How to Start a Casting Agency Business

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Production companies regularly have specific talent needs for the productions they’re working on. Casting agencies help production companies find the talent they need. Most agencies specialize in a specific niche, such as theater performers, commercial actors, films and television show actors, or extras.

As video-based mediums continue to grow, there is a lot of opportunity for casting agencies. According to IBISWorld, agencies’ aggregate revenue in the United States is $875 million annually and growing at 4.3 percent.

Learn how to start your own Casting Agency Business and whether it is the right fit for you.

Start a casting agency business by following these 9 steps:

You have found the perfect business idea, and now you are ready to take the next step. There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple step guide to starting your casting agency business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. It will help you map out the specifics of your business and discover some unknowns. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the startup and ongoing costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.

What are the costs involved in opening a casting agency business?

The startup costs for a casting agency can run between $10,000 and $50,000, but it’s also possible to keep them lower. The initial expenses go toward:

  • Securing an office and audition space
  • Purchasing a phone and computer (along with internet access)
  • Attending events and going to meetings

Business owners who have limited capital can greatly reduce these expenses by using a home office or renting space at a shared coworking center. If renting space, business owners should make sure a private conference room is available for auditions.

Most business owners already have a phone and computer that they can use, further reducing the total startup cost of an agency.

What are the ongoing expenses for a casting agency business?

The ongoing expenses for a casting agency business are minimal. They include the cost of utilities, office and audition space, internet access, and travel to events. Businesses that have employees also have salaries to pay.

Who is the target market?

While casting agency businesses must advertise to actors in order to build their talent list, their target market is ultimately production companies. It’s companies that pay casting agencies.

How does a casting agency business make money?

Casting agency businesses earn commissions on the contracts that they secure for talent. This is usually expressed as a percentage of the contract, but sometimes an agency may assess a flat fee on top of a contract.

Kerry O’Donnell reports that some casting agencies also charge talent registration or “digital processing” fees.

How much can you charge customers?

Casting agencies typically earn 10 percent of the contracts they negotiate. In some states, their fees are capped at 10 percent.

Agencies that charge a registration fee might charge talent anywhere from $25 to $500 for signing up. Most successful agencies understand the reason for a nominal charge but won’t increase this fee into the hundreds of dollars. Those that do charge $500 are frequently not as highly regarded in the industry.

How much profit can a casting agency business make?

Even with just a 10 percent commission, casting agencies can earn a significant profit.

On the low end of the pay scale, extras often make $10 per hour. Supplying a production company with 300 extras (e.g. for a crowded city scene), however, would result in charges of $3,000 per hour. Over the course of a 10-hour shoot, an agency would earn a commission of $3,000.

On the high end, actors for feature films can earn tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. Payscale lists the median salary of actors at $49,825 per year. Based on this, each actor that an agency represents would net the agency an average of almost $5,000. With just 50 actors, an agency could bring in $250,000 annually.

How can you make your business more profitable?

Business owners of casting agencies can add a side source of revenue by offering auditioning classes to aspiring actors. Classes may be offered as a training package or through a separate company.

What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2: Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your casting agency business is sued. There are many business structures to choose from including: Corporations, LLC's, and DBA's.

You should also consider using a registered agent service to help protect your privacy and stay compliant.

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For most small businesses forming an LLC is a great option, but if you still want to weigh all your options check our our article, What Structure Should I Choose for My Business?

STEP 3: Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

In order to register for taxes you will need to apply for an EIN. It's really easy and free!

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You can acquire your EIN for free through the IRS website, via fax, or by mail. If you would like to learn more about EINs and how they can benefit your LLC, read our article, What is an EIN?.

STEP 4: Open a business bank account & credit card

Using dedicated business banking and credit accounts is essential for personal asset protection.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your business is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.

STEP 5: Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6: Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Certain state permits and licenses may be needed to operate a casting agency business. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

For information about local licenses and permits:

Certificate of Occupancy

A casting agency business is generally run out of an office. Businesses operating out of a physical location typically require a Certificate of Occupancy (CO).  A CO confirms that all building codes, zoning laws and government regulations have been met.

  • If you plan to lease a location:
    • It is generally the landlord’s responsibility to obtain a CO.
    • Before leasing, confirm that your landlord has or can obtain a valid CO that is applicable to a casting agency business.
    • After a major renovation, a new CO often needs to be issued. If your place of business will be renovated before opening, it is recommended to include language in your lease agreement stating that lease payments will not commence until a valid CO is issued.
  • If you plan to purchase or build a location:
    • You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
    • Review all building codes and zoning requirements for your business’ location to ensure your casting agency business will be in compliance and able to obtain a CO.

STEP 7: Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8: Define your brand

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

How to promote & market a casting agency business

The importance of networking can’t be overstated. Casting agencies learn of talent needs through their connections, which is why business owners must constantly be building new relationships and maintaining old ones.

Moreover, business owners must be careful not to burn any bridges -- even when an agreement goes awry. The entertainment industry is small and people talk, so finding ways to amicably end contracts is always preferable to completely severing relationships.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

In order to attract production companies, casting agencies must have actors to represent. Agencies can find talent by:

STEP 9: Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

Start A Casting Agency Business In Your State

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Is this Business Right For You?

Casting agencies are good businesses for people who have a passion for entertainment and previous experience in the industry. A love for the work will help business owners stay motivated when working long hours, and previous industry experience helps business owners network (see below).

Business owners should be prepared to work nights and weekends, as production companies rarely operate on a standard 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. schedule. Most people who have experience in video or theater are already familiar with the hours that the industry requires.

What happens during a typical day at a casting agency business?

A typical day at a casting agency business involves a lot of emails, messages, phone calls and in-person meetings. Business owners are in near-constant communication:

  • Finding and auditioning prospective actors who want to join the agency’s list of talent
  • Checking what production companies’ current talent needs are
  • Recommending talent for production companies
  • Arranging auditions between production companies and talent
  • Negotiating contracts with production companies

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful casting agency business?

Business owners must be well-connected within the entertainment industry to start a successful casting agency. They need to know producers and casting directors so that they can learn about different production companies’ casting needs early on and recommend talent.

The best way to build these necessary connections is by working in the industry before launching a casting agency. Owners can continue to build their network by attending events, such as shows, parties, festivals, and fundraisers. Getting plugged into the most exclusive events requires a previously established connection, though.

Because networking is so important, business owners may want to work for a casting agency before launching their own agency. Working as a casting associate or casting assistant won’t pay a lot, but the relationships forged while in such a position can prove invaluable.

What is the growth potential for a casting agency business?

Generally speaking, casting agencies may be “boutique” operations that carry a select list of talent or large corporations that represent lots of actors. Agencies that specialize in extras tend to be larger, because extras’ contracts pay less than those of other actors.

One successful boutique agency is Actors Casting Agency, which represents 92 men and women. Central Casting (which focuses on extras) is a larger agency with offices in four cities.

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Take the Next Step

Find a business mentor

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting a casting agency business?

Business owners who have limited connections to producers and casting directors must make the most of the connections they do have. Business owners who can convince a close connection to give their new agency a chance can leverage the opportunity into more in the future. Providing a producer or director with outstanding service will eventually lead to recommendations and referrals, which will ultimately produce new clients.

How and when to build a team

Business owners can hire employees as their agency grows and has revenue needed to pay staff members. Successful agencies usually hire receptionists, casting assistants, casting associates, and casting directors.

Next Steps

Get more ideas with our Business Ideas Tool.

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