Agents vs. Managers

Okay, this is coming up a lot, actors asking me what's the difference between agents and managers and do I need one or both. 

Let me break down what an agent does, what a manager does, and whether you need one or both.

Agents are:

1) Licensed by the State. This a lengthy, involved process that includes putting up a $50,000 bond to the state guaranteeing your payments to your clients. You have to have separate accounts for client checks and the business so you don't EVER co-mingle funds. You have to keep the license up to date, renewing it every year. There is a background check complete with fingerprints. You have to register your business with the State as either a Corporation or an LLC. 

2) Are legally the ONLY people who can negotiate or sign a contract for a client to work on a production. Managers CANNOT legally do this. Period. It is against the law. 

3) Are constrained by state law on the amount of commission they can take, 10% for SAG-AFTRA jobs, 20% for non union jobs. 

4) Reputable agencies are franchised with either SAG-AFTRA (as we are) or with the ATA. You can check on to see if the agency you are signed with or looking to sign with is franchised with one of the two organizations. I don't know what the process is for ATA, but I do know that for SAG and not for ATA, your office must be in a commercially zoned building and may not be located in your home (or any home). For SAG it must have a separate lobby or waiting room, your state license must be conspicuously posted, the name of your agency must be on the building directory or outside your office door, and you must not share your office suite with another business. We strictly adhere to these requirements. And Agencies are inspected by SAG-AFTRA for compliance before they are franchised. 

5) Agents submit, pitch, and negotiate work on their clients' behalf for commericals, voice over, television, film, internet, new media, and all kinds of other acting related work. Agents only get paid a percentage of your work in the area in which they represent you. So, if you are with an agent commercially, you only pay them a percentage for anything falling under that umbrella. You are essentially paying them for acting on your behalf in negotiating, reading, approving, and signing your contract. 


1) Are NOT licensed or regulated by the State. There is no state agency that oversees management companies, so it is your responsibility to do your due diligence and research the management company you are considering signing with because there is no state bureau guaranteeing your money. Anyone can open an LLC and call themselves a manager. So do your research!

2) Are Not franchised by SAG-AFTRA, but can be "affiliated" which essentially means that they are in good standing with SAG. 

3) CANNOT negotiate your deal or sign your contract for you. AT ALL. PERIOD. So once you get an audition, their work is done. If casting calls to book you, they MUST turn that booking over to your agent and if you don't have one, then you yourself must handle your own booking. A manager may not EVER negotiate your contract. For any reason. I cannot stress this enough. Managers who do this have been found by the courts to be acting "as agents" in violation of State law and forced to return their clients' money. 

4) Offer general career guidance, advice on headshots, reels, classes, workshops, all the day to day career advice that helps shape your next steps. They get a percentage of every single thing you book in all areas, and this is what they are getting paid for. The percentage varies from 10-20%. 


Obviously the main difference as stressed above is that managers offer career guidance and help you find an agent (and some do get you auditions) whereas agents do the actual contracts and negotiations on your behalf. Most agents do not go through all of your photos and your reel and discuss what classes to take. Some do, some don't. But these are things that most managers do handle. 

Do you need an agent? Are you booking work? Do you need someone to help you find work and negotiate your contract? Do you need someone to chase down your money and be sure you get paid?

Do you need a manager? Do you need help shaping your career? Do you need help finding an agent? Are you someone who likes a lot of advice and input? Do you need help choosing photos and clips for your reel?

Agents and managers can be invaluable. You just have to know which to go to about certain things. I am an agent who really likes to select my clients' photos because they are the most critical thing to getting the clients auditions. But I don't like to go through clips to put together a reel. I just don't have enough time to do that. That's something that a manager is good to help with. Each agent and manager has strengths and weaknesses so be sure to do your homework and find the right fit for what you need in your career.