Common types of modeling contracts
Modeling contracts are not uniform. Each agency has a unique way of doing things, and each will have its own rules, regulations and guidelines. The more contracts you sign, the more you'll learn about their similarities and differences, but until you reach that stage, you may feel a little lost.

It may help to know that there are generally four main types of modeling contracts in the industry: parent agency contracts, non-exclusive contracts, exclusive contracts and one-off contracts.

Lead agency contracts
The lead agency (or lead agent) is the one you start working with. It's the agency that helps you learn the industry and build your portfolio, and gives you the advice you need to succeed as a model. As a result, a parent agency's contract will most likely be the first one you sign.

Parent agencies are often smaller, local modeling agencies. To help their models land larger, more lucrative contracts, the parent agency often promotes its models to other agencies located in larger markets, such as New York, Paris, Milan and Tokyo.

Being in a larger market means you'll have the chance to land modeling jobs in major publications like Vogue, Elle and W, and work with major clients like Gucci, Prada and Abercrombie & Fitch.

Your parent agency will receive a commission, usually between 5 and 10%, on what the larger agency deducts. Since the parent agency receives a percentage of what the large agency deducts anyway, it won't cost you any more to have a parent agency and a large agency to represent you. That said, in some markets, notably in Asia, the parent agency's commission is added to that of the lead agency.  

As far as lead agency contracts are concerned, it's important to note for how long the contract commits you. Some contracts last only a year or two, while others can last your entire career.

Non-exclusive contracts
A non-exclusive contract gives models the power to sign with as many agencies as they wish, and possibly to find their own secondary contracts outside the agency. This is more common for commercial models than for haute couture or press models. You may not get as many opportunities or as much advice with a non-exclusive agency as with an exclusive one, but this type of contract offers models a great deal of freedom. If the modeling agency finds work for you, it receives a commission. And if you find work on your own, you owe them nothing.

Exclusive contracts
When you sign an exclusive contract with a modeling agency, you can only be represented by that agency for the duration of the contract. There are sometimes exceptions - the term "exclusive" may be limited by time, geography or type of modeling - but if you're working with a top agency like Ford or Wilhelmina Models, it means you can't sign with anyone else without their permission.

This type of contract gives a lot of power to the modeling agency, so if you're considering signing an exclusive contract, it's even more important to make sure you're working with a reputable modeling agency that has your best interests at heart.  

Fixed-term contracts
This type of contract is valid for a single engagement only. As soon as the project is completed, the contract ends. Make sure that all the details - such as how much you will be paid, how your photos will be used, how long they will be used and any restrictions on working with competing companies - are clearly spelled out in the contract. It's always better to work with an agency that can help you draw up this type of contract than to sign one yourself.
December 29, 2022