As the owner of a talent agency, also known as a talent management firm, you’ll be responsible for helping to grow the careers of actors, musicians, athletes, artists, performers and entertainers of all sorts. You’ll book paying engagements and help them find training, attend auditions, create resumes and glossies, and otherwise gain recognition and success.
Learn how to start your own Talent Agency and whether it is the right fit for you.
Ready to form your LLC? Check out the Top LLC Formation Services.
Start a talent agency by following these 10 steps:
- Plan your Talent Agency
- Form your Talent Agency into a Legal Entity
- Register your Talent Agency for Taxes
- Open a Business Bank Account & Credit Card
- Set up Accounting for your Talent Agency
- Get the Necessary Permits & Licenses for your Talent Agency
- Get Talent Agency Insurance
- Define your Talent Agency Brand
- Create your Talent Agency Website
- Set up your Business Phone System
We have put together this simple guide to starting your talent agency. These steps will ensure that your new business is well planned out, registered properly and legally compliant.
Exploring your options? Check out other small business ideas.
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 will you name your business?
- What are the startup and ongoing costs?
- Who is your target market?
- How much can you charge customers?
Luckily we have done a lot of this research for you.
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 Talent Agency Name Generator
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.
What are the costs involved in opening a talent agency?
Here’s how your annual start-up costs might break down:
Workspace -- $6,000 - $20,000 per year, or more. You need an office big enough to host your clients and exude success. This isn’t the sort of business that should be run out of your spare bedroom. Also, many agents gravitate to cities where rents trend high, such as New York, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. Here’s an excellent article on typical office rents nationally.
Promotional material -- $3,000 or more. You must present yourself in a professional way, which means you need professionally produced logo and graphic design, business cards and website, as well as professionally shot self photos.
Publicity -- Zero to several thousand dollars a year. You might team up with a publicist to reduce your expenses or do your own publicity. This falls into two areas: publicity for your roster talent and self-promotion of your accomplishments and successes.
Licensing and professional services -- $1,000 or more. Meet with a lawyer and accountant to form your business and write contracts and agreements for talent and performances.
What are the ongoing expenses for a talent agency?
Your largest ongoing costs will be for your office space. You might also spend relatively significantly on event attendance and wining and dining of clients and hirers.
Who is the target market?
Your clientele should be talented enough to be booked at a high enough rate to make them worth your time. Some talent agencies specialize in a certain area of performance, such as folk and country singers, DJs, magicians, comedians, authors, or athletes. Others think in terms of venue, such as by specializing in booking talent for cruise ships or private parties. Others might concentrate on specific demographics, such as child actors or singers.
Your other client type is at the other end of the transaction: booking agents, casting directors or other decision makers in the nightclubs, cruise ships, music halls, comedy clubs, film production houses or wherever else you’re placing your talent. For this segment of your market, credibility is key. You want the hirers to buy into your enthusiasm for new talent and at least give them a try.
How does a talent agency make money?
Virtually your sole source of revenue will be the commissions you charge to the talent on your roster. This typically runs from ten percent to twenty percent of their contracted wage or paid booking fees.
How much can you charge customers?
There’s no set amount except “as much as you can get.” The fees you earn will be dependent on the natural talent on your roster and your location. You can assume that you won’t earn your club performers as much in Peoria, Illinois as they’ll make in Las Vegas. Similarly, representing an NBA superstar in national television spots will command a higher fee than booking a bench player in a local car dealership radio commercial. That said, an agency typically charges 10 to 20 percent of their client’s compensation, so the more your client makes, the more you make.
How much profit can a talent agency make?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, agents, and business managers for artists, performers and athletes made a mean salary of almost $42 an hour, or $87,000 annually. But the top ten percent took home close to $200,000 a year.
How can you make your business more profitable?
Consider your location. You might start your career in a smaller city, with less upscale talent and venues, but less competition and lower office costs and expenses. As you establish a reputation and figure out how to conduct business in the most productive and profitable manner, you can concentrate your efforts on locations where the competitive pressure is more intense but the talent level is higher and the bookings more generous.
Want a more guided approach? Access TRUiC's free Small Business Startup Guide - a step-by-step course for turning your business idea into reality. Get started today!
STEP 2: Form a legal entity
Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC or corporation protects you from being held personally liable if your talent agency is sued.
Form Your LLC
Read our Guide to Form Your Own LLC
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!
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.
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.
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 BILL 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 talent agency. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.
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.
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.
Talent agencies should require clients to sign a services agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership.
Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your talent agency when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice.
Certificate of Occupancy
A talent agency is usually 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 office space:
- 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 talent agency.
- 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 office space:
- You will be responsible for obtaining a valid CO from a local government authority.
- Review all building codes and zoning requirements for you business’ location to ensure your talent agency 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.
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.
FInd out what types of insurance your Talent Agency needs and how much it will cost you by reading our guide Business Insurance for Talent Agency.
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.
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 talent agency
Press the flesh. Regularly attend the sort of shows in which you’d expect to find raw talent and meet the hiring decision makers. As your roster grows, display their abilities (and your ability to recognize good talent) with video and audio clips posted to YouTube, your website, social media and other relevant sites.
How to keep customers coming back
A good agency’s professional skill set includes integrity, relevance, enthusiasm, and the ability to network effectively, seek out strong talent and know how to market it. As your reputation grows for being able to satisfy the needs of your clients at both ends of your relationship, talent will seek you out and hirers will always welcome your contact.
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.
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.
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Is this Business Right For You?
You must have a sense of loyalty, integrity and passion for the careers of your clients. You’ll use your sales skills to attract talent and to convince booking agents, directors, producers, club owners, casting directors or other hirers to schedule their appearances or give them roles.
Want to know if you are cut out to be an entrepreneur?
Take our Entrepreneurship Quiz to find out!
What happens during a typical day at a talent agency?
Your typical day might include many of the following responsibilities:
- Interviewing prospective new clients and listening to or watching their acts and reviewing their potential
- Making phone calls to convince hirers of the talent on your roster
- Attending shows or acts in support of your talent
- Networking with decision makers at parties and events and marketing your services
- Stroking the egos or offering support and career guidance to your roster, as needed
What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful talent agency?
You must have an eye (or an ear) for talent, and the sales ability to get your clients work at the highest wage or performance fees possible. You must also have the ability to groom the talent and help them present themselves in the best possible light and perhaps expand their repertoire.
What is the growth potential for a talent agency?
Since the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2016 predicted a “faster than average” growth rate of 10 percent for actors between the years 2014-2024, this is good news for their agents. However, the figure for musicians is a projected “below average” growth rate over this same period, so signals are mixed. Also consider the state of your local economy, because this will help determine how often people go to see concerts, comedy shows, etc.
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 talent agency?
Gain career traction by focusing on an area of expertise. For instance, if you have work experience as a sound engineer or producer at a recording studio, you might use it to launch a career as an agent for musicians or singers. Or start as a booking agent at a comedy club to become an agent specializing in stand up comedians. In other words, use the credibility and the talent discernment that you’ve already gained through work experience to take the next step into agenting.
How and when to build a team
As your business grows, so will your need for employees, alliances, or partnership arrangement with professionals offering complementary services. This could range from chaperones to accompany child performers to salespeople to add to your roster and office workers to answer phones and keep the business running smoothly.