I STRONGLY suggest that new models apply the “Don’t kiss on the first date” rule.

Never pay a modeling agency to market you.

Photo © by www.JoeEdelman.com

Never pay a modeling agency upfront!

If an agency holds out its hand to you and asks for money on the first meeting – it is a sure bet that they are NOT interested in getting you work. What they really want is for you to open your wallet and give THEM money.

While there are legitimate reasons for agencies to ask you to spend money, good and legitimate modeling agencies that are sincere about working with you to get you jobs will only do this after they have proven themselves to you by getting you paid jobs.

What do I do if they tell me they want to sign me – but they need me to spend money first? Is that an ok reason to spend money?

Absolutely NOT!

With the growing use of the internet many agencies are beginning to display their talent online. The best agencies do this at no cost to their talent as the overhead involved in maintaining a web site of this type is negligible. More and more though, agencies are giving new models a sales pitch explaining that they are moving away from the use of comp cards and putting their models portfolios online. While this is not a complete lie – they will go on to tell you that the cost to you is anywhere from $10.00 dollars per month to several hundred dollars per year.

Please, do the math. . . even if this agency has only 100 models – multiply that times the amount of money that they want to charge you. Now understand that it costs anywhere from an average of $50 dollars to $150.00 dollars to host a business web site for one year – the ENTIRE web site! Get my point?

Never pay a modeling agency on the first visit

Photo © by www.JoeEdelman.com

So what do I do if this happens to me?

Don’t run for the door quite yet. Remember – you are the person who is hiring the agency – it is NOT the other way around. You have to do some simple business negotiation here.

If you are presented with a scenario like the one I described above – or any other scenario that requires you spending money with an agency before you have even had your first booking, try this:


Politely point out to the agency that you are in business to make money – not spend it.

Explain that you have already invested quite a bit of money into this new business venture – you have paid for a portfolio shoot, printed comp cards, purchased a portfolio, etc.

Suggest to them that they put you on the web site initially at no cost. Then when you get your first booking, they will deduct the fee for the web site listing from your earnings before paying you.

This is Business Negotiation 101. By doing this you have turned the tables on them. They told you that they like you and want to work with you. You have said great – prove it and I will gladly pay you the money. The best part is – you don’t have to take a single penny out of your pocket and you have given the agency a strong incentive to get moving and get you work!

Will this work every time? I can’t make you that guarantee, but it will sure give you a very clear picture as to how sincere any agency is about earning you money as opposed to taking your money.

What about other things?

There are other scenarios like agencies who are getting ready to print their books or headsheets and they would like to include you. Workshops or camps are sometimes required for new models. You can use my suggestion in each of these scenarios.

In each case – if the agency is sincere about what they see in you – they should be willing to work with you on these terms or at least negotiate a plan that is more reasonable and puts some of the burden of proof on them.

Legitimate expenses?

Remember – an agency is a partner in your business. It is reasonable for an agency to contact you several months or a year down the road – after they have proven themselves to you and booked you for several jobs – and ask you to spend money for various reasons.

They may want you to share in the cost of postage for a mailing to promote you to a broader base of clients. They may request that you print a new version of your comp card that does have their logo and contact information on the back of the card.

If this agency has earned you money – DO IT! Don’t even question it. Indeed – it does take money to make money and any successful business owner knows that you must reinvest in your business to insure continued success.


There is always an alternative if you are willing to negotiate. Whatever you do – never pay a modeling agency to market you. Make them earn their money. This is the best and most effective way to find out just how sincere a modeling agency is about getting you work.



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