What To Expect From An Agent

Signing with an agent for the first time is a tremendous feeling! It’s time to break out the champagne and celebrate a major milestone in your career. You feel like you’re finally “on your way” to success when you sign with that agent that you’ve been waiting and watching and keeping in contact with in hopes that he or she will sign you.

I know a lot of you think that when you finally sign with an agent or agency that you will start reaping the benefits of all the hard work you’ve put in to your career thus far. And a lot of you think it’s going to happen really fast. But that’s not really the case. Yes, a good agent is definitely a necessity to moving up the ladder towards success. They get your images and name out there by doing marketing campaigns for you. They get calls from clients that normally wouldn’t call the photographer directly. They ask for proper budgets and you get fees that are healthy and appropriate for the gigs you’re shooting. But they won’t make you a star just by signing with them. Gone are the days when agencies used to take in a young, up and coming fashion photographer and work at developing his or her career. There’s just too many of us out there now. Agencies are now in a position to be picky because there are just so many talented photographers out there looking for agents. Here’s when you know you’re ready for an agent:

1. You are getting published frequently and getting published in bigger and better known magazines, and jobs enquiries are starting to come in to your inbox and you don’t know how to budget them.

2. You’re so busy working and shooting paid gigs that you no longer have time to market yourself.

If those things are not happening for you right now, then you’re probably not going to get signed by an agency just yet. Why? Well, because agencies want to take calculated risks nowadays. If you’re getting published a lot then it’s easier to sell your work. Or if you’re already working a lot, the new agency can start to make money on your “house account.” We’ll get into what that means in a minute. But to make a long story short: you are already making money, which somehow makes it easier for them to market you as well. Plus they get the bonus of making money on your already established gigs.

An agent normally takes 25% of your creative fee. Your creative fee is what you are being paid to shoot a gig. It obviously does not include your expenses. So if you are being paid $2,000 to shoot a surfwear line and your expenses are an additional $3,200 bringing the total of the invoice to $5,200, your agent will only take 25% from the $2,000 creative fee. That means they’ll take $500 and you’ll take home $1,500.

So what do you expect from them for that 25% chunk they are taking? Most agents will cover:

1. Maintaining your marketing lists which will be specialized to include only clients that your work is right for.

2. Taking care of regularly mailing of your promo cards with the agencies contact info on them. They’ll either ask you to put in for part of the cost of printing the promo pieces or they’ll cover the printing themselves. Every agency is different. But they should take care of the mailing costs to mail them out.

3. They’ll do regular email marketing campaigns to get your new work out to the appropriate clients who should see it.

4. They should help in some of your production for jobs. They’ll at least help you find the right people who can help you. By this, I mean that they can put you in touch with good location scouts or production companies who can help with the logistics of your shoot like we talk about in my interview with GlamPR.

5. If you’re still using print portfolios they will house at least 2 copies of your book to show to prospective clients.

6. All your promotional material including your website and your signature in your email should have your agent’s name and contact info listed so clients contact them before they contact you. So, in short, they wield your phone calls from prospective clients.

7. They will negotiate the best rate (creative fee) for you and will fight to make sure that you are covered on your expenses. If the client wants an elaborate shoot, your agent is going to make sure they understand what they’re asking for and inform them how much “elaborate” costs. It leaves us out of having to deliver the bad news that “elaborate” costs a bit of money. Leave that to your agent to do!

8. A good agent will meet with you regularly to keep you updated on the marketing game plans, look at your new work with you and help you develop further by making suggestions on what you should do to make your work appeal to advertising clients. So they’re a bit of a manager in a way.

9. They take care of the estimates and the invoicing. Usually, they get paid by the client and then they cut you a check minus their commission.

I’ve seen agents ask for 30% commission because they included managing and developing in that fee. But most of my agents have charged the standard 25%. Going back to what a house account is - a house account is a client that you’ve been working within the past, before you signed with your new agent, that your agent had nothing to do with finding or securing a gig from. Some agents will insist you hand over your house accounts to them. Some will work out a deal if you insist. If you’ve been shooting for a client’s lookbook for the last 4 years and really don’t think it’s fair your new agent should swoop in and start taking a 25% cut from this gig, you can negotiate in your contract what you are okay with them having and what you’re not okay with them having. Most of the time, I should say. Some agencies won’t let you do that.

Melissa Rodwell