What (If Any) Child Talent Services Should I Pay for Exactly?

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By Donnella Tilery, a CuteKid Contest Judge and Founder of New Jersey Fashion Week

I received a ton of requests about finding a reputable agency, photographer or even a model database. As much as I’ve recommended to parents, the importance of doing research, here are my thoughts on services offered in the industry.

It’s important for a parent to understand modeling is a business and you need to put your manager hat on when evaluating opportunities.

Set a realistic career goal for your child, and not just think of your dream situation when you start.  You have to stay focused, determined and savvy to find consistent paid work. Plan the path to success without it being too costly or mentally taxing.

Evaluate the situation just like you’d try to find a job as an adult in your desired profession. There are some things you may need to invest in to get to the next level. The other items set at a lower priority until the can be afforded at face value.

Do I need to pay upfront agency fees?

The direct answer is no. After all, no one while looking for a job pays a recruiting agency upfront for getting them interviews, right?

If a candidate doesn’t have an income, how can they pay to have someone find them an interview and for how long? That’s something to consider before shelling out thousands of dollars to be listed under an agency. Agencies should have strong solid client relationships due to their great reputation for outstanding models that bring them a steady income. Upfront fees are a red flag that most likely will lead to little or no results.

Should I do a membership?

Yes, there are a few databases that offer paid memberships to find castings. Just like there are also free listings on the internet. Carefully do your research on what you are paying for exactly. Parents are frustrated and quick to call something a scam because they do not receive a guaranteed job offer. It is your job as the manager to read through the website, casting or postings and look at the FAQs. A database should offer strong leads, but again, as the professional business manager, carefully review the service options before making a costly monetary commitment.

Think about it—Many job-focused databases do offer upgrade levels for you to ‘become more searchable’ so you are connected to a recruiter or reach a specific invaluable lead on a job. There is nothing wrong with that if that’s your goal.

However, be honest with what you can afford and what your plan is once you register. “I want my child to be famous” isn’t enough. Thinking you can skip through the in-person casting process won’t work. The reality is there will be hundreds of young hopeful children and teens with experience and new faces registered as well.

If starting out, realize you’ll need to post decent photos, have thick skin while waiting and a little bit of luck to be noticed.

If you don’t want to scour through various sites and go through word of mouth, yes, a database may be worth your time.

However, if modeling is a hobby and there is light interest from you and your child, don’t bother with the investment.

cutekid models
CuteKid of the Year 2018 photoshoot with winner, Rodney and big sis

Should I consider an agency?

Yes, be open to agencies, but also be ready to ask a bunch of questions. It is your right to ensure your child’s safety, understand your time commitments and be clear on financial responsibilities. There is nothing wrong with asking tons of questions, especially if you’re new to the industry. I’ve worked with quite a few reputable agencies that post on their website and send the parents their agency guidelines ahead of time.

Most have been around for 20-30 years, so they have seen it all. They don’t mind inquiring minds or skeptics because they’ve built a solid reputation. For real agencies, their professionalism will speak volumes. They don’t need to invoice you as soon as you walk in the door.

A reputable agency will have no issue finding you work and taking a commission when applicable. Quite a few will recommend you take their paid classes—especially if you are looking into acting or commercials. However, they won’t refuse you if they see your potential and you don’t want their additional offerings.

Should I help them build their business?

I often ask adult models that are asked to “sell tickets” to a show they are walking in: Would you pay to work on a job?

If an agency is asking you for a hefty investment or pay upfront for them just to find you work, this may not be legitimate.

It’s agencies’ jobs to work with their clients on financial negotiations, not to charge a parent a starter fee. Agencies should have their own solid relationships.

When should I use model coaches and photographers?

A strong agency will have its own network of photographers, stylists, and coaches. I was shocked to talk to parents that were required to pay a photographer over $900 or more for a shoot.  There are so many professionals available for mutually beneficial projects, I don’t see why or how a model would afford this. As for coaches, many fashion designers I worked with were very specific on the way they wanted their models to walk.  So much so they were on hand at the show, as the designer hired them, personally.

You are already investing your time, gas and emotional well-being to be a part of this amazing, highly competitive industry. The rewards can truly make your dreams come true, but before you decide on monetary upgrades, think about the road to riches and figure out the way you pave it to get there.

Wai Ng child photography
Photograph by Wai Ng, a CuteKid judge

The CuteKid is a baby and kids photo contest, judged by world famous photographers, casting directors, and talent agents. Winners receive thousands in monthly prizes. Kick off your kid’s career by entering the contest and check out our castings page castings page!

For more from The CuteKid judge, Donella Tilery, follow her on Facebook and Instagram!

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