The Difference Between a Signed Model vs. a Freelance Model
What is the difference of being a signed model vs. being a freelance model and what is the proper etiquette? Also, if I am given a contract with an agency do I have the right to refuse or at least think about it before I sign and what should I be on the look-out for?
The definition of being a signed model means you have signed a contract, usually for 1 to 2 years, stating that a particular agency (and ONLY that agency) will represent you. This does not guarantee that they will find you jobs or even send you out. This is why you must read the fine print of the contract. If you have a lawyer or a friend who understands the lingo (in case you don’t understand it) you have every right to take that contract home and think about it or show it to someone who can decipher it for you. You need to be on the look-out for loop holes such as how much territory (distance wise) they have over you which is usually fifty miles of the area they represent. Another loop-hole is if they have the right to drop you if you have not booked any jobs in 3 months or 6 months. Also, if you have the right to back out of the contract with no repercussions, if you feel they are not representing you to your standards. If you book a gig on your own, due to being a signed model, they are still expecting to get their cut of 10-20% since you are signed with them.
A freelance model is represented by that particular agency only if they are sent out on a particular casting by that agent or booked a gig through the agent. A Freelancer can have many agencies working for them however; there is a proper etiquette you must follow. If more than one agency calls you for a go-see you must give credit to the first agency that contacted you. The other agencies who contact you, even 5 minutes after the first agency established you as “their talent” for that particular project, you politely say “I’m sorry, I have already been submitted for that project, Thank you so much”. Agents understand this and if they don’t like the fact that you are booking without them they will more than likely try to sign you! It’s business and if you become a hot commodity than someone will be more than willing to take their cut of your earnings.
Whether you are a signed model or a freelance model you are still your own small business and must regularly check in with agent/agency. Once a month you can shoot an email, write a postcard, or call to let them know you are around and tell them if you’ve booked something or taking a class (like a runway class)…so they know you are working and not at home twiddling your thumbs.
One more topic is website representation with an agency. Even signed models are asked to pay a yearly fee of about $100 for the upkeep of their pictures on the agency’s website. You can request that this fee be taken out of your first job’s pay, so you are not coughing up money you don’t have. If your gut tells you the fee is too high or you don’t trust the agency, you can always wait to see or ask around on forums to see what other models may know about the agency.
The market in NY is mostly made up of agencies who like to freelance, while LA agencies like to sign when interested. It doesn’t make one better than the other, it’s just how business is done. Both ways still mean you have to work to get known or find jobs. So as long as you don’t forget that you still are your own business, you will be happy with whichever road the modeling world is offering to you at this particular time.