10 Tips To Help You Get Your Child Paid Acting & Modeling Jobs
So I’ve mentioned in previous posts that I’m also an actor who’s had the absolute pleasure of booking amazing jobs with my kids and husband. Some of our previous jobs included Pampers, Babies R Us, Happy Family Organics, and others.
I have had a lot of people reach out to me telling me how much they want their child to book for major brands as well. They have heard so many times how cute their baby is and can really see them booking as well.
There is so much that goes into booking your child acting or modeling jobs, that people without the experience don’t see. They assume it was easy for that parent. It wasn’t. It took a lot of hard work.
However, if you’re willing to make the necessary sacrifices, it is an exciting journey!
If you’re wondering how you can book your child or family acting jobs, I have 10 tips that will make navigating this new venture a little bit easier, and save you from spending unnecessary money.
You know the money your local scam agency, I mean “talent agency” (insert smile) asked you to spend on their classes and headshots.
Even worse, the money you were asked to spend at that hotel model search you heard on the radio. The one where they promised you a Disney job. Don’t get me started on the “talent scouts” that find your child in the supermarket.
I hope that you never have to experience this! But if you happen to be reading my post at one of these places, Run mama! Run!
These types of scams do still exist, and they have gotten a lot smarter with how they word things. So be careful. I hate to see people prey on parents who just want to allow their kids to live out their dreams. It’s very unfortunate.
There are some states where charging an application fee or even a listing fee, is legal. This is something you will most likely come across or hear about in smaller markets that do not include New York, LA or Atlanta. However if you do live in a smaller market and they are charging you more than $150, my advice is to research your tail off before you pay a penny.
The truth is times have really changed and paying to play has truly become the norm. I don’t like it, but I can help you navigate what to spend your money on.
Now, let’s get into these tips that are going to make finding auditions for your child a whole lot easier!
- Set A Clear Road Map
This is crucial when starting out. The creative world is so vast. You can really get lost and make unnecessary mistakes starting out if you don’t have a clear plan.
It’s important to know what types of jobs you want your child to book. There is Commercial, Commercial Print, Voice Over, Film and TV.
Some people would disagree with me, but I highly suggest focusing your efforts on one. Either commercial and print or film & tv starting out with your little actor.
Why do I suggest this? Well… when you are submitting your child for acting work certain prerequisites are necessary to have before just throwing them out to the wolves (I don’t want to scare you, but the industry is a whole other animal!). If your child is a beginner I don’t suggest going for both right away unless you have tested out their audition technique at home or had them in a class.
Now, this definitely depends on your child’s age and experience. However, my recommendation is that if you are wanting to book jobs for your baby or toddler, commercials and print is the best way to start. Because there are so many jobs for them to audition for.
In my experience, there are not as many Film and TV auditions for babies if you are just starting out, and nobody knows your baby yet.
If you have an older child and they have no acting experience, your potential agent will probably suggest starting them out in commercials as well. If they have a great look and can take a commercial copy and bring it to life, this gives them room to practice being in front of the camera and not have to remember too many lines starting out.
Granted some children get tons of co-star auditions at first, which don’t require knowing as many lines as a guest star or series regular, but I would not bank on that.
My daughter had a series regular audition in her first couple of months with her agent. You never know what casting wants, so if you don’t know whether or not your child can handle this type of opportunity, don’t throw them out there yet. Let them get practice first. Which brings me to my next tip
- Start Practicing with Your Child Early
Whether you will be submitting your baby or older child, getting them on camera early helps so much!
Before my newborn son and I booked Pampers, I would talk to him on camera all the time at home. Just by using my iPhone. I would take loads of pictures of him and at about 3 months it would seem like he was having little baby conversations with me. I would record them when they happened.
What this did was allow him to get used to being on camera. When he would get on set he would never cry. He just had so much fun doing what he was already practicing at home.
I highly suggest doing this, because… the harsh truth is that time is money in the entertainment business. Everything costs quite a bit to pull off. Casting will not typically wait very long at all for your baby to stop crying. Some casting directors will still bring your baby back in if they loved their look. However, they will not wait during that audition, since they have so many more kids to get to.
The same thing goes for your older child. Start them early with getting comfortable on camera. There is nothing worse than feeling ready and then you get in the audition room and you’re too nervous to be yourself.
Now although most kids do way better than adults with this, it will not hurt to begin the process.
My oldest daughter has a natural funny ability and is very witty but she can also be very shy. So I practice at home with her too. Getting her familiar with what self- taping and being on camera in the audition room is like has been key. If you want tips on what camera equipment you can use for your child, I give a long list of suggestions in my post about self-taping.
It also helps to start an older child with acting classes as soon as you decide that this is what they want to pursue. Allowing them to do improv classes will bring them out of their shell, and help them to think on their toes in the audition room.
Allowing them to practice in an on-camera class will teach them the basics so that when they get to the audition room or book their first job on set, they will not be overwhelmed by inexperience and nerves.
Some kids have a natural ability to shine and are just not shy in the least bit. However learning basic skills like how to slate in an audion room, or learning how to stay connected to the character with the camera there, will only set them up to succeed, and… prepare them to book legit jobs (TV and Film).
Once you have a clear road map set for your family, you can begin looking for representation.
- Research Before Submitting To Agents
If you have a baby and you want your child to start booking commercial and commercial print jobs (and I do highly suggest this as a starting point), I would suggest doing extensive research on talent agents for children in your area.
Go to their social media accounts, and then see what type of jobs the kids on their roster have been booking. This way you have a clear understanding of which agents your child would do well with.
Take a look at their website. If you’re able to see the talent they represent, you can get a better idea of what they need more of. You can also see what they require for talent submissions.
I suggest you do the same thing for your child if you want to book TV or Film Jobs.
- Keep It Simple With Their Pictures
If you will be submitting your baby or toddler to an agent, there is no need to get professional pictures done. Your baby or toddler is constantly growing. For this reason, it’s better to take a picture of your baby in simple clothing. No graphics or distracting costumes. Just a picture that shows their little personality on a plain background.
I literally put a plain onesie on my son and took a picture of him on the changing table. Haha! Very simple! By the way, I never left his side if there any mom shamers reading this. I kid, I kid.
For your older kids, they will need a headshot, but again keep it simple. My first headshot had a picture of me in a cowboy hat. We took them at Glamour Shots in the mall.
My sweet mother had the very best intentions, and she was so proud of that picture! I was seventeen, and I definitely had to get new ones. So if you were considering going to the mall to take them, I urge you not to. I am here to save your child the future embarrassment. Sorry, mom! It wasn’t your fault.
Get your child’s headshots professionally done. However, they are also growing, so I don’t suggest spending crazy money on them. I recommend staying under $350 because you will need to take more as they grow.
Most importantly, no cowboy hats! If you’re wanting commercial and legit headshots, make sure they have a couple of great wardrobe options, simple colors, and no graphics. No hair bows, bowties or fancy tutus. The casting director wants to see your child. This other stuff can distract the focus from where it needs to be. On your child, not their cute headpiece.
Your headshot photographer should also have tips on his or her website. Just remember, that more than clothes, it’s more important to get to know your child through these photos, and the characters they will play.
- Do Try Pay To Play Websites
So you may or may not have heard of websites like Casting Networks or Actor’s Access, but if you haven’t you’ll want to start looking into what pay to play websites are most used in your market. If you are in the NYC or LA market, Casting Networks and Actor’s Access are often used. There are other websites though, and I would ask around as you start to get around more actors or once you connect with an agent. The agent will definitely share their preferences with you.
These websites do require a monthly payment for your profile to be listed. Your agent should give you a code to have a free profile. This will eliminate your registration fee. However, you will want to upgrade this profile to at least have unlimited photos.
If you are new to the business, you may not have a reel for your child yet, but when you do have a reel put together, you will want to pay to have that listed as well. Neither of these options is expensive.
The Premium plan is what I have and I do not regret spending a dime. You should make that money back if you are submitting regularly and strategically. I suggest making sure you check your email regularly to see what castings are coming in, because you won’t want to miss them.
Actor’s Access charges a yearly fee for unlimited submissions, or they have the option to pay per submission. You will also be able to set up a free profile through an agent or manager.
Casting Networks has a ton of commercial job options. So if you’re wanting to try one out as a beginner and your focus is commercials, I would definitely suggest starting there and getting to know casting directors as you start to get called in.
When you begin to familiarize yourself with casting directors that call you in or ones you’ve booked with, you can begin to find them on social media. They will post some of their castings on their social media pages as well.
If you are really wanting more legit jobs than commercial jobs for your child, I really suggest having both. Your agent may ask you to have both once you sign on anyway.
- Decide What Your Audition Plan Will Be
Once you have all the previous tips put in place, you will start getting called in. You will want to have open availability for your auditions as they roll in. There are times when you will be called in for more than one audition a day, and most times you will not get very much notice before the day of the audition, so it’s important to have it planned out.
Who will watch your other children if you have them? If you take your other children with you, what will you bring to occupy them? You can be waiting in the audition room for hours sometimes, and there’s no way to really know how long it will take beforehand. If you are really wanting to make it a family business, why not have them all audition if they can and show interest. It doesn’t hurt to try. It was very beneficial for me at least.
If you work, who can take your child to their audition? What will you do with your child’s hair? Sounds simple but it can be complicated. They are expecting your child to look like their headshots. If you have natural hair like my daughter and I, then you know it will be a struggle if you don’t plan ahead.
I find that doing my daughter’s braids for her braid out, 2 days before is perfect. It gives her hair enough time to dry and the curls are usually perfection by the second day.
If you don’t have natural hair, you will still want to know at least the night before what you are going to do. Knowing what looks work best for your child way before your first audition will save you so much stress in the future!
Knowing what outfits your child has in their closet helps as well. We discussed earlier that the frilly stuff is not necessary. But you do want your child to look nice. So having a great idea of what colors and styles best suit them, will make it so much easier on you when you have an audition come in the day before or even the very same day.
If your baby will be auditioning, get that diaper bag ready too! Have extra cute clothes for all the spit up and poop accidents that may arise while you’re waiting in that waiting room. Remember that keeping them smiling once they get in front of casting is key. So be sure to pack whatever you can think will help keep them occupied and happy.
- Try Not To Turn Down Too Many Auditions
When you start to get auditions rolling in for your child, you’ll want to show up to as many as you can. Although there is some leniency with kids in the business, not showing up often gives casting the idea that you really aren’t committed.
The statistics in how many pictures casting gets for one casting call is insane! Out of all those kids, they chose your child to come in to meet them, and that really is a big accomplishment. So pat yourself on the back, and try not to take it for granted.
- Build Relationships With Casting Directors
Everyone has their own way of doing this. I’m not telling you to expect to go out to coffee with casting. However, you do want to become a favorite.
Before my son and I booked for Babies R. Us, we had come in to see casting at least ten times before. Sometimes they just wanted to see him, other times they wanted to see both of us. But every time we went in I made sure to be a friendly face and stayed prepared for anything. I have to say that this really helped us.
Sometimes after booking a job, I would send a postcard through touchnote.com or americangreetings.com. I would put our picture on the postcard and express our appreciation with an update if I had one. You can also send a postcard if you know the casting director’s birthday or just to send an update.
Some casting directors don’t like postcards with updates. Some prefer you keep them updated on what you’re doing in other ways.
I heard one casting director say in an interview, that she preferred actors to tag her on Instagram with an update to get her attention. I thought this was really cool, and very kind of her.
But that definitely won’t work for every casting director. So do your own research, ask other momagers who have been in their office, or take the risk and see how they respond. If you’re not getting the response you want, take a pause and then try another method.
- Realize That You Have To Invest
I know I mentioned earlier that I would save you unnecessary expenses. And the thing is, you don’t need to spend money with an agent to begin booking jobs. You also don’t have to spend thousands of dollars on headshots starting out. Scammers will ask you for over accessive amounts of money.
The other truth to booking your child acting and modeling jobs, is that you can’t cringe at the thought of spending money for it. Please know that acting is a business, and just like any other business, it takes the investment of your time and money. But I can promise you that if you give it 100% you will love the experiences that you and your child gain from all the sacrifices you both made. AND… when you receive paychecks for thousands of dollars from working a job that was fun and may not have even required a full day of work, you will be so glad that you made the investment. The experiences are truly life-changing.
By the way, you will want to start looking into getting your child their worker’s permit for the state you live in and a Trust Account. This is very important and will be required of you before your child works.
- Get Connected
Whether your child is older or they are starting off as a baby, you will benefit from making friends in the business. Talk to other moms while you’re waiting.
If you were auditioning I wouldn’t recommend this as much, because you need your mind clear so that you will be present in the room. However, if you are not, you can make some great mom friends while you’re waiting that may have a child that books a lot, and they may be willing to share details on their experiences with their agent, management or casting directors you may be auditioning for.
They can send auditions your way that you may have missed. It’s also common that the friends you will make will send you auditions that aren’t a good fit for them, and are a better fit for you.
If you become close enough you’ll have your own little mom tribe. It helps to have someone that understands your momager hustle or just motherhood period! The two of you may become so close that you agree to babysit for each other. There are so many benefits! This has helped me on my journey.
My bonus tip on this topic is to look up actor hangout spots near you. All major markets have them. In NYC you have One on One, Actor’s Connection, and there are others. In Atlanta where I am there are places like Nova House, Drama Inc. and there are others.
These places offer workshops and classes to fine-tune your child’s skills, as well as meetups with casting directors and other industry professionals. This can also be a great way to meet other parents who have kids that work in the business.
So that’s it guys! I will definitely share more on this topic if you all want. Just leave me a comment with any questions you may have.