When people hear the words “talent agent,” they might think of Ari Gold, the high-strung manager from Entourage, yelling at someone on the phone. But throwing temper tantrums and hanging out with hot models around the pool are not exactly an accurate picture of the job.
Instead, being an agent requires determination, the ability to negotiate, and unending devotion to your clients. Though it’s a tough job, there are a lot of perks.
The biggest perk? Top agents can make up to $10 million per year, according to the Hollywood Reporter. A more realistic salary is $50,000 to $65,000 for those just starting out, and $200,000 for senior agents who’ve been in the industry for years.
We spoke with a few talent agents based in the Los Angeles area about what their daily schedules entail, how they got to where they are, and what advice they have for aspiring agents. Here are their tips for success.
Exercise patience and tolerance
Being a talent agent requires that you have both logistical and people skills. You must be able to juggle day-to-day tasks and everybody’s needs.
“Managing different types of personalities on a daily basis is very challenging,” says Rachele Fink Richardson, department director at SBV Talent, a commercial talent agency. “Patience is a necessary quality to be an agent. Our attention and time is invested in each of our talent, so we are constantly balancing their changing schedules and egos.“
There are also no guarantees in this business. Projects might be called off or changed at any moment, so you’re always hustling to find your clients that next job.
“We can land a client a great audition, and they get themselves a callback and are even put on hold for the job,” says Allison Sweeney, a commercial agent at Clear Talent Group. “But at the last minute, the director or producer might decide to go with an actor who might be two inches shorter or taller. The factors contributing to a booking can be endless. It can be frustrating to know that you’re doing your job to the best of your ability, but your hands are tied when it comes to the end result.”
Be prepared to stick by your computer and phone
As a talent agent, you have to be a great talker and communicator. This means that you must be connected at all hours.
“I am constantly keeping an eye out for new projects to pitch my clients on, and checking my email basically 24 hours a day,” says Sweeney.
Agents are sent information about jobs from casting and talent bookers throughout the day, according to Richardson. That keeps her glued to her computer.
“Submitting our talent and pitching talent fills up most of our days,” she says. “Tracking down our actors and getting them to their auditions is a process, but our talent is very on it, for the most part.”
Sharpen your negotiation skills
You have to have some fight in you to procure any job in Hollywood. It’s one of the toughest businesses around, and you must be prepared to stick up for your talent and duel it out until you get what you want.
A big part of a talent agent’s job is being the voice for the talent, and securing them the pay they deserve.
“My first priority is to obtain as many auditions as possible for our clients, and to negotiate their contracts,” says Sweeney. “I actually love negotiating and re-negotiating projects, because it’s when we can really get our clients top dollar and conditions.”
Schmooze all the time
As an agent, you have to be good at socializing. You must schmooze to get a job, and then spend your days talking to producers, talent directors, and anyone else in the industry that can take your talent to another level.
To get started as an agent, Sweeney recommends doing as many agency internships as possible while you’re in college.
“By the time you graduate,” says Sweeney, “you’ll have an entire Rolodex of contacts.”
Sweeney also says that it’s crucial to learn how to work the room when you’re at an industry event.
“Never dismiss the power of networking and attend as many industry events as possible. Once you’re hired as an assistant, take every opportunity to learn from your boss, and double your previous efforts to network.”