Agents vs. Managers: What's The Difference?

Although talent agents and managers may fulfill some similar functions, there are distinct differences between them. When looking for representation as an actor, it’s important to know the defining factors of each.

Agents Managers

What does a talent agent do?

A talent agent acts as an actor’s representative that is authorized to solicit and negotiate employment. Agents spend their time sifting through the breakdowns and submitting their clients’ headshots to casting directors. An agent’s goal is to get their clients an audition and negotiate contracts if and when a client books work.

What does a talent manager do?

Talent managers can arrange introductions to agents and prepare clients for meetings with potential talent agencies. They can advise clients on acting classes and coaching, help choose a good photographer and pick out headshots for the client. They can promote their client to industry professionals, prepare their client’s resume, and answer any questions related to a career in show business.

Who has a license?

Agents are licensed by the state. Although only California, Florida, and New Jersey currently require talent agency licenses, agencies doing business in other states may be required to hold a general employment agency license instead.

Managers are not licensed in any way by any state. Technically, anyone can offer services as a personal manager.

Who can negotiate?

Legally, agents are the only people who can solicit employment for clients. They can negotiate or sign a contract for a client to work on a production.

It is against the law for a manager to negotiate or sign a contact on behalf of a client.

Who can offer career guidance?

Managers offer career guidance, advice on headshots, reels, classes, workshops, all the day-to-day career advice that helps shape your next steps as an actor.

How do they get paid?

Agents only get paid a percentage of work in the area in which they represent their client. If a client signs with a Commercial Agent, they must pay the agent a percentage for anything falling under that umbrella. You are paying them for acting on your behalf in negotiating, reading, approving, and signing your contract. Agents are not allowed to take any more than 10% of their client’s earnings. According to SAG-AFTRA, agents must not charge up-front fees of any kind.

Managers can get a percentage of every single thing you book in all areas. The percentage varies from 10-20%. 

Who can be franchised by the union?

In some cases, agencies are franchised by the union. The term "franchised agent" means that the agent is registered with one or more of the major unions.

Union actors (including members of AEA and SAG-AFTRA), may only work with union-franchised agents. If you are not a union member, franchised agents can still represent you for non-union work, or for work that leads to union membership.

Where do they work?

By law, an agency must work out of an office.

A manager can work anywhere.

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