Working "under the table" while under contract

By Natalia Zurowski

A booker from a well-known agency in Guangzhou/Shenzhen, China, recently made a post (see right) on her personal Facebook account about a model who violated her contract by working "black jobs," any modelling jobs that are not organized through the host agency. Despite the booker's own lack of professionalism towards the situation (a status update on Facebook is nowhere to post such information), the post is evidentiary of how serious the consequences for a model can be. 

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Most contracts, especially those in Asia, will strictly state that the model is forbidden to do jobs without the agency's knowledge or approval. During the contract term, a model is only to do modelling work they get through agency-organized castings or direct bookings. When you sign a contract, you are agreeing to the terms and conditions. As such, you are to abide by them. 

How do models get black jobs and why would they do them?

When models become familiar with a market, they meet many clients and often work with the same studios. Sometimes these clients or studios offer the model a job "under the table." In this case, clients avoid paying agency fees and can work directly with the model. Some models then choose to do these jobs in order to take home more money by not relinquishing commission percentages to their agencies - roughly 40% for the host and 10% for the mother agency.

Although the additional money may be tempting, it comes at a potentially even greater cost - as can be seen with the photo posted above. Aside risking your earnings, you also risk your professional reputation, your relationship with the host agency, your relationship with your mother agency, and potentially the relationship between your mother agency and the host agency. This may risk other models' careers because the host agency may no longer choose to work with any model signed to the mother agency. In this worst case scenario, breaking contract in such a serious way may cost you and other models success in an already competitive industry. 

If a model wishes to take black jobs, then they should consider working freelance (working without an agency) to avoid the risks associated with undertaking black jobs.

Like in any career, it's important to foster positive relationships with others. The modelling industry is small and word gets around fast - this could harm your future prospects with other agencies, clients, and the overall trajectory of your career. The modelling industry is a business and if a model wants to be successful, it must be treated as such.

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