How to sign with a model agency

Interested in modelling professionally and how to get started? You’ve probably heard the advice ‘get signed with a modelling agency’.

Modelling agencies are companies that represent models at all stages of their careers. They put models forward for jobs, manage contracts, and make sure their portfolios are up-to-date with images that best portray them and the style of work they want to book.

Finding the right agency can be one of the biggest challenges for a new model.

Some good advice on how to get signed is don’t be afraid to be unique! Agencies look for many things, but take it from a fashion photographer, individuality is what truly makes a model stand out.

Benefits of Signing with a Modelling Agency

Signing with an agency means you’ll join their books to be presented to brands who approach them looking for models. Modelling agencies operate on the basis of commissions, getting paid when their models get booked for jobs through a small percentage of the modelling fee. This motivates them to find consistent streams of work for their models and negotiate competitive rates.

Breaking into the modelling industry is difficult. Signing with an agency gives you a team on the lookout for new opportunities. Agencies usually have a lot of resources to help develop a new model’s portfolio and industry contacts, so signing gives you the chance to progress quicker than you would do unsigned.

A strong portfolio is a great way to show a model agency your potential. Get professional images that show you at your best and will help when applying to model agencies.
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How To Find a Modelling Agency

A great resource for finding reputable modelling agencies globally is In London, top modelling agencies I’ve had great experiences working with include MiLK, Storm, Premier and Nevs.

There are also lots of smaller agencies and mother agencies found off of These agencies may have less of a high-fashion focus and less competition when applying. A mother agency’s role is to guide you through the beginning of your career and help you place with a modelling agency when you’re ready.

To check if an agency you’ve found online is reputable, it’s worth looking into whether they’ve booked their models for jobs with paying brands. Or in the case of a mother agency, successfully placed them in an agency. This is easily done through Instagram and you can also try reaching out to models directly to see what their experience at the agency has been like.

How To Apply To a Modelling Agency

When you’re ready to apply to a modelling agency you need to take pictures of yourself, or polaroids, to send through their website or email. These should be taken with no makeup and in fitted clothing. Normally agencies ask for a headshot, side profile, full length and smiling shot. They can sometimes ask for video as well. It’s important to note that a reputable agency will never ask you for revealing photos when you apply!

Agencies aren’t looking for anything heavily posed or filtered, just natural images. Some agencies host open calls or walk-ins as an alternative to applying online, where hopeful models can visit their offices directly for the opportunity to sign with them.

Model crouched posing. How to stand out to modelling agencies

How to Stand out to Modelling Agencies

It can be hard to know what modelling agencies are looking for and if you have it. Some good tips on standing out to agents are:

  • Have a hobby – models with hobbies stand out better to brands, especially those casting for personality-focused campaigns, so they’re important additions to agencies.
  • Utilise social media – having a strong social media presence adds value to a modelling agency and appeals to their potential clients. Even if you don’t have a large following on Instagram, utilising the platform as a modelling portfolio will help you stand out to agencies who were interested after seeing your polaroids.
  • Research the best fit – understanding the type of model an agency is looking for will give your application the best chance of success. Look at what kind of models they sign, what kind of work they book and whether you fit that niche. If an agency already has a model that looks strikingly similar to you on their books, they may not be your best bet.
  • Create a professional-looking portfolio – while this isn’t strictly necessary, it helps to develop an agency’s picture of you as a model when you have professional modelling shots already. You can create a model portfolio by reaching out to photographers for collaborations or investing in a model portfolio shoot.
Professional model portfolio image in London

Meeting a Modelling Agency for the First Time

After submitting your photos online, the next step is being invited to meet an agency at their offices. This is a good opportunity to get a better feel for what the agency is like, and how it would be to sign with them as a model.

It might seem like they’re doing you a favour and interviewing you for your dream job of being a ‘model’. But don’t forget that you’re also interviewing them. Important questions to ask before signing with an agency as a new model include:

  • How will they help you build your portfolio and career
  • What kind of jobs do they book for their models
  • What is their commission rate
  • When will you get paid for jobs
  • What are the potential expenses
  • How do they handle expenses
  • What do they expect from their models
  • How do they support their models

The answers to these questions will help you gauge if they’ll offer the level of support you’re looking for, book you the kind of jobs you want, and whether this is the right agency for you.

A legitimate agency will never ask you for money at any stage. Sometimes you’ll handle your own travel expenses. An agency might take expenses out of your model fee. Such as for a paid test shoot to build your portfolio. But these should always be reasonable, manageable, and transparent from the start.

London model portfolio photoshoot. Model sits crouched on floor wearing mustard colour bodysuit

Choosing the Right Agency for You

Occasionally when a model meets an agency or attends an open call they’re offered a contract on the spot. Other times it can take a few days to hear back about an agency’s decision. 

It’s important to take your time when deciding to sign with an agency. Look through what you’re committing to in your contract and raise any queries you have. Will you be able to sign with other agencies abroad? Is the contract exclusive? And for how long for?

Choosing the right modelling agency is a decision that you’ll want to ensure aligns with your goals and circumstances.

Dealing with Rejection

Rejection is part of the process of getting signed as a model. Sometimes you’ll get an email rejection but it’s also common to not hear back about your application at all.

It’s hard but don’t get disheartened! The agency’s books might be full or perhaps they were looking for something else at the time. You can usually reapply after 6 months and try again.

Improve your potential for getting signed by applying to multiple agencies. It’s also a good idea to keep practising your modelling so your applications get better over time.

Stay positive, so many of the world’s most successful models faced multiple rejections before getting to where they are today.

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