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Monday, January 6, 2014

The Meat & Potatoes of Modeling Contracts

Modeling contracts can be intimidating and it's no wonder that I often get panicked emails and messages from model hopefuls with all sorts of questions.

I have a handful of blog posts that talk about modeling contracts but I know it never hurts to add more content to expand on the subject. And I do plan on adding more posts to that category over time.

This post will focus on the main parts contained within the typical modeling agency contract. But please note that each agency has its own contracts it uses and the clauses contained are specifically relevant to how that business operates. Because I don't know what every single agency contract looks like, the purpose of this post is to shed light on the most common clauses that can be found in a majority of these types of documents.

Also keep in mind that I am by no means a legal professional (or claiming to be one). The terms and descriptions I'll be referring to are all based on my experiences and knowledge of the modeling industry and are meant to be informative. The clauses described below are in no certain order.

What's a Clause Anyway?

I know a lot of my readers are pretty young and may or may not be familiar with some of the words I use. "Clause" as it relates to a contract basically means a section or part of the document that addresses a particular topic. These clauses are usually numbered, making it easier to reference when talking about what the contract says.

Now that you know what a clause is, let's get to the meat and potatoes...

Description of Both Parties & Responsibilities

This is the part that identifies the Agency and the Model. The wording contained in this clause usually talks about the basic role the agency will play and what role the model will play, which goes into effect once both parties sign the contract.

This clause often contains specific lists or descriptions of duties that the Agency will undertake, such as being in charge of developing and guiding the model's career, making executive decisions and offering counsel when it comes to marketing and the types of projects the Agency will consider for the model.

If you're not sure exactly what a modeling agency does, this part of the clause will spell it out for you.

There is also information related to what the model agrees to do in order to hold up their end of the deal. For instance, agreeing to inform the Agency of any outside projects they are contacted about, seeking advice from the Agency for any situations related to the model's career and agreeing to provide the Agency with the proper marketing materials needed to promote them (i.e. portfolio images, headshots, comp cards, etc.)


When reviewing any modeling contract, make sure to find out whether or not your representation would be "exclusive" or "non-exclusive." How do you find this out? By reading the contract of course! Somewhere there will be a clause that says either of these terms. Still can't find it or not sure if the term you've come across in the paperwork is talking about the type of representation you'll receive? Then ask the agency to point it out or for clarification.

Don't know what "exclusive" or "non-exclusive" means when it comes to contracts? Then CLICK HERE.

Duration of Contract

All modeling contracts clearly state how long a model will be represented for. This could range from 1 year to 5 years. It all depends on the agency but this information will be in the contract. Details regarding renewing representation if a model wishes to remain with the agency is also contained in this part of the document.

Exit Clause

Sometimes this is buried within another clause, such as the duration of the contract. It may be easy to locate or it may require some close reading. Either way, agency contracts always state what the guidelines are for terminating the agreement and what a model needs to do if they feel they no longer wish to have representation through a particular agency.

The most common phrase I've read in nearly every modeling contract I've come across (mine and others included) usually says something to this effect:

"This agreement may be terminated at any time, for any reason by either party."

That's a good thing, by the way. Always follow what is outlined in the exit clause of a modeling contract if you wish to break ties. Are the rules not quite clear? Again, ask the agency for clarification.

Commission Amount

All modeling contracts specifically state how much commission will be taken out of each assignment booked for the model through the agency. The actual amount varies on market/location and the current trends. Back when I first started the commission was 10% but today in most large markets, it's more like 20-25%.

Medium to smaller market agencies may take less and often stick to 10-15%. This is all normal and, again, varies based on several factors.

Agencies overseas tend to take considerably more, although I personally have no experience in being contracted with any international agencies. However, I have been told my colleagues who live and model in other countries that their agencies take as much as 40-75% commission. So next time you think about complaining when you see what's left from your check after your agent's taken its cut, remember it could be worse.

Power of Attorney

Without getting all legalese on the subject, this part of the contract basically states that the model agrees to let the Agency act as their legal counsel. If a client ends up not paying for a model's services, if there is a dispute of some kind between the model and the client or if the client ends up breaking the terms of whatever paperwork was signed between them and the agency, then the power of attorney gives the modeling agency the authority to take care of all legal matters on behalf of the model.

This is a great form of protection for a model since it means they don't have to worry about hiring their own lawyer and having an agency's legal professionals take care of business often gets the best results, compared to a model trying to accomplish this on his/her own.


Agencies have to feel confident that the models they represent will always act professionally and in the best interest of the agency as well as themselves. Having an etiquette or code of conduct clause in a contract means the model who signs it assumes automatic accountability and responsibility for their actions, including any consequences.


I'm sure there are plenty of other clauses I left out and seeing as how some contracts can be as short as 2-3 pages or as long as 10+ pages, I'm sure you can see why I've chosen to only include the most commonly used ones.

Any questions or concerns about the contract you've got in front of you? Then don't sign it yet! It's perfectly acceptable to ask the agency for clarification about anything you don't understand. In fact, it's encouraged and shows great initiative on the part of the model. Only after you feel confident that you understand what's being presented to you, should you sign the contract.


Amanda said...

Hi Dania! My name is Amanda, and i just turned 16, and i have a bit of a problem.. I really wanna be an elite model, as it has a lot of perks. Problem is, I'm 171 cm (think its 5'7? might be wrong tho).. Am I too short to even have a shot at elite? And problem nr 2 - should I go for stockholms elite office (aka a 2 hour drive) or wait until I'm 18 (I've decided to move to NY then as its my dream city) and apply for elite in new york then instead, or does being 18 give me minus points as its fairly old? So, should I go for the local one now, or wait? (i commented a few days ago and i dont know if it got sent cause my phone was being stupid, so if i spam comment you now, im very sorry)

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Amanda! You'll find the answer to your questions in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #704," which can be found on my other blog: "Modeling 101 - Answering Readers Questions."

Please visit this link: http://amodelsdiary-readerquestions.blogspot.com/ and you can view your post there. Thanks for reading!

Anonymous said...

Hi Dania!
I love your blog... this is the best info on modeling I've come across yet!
I have a question/scenario for you...
I'm currently 19 years old in college. Next spring (2015) I'll be studying abroad in London and graduating in May. I'm in college because I was forced to go, and am unfortunately stuck in the South/midwest (aka zero modeling jobs). I've done all that I can to get out of school ASAP, and when I graduate I'll be 20 years old.
I'm 6 feet tall, razor thin, have a clear complexion and healthy hair. I have minimal experience in modeling, but people have told me my entire life that I should pursue it. My plan is to submit photos to multiple agencies in London before I leave, and visit them if I hear back, and to also attend open casting calls while I'm there.
I'm wondering what your thoughts were on pursuing modeling in London, if there were any specific agencies I should look in to, and how much of a factor my age is. I have good skin, but I'll be a lot older than the other girls on the market and I don't know how much that will hold me back.
I've read lots of articles about the age factor in modeling, but I really feel as though the other qualities I possess could possibly outweigh my age. I am determined to pursue modeling, and if my age holds me back I will be devastated. I would've started in the industry when I was young but I was never allowed, as education was always most important to my parents. Let me know what you think and if you have any advice about my future.
Thanks! :)

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Anonymous! You'll find the answer to your questions in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #731," which can be found on my other blog: "Modeling 101 - Answering Readers Questions."

Please visit this link: http://amodelsdiary-readerquestions.blogspot.com/ and you can view your post there. Thanks for reading!

allison ciarcia said...

Hi Dania....my daughter is 10 and new to the business and she was offered a verbal non-exclusive agreement with an agency...is that normal?

Dania Denise said...

Hi, Allison Ciarcia! You'll find the answer to your questions in its own post, titled "Answering a Reader Question #868," which can be found on my other blog: "Modeling 101 - Answering Readers Questions."

Please visit this link: http://amodelsdiary-readerquestions.blogspot.com/ and you can view your post there. Thanks for reading!