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How to Start a Child Modeling Agency
If you enjoy working with children and aren't shy about creating and maintaining networking opportunities that will put them in front of a camera, a child modeling agency may be a good avenue for you to pursue. Here's how to get started.
Learn the ropes of the modeling business by working for an existing agency first and learning what a representative does. If this isn't feasible (i.e., you're currently working a full-time job), ask the owners if they know of someone who would be willing to mentor you. Assistance is more likely, of course, if (1) you don't live in the same region and/or (2) they only represent adults and, thus, aren't going to perceive you as potential competition.
Decide what age range you want to specialize in. This decision will be influenced by the pool of available talent and the types of regional doors that are going to be open to your clients (i.e., magazines, runway, catalogues, commercials). If, for example, your agency is located near family-friendly suburbs, you're probably going to have a pretty steady stream of babies, toddlers and adolescents. If you live in a major city, there's going to be greater access to media gigs than if you live in a cabin in Churchill, Alaska. You may need to consider relocation if you want your agency to be sustainable for the long term.
Draft a comprehensive business plan that addresses the expenses of purchasing/leasing a facility and office equipment, retaining a professional photographer, makeup artist and hair stylist, marketing your services (advertising, brochures, portfolios, website), determining whether you need additional reps to work for you, the types of clients you plan to represent, your commission schedule, whether you plan to provide training workshops, and paying for insurance, licensing, and membership fees. The plan should also reflect your projects for growth for the first 3-5 years. If you've never prepared a business plan before, the website of the Small Business Administration can walk you through all of the steps. A business plan is mandatory if you have to secure a loan to help get your new agency up and running.
Shop around for a local business bank that will provide you with the best loan terms and services. If you know other small business owners, ask them for referrals on which banking institutions have given them a positive experience.
Check with your city and county administrative offices on what types of licenses and permits you will need to apply for before you can open shop. Some states require you to be licensed as an artist's employment agency and - because you are working with minors - to be fingerprinted and undergo a thorough background check. In addition, you'll need to acquire a federal tax ID number from the IRS and establish your official business identity.
Identify a location for your agency that is easily accessible by car or public transportation and has its own parking. Ideally your location should be at street level and have a good volume of pedestrian traffic. A commercial real estate broker can assist you in finding a space that will accommodate a reception area, an office and photography studio. Many of them also have a network of contractors and designers they work with who can make whatever changes you need to the facility after the paperwork has all been signed.
Consult with an attorney to draft boilerplate contracts for your prospective clients and for the companies that will be hiring them for modeling jobs. Because you are working with minors, anything of a legal nature will need to be approved and signed by their parents or guardians. The lawyer you work with should also have familiarity with child labor laws governing the hours and working conditions of underage children.
Audition photographers, makeup artists and hair stylists to work with in creating the portfolios for your clients.
Start advertising the opening of your modeling agency through local newspaper ads, postcards, brochure mailers and a professional-looking website. Your marketing materials will take two forms: the content that is sent out to prospective talent and the content that is sent out to the companies you want to court. Hold an open house and invite the public and the media to come in and see what you're all about.
Join your local Chamber of Commerce and other civic organizations that will provide networking opportunities to talk about your new agency.
Pick up a copy of "Complete Guide for Models: Inside Advice from Industry Pros for Fashion Modeling" by Eric Bean and Jenni Bidner. It's a solid resource that explains what the modeling industry is all about and, further, sheds light on what prospective clients of any age look for in a rep. The book is available on Amazon.
Talk with your insurance agent to make sure that your agency has adequate coverage for workers' compensation in addition to business insurance for the actual facility and its contents.
Ghostwriter and film consultant Christina Hamlett has written professionally since 1970. Her credits include many books, plays, optioned features, articles and interviews. Publishers include HarperCollins, Michael Wiese Productions, "PLAYS," "Writer's Digest" and "The Writer." She holds a B.A. in communications (emphasis on audience analysis and message design) from California State University, Sacramento. She also travels extensively and is a gourmet chef.