How to Start a Casting Agency Business
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.
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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 10 steps:
- Plan your Casting Agency Business
- Form your Casting Agency Business into a Legal Entity
- Register your Casting Agency Business for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Casting Agency Business
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Casting Agency Business
- Get Casting Agency Business Insurance
- Define your Casting Agency Business Brand
- Create your Casting Agency Business Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
There is more to starting a business than just registering it with the state. We have put together this simple guide to starting your casting agency business. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
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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 much can you charge customers?
- 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 important and challenging. If you don’t already have a name in mind, visit our How to Name a Business guide or get help brainstorming a name with our Casting Agency Business Name Generator
If you operate a sole proprietorship, you might want to operate under a business name other than your own name. Visit our DBA guide to learn more.
When registering a business name, we recommend researching your business name by checking:
- Your state's business records
- Federal and state trademark records
- Social media platforms
- Web domain availability.
It's very important to secure your domain name before someone else does.
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
The most common business structure types are the sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability company (LLC), and corporation.
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your casting agency business is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
You can form an LLC yourself and pay only the minimal state LLC costs or hire one of the Best LLC Services for a small, additional fee.
Recommended: You will need to elect a registered agent for your LLC. LLC formation packages usually include a free year of registered agent services. You can choose to hire a registered agent or act as your own.
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!
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?.
Learn how to get an EIN in our What is an EIN guide or find your existing EIN using our EIN lookup guide.
Small Business Taxes
Depending on which business structure you choose, you might have different options for how your business will be taxed. For example, some LLCs could benefit from being taxed as an S corporation (S corp).
You can learn more about small business taxes in these guides:
- LLC Taxes
- Sole Proprietorship vs LLC
- LLC vs Corporation
- LLC vs S Corp
- How to Start an S Corp
- S Corp vs C Corp
There are specific state taxes that might apply to your business. Learn more about state sales tax and franchise taxes in our state sales tax guides.
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.
Additionally, learning how to build business credit can help you get credit cards and other financing in your business's name (instead of yours), better interest rates, higher lines of credit, and more.
Open a business bank account
Besides being a requirement when applying for business loans, opening a business bank account:
- Separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.
- Makes accounting and tax filing easier.
Recommended: Read our Best Banks for Small Business review to find the best national bank or credit union.
Open net 30 accounts
Net 30 accounts are used to establish and build business credit as well as increase business cash flow. With a net 30 account, businesses buy goods and repay the full balance within a 30-day term.
NetMany net 30 credit vendors report to the major business credit bureaus (Dun & Bradstreet, Experian Business, and Equifax Business Credit). This is how businesses build business credit so they can qualify for credit cards and other lines of credit.
Recommended: Read our best net 30 vendors, guide and start building business credit.
Get a business credit card
Getting a business credit card helps you:
- Separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
- Build your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money later on.
Recommended: Apply for an easy approval business credit card from Divvy and build your business credit quickly.
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.
Make LLC accounting easy with our LLC Expenses Cheat Sheet.
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:
- Check with your town, city or county clerk’s office
- Get assistance from one of the local associations listed in US Small Business Associations directory of local business resources.
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
Just as with licenses and permits, your business needs insurance in order to operate safely and lawfully. Business Insurance protects your company’s financial wellbeing in the event of a covered loss.
There are several types of insurance policies created for different types of businesses with different risks. If you’re unsure of the types of risks that your business may face, begin with General Liability Insurance. This is the most common coverage that small businesses need, so it’s a great place to start for your business.
Learn more about General Liability Insurance.
Another notable insurance policy that many businesses need is Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If your business will have employees, it’s a good chance that your state will require you to carry Workers' Compensation Coverage.
Recommended: Learn what business insurance for your Casting Agency Business will cost.
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.
If you aren't feeling confident about designing your small business logo, then check out our Design Guides for Beginners, we'll give you helpful tips and advice for creating the best unique logo for your business.
Recommended: Get a logo using Truic's free logo Generator no email or sign up required, or use a Premium Logo Maker.
If you already have a logo, you can also add it to a QR code with our Free QR Code Generator. Choose from 13 QR code types to create a code for your business cards and publications, or to help spread awareness for your new website.
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.
How to keep customers coming back
In order to attract production companies, casting agencies must have actors to represent. Agencies can find talent by:
- Attending shows and approaching performers
- Advertising online and in magazines
- Being listed in Spotlight’s Contacts and The Actors Handbook
Still unsure about what kind of business you want to start? Check out the latest Small Business Trends to help inspire you.
STEP 9: Create your business website
After defining your brand and creating your logo the next step is to create a website for your business.
While creating a website is an essential step, some may fear that it’s out of their reach because they don’t have any website-building experience. While this may have been a reasonable fear back in 2015, web technology has seen huge advancements in the past few years that makes the lives of small business owners much simpler.
Here are the main reasons why you shouldn’t delay building your website:
- All legitimate businesses have websites - full stop. The size or industry of your business does not matter when it comes to getting your business online.
- Social media accounts like Facebook pages or LinkedIn business profiles are not a replacement for a business website that you own.
- Website builder tools like the GoDaddy Website Builder have made creating a basic website extremely simple. You don’t need to hire a web developer or designer to create a website that you can be proud of.
Using our website building guides, the process will be simple and painless and shouldn’t take you any longer than 2-3 hours to complete.
Recommended: Get started today using our recommended website builder or check out our review of the Best Website Builders.
Other popular website builders are: WordPress, WIX, Weebly, Squarespace, and Shopify.
STEP 10: Set up your business phone system
Getting a phone set up for your business is one of the best ways to help keep your personal life and business life separate and private. That’s not the only benefit; it also helps you make your business more automated, gives your business legitimacy, and makes it easier for potential customers to find and contact you.
There are many services available to entrepreneurs who want to set up a business phone system. We’ve reviewed the top companies and rated them based on price, features, and ease of use. Check out our review of the Best Business Phone Systems 2023 to find the best phone service for your small business.
Recommended Business Phone Service: Phone.com
Phone.com is our top choice for small business phone numbers because of all the features it offers for small businesses and it's fair pricing.
Start a Casting Agency Business in your State
- District of Columbia
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
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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.
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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.
Learn from other business owners
Want to learn more about starting a business from entrepreneurs themselves? Visit Startup Savant’s startup founder series to gain entrepreneurial insights, lessons, and advice from founders themselves.
Resources to Help Women in Business
There are many resources out there specifically for women entrepreneurs. We’ve gathered necessary and useful information to help you succeed both professionally and personally:
If you’re a woman looking for some guidance in entrepreneurship, check out this great new series Women in Business created by the women of our partner Startup Savant.
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.
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