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  • Writer's pictureKamla-Kay McKenzie

How to read your modeling agency contract

Worried you may not know how to properly read a modeling contract before you sign it?

Maybe the most you have read in your life were the books you were forced to read in grade school or the research papers you skimmed to have just enough information to write your college essay.

So now, when an agency hands you a modeling contract that is pages long and is written in dialect foreign to your everyday language, you are totally lost.

That's where I come in within this article.

As an agency signed model who has signed a number of modeling contracts over the years, I want to share my industry insight into the various categories of information and disclosures that are usually found in a contract.


When entering into a contract with a modeling agency and reviewing your terms of agreement, there are generally 2 types of contracts that an agency will have; one of which will be offered to you.

1) Exclusive Contract

2) Non-Exclusive Contract

IMPORTANT: Regardless of which type of contract is offered, the most important thing to note is that you should NEVER have to pay to get signed to an agency.

If any agency tells you that there are upfront fees in order to be offered a contract, that is not a relatable agency that you should be doing business with.

Some agencies will require that their models signed to their agency sign an exclusive contract while others give the model the choice to choose which type of contract they wish to enter into. In either case, upfront payment should never be part of the deal.

The contract type offered often depends on how large the agency is, the competition level amongst other agencies in the area and whether the agency feels they wish to be your main point of contact, or Mother Agency.


When choosing whether or not you will want to sign an exclusive vs non exclusive contract, consider the following pros and cons.

Exclusive Pros:

Often when models sign an exclusive contract, there is less stress in worrying about juggling communication and castings amongst multiple agencies.

Sometimes, exclusive contracts also means that the agency will give their exclusive models more direct attention than the models who are signed non-exclusively.

Exclusive Cons:

If a model is locked into a non-exclusive contract and that agency does not push the model to get bookings or to develop their portfolio, the model may be stuck in a 2-5 year contract without the opportunity to work with another agency until the contract expires.

Non-Exclusive Pros:

Models in a non-exclusive contract means they are able to be multi-listed with more than one agency.

This means the model is not limited to only working with an agency that may not be pushing them and can thus still have opportunities coming their way from their other agency.

In addition, having more than one agency means your opportunity to work with varied clients can be expanded as each agency often has a list of clients that are individual to them.

Non-Exclusive Cons:

When models sign many non-exclusive contracts within the same geographic territory, this can be cumbersome juggling communication when multiple agencies are attempting to submit you to the same castings/bookings.

Having to turn down 1 agency to accept a casting from another agency can eventually create a discord between agencies and their model.

Ultimately, it is up to each individual model to decide which scenario feels most right to them based on what type of contract is offered by the agency.


Below are (6) of the main themes (in a quick overview format) that you should expect to see in your proposed contract:

1. Commission

Agencies take anywhere from 10-20% of your earnings depending on the job with the majority of USA agencies taking 20%. International agencies often take more than 20%.

2. Payment Timeline

Contracts typically state that checks take 60-90 days to be received from the date of the booking.

3. Web Fees

Some agencies, not all, charge their models a yearly fee to be on their website. The most I have paid is $300 per year but I have heard of a really well-known agency charging their models close to $700 per year - crazy high.

4. Composite Comp Card/misc fees

Cost for agency to print and mail your comp cards as needed.

5. Independent Contractor Status & Taxes

Models are considered independent contractors and not employees of the agency. Taxes are not taken from your checks in most cases & it will be up to the model to file accordingly with their accountant during tax season.

6. Ending your contract

There should always be a clause in the contract that states the length of the contract and how the model can prevent the contract from auto-renewing at the end of the term.

Modeling Agency Contract Sample
Modeling Agency Contract Sample


Keep in mind that models who are freelance will sometimes be asked to sign a contract as well if they are working with an individual client. However, the nature of the contract will vary and will have differ categories than when working with an agency.

It is always best to have a contract in place for all bookings as you need to be clear on how your images will be used by the client as well as your rights to such images, if any.

Be clear that the contract outlines use of images and the timeline for you receiving payment. If the client promises to get you copies of the images, it is also a great idea to add that information into the contract as well.

Hope this overview on a modeling contract gives you a better idea of things to look for before allowing your eager spirit to sign on the dotted line.

Peace & love,


DISCLAIMER: This article is not intended to replace the legal advise of an attorney when entering into a contract and consulting with an attorney or trusted business minded associate is highly recommended.


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