Sep 14

How Much Do Talent Agents Make?

337/365: The Big Money

How Much Do Talent Agents Make? Image by DavidDMuir via Flickr

It seems that a lot of people have asked me lately, “How much do talent agents make?

When we first began our journey into acting, it was hard to get a handle on how the entertainment business operates. We wondered who does what and who gets paid and by whom.

There are so many different people involved — talent agents, talent managers, casting directors, directors, producers.

Be sure to read  “What Do Talent Agents Do?” for more information about what talent agents do.

So, “How much do talent agents make?

The important thing to remember about talent agents is that they only make money if their clients make money.

It is hard to say exactly how much they make, since it is always a percentage of what their talent makes.  If their clients work and get paid a lot of money, then they get a lot of money, too. If their clients don’t make any money, neither do they.

That is why it is also in their best interest to negotiate and get you the best possible pay for the jobs you book. If you get paid more, they also get paid more.

In the state of California, talent agents make 10% of what the clients they represent make (this is 10% of the gross pay before any other deductions). So, if a client makes $1000 on a job, the talent agent will get $100.  California laws do not allow a talent agent to take more than that 10%.  For print, talent agents typically take 20% of the gross pay.

In other states, the amount that a talent agent makes often varies from 10% up to 20% and may even be higher than 20% in some cases. If you are in another state, you need to check into the laws for your state. Also, be sure to ask the talent agent and carefully read any paper work to check the percentage stated in the contract or in any verbal agreement you have.

You should never pay fees up front to talent agents or talent agencies. If a talent agent or agency tries to charge you for their services in advance, look elsewhere for representation. Make sure any talent agency that you make an agreement with is reputable. Do your research.

If a talent agency sends you to an audition and you book that job, the agency gets a percentage of any earnings you get from that job, even if you leave that agency before completing the job. If you change to a new agency, the old agency will continue to take a percentage from what you make from that job. The new agency will only make money from jobs that you auditioned for and booked while being represented by them.

If you can have multiple agents represent you in the same category (e.g., commercial, theatrical), as is true in New York and some other places as well, only the agent that gets you into an audition gets paid from your earnings for that job.

Who actually makes the payment to you and to your talent agent? The money is typically paid by the production company.

If the job is SAG or AFTRA, there are laws related to when the payments need to be made to the actors. If the production company delays making the payments, they may be fined, and additional money paid to the actor. One of the advantages of jobs being overseen by one of the actors’ unions is that there are laws in place to ensure that actors receive payment for their work in a timely fashion.

With non-union jobs, there can be a large time delay before payment is received and perhaps even worse problems when it comes to actors getting their payment or other things promised to them (copies of the footage, etc.).

For more on this and many other topics related to a show business career, subscribe to Your Young Actor’s Newsletter.

To your success,

Debbie Sikkema

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  1. linda @Resume Builder

    i think there is no limit on what the talented agents can make , its just about grabbing the right opportunity at the right time

  2. Zurich@canadian mortgage insurance quotes

    Hi, I am actually informed about this.. It is the first time for me to know how the transactions of the actors and actresses to their talent managers and to the production. Then, I was wondering where did the actors get their fees in acting and who is the one who pays them. But since you discuss it already now I know some of it.. Thanks for this post..

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  5. Jamie@Promotional Models

    Great article, really detailed. I work for a promotional events company and we hire from talent agents all of the time. Good post.

  6. Joel @ Jack Sparrow Costumes

    If you are a successful talent scout/agent you stand to make a killing. I think to be successful in a job like this your really need to have a passion for it…
    .-= Joel @ Jack Sparrow Costumes´s last blog ..About Us =-.

  7. Sarah @ Musketeer Costumes

    Wow, I would have thought that they would have made more in California than 10%…I guess if they make a big signing that can turn into a lot of money…
    .-= Sarah @ Musketeer Costumes´s last blog ..About Us =-.

  8. Fashion Books

    So, talent agents don’t have a solid in-the-books figure… it’s just commission.

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    Thank the talent agent for the offer and explain you have a few more appointments, whether or not this is true.

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  14. GS

    Does anyone know what % a talent manager continues to recieve after contract ends? I’ve heard that per a contract, a manager whom has built a kids career continues to recieve a % for up to 3 years . I was hold that 20% is the lib rate and for 3 years.
    This does not seem right to me.
    Anyone have info? Please and thank u 🙂

  15. Duped

    My agent took 20% and money left over from my paycheck for a non union job. When the check arrived at the office it was for the amount of my pay + 20%. The agent took the 20% from what my pay was for that job and kept the extra money left over. The agent made 40% off of me. I was told its something called “above and below the line.” Has anyone ever heard of this? Is that legal?

  16. Virginia

    This kind of relationship is no different than the pimp/prostitute relationship. No one should continue to get money or make up any kind of unreasonable percentages to take just for submitting you to a job. As a client, we don’t pay extra to agents as they don’t work for us and any talent company who asks us to pay extra we never work with again. I don’t care what the norm is. It’s time for this parasitic system to change. We have agencies doing no more than submitting talent for open roles. The talent does all the work. This system is just shameful.

  17. Andrew Smolen

    I was under the I’m session that the agent’s 20% was in addition to the amount of my compensation. So if I was promised $75 for a non-union role that he submitted me for, then I should get $75 and he should get $15. Is this incorrect?

    Thank you!!

  18. Andrew Smolen


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