So you wanna be a model?

If you’re an aspiring model, male or female, and you’re not careful, you could get ripped off. This is old news to some, but there will always be a new bunch of boys and girls, men and women, who want to join the ranks of the Next Top Model. Really, it’s very simple.

Research the agency. In this day and age of the internet, why not take a few minutes and check them out? Just Google the name, followed by “reviews” and you’ll probably get several sites with comments. If you don’t, there might be something fishy about that outfit. The search will also show if they have a website, and a professional-looking one. While a professional-looking website doesn’t guarantee legitimacy, it’s a start. Look beyond the home page. If there are cracks, that’s where you’ll find them. Missing links, poor navigation, lack of information, cheap sales tactics and grand, sky-high promises will be indicators you should look elsewhere. Look for references and where models from that agency have worked. You can tell the caliber of agency by the jobs they get, local, regional, national, international, Mom’s Crochet Emporium or Vogue.

Up-front fees. If you have to pay an agency to join, walk away. Agencies make their money from the commissions they receive from the work they get you. If they think you’ll make them money, they’ll sign you up without requiring a fee. Some agencies also offer “training” classes for a fee and may charge a small membership fee. Look at these closely. Ask around. Do they provide a good service for a reasonable price? If you need some help with your posing or runway walk, these classes might be for you. But make sure you’re going to benefit from them before making a payment.

Don’t join an agency “on credit”, which would be an offer to take the initial fee out of the commissions you’d get from jobs. This could also come with an exclusivity clause that locks you from getting work elsewhere. Then, the ‘agency’ doesn’t get you work, but you still owe them their fee and must pay it to get out of the contract.

Review all contracts carefully before signing. Don’t be pressured into signing right then and there. Take the contract with you and have an attorney go over it with you before signing anything.

If you need If you are told you must pay the agency and use their photographer for headshots and portfolio images, and they won’t use the ones you already have in your book, be cautious. Many scams get you to pay $1500 or more for headshots then stop communicating with you.

Be wary of photographers, too, who make pie-in-the-sky promises and compliments. Ask for references and check them out. If you can, meet the photographer at their studio with a friend or in a neutral location like a coffeeshop before committing to anything.

Watch out for big promises and high pressure sales tactics. If you think you’re buying a used car instead of signing with a model agency, you probably are.

If you’re asked to do something you’re not comfortable with and are pressured into it, like posing topless or in lingerie or swimsuit for an unclear reason. Walk away.

If someone promises you guaranteed work, turn around and walk directly out the door and to your car. No agency can guarantee you work.

Check your Better Business Bureau website or call. If you do get taken, make a complaint to the BBB.

In the end, it’s your life and your decision. You have ample opportunity to do the research, take your time, and save your money. Take care of yourself and you’ll end up where you need to be.

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