By Natalia Zurowski
There may come a time in your modelling career where you've reached what feels like a standstill. You're no longer progressing in your career, your agency seems to have forgotten you exist, or perhaps a better opportunity has come up. You start to think about exploring other options and one of them might include switching mother agencies.
Although it can be a hard decision, switching mother agencies is sometimes necessary and has the potential to tremendously impact your career. A model's career tends to be relatively short to begin with, so you don't have time to sit around and hope that your agency will begin to push you to clients in the future. You need a mother agency who gives you the attention you deserve – and you’re paying them for.
Aside from debating whether or not to switch mother agencies, there are legal issues a model must consider before switching agencies. For example, most modelling contracts have loopholes in them. If a model isn't working well with an agency and she switches to a new mother agency – even while the contract is still active – often times the old mother agency won't really care. In cases like this, the old contract is never brought up and is considered to be voided. If the model isn't earning substantially, the old mother agency has technically lost nothing. However, if the model has worked well and earned the agency a substantial sum of money, they may be hesitant in letting the model go. This is why all models are strongly urged to read all contracts carefully (including the fine print) prior to signing.
There can be serious legal implications to leaving your current agency if you're still under contract. For example, in January 2013, Constance Jablonski (French top model) was sued by Marilyn Model Management (New York) for $3.3. Million (USD) for signing with DNA Models (New York) while allegedly still being under contract with Marilyn. Whether Constance was under contract is unclear, but her experience should serve as an example to all models of the potential problems they could face if they aren't careful.
If you do leave your mother agency, have a termination agreement drawn up by either your new mother agency, a lawyer, or even do it by yourself; although the first two methods are preferred. Most contracts have a termination clause that allow for a model to leave the agency so long as they provide the agency with three months notice. Also, most contacts will stipulate that if a mother agency has neglected their duties (such as failure to book the model a reasonable amount of work), the contract is null and void.
For more information on the story, as well as a .PDF of the suit filed against Constance, click here.
Before you decide whether or not you will leave your mother agency, you should reflect and ask yourself:
1. Have you put your best foot forward? For example, are you exercising and eating right? If you're not taking care of yourself and taking your career seriously, how do you expect an agency to?
2. Have you been kind to your mother agency and treated them with the same respect you expect from them? Are you nice to your bookers? Do you thank them for helping you or congratulate them on a job well done? Your booker is the one promoting you to clients and getting you jobs so it's of paramount importance you maintain a positive relationship with one another. If you walk in to your agency with an attitude, then perhaps you're the one with the problem and not your agent.
3. If you have any plans set out for yourself and your career, have you made the effort to tell your agency? Your agency will already have a plan set out for you and which markets they think you'll succeed in. But it's also important to make yourself heard and express what you feel is in your best interests, both personally and professionally. Honest, open communication in any relationship is fundamental in order for it to be successful.
4. Your videos and polaroids (digitals) should be perfect. Good polaroids and video can leave a stronger impression on clients than a strong portfolio. If you're away and unable to have your mother agency do your polaroids and have to do them yourself, ask yourself, “Are they well done? Did I do my best?”
5. Is this a good agency with a positive reputation in the industry? If your current mother agency doesn't have a strong presence in the industry or they have been losing models and clients to other agencies, you should consider other options. You want to affiliate yourself with an agency that has a good reputation and is known for having good and professional models.
6. Are they enthusiastically promoting you to foreign agencies and clients? If you're a model who travels for placement, has your mother agency placed you overseas and with reputable agencies? Your agent should do their best to ensure you get the best possible placement with strong agencies that'll benefit your career. In addition, your mother agency should always research the agencies they place you with to ensure your personal safety.
Before you make any decisions, talk with your mother agency. Try to set up a meeting in person (or on Skype if you're overseas) so you can express your concerns. If you're unable to set up a meeting, write a well-worded e-mail. Your emotions may be running high and it's important to not let them get the best of you. Write your mother agency an e-mail that's polite and respectful that says how you feel and your decision to move on. Be respectful in your e-mail and thank them for the work they've done for you in the past. You did have a working relationship together and it's always best to leave on a good note. You will also still be working in the industry so it's important you protect yourself and your reputation by being respectful, polite, and professional.
Also, remember to do you research thoroughly. Many models leave their smaller boutique style mother agency without thinking of the consequences because they think they'll have better opportunities with a larger agency. Although more exposure and opportunities are likely to be presented to you, getting work is never guaranteed. Although large agencies are appealing, models should be aware that they may receive even less attention because of the large board of models the agency already represents. This is why choosing a mother agency is incredibly important and requires a great deal of time, care, and research.
Once you have made your decision, don't sign any contracts until you're absolutely certain that you've made the right one. Do a complete search on other potential mother agencies who are reputable and have a good but high-quality roster. You can also ask friends in the industry what are other good mother agencies and Model Access – a private Facebook group for models – is also a great way to ask other models in the industry their experiences with different mother agencies. Keep in mind that everyone's experience is unique and subjective so take every piece of advice you hear with caution.
Even though it can be a little daunting and overwhelming, amazing opportunities could be waiting for you at another agency. Getting a fresh new start with an agency that's eager to represent you will help give you a new perspective on your career. Canadian supermodel, Daria Werbowy, had worked with two modelling agencies in Toronto – Susan J Talent Agency and Elmer Olsen – prior to signing with IMG New York. After signing with IMG and making them her mother agency, it was then that Daria was catapulted into the limelight and became an international success.
Not every model will sign with IMG, but you don't need to have a powerhouse behind you to have a successful career. What you need is a mother agency that'll give you the attention you deserve who is excited to represent you. You could be missing out on potential opportunities you may not have ever been presented with. And with a new agency backing you up, it might just set you in the right spirits to really get your career on the right track.
Remember, success is a two-way street: you and your agency both need to be putting in 100% to achieve the best results. At the end of the day, if you choose to switch mother agencies, it's nothing personal. The modelling industry is a business and that's the way it needs to be treated. What you need is a mother agency who is going to be enthusiastic about you and will promote you continuously to new agencies and clients – that’s what you’re paying them for. The only person that has the power to change your situation is you.