11 Tips to Start Your Career as Model Scout, Agent or Booker

A career as a model scout, agent or booker can be a fun and exciting career.  It’s a career that often involves a lot of travel, attending spectacular fashion shows and events, and if you’re lucky, working with famous models, fashion designers, photographers, and other celebrities.

As fun and glamorous as the life of a model scout, agent or booker can be, it can also mean a lot of time in airports and hotels, handling cranky models and difficult clients, very long hours, and a lot of disappointment when things don't go as you and your models would like. If this still sounds awesome to you, then working as a model scout or agent may be the career for you.

Role of a Scout

To clarify, (in case you were wondering), the difference between a scout, an agent, and a booker is:

A scout generally scouts new faces and then presents them to either the model agency that employs them or to a variety of different modeling agencies.  Should one or more of the agencies want to contract the model, the scout will, and should have the knowledge to, guide the model as to the best choice of an agency for their particular goals.  Scouts are always scouting, and models can be discovered anywhere from shopping malls, airports, on the beach, or at organized events. 

Once the scout has placed a model with an agency, the agents and bookers will take over.  Essentially, the term agent or booker is the same thing and is interchangeable.  The agents and bookers will book jobs, handle the model’s “chart” and manage the model to achieve not only the best jobs but also jobs that are conducive to the model’s brand and career goals.

Have a Passion for the Industry

Picking the perfect image
PeopleImages/DigitalVision/Getty Images

If you attempt a career as a scout, agent or booker without having a passion for the industry you’ll burn out quickly.  The most successful scouts and agents are the ones who can’t imagine doing anything else and it’s their passion that helps them through the rough times.  The modeling industry is not all glitz and glamor, it takes a tremendous commitment and a lot of hard work to succeed.

Study the Business & Its History

Have a basic understanding of the industry and its history.  The popular saying - "to know where you are going, you have to know where you've been", is true even in the modeling industry. 

Know the names of the people who founded the major agencies and who currently runs them.  Know the names and faces of the early superstars such as Twiggy, Jean Shrimpton, Lauren Hutton, Beverly Johnson, Carmen Dell'Orefice and others who led the way for today's superstars.  Know the names and faces of today's superstars and up and coming models.  Show potential employers that you have taken the time to know about the business in which you want to work.

Know the Lingo

Be sure you know and understand the meaning of modeling terms and phrases such as "time for prints", buyouts, vouchers, and comp cards.

Don't expect the agencies to teach you the basics such as commonly used modeling terms.

Work as an Intern or Mail Room Clerk

In many of the big agencies, and in particular talent agencies, the only way that a wannabe agent can break into the industry is to work as an unpaid intern or in the mail room.  Many of Hollywood's mega agents and moguls including David Geffen (estimated net worth $6 billion), Barry Diller, and Michael Ovitz started their careers working in the mail room. A definite read for anyone serious about becoming an agent should be the book "The Mailroom: Hollywood History from the Bottom Up" by David Rensin.

Be willing to start on the ground floor and work your way up to a position as a scout, agent or booker. 

Focus on One Type of Model

Until you have been working in the industry for a while it is best to focus on one particular area and become the best you can be in that area. Focus on representing only editorial female models, male models, child models or swimsuit models - whatever area that most interests you is the area that you should focus your attention. It will allow you to become a specialist and the go-to person for that type of model or talent.

Top 12 Types of Female Models

Top 10 Types of Male Models

Attend Conventions & Networking Events

If you want to work on an international level it's important that you meet and network with agents and scouts from the agencies with which you'd like to sign your models.   The International Modeling & Talent Association (IMTA) hosts modeling conventions in New York and Los Angeles annually.  A less expensive option is the Faces West Conference in Vancouver, Canada. 

If you can't attend a modeling convention a great online resource of agents and scouts is ModelScouts.com.  The scouts at ModelScouts.com often mentor new scouts who bring them new faces to market to major agencies.

Understand Basic Contract Law

It's certainly not necessary to have a law degree to be an agent (although it wouldn't hurt) you should have a basic understanding of contract law and how to negotiate contracts.  There are many great online resources that teach basic contract law for little or no cost.  There are also more focused types of resources such as the book Hollywood Dealmaking - Negotiating Talent Agreements, by Dina Appleton and Daniel Yankelevits.

Be Willing to Take Risks

Becoming a successful model scout or agent means being willing to take risks. If you are too afraid or nervous to approach a stranger on the street who you think has modeling potential you'll have a very short career.  If you truly believe in a new model's potential don't be afraid to negotiate "time for prints" or other special deals with photographers or clients in your area. 

You also need to be willing to work on a commission basis.  Most model scouts and agents do not earn a salary but rather a commission based on a percentage of what their model earns.

Always Behave in a Professional Manner

Being a professional means more than just calling yourself an agent or model scout and setting up shop.  It means to always behave in a professional manner by keeping your appointment times and never being late, always taking the high road in difficult situations, never bad mouthing other agents or scouts, paying your debts - never owe money to your models, photographers or others whose services you use.  While the industry may have a relaxed image, to be a successful agent, scout or booker you need to be all business.


Don't Be Creepy

While it may be tempting to do so, never, and I mean NEVER, use your job as a personal dating service or a way to find your next hot girlfriend or boyfriend.

As in any professional setting, never make inappropriate or sexually suggestive comments, or approach or stare at a model in a way that will make them feel uncomfortable.  The very nature of the industry can make even the most innocent of behaviors appear creepy and even scary to a young model.  

Model Safety - Protecting Yourself From Online Predators

Go With Your Gut

Being successful also means going with your gut and following your instincts.  If you believe that one of your new faces has star potential and none of the big agencies or clients agree with you, you need to do whatever it takes to turn that around. 

It was just that kind of instinct that model scout David Cunningham had when he saw Kate Upton for the first time.  Cunningham introduced Kate to New York super agency IMG Models, but with Kate's curvy figure and bouncy personality everyone at IMG Models thought Cunningham was crazy because Kate "wasn't fashion enough".  But, the head of IMG Models, Ivan Bart, saw Kate's potential and signed her anyway.  And, the rest as they say is history with Kate Upton earning over $7 Million in 2014 making her one of the highest paid models of the year.