Film & TV

Manager Versus Agent: What Is the Difference Between an Agent and a Manager?

Written by MasterClass

May 15, 2019 • 3 min read

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Samuel L. Jackson Teaches Acting

If you're trying to build a career in the entertainment industry, it's nearly impossible without either an agent, manager, or both. But what's the difference? Do you need them? And how do you get one?

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What Is a Talent Agent?

Talent agents are a regulated portion of the entertainment industry and have the very specific job of finding and securing work for actors, directors, writers, and musicians. Agents work with studios and casting directors to place clients on film productions.

  • Agents are licensed and work for a talent agency “or corporation who engages in the occupation of procuring, offering, promising, or attempting to procure employment for an artist or artists,” according to California state law. Other states have different requirements
  • A talent agent works on commission, typically no more than 10 percent of any earnings you make as a result of the agent’s work. In California, a talent agency must register its fees with the state and post their fee schedules in their office.
  • An agent is legally permitted to negotiate contracts for work.
  • An agent specializes in entertainment niches, like actors, writers, directors, or musicians
  • An agent works with and is subject to the regulations labor unions for a particular profession, such as SAG-AFTRA, the Writers Guild of America or the Directors Guild of America.
  • Talent agents have a roster of clients and you are not their sole focus.

Learn more about talent agents in our complete guide here.

What Is a Talent Manager?

While agents book you for work, a manager’s job is to provide career guidance and business management.

  • Talent managers can be anyone a client trusts to manage their business. In many cases, talent managers are family members or friends.
  • Talent managers work with clients to managing the day-to-day aspects of their career, including scheduling, fielding calls, making sure you meet deadlines, and fulfilling promised deliverables.
  • Talent managers help hire and manage any staff for a client.
  • Talent managers handle public relations and media exposure, such as appearances on TV shows, interviews with journalists, and social media presence.
  • A talent manager can advise career and contracts but cannot negotiate job contracts on your behalf.
  • Talent managers can advise on income, investments, and manage the monetary flow of a client’s business.
  • Talent managers usually have only one client and payment is either via salary or commission.

Samuel L. Jackson describes the role of a manager as the following:

“Managers have relationships that agents don't have—relationships that allow you to meet writers, producers, and other people that aren't just based in a specific project. These are people who are planning to do things, who could put you in their plans. They can connect you with writers who can write specifically for you. And they do put pressure on agents to produce and bring you more work. Or they'll help you find an agent who can do that.”

Learn more about building a career in Hollywood with good representation from Samuel L. Jackson in his MasterClass.

What’s the Difference Between a Talent Agent and a Manager?

Both agents and managers are strategic partners in your career and will work on commission. But there are some key differences between the two roles:

  • Managers cannot arrange for casting calls, get you work, or negotiate contracts or deals. Agents can.
  • Managers are not regulated and do not require special licensing or certification, unlike talent agents, nor does he or she need to work for a management company, though some do. A talent or business manager can really be anyone, which is why relatives of talent sometimes assume the role.
  • Unlike agents, managers may have you as their only client, which guarantees a high level of personal attention. They may also stick with you throughout your career, unlike many agents who come and go
  • Typical manager fees may exceed those of an agent; they may run as high as 15 or 20 percent.