This is a subject that I get asked about a LOT. Sometimes by younger actors, but also by concerned family back home. So, I’m (hopefully) going to set a few things straight, terminology-wise.
Agents vs. Managers
First of all, these are not the same!
- Agents – work on behalf of their clients to find them work, put them up for jobs and, where necessary, negotiate their professional contracts.
- Managers – look after their clients daily business, as well as advising them on professional matters and their overall career.
Types of Agencies
The thing amazing thing is, there are more than 1,200 agents in the UK alone! Most of these should fall into one of three categories: standard, boutique and coop.
1. Standard agencies
I’m using ‘standard’ to define the first category as it best describes the main pool of agencies that have multiple agents. They can be anywhere in size from having over 50 agents, who each have their own client list, to 3 agents all working under the same agency name.
2. Boutique agencies
Smaller agencies, usually with 1-3 agents who each look after an exclusive roster of clients.
3. Co-op agencies
Agencies which are run – or partially run – by actors, for actors. Here, the actors work as agents either for themselves or for other actors repped by the agency. Joining/ training fees are a common feature of coops.
I’ve had so many questions on this point, I’ve genuinely lost count. The good news is, a lot of what agents can and can’t do is moderated by Equity. And if you have any concerns, give them a ring! I’ve found the union to be incredibly helpful.
Here’s what’s considered normal in terms of agency fees:
- Standard/boutique agencies usually take a fee of 10 – 20% when their clients secure work. These fees may vary depending on if it’s a theatre/ film/ tv or commercial job but should normally be within this bracket.
- Joining or training fees are considered normal only at coop agencies.
We’ve all seen the scam adverts do the rounds on social media, but sometimes it’s genuinely difficult to tell if you’re being played. Here’s the list of what to avoid:
- Agents who require you to sign anything on the spot without giving you the chance to leave their office and think it over first.
- Agencies who tell you you need a ‘portfolio’ to sign with them, then send you to a specific studio/photographer whose photos cost £££.
- Scouts who approach you on the street, telling you you’re perfect for their agency and if you sign with them, they’ll make you a star.
- Agents who promise you work if you sign with them. Think about it: no one promises anyone guaranteed work in daily life. It just doesn’t happen.
- Agents who tell you that only they know what’s good for your career.
- Anyone who tries to force or persuade you into signing a long-term contract before you feel ready.
Remember, If it feels dodgy, or if you feel uncomfortable at any point, trust your gut. Reputable agents will not try to force you into doing anything you don’t want to do. Your relationship with your agent is a partnership where you are allowed to voice concerns.
Stay safe and prepared out there!