How to Understand Modeling Contracts

Woman's hand signing a contract
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Whether your sights are set on a small, local agency or a top international one, it’s every model’s dream to land a modeling contract. After all, signing on the dotted line means your modeling career is officially real!

But as exciting as they are, modeling contracts can be very intimidating, especially if you’re new to the business. To ease your nerves and help you through the process, here are a few basic things you need to know about modeling contracts:

The Basics

Every modeling agency has its own unique contract so it’s impossible to know exactly what to expect. Some are 2 pages long and some are 6, and the content is always tailored to a particular agency’s needs. This, combined with the fact that modeling contracts are legally binding documents usually with confidentiality clauses, makes them all the more mysterious. (That’s why it’s nearly impossible to find a real modeling contract online, especially one from a big-name agency like Elite or IMG Models). 

That said, the general terms and conditions of modeling contracts can be quite similar. After getting the basics out of the way, such as the name of the agency, the agency’s address, and your name, the contract then goes on to state the specific terms. You’ll probably be presented with details on things like:

  • The type of contract: Whether it’s an exclusive, non-exclusive, mother agency, one-time only, or another type of contract.
  • The model/agency relationship: Modeling agencies act as personal managers, not employment agencies. They can’t guarantee work, but they can guide all aspects of the model’s career, from the best job opportunities and photographers to publicity and public relations.
  • Compensation: How much the model and agency will earn per booking.
  • Behavior: The model must agree to conduct him or herself in a respectable manner, to not harm the agency’s reputation in any way, and to comply with all terms of the agreement.
  • Self-employment: A gentle reminder that models are contractors, not employees, and are therefore responsible for paying their own taxes (income and otherwise).
  • The length of the contract: How long the terms of the contract are binding, as well as details on automatic contract renewals and termination procedures.

Should You Hire a Lawyer?

It’s always a good idea to consult a lawyer before entering into a modeling contract (or any contract, for that matter), especially if it’s your first one. That way, you can be 100% sure of what you’re agreeing to. Plus, you can learn a lot about an agency by gauging their reaction to your request for more time. If they pressure you to sign right away instead of letting you take a few days to review the contract and show it to a lawyer, that should raise some red flags. 

That said, lawyers are expensive and not everyone can afford to get professional legal counsel. If that’s the case, read the contract carefully, learn as much as you can about modeling contracts, talk to former/current models, or industry professionals, and don’t be afraid to ask questions. A reputable agency will always be more than happy to clarify the things you don’t understand. 

How Long Do Modeling Contracts Last?

That depends on the type of contract, but usually, it’s anywhere from one to three years. It’s also important to note that contracts don’t magically end on their expiry date. Usually, they automatically renew unless you provide the agency with the proper termination notice (usually 30 - 60 days written notice).