How much does an acting agent cost? There’s a lot of misunderstanding around this. Some people think that actors have to pay to join an agency. But this isn’t quite true, so how much does an acting agent cost?
An acting agent doesn’t cost anything upfront. Legitimate talent agents will usually only take a 10-20% commission on the work you take. This serves as an incentive for agents to find their actors work, as they don’t get paid unless the actor gets paid.
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Agencies That Charge Upfront Are Scams!
Acting agents, (or talent agents as they’re technically called) will never, NEVER take money from you upfront. If you get approached or approach an agency, and they ask for an upfront fee to join the agency. RUN! They’re a scam!
An agents job is ultimately to find you work. But these “agencies” don’t make money from finding actors work, they make money from making you think they’ll find you work.
They often hire every actor they possibly can, no matter their ability, experience, or professionalism. The more actors they sign, the more money they make.
So even if they do submit you for roles, (I’ll be surprised if they actually did), you’ll be 1 in 1000. And no working casting director will take these guys seriously. So the quality of the jobs you may audition for will be so low, that you’d be better off finding work yourself anyway.
How Do Acting Agents Make Money?
Legitimate talent agents will ALWAYS make their money from commission. This is usually between 10-20% depending on the country you’re based in, as well as your notability and experience.
In the UK, the average rate is around 15% although often the agents of bigger name actors will take less, as these actors work year-round, on massive budget productions. But for actors like me, and you. We’ll probably be charged around 15%.
In the US on the other hand, agents that are SAG-AFTRA franchised aren’t allowed to take more than 10%. And this is usually considered the maximum agents should take. This is partly due to the fact that the US has both agents and managers, whereas, in the UK, most agents also act as your manager.
So you join an agency for free (if the agent decides to sign you), you’ll get auditions as often as the agent is able to get them for you, and eventually, after enough auditions, you land a job.
So let’s say your agent takes 15%, and you earn £1,000 for a job, your agent will take 150, and you’ll get to keep 850.
In the US, actors can hire both agents and managers as these jobs are separate. But in the UK, most agents tend to act as managers too.
Other Fees When Getting An Acting Agent
When getting an agent, although we don’t pay the agency an upfront fee to be on their books, they may require you to pay for a few things. These are considered essential costs of business for actors. When joining an agency, you’re essentially saying, I’m now a professional actor. I’m taking this seriously.
If you hired a plumber and they came to your house without any tools, you’d think they weren’t professional, as a plumbers tools are an essential cost of business. These things are essentially an actors tools that will be used to help land jobs. So these are a few things you may be asked to pay for when joining an agency.
If you don’t have professional headshots already, or your agent thinks they don’t represent your current look. They may request that you get them updated.
For actors, headshots are essentially our posters, our advertisements. Casting directors will look down a sheet of multiple actor headshots, looking to see what catches their eye for a specific role. Often times a casting director may bring an actor in specifically because they look a certain way. And equally a bad headshot may turn casting directors away, when you may be a perfect fit for the role, so hopefully, you can understand how essential it is to have good headshots.
Professional actor headshots range in price, dependent on where you live, and the reputation and experience of the headshot photographer that you go with. But I’d urge you not to go too cheap. You don’t have to break the bank with this cost, but as mentioned, headshots are extremely important, they’re an investment, you should treat them this way.
You’ll also need to get these updated so often, there’s no hard and fast rule as to how often you should get them updated, as it depends on how much your look changes.
Be honest with yourself, do your graduate headshots that you got 5 years ago still represent the you of today. Probably not, so keep this in mind. If you have long hair and decide to shave it off. Your haircut will cost a lot more than just a trip to the barbers. You’ll need new headshots. If you decide it’s a good idea to get a face tattoo, remember that you’ll need new headshots.
Often talent agents will have a list of headshot photographers that they like and have worked with, so consider going with one of these options.
And remember, a good headshot doesn’t make you look good. It shows an accurate representation of how you look on a normal day.
Depending on what country you’re based in, an agent may ask you to join a casting website. These websites will usually incur some form of subscription fee, whether that be monthly or yearly. But this is where you’ll get access to the breakdowns for roles and auditions for different projects.
For example, in the UK, every actor that has an agent will need to join Spotlight. This is the industry standard casting platform that all agents and casting directors use here.
There are specific entry requirements to joining Spotlight, as it’s a professional platform, they don’t just let anyone in. But if you get an agent and you don’t already have Spotlight, the agent will be able to get you on there.
Depending on your age, and whether you’ve graduated from an accredited training institute, the cost of joining Spotlight will be between £100-£160 for the year. I currently pay around £9 per month for my subscription.
Your agent will then be able to submit you for castings for some of the biggest productions around. And if the casting director likes you, you will be asked to audition.
There are also a few other casting platforms in the UK like Mandy, Starnow, and Backstage, and these are great for smaller projects, and if you want to self submit for smaller jobs. But agents usually stick to Spotlight for major productions.
If an agent asks you to pay them upfront, they’re trying to scam you. Run the opposite direction and never be tempted, you’ll be better off without representation. A legitimate agent will charge between 10-20% commission on the jobs you land, but that is it.
You may be asked to pay a headshot photographer for professional headshots, and a subscription fee for a casting website, but these are usually the only other expenses you will incur, as these are the essential costs of business as actors.