How to Become a Talent Agent

By TACP Staff on July 27, 2019

A talent agent is a business representative who works with their business contacts, casting directors, and other commercial talent agencies to find jobs for their clientele. Talent agents typically represent athletes, actors, models, comedians, singers, bands, musicians, and other performers who work in the entertainment, artistic, sports or business broadcast industries. Their responsibilities also include negotiating contracts, the coordination of major aspects of a contract performance, and managing branding and marketing efforts.

1. Learn the Basics of the Job

Get to Know the Industry

A talent agent is responsible for finding jobs or gigs for people in the entertainment industry. As a talent agent, you can expect to receive notices from casting directors and other managers in the entertainment industry looking for people for upcoming productions. Upon receiving an inquiry, you will run the gig requirements by your client to determine his or her level of interest. If your client appears interested, you need to quickly gather his or her resume, at least one high-quality headshot photograph, and video footage of previous performances if the show calls for it, and forward it all to the talent scout. It’s essential to act quickly, so your client doesn’t lose out to someone who submitted their credentials faster.

If the scouting manager requests an audition, it’s up to you to check your client’s schedule and make an appointment for one. Once the talent scout has confirmed the audition, you will provide your client with a sheet of specifications to get ready for the tryout. The sheet typically contains the date and time of the audition, the venue, and sections of the script, music or other type of performance the agency wants your client to perform. You will likely coach your client to prepare for the audition as well.

Should your client land the gig, part of your duties include negotiating his or her contract with the production company. This covers his or her compensation and benefits, work expectations, dates the contract covers, and other essential details. You receive commission based on the contract you negotiated with the agency seeking talent. This is typically at least 10 percent of the contract value. Some states cap talent agent compensation at 25 percent. Talent agents must pass state licensing where they do business and follow any regulations imposed by the state.

2. Increase Your Knowledge of the Industry

Experience & Specialization Are Keys to Success

People who are most successful at this career enter it having a strong interest in the entertainment industry. You may have acted in plays in high school, been a stage manager for a band, or worked on the public relations team for a local author. The venue isn’t as important as an understanding and appreciation of the lifestyle. However, you probably want to settle on a specialty area once you do become a talent agent, such as musicians or authors. This allows you to build your credibility quickly and will attract clients who are looking for agents with proven results.  For instance, you may have an interest in music, so you will want to listen to as much popular music as possible to understand the field and have the knowledge and background to fairly manage musicians. Or, you may love the movies, and want to represent actors. It would be best then, to familiarize yourself with popular actors and actresses who are big draws at the box office.  But, while you may like another field altogether, in order to succeed as a talent agent, you will need to identify clients who are popular and have wide appeal.

Talent agents must demonstrate strong skills in public relations, marketing, human resources, professional communication, and negotiation. Although no specific college degree exists to become a talent agent, most agencies hiring for this position require the minimum of a bachelor degree from an accredited college or university. Therefore, it would be wise to consider enrolling in a degree program focusing on these important business skills. Your major or minor concentration could include:

  • Marketing
  • Communications
  • Public Relations
  • Global Business Management
  • Master of Business Administration in Entertainment Management
  • Juris Doctor if you plan to work exclusively with legal issues
  • Corporate Finance
  • Entrepreneurship

Please note that some of these degree options are at the master degree level. No matter which educational program you choose, it’s important to learn about state and federal laws related to the entertainment industry. This is especially true if you plan to represent clients under age 18.

It’s also vitally important to secure a role as an intern in an established talent agency, so you have legitimate credentials when it comes time for your first job interview. You shouldn’t expect to work with clients as an intern, but you will gain valuable knowledge into how a talent agency operates on a day-to-day basis. Your duties could include scheduling meetings, managing calendars, updating databases, making phone calls to obtain additional information for your superiors, and much more that falls into the category of administrative detail.

Day-to-day, talent agents develop contacts with organizations or individuals and determine strategies to ensure their client’s success. They stay informed about industry trends, collect fees and commissions, arrange meetings and confer with clients to determine the best course of action for their careers. Talent agents also conduct interviews with potential clients, negotiate with managers, union officials, promoters, and others regarding a client’s contractual obligations, manage financial affairs for clients, book hotels and travel arrangements, and hire coaches or trainers to advise clients about exercise and workout techniques to ensure they are prepared for a performance or part.

In order to be successful and build a client base, talent agents must also acquire or possess a number of skills vital to the job. These skills and abilities include a take-charge temperament, tenacious persuasion and negotiation skills, active listening and time management skills. Talent agents must have complex problem-solving skills and understand the relative costs and benefits of each job, as well as have strong decision-making skills to access each performance to ensure it is in the best interest of their clients.  They must have integrity, be independent, yet cooperative. Have careful attention to details, persistence, initiative, and the ability to accept criticism, but deal calmly in high-stress situations.

3. Build Your Network

Developing Connections in the Industry Is Essential

During and after your internship, take advantage of any opportunity to network within the industry. Let people know you’re willing to work a part-time position when your internship ends, even if it’s more administrative work. It might not be where you want to end up but think of it as a rung on the steps of a ladder to your eventual career goal. It’s common for talent agency interns to accept a position as a receptionist or personal assistant to gain practical experience.

The ideal place to get your first break is the agency where you completed your internship. Keep your eyes open for part-time positions that can give you the experience you need to move up to a position as a talent agent. If the agency has no openings, don’t be shy about asking for a written recommendation as well as seek permission for a potential future employer to call. The most important thing you can do for your future career is to be proactive in seeking more challenging opportunities and letting people you associate with in the industry know of your career plans.

To build strong connections, look for networking groups online and in your local community. Not only does this give you access to people at the same career stage, it can be a great place to hear about job openings you would have never known about otherwise. If you know an experienced talent agent whom you especially admire, consider asking him or her to be your mentor. Most people feel honored by the request, but don’t take it personally if the person doesn’t have the time to invest right now. You can always check with someone else.

Be certain to document anything you do that helps someone in the entertainment industry land a gig. It will probably be behind the scenes, but that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Start a digital or printed portfolio that shows how your contributions made a difference and that you willingly took on increasing responsibility without expectation of personal reward. Everyone must start somewhere, and the fact that you took the initiative to document your career path can only work in your favor.

Helpful Organizations & Resources for Talent Agents

Additional Guides