What is the modelling business? (A definitive guide)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 7 June 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Running a modelling agency can offer many unique opportunities in a niche industry. You might show interest in a career in the fashion industry or you already work in the fashion business and are considering your options. Finding out more about the modelling business can help you develop a plan for a career in the field. In this article, we explain more about what the modelling business is and how to start a modelling agency.

Related: How to become a model

What is the modelling business?

To answer the question, 'what is the modelling business?', you can explore how modelling agencies work. The modelling business is an industry that comprises modelling and product demonstrations. A modelling agency is a firm that represents models for work in the fashion industry and takes care of the business aspects of the role, such as booking jobs, billing and arranging payments for the models. As the agency handles the business aspects of modelling, the model can focus on their modelling work.

The agency earns money from the commission and it can be very lucrative. Big modelling agencies can work with top fashion designers and advertising agencies. Modelling agencies also recruit new talent and develop them so that they're able to gain more status in the fashion world. The modelling agency is also responsible for training the models, arranging test photo shoots, developing a model's portfolio and any other materials the model requires. The agency also finds work for models by showing them to designers, photographers and advertising agencies.

Related: 9 different types of modelling (plus related roles)

How to start a modelling agency

Starting your own modelling agency can be very rewarding. Managing an agency means you're responsible for recruiting new talent and training the models you represent. If you think that running your own agency is for you, you can take the following steps that outline how to start a modelling agency:

1. Identify your niche

The first step to starting your own modelling agency is to decide on the niche that you would like to specialise in. By finding a particular area of the business your agency may focus on, you can become more competitive. You can choose your niche according to a variety of different things. Once you identify a particular niche, you can focus on growing your business and your reputation in the industry and expand into other areas in the future. You may opt for a niche based on location, meaning you represent talent in a certain city or geographic area.

Or, you may prefer to base your niche on the type of client, such as womenswear. You may also think about specialising in a lifestyle movement, such as body positivity or health and wellbeing. Before you start your agency and define your niche, it can be helpful to carry out some informal market research. You can talk to some potential clients and models to learn more about what they would like in an agency and if they express any needs that are currently unmet in the market. This can help you identify any gaps you can fill in your niche.

Related: 4 types of businesses to start

2. Recruit talent

An important step in starting your own agency is recruiting talented models. It's also important that you have a minimum of one excellent photographer and a highly skilled makeup artist. When you're reviewing candidates, be sure to look at their portfolios and their CVs and follow up on their referees. It's vital that you have a good network that you can rely on. It's key that you work with people you can depend on, especially in the early stages of your agency when you're growing your reputation.

If you consistently deliver excellent work and provide a good service to clients, they're more likely to work with you again in the future. When you do have a job for a client, it's important that you're not trying to find a model or photographer to work at the last minute and compromise on quality. To increase the chance of your modelling agency being successful, you can recruit a range of models of various ages, sizes and talents.

Related: How to develop effective interview questions: a guide

3. Find clients

A vital step for any new modelling agency is to find clients, as this is how you can make bookings for your models, earn money and grow the reputation of your business. To find clients, you can begin by targeting the type of clients and companies you're seeking. You may consider high-fashion modelling, which involves working with famous designers and recognised fashion magazines. As a new agency, you may have more success in catalogue modelling for local businesses.

Before you approach prospective clients with your services, it's essential that you have high-quality marketing materials to assure them you're a professional agency. Having a high-quality portfolio displaying various campaigns created by your agency can make you seem more professional and demonstrate the type of work you're capable of when you're offered the opportunity. A professional portfolio also makes your value proposition very clear to potential clients and gives them a better understanding of what you can offer them.

Related: Business development skills: Definition and examples

4. Consider your budget

The costs of starting a modelling agency are not typically very high, but there are some expenses to factor in. If you're planning on starting with an office location, your starting costs may be higher. If you're looking to minimise costs, you can think about starting your agency from your home. It's possible to conduct much of the business of a modelling agency online. You can then begin by contacting prospective photographers, models and makeup artists from home and then organising to meet them in a public place such as a café, restaurant or hotel.

You may likely require additional funding for business essentials such as design costs for your website and sales material, marketing spending and to create a portfolio of your agency's work. You can also save on costs if you're able to carry out any of these tasks by yourself to start off. It's a wise idea to speak to an accountant in the initial stages of starting your company to help guide you to make the right financial choices when founding your agency and how you can best protect your financial interests.

Related: How to perform a risk analysis (With tips)

5. Be patient

Being patient is key to building a successful modelling agency, as it can take a lot of time to establish a reputation for your new modelling agency and attract both good clients and top talent. If you consistently deliver quality work to your clients, you're more likely to gain more client bookings and become successful. The rivalry between models and competition among agencies can be intense. Investing time in networking and making valuable contacts can maximise your chances of success. Being patient can help you to avoid making rushed decisions, such as deciding on your niche without conducting adequate research.

Instead, it means you wait for the best opportunities for your agency to grow its reputation and improve the chances of long-term success. Patience also means you're careful to take on only as much work as your agency can comfortably handle to minimise the risk of disappointing clients by trying to grow too fast. Growing your business at a steady pace may also help you to minimise stress and help you to appear more confident, which can be useful when you're trying to convince clients to work with you.

Qualities of successful modelling business entrepreneurs

Running your own modelling agency and leading your own business means becoming an entrepreneur. While some people may have the innate skills required for this profession, it's also possible to learn them. Here are five of the most common qualities of entrepreneurs that you can work on to become a more successful business professional:

  • Creativity: Thinking creatively can help you to discover a gap in the market and develop innovative ideas. Developing your creative skills can help you to think more freely.

  • Motivation: Having the motivation to achieve your goals is a key quality that can make an entrepreneur more successful. Remaining focused on your goal and trying to think more positively can help you to strengthen your motivation.

  • Passion: Passion for what you're doing helps you to commit to your goals. Figure out where your passion comes from. It may be the modelling business itself or solving problems. Nurturing your passion may enable you to be more successful.

  • Networking: Skills in networking enable you to make business connections which are essential for entrepreneurs. Finding the right people to work with and negotiating deals successfully requires being able to network effectively.

  • Self-assurance: Believing in your abilities and what you say gives other people a reason to believe in it too. Developing excellent knowledge of the sector can help you to be more confident talking about it with others.

Related: What Are the Characteristics of Successful Entrepreneurs?

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