Direct Bookings in Modeling: It's a Thing
However, there is an additional way of snagging work and that's through what's known as a "direct booking."
This term is commonplace in the acting world but does apply to modeling projects, too. Direct bookings basically mean a client has seen your work (i.e. portfolio, comp/zed card, published work) and wants to hire you without the need for a casting or go-see.
In case you're wondering if such an arrangement is too good to be true, I can assure you it isn't but there are some very important precautions to consider whenever you get a direct booking offer from a potential client.
AGENCY REPRESENTED MODELS
Agency websites host photo galleries of their models to make it easy for potential clients to view images and persuade them to contact the agent to inquire about working with a model. It isn't uncommon for a client to see a model's gallery/portfolio and decide he/she is perfect for their upcoming project.
Happens all the time.
This is also why photo galleries are organized a certain way or has filters people can adjust to weed through the roster and get a select demographic of models, based on what they're looking for.
Clients who reach out to an agency about a model and decide to do a direct booking is a situation where everyone benefits, not to mention that the model chosen didn't have to attend a casting or go-see. This type of circumstance is ideal and chances are that everything will go off without a hitch. The agent will do their due diligence and make sure the client is legit and reputable--no respectable agency would ever risk putting their models in harm's way or associate them with shady individuals/companies.
To gain the exposure needed to attract potential clients, freelance models have their portfolio and resumes listed on any number of online platforms: official website, social media profiles, networking sites, etc.
The same premise described above can also be applied here but because there isn't an agent to act as the middleman, it is crucial for freelance models to do their homework and not jump on just any direct booking offer they receive.
Any offer of modeling work should be thoroughly vetted before committing to anything--even if it's a paid job. That means communicating with the potential client and getting every single question answered, detail ironed out and having things in writing. Never just accept a direct booking with no questions asked.
In the U.S., any direct booking offers or interest from potential clients to a model under the age of 18 should be directed to the parent/guardian (if there is no agency representation) or the agency if the minor is signed. Parents of freelance minor models should heed the advice given above.
THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE SAYING "YES"
Who made the first move? Did you submit to a modeling job and got a direct offer in response or did you receive a direct booking offer out of the blue? If the direct booking was for a gig you submitted to, was it mentioned in the project description that models would be booked directly or was there a mention of a casting/go-see? If there was a casting mentioned but they're offering you a direct booking instead, that should give you pause and lead you to ask a lot more questions before giving them a decision.
Where was the project listed? Casting sites and social media networking platforms are popular resources that list modeling jobs of all types. If a client is interested in doing a direct booking, it will often be stated right in the body of the project description. Because it's the models submitting themselves for consideration, this means they're making the first move in the process, which results in getting a response about the direct booking and whether they made the cut.
Who is the company? Try to find out as much as you can about the client/company/individual who posted the casting. The goal is to make sure they actually exist and aren't some creeper pretending to be someone they aren't. Look for websites, social media profiles and make sure they all match. If they email you or direct message, are they doing it from a personal account or the company's account? Are things not matching up? Well, then those are major red flags of a project you shouldn't undertake even if you are offered the job as a direct booking.
Is the client a major brand known by virtually anyone who doesn't live in isolation? Chances are 99.9% of the time they will NOT offer direct bookings to models out of the blue, especially if you didn't submit to any of their castings. This is SCAM 101 and oftentimes the brands/companies themselves are completely unaware this is happening. So while getting a DM or email from a major magazine, company or designer might be thrilling, unfortunately, it's probably not real.
Ask questions. Don't just take a direct booking offer at face value. Open dialog with the client and find out all the specifics of the job. They shouldn't have any problem answering all of your questions or setting up some kind of phone call or in-person meeting to discuss the details once you've been hired. If they cop an attitude or don't have solid answers, that's a red flag and you should politely decline the offer.
Be wary of requests to send additional photos. Obviously, you should never submit images of yourself in underwear, in various stages of undress or nude to any client that requests them. Even modeling agencies don't ask for these so it goes without saying that no client should, either. A direct booking shouldn't require further images anyway, if you think about it--the whole point is that they want to hire you based on what they've already seen online so why would they need more photos?
Direct bookings are a real thing in the modeling and acting industry and aren't too good to be true BUT if you get a direct booking out of nowhere and without submitting to anything, that's what will 9 times out of 10 be too good to be true.
Play it smart and be realistic. If you're fairly new to modeling and have a few images up to promote yourself and network but the quality isn't exactly the best and you suddenly get an offer for a direct booking for a gig, I'm sorry but chances are that person is reaching out because they want to play into your inexperience. It's easy to overlook or miss red flags when you're so excited about an opportunity and scammers and shady individuals know and understand this type of naivete all too well.
While realizing you might be dealing with a scam artist or shady person can be disheartening, embrace the fact that you have the power to decline the offer and make it known you aren't one to be fooled.
Legit direct bookings will come along when you've established your brand, portfolio and reputation as a professional model, whose values and skills a company will see right away and want to take action on to make sure they get an opportunity to work with you.