Finding and Signing with an Agent
How to approach the process of finding an agent that's right for you and what to consider along the way.
Finding and signing with an agent can be key to your acting career. Not every performer needs an agent, although if you want to join Spotlight as a young performer member you must be represented by a Spotlight registered agent. Adult performers can be unrepresented and still have an acting career but if you do have an agent, it’s certainly going to give you an edge.
The connections you’ll make and the kind of work you’ll be put forward for will help your professional life thrive but what are the key things you should be asking yourself and any prospective agent? Whether you approach an agent or they approach you, there are some things to be aware of.
The relationship you have with your agent will hopefully be a long, happy and rewarding one but from the outset, you should feel confident that you are on an equal footing.
What do agents do and why do you need one?
Agents are there to work for you, getting you seen by the right people and trying to get you as many work opportunities as possible. Professional agents have years of experience, making relationships within the industry and developing their contact list.
Agents are multi-taskers, negotiators, contract experts, mentors, career advisers, marketeers and more. They're with you for the highs when you get that coveted part and also there to support and advise you through the lows. You may work together for years and they'll be an important part of your performing journey.
Types of agent
There are many types of agencies and agents. Finding the right fit for you both is essential so be clear about what the agency does and where you will fit in so you're not disappointed later down the line.
Do some research and find out:
- What does the agent or agency specialise in - actors, dancers, presenters, musical theatre, voice over, young performers?
- Would you be signing to the agency as a whole, or with a designated agent at the agency? If it's the latter, find out who else may be on that agent’s individual list as many agents within agencies specialise in different areas
- Are they an agent or a personal manager?
- Are they a co-operative agency where you will also be expected to do your part in the office? Is that something you can, or want to commit to?
- Are they sole agencies (i.e. exclusive) or are they open to you signing with multiple agencies?
Getting in touch with an agent
Research how the agent likes to be approached. Look on their website and if they say 'contact us by email' then do just that, don't try and reach out on social media or call them.
Some things to be mindful of when you make contact:
- Be very careful to limit what personal data you supply at this stage
- If you make contact with an agent keep your interactions brief and on point. A cover letter should not be an essay - short and to the point is always best
- Make sure your email address is professional! If it's not then set up a new one using your name rather than something like sunshineflower @domain.com
- Make sure the subject of your email is clear e.g. [Your Name] seeking representation. This will help agents sort their mail more easily and find you in their busy inbox
- Find out the name of the agent and use it when you make contact - avoid using a generic 'dear sir/madam'. If you're writing to them, make sure you spell their name correctly
- Succinctly explain why you're contacting them
- Be clear about your casting type
- Don’t send attachments on your email. Instead, add links to relevant casting platforms or your website and, if you can, embed your headshot within the email itself to maximise your chances of catching their eye.
Our Contacts section is a good starting point when you're starting your research. We list hundreds of agencies with information about how to get in touch with them, if their books are currently open and what type of agency they are. Comparing and contrasting the agencies is a good starting point but remember doing more research is vital.
Resources for your research:
- Personal Managers’ Association (PMA)
- The Co-operative Personal Management Association (CPMA)
- The Agent's Association (TEAA)
All of these have professional codes of conduct and strict membership criteria.
- Widen your research and check what comes up beyond the first page of any Google search
- What’s their social media presence like? Is it open, friendly and supportive of their existing clients?
Always make sure you meet in a safe place like their registered office, a café or hotel lobby. Never visit a house or hotel room.
Meeting an agent and your safety
You may have requested a meeting, or an agent may have asked you to attend one, but always make sure you meet in a safe place like their registered office, a café or hotel lobby. Never visit a house or hotel room.
If you’re under 18, it should be your parent or guardian engaging with potential agents and not you. Do not engage with parties approaching you via social media or in any other way, speak to your parent or guardian immediately if this happens.
Getting ready for the meeting
- Make sure you know where you’re meeting and that you're on time
- Bring the best, most natural, you to the meeting
- It’s good to prepare so you may want to write a list of questions but it’s probably best not to get it out during the meeting
- It's not an interview so keep the meeting conversational.
Things to ask in your meeting
An agent will expect to be quizzed about themselves so don’t be afraid to ask questions. The meeting is often more about you finding out if they are right for you, rather than the other way round.
Examples of questions to ask:
- How long have they been an agent?
- What's their previous experience and where did they work before?
- Are they members of any professional associations and if so which?
- Do they adhere to the Equity Manifesto for Casting?
- How do they like to work and what are their plans for their business? This helps you see where you might fit in
- How many clients do they represent and if there are multiple agents in an office how many clients do they have? Professional agents are unlikely to represent more clients than they can handle
- What are their other client profiles? Remember though, every actor is an individual and an agent’s decision to represent you will be based on this and not on your skin colour, age, height etc
- Do they have agent assistants? And if so who will be your point of contact?
- How often do they like you to check in with them, or they with you?
- Who else works in their office e.g. do they have literary or voice over divisions?
- Do they have any sister agencies or links to agents outside the UK?
- Ask about their contacts within the industry
- Are they a sole agency i.e. is your contract with them exclusive, meaning you could not sign with any others?
- If you already have another specialist agency for voice or commercial work - how would they and you coordinate casting submissions, contracts and commission?
- What is their commission structure?
- Whilst it’s not necessarily a question you want to open your meeting with, you should know about any break clauses/leaving protocols upfront so do ask.
First meetings are generally about 30 minutes so take your time and don’t ask everything all at once!
Your relationship with your agent
The relationship you have with your agent will hopefully be a long, happy and rewarding one but from the outset, you should feel confident that you are on an equal footing. As much as you may want an agent, they also want and need a successful client so mutual respect is key.
If you are the parent of a young performer, it’s important to learn as much about the industry as you can. Build a good line of communication with the agent on behalf of your child from the very beginning.
Things to consider:
- Set aside a mutually convenient time for you to stay in touch and determine how often this should be. Agents need to be working on finding you, and other clients, work so don’t bombard them with calls and emails. The more time they spend in client meetings, the less time is spent talking to casting directors
- It's fine not to hear from your agent for a few weeks
- Establish what you want from the relationship, be it support, career development etc.
- Always let them know your availability. Tell them about holidays you plan to take, if you're ill, days that don’t work for you because of other commitments etc as there’s nothing worse for an agent than having to pull a meeting with a casting director because they were unaware of your schedule. That reflects badly on both of you
- Decide how you’ll manage your industry profiles like Spotlight, social media etc.
- What type of agent are they to you? For example, If you are represented by 'John Smith Agency' for commercials, you would only expect to hear from your agent when you get a casting. If they represent you for stage and screen work, you can expect more time and attention. Be clear from the start to make sure you know where you stand
- If you have any particular needs e.g. if you have dyslexia or are a neurodivergent performer, ask what their previous experience is and how have they worked with or helped accommodate clients before?
- If applicable, ask about casting sensitivities in relation to LGBTQ+, Trans, ethnicity or religion. Do you, and they, feel comfortable talking openly about this?
- If sustainability in the industry is important to you, ask if they support albert's green rider.
Signing with an agent: the legal stuff
You’ve finished your meeting and come away feeling really positive but there are things you should do or check before committing to a partnership.
- You may have one agent offer, or be fortunate enough to have several, but don’t rush into anything and take your time to think things through
- Read any contract thoroughly before you sign and get help from your union or a lawyer if you need to
- You shouldn't be paying any upfront fees. Fees can only be charged for certain services and under strict conditions.
How to leave your agent if it doesn’t work out
If things don’t work out - and they may not, for numerous reasons - then you may have to make a decision to respectfully part ways with your agent.
If things go badly wrong and you need some advice or support then there are organisations who may be able to help you:
- If you are a member of a union such as Equity then they will have a combination of phone support and online resources.
- Equity members can also report incidences of bullying or harassment via Equity's dedicated phone number and email
- Your local Trading Standards office may also be able to help
- The Spotlight podcast episode on safety, harassment and bullying in the industry is also useful.
If you have any questions about agents you’d like us to talk about in future articles let us know by getting in touch with us at [email protected].