The Models Who Sued Their Agency II: How To Avoid Common Pitfalls of Modelling
I was really horrified, as you know, to hear of some of the experiences of models at really huge agencies. These weren’t models who had found themselves in deep water after signing to a tiny sham agency. These were top models and top earners at the big agencies: Melissa Baker, for example, who claims she never received all the money she earned from Macy’s and Ralph Lauren.
I’m no lawyer, but I have been through some of the experiences these models have – and I’ve learned from my mistakes. Let me talk you through a few key things to bear in mind when you’re at an agency.
1) Make friends with one or two bookers
Some models see their agency as simply a working relationship. I’ve always enjoyed getting to know my bookers, and tend to make good friends with one or two.
This means that it’s easier to talk to them about any problems you have, in comparison with the models who rarely show their faces/send Christmas cards/only send moaning emails.
2) Join an agency with a separate accounts department
It’s a lot easier to complain/beg/inquire after funds from a more objective accountant than a booker who you also want to get you work. Barker was starved of work when she chased a big cheque, photographers being told she was busy when she wasn’t.
3) Learn how to complain
Before I speak to agencies to complain or generally raise concerns, I have a little mental checklist.
- Is this something I can sort out myself? Bookers do have a trillion and one things to do and if it’s something you can sort of yourself or just ask another model for help with, it’s best to save it for when you really need them.
- How do I phrase this? So: probably the most annoying thing a booker can do is send you to the wrong address/a casting on the wrong day. You want to have a go at them about wasting your day/making you spend loads on a ticket/having to miss yoga – but the fact is it’s human error and we’ve all missed castings for silly reasons, too. I always ring and say, “You’d better tell the other girls the casting isn’t here today.”
However, if you’ve politely asked numerous times and still haven’t received money, it’s time for a properly drafted document, perhaps even enlisting the help of a solicitor. As you can see, you need to know when to apply the right level of severity to the situation.
- What outcome am I looking for? Do I want to work together with my agency to a resolution, or is it much more serious? Remember how you handle yourself here could have bearing on your future career. Don’t say anything publicly that could be held against you, and don’t accuse people or companies of doing something until you have evidence.
4) Read every contract
I know! Contracts are DULL! And you have to sign so many when you’re a model. But it’s best to get advice from either a solicitor or a friend with legal knowledge because the contract you sign with a smiling agent or client may come back to bite you on the bum.
5) Keep a spreadsheet of every job you do
This is especially important if you’re travelling loads. Make sure you list every job and the fee you are receiving. Mark jobs with potential buyouts with a star or colour – none of this is tricky. Jobs can get ‘lost’ at some agencies and models can lose track of what jobs they did, where, and how much they should be expecting for the year.
6) Have a day each month you email each agency’s account department.
Ring each month to:
– Ask about buyouts
– Ask how much money is in, and how much you are due
– Request a statement.
It’s shocking to me how many girls don’t do this because they don’t want to upset or annoy the agency. Don’t ask don’t get! It just shows you’re organised and on top of things.
7) Store each of your contracts and statements in folders.
Have a folder for all of the contracts you’ve signed (copies) and a folder to keep your statements – you’ll thank yourself when the tax year comes round!
8) Look into joining a Union.
There are unions out there for models. Models in the UK and US can join Equity, which will help you with legal matters and financial questions.
Reading that article made me so grateful to be at my agency, Bookings. They care about their models and that we’re working and being paid fairly and on-time. There are a lot of pitfalls and awful sharks out there – but don’t be scared – there are also plenty of very honest and lovely people out there too. You just need to know how to navigate the job, and the very best thing you can do is educate yourself about the industry as much as possible.
Let me know if you have any more questions! xx
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