Steps for Starting a Modeling Agency
If you’ve decided that starting a modeling agency is the ideal career for you, there are several steps to complete before you can get started.
Pinpoint Your Niche
Begin by narrowing down a niche in which to specialize. Doing this will help you focus your efforts, which will allow you to be more competitive.
“While it’s tempting to try to tackle multiple niches at first, the modeling agency industry is highly competitive, so building a reputation in a specific niche and later gradually expanding is a good idea,” said Gabriel Bianconi, founder of LABEL Talent Management and Scalar Research. Scalar incubates LABEL, which is a talent and modeling agency for digital influencers.
According to Bianconi, the niche you choose could be based on a variety of factors, including:
- Geography (talent based in a particular city or geographic region)
- Type of talent (such as models for the fitness industry)
- Type of client or product (such as women’s clothing brands)
In order to come up with a niche that isn’t oversaturated and could, as a result, help you become well-established more quickly, Bianconi suggests exploring new distribution channels. Some examples include specific social media platforms.
“Also consider specializing in upcoming lifestyle and fashion trends, such as body positivity, fitness and health and streetwear,” he said.
Before opening your company and defining your niche, consider doing some informal surveying, suggested Bianconi, whose company recently did a pop-up photo shoot in New York City with a number of social media influencers.
“Talk to potential clients and models to find out what they’re looking for and if there’s an unaddressed need in the market,” he said. “Once you understand the space, it’s considerably easier to find a good niche.”
Build a Talent Network
Your business is only as good as the people who work for you. It’s critical that in addition to professional, talented models that you also have at least one excellent photographer and skilled makeup artist.
Take some time checking out the various professionals you are considering hiring. Ask to see portfolios and resumes and check references.
“It’s important that your network is reliable and professional,” Bianconi said. “The last thing you want to do is scramble to find a photographer or model after landing a client.”
Make sure you do your due diligence when hiring, Carson agreed: “To ensure that you’ll be competitive and successful with your modeling agency business, gather a group of models of varying ages, sizes and talents.”
Finally, your agency needs to secure some clients. In order to do so, it’s necessary to target the type of customers you’d like to service.
While high-fashion runway modeling and appearing in well-known fashion magazines is a popular choice for agencies and talent, these niches are highly competitive. As a new modeling agency, you might have better luck seeking catalog modeling business for local companies. Or if you’ve decided to specialize in a niche, such as sports modeling, then check with companies that sell sports equipment.
Before offering your services to potential clients, it’s important to create professional looking marketing materials. This starts with creating a high-quality portfolio that shows previous work by your agency or even a “campaign” that you have photographed that shows the type of work you can do when given a chance.
“The industry is very competitive, so your value proposition and benefits must be extremely clear and spelled out, especially as a startup agency,” Bianconi said. “At the same time, being a small startup does have its advantages. Your company is better able to act quickly and provide businesses with hands-on, fast and flexible services. Small modeling agencies are able to tailor offerings to each client in a way that large agencies cannot, so take advantage of that.”
Starting a modeling agency is generally not highly expensive, but there are some costs to consider. If you want an office location, it will cost you more to get started. To cut costs initially, you may want to start the business from home. It’s possible to do much of the modeling agency business online.
In order to work from home, you will need a computer and internet access. You could get things rolling by contacting potential photographers, models and makeup artists online in your home office and then arranging to meet them at a public location. If you need to do a photo shoot for your portfolio or a client, you could rent a studio by the hour.
“The budget required for starting a modeling agency can vary widely, depending on the business model and niche and modeling agency fees you are able to charge for the work,” Bianconi said. “In many cases, your agency can sign up talent with the expectation that they’ll only be compensated for specific completed projects.”
Chances are your business will require funding for other operational requirements. These include design fees, including for a website and sales collateral, marketing efforts, including online ads, and for a portfolio of the company’s work. If you have some expertise in any of these areas, it may be possible initially to handle some or all of these tasks on your own until your agency grows. At that point, you can use capital to pay for such investments.
In order to ensure that the business runs as smoothly as possible from the outset, it’s recommended that you consult early on with an accountant and possibly an attorney. Such experts will point you in the right direction in terms of the monetary aspects of starting a modeling agency, as well as how to protect yourself and your company’s assets.
Have Patience and Persevere
“While it may be enjoyable to open a modeling agency, don’t think it will be easy,” Carson advised. “It takes time to build a reputation, both with the talent and clients.”
Patience and perseverance go a long way toward running a successful modeling agency, Galbert agreed. “The competition is fierce for the models and for the agency. In order to thrive, you need to network a lot and build a great contact book in the fashion industry.”
- Have an attorney help you create a contract for models to sign. The contract will include the percentage of their fees you will take as well as other expenses recovered from their modeling fees, such as portfolio photographs you authorized to get them started. It should include standards by which models must adhere, including weight and personal appearance and behavior policies.
- Your contact base provides a valuable tool for finding clients that need modeling talent. Keep an electronic or written version of every possible client. Almost every business that advertises is a potential client. You can also use contacts to locate fresh, new talent.