencies
OK, this sounds obvious, I know. But it is soooo important. The modelling industry is tough to break into, especially if you have no previous experience and scammers are taking advantage of this. Beware of fake agencies (from now on, I’m going to call them “Fakencies“) that claim to “kickstart your modelling career”, and ones that advertise on Google Ads, gumtree, etc. Real modelling agencies don’t need to advertise and put such bold claims on their website because they are successful and are respectable companies. Fakencies make sure their ads are visible as much as possible in the hope that the inexperienced will see them and think “I could do that!”, apply and ultimately fall into their trap. Sadly, their trap will consist of having to pay money for “professional images”, sky high “representation” fees, “admin” fees, etc. This is how fakencies make their money and once you’ve paid, you’ll never hear from them again.
2. Beware of modelling platforms
These are not agencies either! They’re not even fakencies. This is a new trend that’s quickly catching on, and more and more are starting to pop up. A modelling platform claims to help prepare aspiring models before they approach an agency by charging them for a portfolio, “advising” them on contracts, commissions, etc., creating portfolios… and of course, it comes at a very high price. If you find a reputable agency who wants to sign you and they see you have potential, they will do all this for you. To be frank, a modelling agency will make money from your looks – it’s simple. The bottom line is: if an agency thinks you will be able to make them money and be successful, they will coach you. Don’t waste your (vast amount) of money of this new scam.
3. Do not pay for anything up front
Please, please do not pay for anything up front. This is how fakencies make their money and the only thing you’ll get in return is disappointment. Think of a modelling agency the same way as a recruitment agency. You wouldn’t dream of paying for a recruitment agency to find you work because you know they’ll receive a commission from your wages. It’s exactly the same with a modelling agency. If you are successful, the agency will receive a commission from your work. YOU DO NOT PAY TO BE REPRESENTED BY A MODELLING AGENCY. I cannot stress this enough. The BBC highlights that it is now illegal for model agencies to charge any type of upfront fee before finding a client work. I fell for this, please don’t make my mistake!
4. A portfolio is NOT necessary
Yes, you read right. You do not need to spend hundred of pounds on professional images (or the promise of) to become a successful model. Why? Because reputable, professional modeling agencies can spot talent and know what they’re looking for. All you will need to submit is one, clear headshot (natural, no makeup, no filter) and one full length shot and they don’t even have to be professional – just good, clear images with good lighting. So why some agencies claim you need a portfolio? Because they are the fakencies and it’s just one branch of the scam.
5. Don’t be pressured into saying “yes”
This is another great technique used by fakencies. They claim that the opportunity is right now and that waiting any longer will mean that you’ve missed your dream chance of becoming a huge star unless you pay up. Rubbish. Ask for contracts, briefs and more importantly take your time. Please don’t let your heart rule head and think “Omg yes, this is my chance to be a star!”, I’m sorry but it isn’t. Real agencies will be open and discuss most things* about the assignment in detail with you beforehand, and you’ll be given a contract to read before you agree to anything. Fakencies will pressure you as much as they can and “will not be able to disclose any details until they have commitment” until you part with your cash and then it’s adios from them.
*It’s common for an agency not to disclose who the client is until an agreement has been made, not because they’re being secretive, but to protect their own business and clientele from being poached by other agencies.
6. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is
It’s an age old saying, but sadly it is usually the case. Big salaries and guaranteed work is the stuff dreams are made of. Even the biggest top models aren’t in constant work, and the promise of a huge rate whilst being pressured to pay a few hundred pounds up front before even having a brief or a contract to read should really get your alarm bells going.
What to do if you’ve been scammed
Sadly it’s unlikely you will be able to claim any money back (unless you paid by credit card, then your credit card company may be able to help), but it’s important that scams are reported. Keep as much paperwork and correspondence as you can and contact the following: Employment Standards Agency Inspectorate, Trading Standards and even your local Citizens Advice Bureau.
If you’re currently aspiring to be a model, I wish you the very best of luck and I hope my advice has been useful. If you have any other tips or stories, please feel free to comment below to warn other models.
Until next time, stay safe xo
Photographer courtesy of Dale Wordley