Whether you’re in an entertainment industry hot spot like New York or Los Angeles or somewhere in between, there are talent agencies waiting to sign people with stars in their eyes.

The problem is that not all talent agencies are legitimate. Many people’s dreams… and finances… are crushed when unscrupulous talent agencies take advantage of them. These types of agencies don’t usually even have the skill or contacts within the entertainment industry necessary to do the job. They profit by making huge promises to unsuspecting actors in return for a good amount of money. Unfortunately, after paying fees for representation, an acting career never follows.

There are more and more “bad” talent agencies opening every day. They typically fall into the following categories.

  • First is the downright scam. This type of talent agency knowingly operates a fraudulent and illegal business. The downright scam talent agency makes tons of empty promises in return for tons of money. They do not intend to help an actor succeed. Most of the time, downright scam agencies appear, make a lot of money from aspiring actors, and then disappear without a trace.
  • Second is the business that “masquerades” as a talent agency. Typically, these types of agencies are not agencies at all. They include acting schools, modeling schools, photographers, and more. These businesses sometimes call themselves a talent agency as a “side-line” to gain more customers for their main business. They usually charge upfront fees and say things, such as “We might want to represent you, but you need more training (or better photographs).” Then, you must sign up for their expensive classes or participate in pricey photo shoots with their photographer. After paying for and completing the requested tasks, the “agency” decides not to represent you. These types of agencies especially prey upon parents with aspiring child actors. A legitimate talent agency may provide you with a list of recommended photographers and acting teachers if they feel you need more training or new photographs, but you should never be required to use them.
  • Third is the new agency. These agencies are not necessarily out to take advantage of anyone. They usually have good intentions of running a legitimate business; they just don’t have the knowledge or contacts to run a successful talent agency. These agencies may also be located in a small market where there just isn’t enough local work for an actor. If your prospective agency doesn’t have a proven track record, move on.

So, how do you know if your talent agency is legitimate? Keep your eyes and ears open for the following warning signs.

  • Never pay fees to an agency! This includes upfront fees for representation, for opening an “account,” audition fees, and so forth. A talent agency should make their money from the commissions they receive when booking actors on actual acting jobs. If an agency is charging upfront fees, they are probably not making enough money from commissions. You want an agency that strictly makes their money from commissions. If they do, that means the actors signed with the agency are working.
  • Be wary of agencies posting photos of well-known actors and/or testimonials in their office. Many times the actors pictured have nothing to do with the agency and often those actors were simply paid to give an endorsement. Don’t get star struck when you see a famous face on the wall at your prospective agency.
  • If an agency “guarantees” you work as an actor, they are probably not legitimate. No talent agency can promise you will work. Talent agents are not casting directors. An agency can “think” you will work, but there’s no way they can “guarantee” you will work.
  • Avoid agencies that advertise in the classifieds section of your local newspaper. In addition, steer clear of agencies that mail postcards saying they are seeking new talent. Legitimate talent agencies have plenty of signed talent and they audition actors all the time. If they are in need of new talent, they know how to find it – and it isn’t by mailing postcards or putting an ad in the paper.

With some good common sense and the information available here at Taltopia.com, you should be able to find the perfect talent agency for you. Just keep the warning signs in mind and don’t be afraid to make a dash for the door if things do not sound right to you.