I have been a sound designer for almost 20 years and just gained representation earlier this year. A fellow sound designer friend of mine basically just told me that I need to get an agent now that I’m 100% freelance. I must admit that I was a little skeptical at first. I’ve made it this long without an agent, why do I need one now? Skip to almost a year later, and I’m here to say, it’s one of the best career moves I’ve made. Here are some of the questions (and recently found answers) I encountered along the way.
What exactly does an agent do?
Your agent is the person who interfaces between you and someone who is interested in hiring you (producers, artistic directors, etc.). They will handle things like contract negotiation, travel preferences, and even gently declining an offer you are unavailable for. It’s not necessarily your agent’s job to find work for you, but sometimes that is an added perk. My agent, for example, has long-standing relationships with many producers and directors, and sometimes they will come to her if they are looking for a specific kind of designer or artist. If the gig seems like it would be a good fit for me, she will connect us. In the short time that I have been with this agency, I have already gotten a few gigs that way.
How much does an agent charge?
Generally 10%. My agent doesn’t make me send all of my jobs through her either. If I’m taking a lower-paying gig, and I know there’s really nothing tricky with the contract, I can just let her know that I’m taking this gig and that I’ll be handling the contract myself. She’s totally cool with that. I just don’t make a habit of it, because I know that she gets paid when I get paid. I always make a point to discuss these instances with her before diving in to make sure that everyone is comfortable with proceeding.
How do you find the right agent?
Talk to other people with agents in your field. Mine came recommended by a friend, so we now both belong to the same agency. It’s also important to note here that just because you choose an agent doesn’t mean they choose you. Before I was officially in, I had a 3-hour long phone call with my agent. We were just learning about each other and how we would vibe. This is the person that will make decisions on your behalf, so they want to be aligned with you, your thoughts, your wants, and your process. In turn, it is very important that you trust your agent to speak on your behalf. It’s also ok to decide that you should keep looking if you feel it is not the right fit.
All in all, I have been truly grateful for my agent. Negotiating contracts, contract language, knowing your worth, and speaking up for what you deserve are all really overwhelming things to take on alone. Having someone to take on those challenges beside you is a great feeling, and knowing that you always have someone there with your best interest in mind is absolutely incredible. When you are a freelance designer, you are a business. You want your business to thrive, and to do that, you need to build a great team for your business. Start with an agent, and watch your business grow.