It was with sadness that I saw a group had been started on Facebook about an agency I am MORE than familiar with. The group discusses how this agency owes thousands of pounds to their bookers and models.

Frustrated doesn’t cover it. I’ve been in this model’s position, and it was the most upsetting, disempowering and anxious time of my life.

Basically, what would happen, is that I’d get a lot of work. Great work! Bread and butter regular clients, small jobs and big advertising jobs. If I’d been paid when those clients paid, I’d have been calm about my rent money, bills, travel and savings.

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Alas, the money was not forthcoming. I would wait months, even years for payments, made difficult by the fact that the person that paid me was also my booker and boss. I’m an outgoing, fairly assertive person, but it’s a difficult position to be in when you want your booker to think of you kindly and put you forward for great jobs, versus the need to ask why money isn’t in your account when they told you it would be (weeks ago).

I’d find myself ringing up, having a chat about holidays whilst my boyfriend shook his fist at me saying ‘THIS ISN’T FAIR! ASK FOR YOUR F&*(ING MONEY!”

I was trapped. If I left, I knew I’d never see that money. If I stayed, I would carry on doing jobs for £6k whilst painfully surviving on my overdraft and struggling to pay rent, Oyster and a social life. And I was permanently in town – what of the models that came to the UK for a few weeks, worked and then had to chase money from overseas? The models with a poor grasp of English or who were only 16?

This is why I’m writing this article now, to give some guidance on how to CHASE YOUR F*@!$£@ money!!!

1) Note down every job and fee

Have a diary, and write down the details of the job and the fee. If your agency are terrible at statements, start your own spreadsheet so that you can show them that you’re nobody’s fool.

2) Speak confidently

Ask for your money. You did the job, get the money. It’s the law. All those hours I wasted chatting on the phone whilst knowing I was being manipulated and stalled for time.

3) Get a legal guardian or lawyer to help you

I started CCing my Dad into every email, because fortunately he has worked in finance and that made my emails harder to ignore. Your parents may not speak English or may not know much on the subject, in which case get a lawyer. If you can’t afford a lawyer then look into Pro Bono legal work (lawyers who contribute their services for free).

4) Stay in touch with other models at your agency

There is strength in numbers. The agency may accuse you of defamation, but if other models (and bookers) can back up your claim then you have a much stronger case.

4) Small Claims Court

Threaten the agency with action from the Small Claims Court. This will help you chase money due to you, aided by the government. The threat of this generally makes the agency pay up to avoid court fees.

5) Stay friendly with bookers

Bookers at the agency generally knew why I was calling (to chase my money) but were far less likely to put me off or say the person I required wasn’t in when they liked and respected me. When the boss wasn’t in, I would say, “So when will he be back? Because I will just keep ringing back til I get him.” Those bookers might move agency, and you might be able to move with them.

6) Ring the Clients Yourself

I finally left the agency after they made a monumental mistake with my finances (said that I was 6k in DEBT with them, when I was 2k in the plus). I couldn’t stand the anxiety and the fear of the agency disappearing anymore.

Leaving meant that chasing my money was much harder, though it also meant that I no longer had to keep people at the agency ‘on side’ to keep getting booked for shoots.

I therefore decided to start ringing the accounts department of each job. This is pretty easy. For example, if I had shot for a magazine like Cosmo, I looked at who their publishing house was (Bauer) and rang up the accounts department there.

You want the accountant to like you, and you don’t want them to think that they’re getting mixed up in trouble. I’d be extremely polite and say ‘I’m ringing on behalf of my agency – there seems to be a bit of a mix up so I just wanted to clear it up!’ I’d give them the invoice number ask if the fee had been paid and when, so I asked them to email me with confirmation.

I would then forward this to both the boss and the accountant. Firstly, it showed that they couldn’t pull the wool over my eyes. Secondly, it endangered their relationship with clients, as no one wants to book a model who isn’t going to be paid. Thirdly, it meant that they couldn’t lie and say that the client hadn’t paid. Many photographers were horrified to hear I hadn’t received payment for jobs they’d transferred money for months, even years previously.

7) Chase Buyouts

One of the most ridiculous things about models is that very often, once we’ve left an agency, we don’t want any contact with them. We’re scared they’ll be annoyed that we left, and would rather let sleeping dogs lie.

Silly! There are TENS and even HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS of unclaimed buyouts with each agency! That’s YOUR MONEY!

So! To ensure you get YOUR MONEY, you must:

  • Try to keep in contact with someone from a job with buyout potential. The photographer, the ad agency or the actual client – just in case you want to ask about it.
  • Email the accounts department once or twice a year asking after buyouts. Keep the details of jobs that had that potential.
  • Don’t feel like you’re putting your old agency out. It’s money you worked for and it’s money you’re due. Models move all the time.

8) If the agency doesn’t pay you – LEAVE!

I should have left within months of being at that agency, but having been dropped I felt that nowhere else would take me. I should have shopped around, because being owed a few hundred doesn’t compare to being owed thousands over a 5 year period.

9) Join Equity

Equity now represents models, and will help you chase your money legally.

As you can probably tell, I feel extremely angry that some agencies out there will mistreat their models like this. But many of us are young, vulnerable and above all, most are clueless as to the legal system. I’m no lawyer, but now I’m older I can see this all for what it is. You’re not annoying bookers by asking for your money – you’re doing exactly what they would do it your situation.

People take advantage of models’ desire not to ‘rock the boat’ or be seen as a ‘moaner’ as we all need to keep getting work. But you grafted for your money, and you should be paid. If an agency is withholding your money they they are behaving illegally and need to be challenged, which will then help on behalf of all models owed money.

Your money, your rights!

Rebecca x

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One Comment

  1. Rebecca wrote:

    Don’t even get me started. I’m still chasing invoices that were due in June.

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