Gonna Get in Trouble For This One: Should You Ever Work Outside of the Agency?

My name is Rebecca and I have a confession. For many years, I’ve done the odd job outside of the agency. Most of us models are insanely well-behaved and far too scared to do this, and for good reason. But the fact is that sometimes times are lean, and the odd job on the side that no one’s ever gonna see can help pay the rent/mortgage/Whole Foods/Spar bills when unpaid editorials and hopeless castings just don’t.

Now the lines are blurred for me because I’m booked as a writer, blogger and from my social media, which the agency have nothing to do with. Yet from my first, tentative, cortisol-fuelled jobs to now, when I can do a shoot here and a show there for a few hundred to get me through the month, I’ve learnt how to go about things and I thought I’d share with you my own guide to being a very naughty model:

Before You Start: Know That You’re Breaking The Rules

In going outside of the agency you are breaking your contract. That’s a fact. It says in your contract that you won’t do any jobs that aren’t got for you by your agency. There are potential consequences here that include being dropped by the agency. Accept this before you move on.

Make Sure You are at the Right Level of Your Career To Do This

I wouldn’t do a job outside the agency if I were a New Face, or someone with a lot of potential that the agency were perhaps keeping aside in order to launch in the right way at the right time. If you do a shoot for, say, your salon and Givenchy get wind of that…You’ve messed up. The pictures could come out and be terrible and mess up future bookings.

I’d say most models I know who do the odd job on the side are the ones who’ve accepted that, well, we’re not gonna be the next Cindy or Naomi.

Also, when the client hasn’t signed a contract with the agency RE: pay, treatment, hours etc you are on much shakier territory and have far less protection and security.

Finally – know this. Sod’s Law is a thing, so as soon as you book a job yourself, you will get a killer request or a shoot through the agency and it’s hard to explain your way out of that one.

Choose Carefully

You have to be extremely careful about what you choose to do. Will the agency ever see it? You need to check what the usage is, where it will be used, what purpose it is used for etc. For example, when Pixi asked me to be their skin models for QVC, my face was on TV for ten transient mins and no one needed to know. Whereas if someone asks you do do their e-comm you need to check that your face won’t be on web banners popping up all over Facebook.

Also, no matter what stage you’re at in your career, make sure it’s not a crappy job for a crappy company because your agency work hard to get you jobs and it’s a slap in the face if they see you on the problem pages of, say, Bella.

How To Go About It

OK so you’ve decided to do the job. You need to ensure that they cannot use your images anywhere you don’t want them to, so you need to get down in writing an agreement. A suggestion might be…

“This is to confirm that the pictures will be used for social media and website only for a total of 6 months.”

If it’s agreed in writing and you have a paper trail saved, then that’s seen as a legit contract.

You also need to get the fee down in writing. They will often ask you your fee and the temptation is to say something stupid like £50 so you don’t lose the work. Better to say 1k so they can say, “we can’t afford that, the maximum we can offer is…” Then go with that max the offer.

Then, the evening of or day after the job, you need to send off your invoice, and I’ve done a post on how to go about that here.

I’ve been to some castings where the photographer took down details of the model and contacted us direct, this always seemed rather seedy and backhanded and I think I did it once many years ago and the job was just terrible. I wouldn’t recommend ever doing this and it felt like I was cheating on a husband or something.

To Tell The Agency or Not To Tell The Agency?

Rebecca fact: I’m the worst liar in the world. I can’t even lie about my age on castings and we’re meant to be doing that from when we hit 20. I actually always tell them and book out because so much of my extra-curricular work is thanks to Modeltypeface, and as they don’t represent me as a blogger that feels like my separate business. I am an ambassador for a few brands and part of my role is modelling for them, and quite a lot of my work is for or through MTF. They know I have long-lasting relationships with my own clients.

Also, most of the work I do is for friends, so I often just say, “I’m doing a job for a friend.” I’d say that admitting you’re doing a job for a friend is a good way to test the water with the agency. Some bookers are pretty chilled, especially when they can see how much you’re earning, and others are very strict. At the end of the day, you don’t know if the owner is gonna be flicking through a hat lookbook and see your mug.

To tell or not to tell?

Sometimes I’ve been approached by the client and put them through the agency, especially bigger brands with broader usage. This means I’ve probably got more money for the job, but also that I lost 25% agency commission of it and saw another girl from my agency doing the job for that client the next year.

Is It Worth The Risk?

I’m worried I haven’t written a terrifically helpful post here. Because essentially whether you do it and how you go about it is totally up to you. I’ve never chased my own work, it’s fallen in my lap and it’s generally been too tempting and easy to turn down. As I’ve said, I also tell my agency and book out because I’m at an age where I think I’m trusted to make OK decisions. Others find it hard to talk ‘shop’: suggesting fees, establishing usage, hours etc – and though it’s good practice for life/other jobs – it’s just not for everybody. If you feel to scared to do it, then just say no. It’s not worth the palpitations. It’s also not worth getting dropped for – on the whole, you gotta trust your agency and I’d always err on the side of caution and be more likely to say no.

Overall though I’d say that, as long as you choose wisely, it is worth doing the odd job, if it’s justified through having your own blog/business etc because girl gotta eat and we all know that there are peaks and troughs in this game. I would never do a big campaign or a terrible job for, like, an incontinence pad or a book cover for a novel, because the agency are good at knowing what jobs are good for you and what you should be paid for them.

But the odd two hour show here, the odd little job there that no one will see and that helps pay your bills when Gucci aren’t casting you as an exclusive in their next catwalk and campaign are sometimes a necessity.

You just need to ensure that you go about it right.

Rebecca x

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