How to get signed to a Modeling Agency
Wondering how to get signed to a modeling agency, but not sure where to start? In this article, we discuss just that. We highlight the top 3 things a model will need to consider and prepare for, PRIOR to being signed by a modeling agency! Many aspiring models are determined to quickly crack this elusive “how to get signed to a modeling agency” code as soon as possible, which is understandable. Yet this process can quickly become overwhelming, no matter how strong-willed one may be! While we realize there are literally hundreds of things a model COULD do to prepare for this journey, we wanted to narrow those tasks down a bit to get you started. Actually, we wanted to narrow those tasks down a LOT! So, we narrowed ’em down to 3 tasks.
We recommend just these THREE steps initially (versus piling it all on at once); with the aim of showing you how to get signed to a modeling agency…simply by focusing on a few of the bare essentials first. There will be more steps to take after this of course, but we are here to help! If you are able to knock these 3 Steps out first, you will have set yourself up pretty well on your journey towards being signed by a modeling agency! Naturally, we will give you TONS more advice down the road (such as choosing a modeling agency, which questions to ask a modeling agency, and even a directory of modeling agencies by state to help you narrow down your search). But for now, let’s focus on first things first: how to get signed to a modeling agency!
Step #1: A modeling portfolio (and/or) digital polaroids/snapshots.
Q: “What is a modeling portfolio?” or “What do you mean by digital polaroids?”
A: A modeling portfolio is an array of eye-catching, distinct, and engaging images. This variety of images will primarily be used to present yourself to potential clients, modeling agencies, and at casting calls, go-sees, and auditions.. The images contained in your portfolio must be high-quality, professional photographs. This is the very first impression you will ever give in terms of the modeling industry. You’ll want to make sure that it is a top-notch collection of high-resolution, sharp photographs which proudly showcase your potential, confidence, and variety as a model.
Already overwhelmed? Perhaps you have no clue how to pose, perhaps you have only taken blurry selfies in the mirror with your cell phone, perhaps you feel too shy to take photos with an experienced photographer without dying of embarrassment, or perhaps you don’t know a single thing about which photos should go in your modeling portfolio or why? Don’t worry! First of all, we have ALL BEEN THERE… PROMISE. Nobody is born knowing how to perform heart surgery, play the violin, scuba dive, or do algebra. And if somebody really was born a master at all of those things, they probably still have no clue how to flip pizza dough, perform pointe ballet, speak Croatian, or even how to blow bubbles. (How tragic, right?) Absolutely everything takes practice and patience. BUT, absolutely anything can be taught and mastered… including your photogenic ability and modeling range! Modeling is absolutely an art; a craft that can be limitlessly honed.
If you are still feeling a bit unsure- again, not to worry. We have further reading on the subject of Modeling & Portfolio Building once you’ve finished up here- no rush. (For our detailed, in-depth “Modeling Portfolio” section, Click Here. This section includes: how to build a modeling portfolio, types of pictures to include- and which to leave out, how to find photographers, how to get killer images, where to print your images, etc!) However, no need to focus on reading those articles right now- we are just letting you know where to find them!
The main takeaway we want you to focus on from Step #1 (Modeling Portfolio/Digital Polaroids) is: you need to start learning how to get comfortable in front of a camera. Practice this before anything else, if at all possible. Go as slow as you need and don’t force it. You will find your groove with time, at your own pace. Whether you choose to take a few simple polaroids/snapshots, and submit just those photos to a modeling agency as per their submission guidelines (which should be listed on their website)- OR, whether you go the opposite route and build a full-on whopper of a modeling portfolio before applying to any modeling agency… either way is fine, so long as you have come to a place where you can honestly say you are not intimidated by the camera or the task at hand.
You can even start by taking photos of yourself with a self-timing camera to get comfortable, before making the decision to find and start working with a photographer. The whole point is that you are getting used to your new, desired life in front of the camera at your own pace and not rushing it. Modeling agencies would certainly prefer not to sign a model that becomes a deer-caught-in-headlights as soon as the lights go on and the camera flashes. Do THEM a favor, and do YOURSELF a favor, by taking it upon yourself to come already equipped with some modeling know-how. You absolutely do NOT need to go to a modeling school for this; you are going to be your own best teacher right now. You should be actively reviewing the photos you’ve taken, plus trying new things/looks/locations/hair/makeup, and taking risks with your poses and facial expressions even if it feels awkward at first. Basically, you should be treating your assigned homework like it is a job. Because soon it WILL be your job, right?! Right! How exciting!
Step # 2: Comp cards (and/or) comparable “business cards”
Q: “What is a comp card?” or “How do I get signed to a modeling agency using a comp card?” or “Can I get signed to a modeling agency without a comp or business card? Is it required?”
A: A comp card is considered a quintessential item for any model seeking agency representation. You may also hear the expressions ‘zed card’, ‘composite card’, ‘z card’, ‘model’s business card’, or ‘online comp card’ used interchangeably. Just know that each term is synonymous & they all describe the same thing: comp cards! Comp cards are an important (and extremely useful) marketing tool for models, so this is really a step that should not be overlooked.
(To view our “Comp Card” category, click here. That section details topics such as: the importance of a comp card, acceptable comp card formats, guidelines on which photos to include, which information is required, where to get them printed, how many you will need, and more!)
But in short… a comp card showcases how awesome you are. It’s a business card on steroids, pretty much. A comp card is an actual card (hand-held, or digital). The card features some of your very BEST modeling photos (the photos you got/earned from all of your hard work in Step #1, woohoo!). The comp card also lists all of your contact info, plus your modeling measurements/stats. It contains glossy or matte, high-res images which are printed onto a large piece of sturdy card stock. The goal here is to leave a lasting impression each and every time you pass your comp card out. Whether you hand your card to a modeling agent, a casting director, a talent scout, a management company, a photographer, a fellow model, or your 8-year old Golden-Retriever named Gus… everybody should say, “Wow, this comp card really DOES showcase how awesome you are! I’m thrilled to have your contact info, and I will be in touch right away!” Even your dog Gus should be like, ‘daaaaaamn you’z even cooler than I thought, what da heck how is that even pozzible?’
**UPDATED TO NOTE (as of 04/2018): While comp cards are still very much in use today, the guidelines/standards for achieving modeling agency representation are MUCH more relaxed & lenient now. Up until the (very recent) past, physical comp cards were specially ordered to fit rather specific dimensions, and were considered an absolute necessity by most. They were requested by most every modeling agency as standard protocol for agency consideration (as well a matter of professionalism). In fact, many agencies would not even take their first meeting with a model unless a comp card had already been created/printed by said model beforehand. If a model were to be signed without comp cards back then, modeling agencies knew they could be sending their model off to auditions, meetings, open calls, go-see’s, etc. empty-handed… which was not a good look for model OR agent.
Luckily, comp cards (or the occasional lack thereof) are not exactly a dealbreaker anymore. In terms of how to get signed to a modeling agency, most agencies have become at least a little bit more accommodating in recent years. For instance, you probablyyy won’t get blown off by most modeling agencies because your card measures 4″x6″ versus the non-sensical 6.543″x8.21″x1/2″ thickness that they may prefer. It’s fixable later.
& you probablyyy won’t get blacklisted by an agency if you happen to HAVE a digital comp card on you, but were unable to bring your physical cards along due to some terrible misfortune. Ya know, like you dropped your actual comp cards in a very destructive rain puddle on your way over, yikes! & now your only choice is to share your digital comp card with the modeling agency, pulled up on your trusty I-phone which only has 5% battery left, yikes! & all the while, you’re attempting to kid yourself into the fantasy that this modeling agent totally prefers Apple products over card stock anyhow- NO QUESTION- because she looks like she may recycle… maybe. Which IF SO, that means she hates people who waste trees printing their damned comp cards, so naturally she forgives you cuz “Nature”… right?
Phwew! Dramatic enough example? Now… that same situation may not fly at all, say at an open casting call or a busy commercial audition. The casting director may say, “no comp card, no audition; now put that I-Phone down & stop asking me if I recycle weirdo” and then tell you to go home. Can’t win ’em all. But the point is this: Yes, you should always TRY to have your physical comp cards on you, but don’t beat yourself up too much (like I used to in the good old days). Because as time goes on, there are increasingly more options available when it comes to distributing your “comp card.”
So by now you are surely wondering, “Ok then, how do I get signed to a modeling agency without a physical comp card? Obviously you said there’s a way. Do I just show up at their office, unannounced and empty-handed, tell them how awesome I am, and refuse to leave without a modeling contract in hand? That sounds pretty easy!” NOPE, not recommending that.
While the proceeding list of comp card alternatives & substitutions is ever-changing and will continue to expand, here are a few current options! (P.S: Obviously these comp card ‘replacements’ are on a case-by-case basis for all modeling agencies; none of these options are the norm yet. Comp cards will likely still be a ‘gold standard’ for years to come.) But as agencies and models embrace progression, we are both able to reap the benefits equally. It’s a beautiful thing! We here at ModelMentors have seen all of these options being employed (even by some of the MUCH larger modeling agencies). Now more than ever, we’ve observed an increasing number of agents who can’t be bothered to drag their feet on formalities. They would rather sign their newly-discovered model immediately, than wait 1-2 weeks for her snail-mailed, 6″x12″ comp card to appear on their desk first… this IS 2018, after all!
So here the suggestions on how to get signed to a modeling agency, using marketing/networking as your “comp card” instead:
- An Official Modeling Website: We’ve previously talked at length about the MAJOR benefits of building your own modeling website/domain (plus just how easy it is to get it all set up), in this article: Best Model Portfolio Websites. You can easily get your own domain name, i.e., FirstNameLastName .com or AwesomeModel .com, and then upload your modeling portfolio into a gallery. This is an online modeling portfolio that can actually serve as a ‘digital comp card’ of sorts. Not only that, having your own website gives you authority- and EXPOSURE. The world wide web is a huge place; your website can draw as much attention from modeling agencies as you want it to. Highly highly highly recommend checking out the article we’ve linked and investing in your own personal modeling website!
- Social Media: Wanna know how to get signed to a modeling agency without even trying? Well, here ya go. A well-curated, striking feed on social media can open HUUUGE doors for you. No comp card needed… just a few Apps on your phone instead. Modeling agencies are constantly scouting new talent on social media, completely un-phased by lack of modeling portfolio or experience/credits/resume. They are interested in finding the right “look” for their division- and frequently, they are also looking for models & NON-models alike- those who have LOTS of social media influence. (See “What is a Social Influencer” and “What is an Instagram Model” for some more info regarding how to jump on that bandwagon.) Also, it is extremely easy to TRY reaching out to modeling agencies via social media, just by sending a message/DM/or leaving a comment. As long as you keep your message professional, are being realistic with your expectations, and do not become a nuisance if you do not receive a reply, it never really hurts to reach out does it? Many modeling agencies employ a staff of social media managers. These employees usually know exactly what they need when they see it- so if your message or comment gets their attention, and your look is what they need, odds are good they just may pass your info & profile along to exactly the right person. Your Social Media feed should do all of the introductions, as to who you are and what you have to offer- so make sure you are posting your best content; content that shows your personality, but also content that is always true to YOU.
- A simple business card: (include your contact info and a collage of 3-4 modeling photos). There are TONS of great business card templates online, designed especially for the modeling industry. You can drag and drop photos, fill in the blanks with your pertinent contact info & a “tagline”, ship them via web to your home, and then pass those bad boys out like CANDY! You will want to make sure you include your email address, your social media links, your website URL (if you have one) or an online modeling portfolio link if not, and your phone number (only IF you are comfortable with giving it out, of course). Business cards are MUCH cheaper than comp cards, don’t get damaged as easily, and are much easier to stick in your bag/purse/wallet/car/on your local community board/to a stranger’s forehead/on Kim Kardashian’s car windshield if you happen to see her walk into your local grocery store… that’s a joke, but you get the point. We have seen many business cards passed directly from models to modeling agents- be it at a networking event, a social gathering, a group dinner, etc. This leads directly to open lines of contact, and can quickly result in a signed modeling contract shortly thereafter. (Assuming the model & agency are an obvious fit right from the very start.) Model business cards are a great way to circumvent some of the red tape in the industry, if you are lucky enough to meet the right person at the right time- and many people are!
- A free online Modeling Portfolio / i.e. ModelMayhem.com (or similar): If you are not web/tech-savvy, or are simply not interested in paying for your own “official” modeling website/domain as mentioned above, you can always use an existing modeling portfolio website as a placeholder. Upload your modeling photos to create an online modeling portfolio, and simply share that link URL with others as you network online and in person! A website such a ModelMayhem.com is a free option which offers the opportunity to network with many people/professionals in your field, and is genuinely a place where you will find a supportive community as well (bonus!!). That said, don’t go sending your ModelMayhem link to Wilhelmina; with 2 photos in your modeling portfolio (both selfies), and expect a response. Research the modeling agencies you would like to submit to FIRST, as well as their exact submission criteria!
- Referrals and word-of-mouth: We personally have received such incredible opportunities based on word-of-mouth and referrals alone that it is almost hard to believe. And for some of us, that HAS translated directly into signing with modeling agencies… without even trying! Word-of-mouth has also resulted in us being able to book incredible gigs for amazing companies, SIGHT UNSEEN, with no comp card to speak of… nothing more than a very enthusiastic referral was all it took to land some of the biggest highlights of our modeling career. You just never know. If you are wondering how to get signed by a modeling agency, it may be something as simple as being kind to the makeup artist at your photoshoot that day; basically doing something that is already ingrained in you (and should come automatically). Perhaps the makeup artist’s best friend is the editor of a magazine or the owner of a modeling agency. It sounds too good to be true, but it’s happened to us more times than we can count- so it will absolutely happen to you if you just spread positivity wherever possible. We also make sure to pass it on. Good karma is the gift that keeps on giving. PROMISE. When hard-working models support other hard-working models by passing along amazing opportunities and positive encouragement, it becomes a domino effect.
- An 8×10″ headshot with your contact info: Usually you have these made up for acting (or occasionally modeling) headshots, and you wouldn’t bring just a single 8×10″ headshot into a modeling agency for a first meeting. However, if you don’t have any comp cards or business cards on you, these bad boys may have to do the trick in a bind! Cumbersome and awkward to transport, especially for the recipient… but indeed still a very effective way to leave a big (literally) reminder of exactly what your face looks like- and exactly how to get ahold of you, in nice large letters!
Step #3: Perseverance in the Modeling Industry.
Q: “What is perseverance?”
A: This is both a learned AND inherent craft that makes use of dedication, determination, motivation, energy, confidence, hard-work, and stamina. While it may seem obvious that you are going to have to “try” in order to become a model, the art of perseverance goes far beyond just the act of “trying”. This is an essential requirement in modeling, one that MANY models overlook entirely- which may help explain why so many models never succeed.
We wrote the article (attached below) as a Guest Blog for another website, but would love to refer to it for additional examples of what Step #3 requires. The article is here: Tips for Aspiring Fashion Models. Please check out the sections entitled, “Learn to Embrace Rejection”, “Practice Posing and Walking” (which ties directly into Step #1), “Commit to Work”, and “Never Let Your Pride Down”, as they each directly correlate to Step #3. How to get signed to a modeling agency depends as much on your look, luck, and connections as it does on your work ethic, professionalism, courtesy for others, and of course your PERSEVERANCE!
It is important to train your brain to persevere, even when things seem stable. It is important to fail, because that teaches you strength. It is important to adapt techniques to mentally prepare yourself for pitfalls. How to handle rejection- from modeling agencies to photographers to complete strangers- and press on regardless. Before you worry about how to get signed to a modeling agency, it is much more important to take care of your biggest asset first- YOURSELF. Everything else will fall into place after that. And you will soon find out that Steps #1, #2, and #3 will all have a major impact on you.
Practicing your craft teaches confidence (step 1). Advertising yourself to the masses and calling unapologetic attention to yourself takes balls (step 2). Loving yourself no matter what may come takes everything you have learned from steps 1 & 2, and mixes it in with perseverance (step 3): and now that always be your own biggest fan, absolutely NOTHING CAN STOP YOU.
Don’t wonder how to get signed to a modeling agency any longer- get out there and do it! In the meantime, we are your SECOND biggest fans! 😉
How to get Signed to a Modeling Agency:
We hope you made it through this extremely lengthy instructional guide about getting signed to a modeling agency… and we also hope you understand WHY we only gave you these 3 steps to start with. This article took a LONNNNNNGGGG-ASS time to write, so if you found any part of it useful, PLEASE share it or leave us a comment! We want nothing more than for your success, and we love interacting with all of you! Please leave any questions if you have ’em, and we wish you the best of luck with beginning your modeling career!
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Author: Sarah McDowd
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