By: Mandy Mitchell
You know who you are. You have been in the business anywhere from about one to five years. You are talented. You’ve been told you are talented by your co-workers. You’ve been told you should be in a bigger market. You start thinking you should get an agent. You may have even been contacted by an agent who told you how talented you are and how you should be in a bigger market.
I was you. I know how you are feeling.
You are thinking it’s the next logical step. You are thinking it can only help you move on and up. You are thinking the agent will have connections and will know about job openings before they happen. You may even be thinking it would be cool to tell your parents or peers you have an agent because it feels like progress even in the face of zero progress.
I was there. I signed with an agent during my third year in the business because I thought all of these things. It was a mistake.
I am not going to tell you a long story of why it was a mistake and I won’t tell you why you shouldn’t sign with an agent. It wasn’t right for me, but that doesn’t mean it’s not right for you and your path.
What I would like to tell you is a few things you should do before you make this very important career decision.
1- Realize this is an important decision
I am not sure why I went into my relationship with my first agent with such carelessness. I read a couple of reviews and I thought the person was “big time” and because the person “wanted me” I thought that was good enough. This is a BUSINESS relationship. It is important. You are putting your career in his or her hands. You may be paying this person money. We don’t enter into other relationships without a great deal of thought. Don’t just get flattered and sign a deal. It is worth your time truly ponder the decision and what it will mean for you one or two years from now.
2- Think about why you want this
Why do you want an agent? Is it the connections? Is it so you don’t have to worry about sending links or doing that work anymore? Is it because you think the agent can negotiate better?
As we discussed in Monday’s post, I haven’t seen many agents who can truly help with connections on the local TV level, particularly in the size markets you would be looking at during years one-five. You can do as good a job of knowing about openings by making connections. Get to know people in the markets you are interested in. I assure you I know about openings in my market long before they go public. Many agents spend their time e-mailing news directors. Do you really want to pay them to do the work you can do?
Do not fall into the trap of signing with someone because you are tired of the job search and want someone else to hustle for you. Realize YOU care more about YOUR career than anyone. That means you will be more diligent about the process. The agent may, as my agent did, skip sending links to stations you really would like to work at because it’s “not a good enough job.” You be the judge of that and do your own work.
As for contract talks. It’s not that scary. We will address that in another post, but truly consider if you feel like paying 10% of your salary just to avoid a few uncomfortable moments with the ND.
3- Talk to current clients
If you have considered all of these things and still want to sign with the agent, make sure you talk to people who are current clients. Ask the agent to give you a few phone numbers. Do not e-mail these people. Call them. Take them to lunch. Ask how often they talk to the agent. Ask if they know what stations they’ve applied to and the status of the jobs. Make sure the agent isn’t sending bulk tapes (links with several clients). Really find out if this is a relationship you would like to have.
Agents will often have testimonials on their websites. Pay ZERO attention to those and get your own.
4-Look at the agent’s website
A website tells the story. Does the agent update it often? If he doesn’t, what does that say for how often he will want to update your reel?
This is a good place to look for attention to detail. If it is lacking on the website, it may be lacking in your job search too.
5- Meet the person
If all of these things check out and you are still super fired up to sign with the agent, go ahead and meet the person. Fly to the city she lives in and have a meal. If this is not an option, try to have a Facetime conversation. Talk to her about your goals and dreams and make sure you feel comfortable putting your career in her hands.
It is ok to be demanding. Do not feel like you are in a job interview. YOU are the one interviewing HER. Make sure she knows you expect communication and you want your reel updated on a regular basis.
These may sound like an obvious things for agents to do. I assure you, they are not!
Just be careful. I know how tempting it is to sign with someone, especially when they fill your head with where you could go and what kind of money you could be making.
I hope you will learn from my mistake and truly put some thought into the decision.