Modeling Contract Basics

Whether your sights are set on a small local agency or a top international one (or both!), getting signed by a modeling agency is usually step one to every model’s career.


As exciting as this step may be, signing that dotted line can be very intimidating and confusing, especially if you’re new to the business. Below I help iron out the basic things you need to know when signing an agency contract.

Every modeling agency has its own contract unique to how they choose to operate their business, so there’s not a one size fits all explanation. Some are just a few pages long and others a small book, and the content is always tailored to a particular agency’s requirements. This, combined with the fact that modeling contracts are legally binding documents with (usually) confidentiality clauses, makes signing one even more stressful.


Although every individual agency has its own quirks, the general terms and conditions of modeling contracts can be quite similar as the industry has an overall standard that they follow. All contracts should cover the details on the below topics:


- Type of contract: Whether it’s an exclusive, non-exclusive, mother agency, one-time only, or another type of contract.

- Model/agency relationship: Modeling agencies act as personal managers, not employment agencies. They can’t guarantee work, but they usually help guide all aspects of the model’s career- from the best job opportunities and photographers to public relations.

- Compensation: How much commission the agency will earn form the model’s paid bookings.

- Behavior and image: The model must agree to not jeopardize the agency’s reputation in any way and uphold the image that they want you to portray. This sometimes puts restrictions on personal things like your hair color, piercings, or tattoos.

- Length of the contract & other restrictions: How long the terms of the contract are binding, as well as details on automatic contract renewals and termination procedures. Other restrictions may be things like if you’re allowed to sign with other agencies or not, and if that restriction is limited by time or geography.


It’s always a good idea to consult a lawyer before entering into a modeling contract (or any contract, for that matter), especially if it’s your first one. That way, you can be 100% sure of what you’re agreeing to and any legal questions you may have can be correctly answered. The agency that’s presenting you with a contract should fully support your request to have time for a lawyer to review. If they pressure you to sign right away instead of letting you take a few days to research & think about your decision, that should raise some major red flags.


That said, lawyers are expensive and not everyone can afford to get professional legal counsel. If that’s the case, be sure to read the contract carefully and learn as much as you can about modeling contracts. I always recommend talking to former/current models of that agency and ask them about their experiences. Most of the time models are more than happy to give their honest opinions. I have had models reach out to me about my agencies on numerous occasions and I always very candid with my answers. Also, don’t be afraid to ask questions, a reputable agency will always be more than happy to clarify the things you don’t understand or want more details about.


The length of your contract with an agency often depends on the type of contract you sign with them. Usually, it’s anywhere from one to three years. It’s also important to note that contracts don’t magically end once the expiration date is up. Most contracts state that they will automatically renew unless you provide the agency with the proper termination notice, or the agency releases you from your contract. If you wish to get out of the contract before it expires, sometimes a simple conversation with your agent is all that is needed, but in some instances the agency will (and can) refuse to release you. This is why it’s important to fully understand what you are signing and know what the consequences are should you want to terminate your contract early.


Now that you have a grasp of the general contract basics, stay tuned for next weeks’ post where I go over the different contract types in more detail to help you further understand this complicated industry!




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