In the last couple of weeks I have gotten many calls from aspiring models who have been approached by fake model agencies promising them jobs with top clients and earnings of thousands of pounds a day provided that they came to their offices for a test photoshoot for which they had to pay a refundable deposit. These are not real model agencies, these are just scammers who are trying to take advantage of the hopes and dreams of vulnerable people who know nothing about the modelling industry and who would do anything to work as a model. Keep on reading for tips on how to recognize them and not fall prey to their reprehensible techniques.
The modelling industry is a really tough industry to work in. You are being constantly judged by things that are completely out of your control. Rejection becomes the new normal. It's nothing personal, it doesn't have anything to do with whether you are pretty or not, or whether you have the body shape, or the height or the origin. It has more to do with the trends of each market and what the clients are looking for at the moment. There is nothing wrong in trying to make it as a freelance model and probably by doing so it would get you a constant stream of jobs even if they are lower paid, but the dream is to be signed to an agency that gets you the jobs that pay the big bucks. The problem is that agencies respond to clients expectations and they only sign models who they can make money of. So if this season no one is casting redheads in London and you are an aspiring redhead model, the likeliness of getting signed by an agency in London this season is very low. If you wanted to get signed you would have to consider other markets. And it is precisely those moments in the aspiring model's life that the fake model agencies target.
It is a sad reality of humans as a species that there will always be someone trying to take advantage of the most vulnerable. If they take advantage of me, a 40 something year old man, it doesn't make it better but at least I can excuse myself by saying that I've been caught off-guard, I should have known better, and this won't happen to me again. But it is disturbing that someone takes advantage of the dreams, expectations and innocence of young people. To me, that is unforgivable. These fake model agencies target young aspiring models who are desperately looking to be represented or models who are just starting out and have no idea of how the modelling world works. They contact them on social media or on the streets, tell them that they have what it takes to become a model and lure them into their studios with the promise that they would take their photos to start developing their portfolio and then send it out to the best agencies and the best clients in the country. The only condition is that the model pays a refundable deposit which they hardly get back and after the photoshoot finishes then they have to pay for the photos if they ever want to have them. And some of these fake agencies charge up to 2000 pounds for photos that once they are given to the model they are never sent to any agency or client and the model never hears from the fake agency again.
So, how to know when are you dealing with one of these scam agencies?
- They don't call themselves an agency: if you talk to them or if you go on their website you will see that they usually don't call themselves an agency because they are not. They use words like "platform" or "advisor" or "coach" and they will tell you that they will provide advice and guidance to help you become a model and then put you in contact with "top agencies" or "affiliated agencies" or "top clients" to get you the jobs. Real agencies call themselves what they are, Modelling Agencies, and if you go into their websites you can see that they clearly say so.
- They charge a deposit or a fee: real model agencies never charge you money when they book you. Whatever money they invest in your development they will take out of the payments that you receive from clients once you start making money with them.
- They ask you to come in for a photoshoot and then charge you for the photos: real agencies develop your portfolio with a network of photographers that they work with and never charge you directly for the photos. As I said before, all the development costs come out of your first jobs.
If you feel like you have been approached by one of these scam agencies you can learn more about models rights and agencies duties on these links:
Modeling is not for the faint of heart and there is no easy way to make it in the industry. You don't need an agent to work as a model but if you decide to look for one you should first do your research on what to expect from the agency and what the agencies expect of you.
Photo credit: behind the scenes by Andrew Clark.
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