Does Your Agent Underrepresent You

It is not unusual for people reaching out for advice to tell me they haven’t talked to their agent in months or are in the dark about what work is done on their behalf or who is doing it. “Is that normal?” they ask. “Sadly, yes, it is,” I say, and then I share a story from my career to help them understand why they are likely at least partly to blame for being underrepresented by an agent.

At the height of my sports broadcasting career, I hired one of the big-time agencies. Unfortunately, before signing my rep agreement, I missed a critical opportunity to vet whether or not my soon-to-be spokesperson was a good fit for me. I didn’t ask many important questions, like how the agency would work for me. How was the agent I signed with qualified to represent me? Would he be the actual person representing me, or would I be handed off to junior agents or assistants? How often would he communicate with me? What kind of communication would we have? What did he know about the sports broadcasting industry and the direction it was headed?!

In hindsight, I think I felt flattered an agent at an important agency wanted me, and I felt intimidated to ask some pretty basic questions. I never considered if he would be a true representative and advocate of me, my character, and the career I had worked so hard to build. He wasn’t. Instead, when I handed my car keys to the valet and walked through the doors into the gleaming glass offices for my initial meeting, I thought, wow, I’m so lucky to be here when it should have been the other way around.  

I was 20 years into my broadcasting career and an established name at the network level. Yet, I naively believed an agent who had never worked as a sports broadcaster automatically knew more than me about my job and had better relationships with my bosses than I did, so I handed it all over to him. When I wanted an update on his conversations with my employers about me, I followed his protocol and arranged it through his assistant. When he connected with me, often agitated, rushed, or acting like he had better things he could be doing, I didn’t demand more. I put up with it when he replied  to my emails asking about the meetings and conversations taking place on my behalf  with one or two shorthanded sentences. “on retreat thru wkend.” “sec network unfortunately passed.” The day I found out another person got the job that I had explicitly hired him to help me negotiate, and then learned he represented that person too, I joked about it instead of telling him how deceived I felt. 

There are a lot of different types of agencies and agents. Deciding what best suits you varies per individual and is a personal decision that depends on several different factors. What universally applies to everyone is that when hiring an agent, you are effectively choosing a business partner. So my best advice to people is to act like it. That starts with research, reference checking, and assessing whether or not you align with and will work well together. An agent is not doing you a favor by working with you. You are paying them to partner with you on your career, to invest in you, to take an interest in your job, give you honest feedback, find out information as an intermediary, using their network and expertise to help guide you and serve as an advocate and spokesperson for your brand. Don’t just assume, like I once did, that you will automatically receive those things because the agency represents other successful people. 


What is your background and experience?

What is your approach to negotiations?

How many clients do you represent?

What type of people do you like to represent?

Who do you represent that is similar to me?

Who will edit my reel?

How do you like to communicate?

How often do you communicate with clients? Once a week, once a month?

When I call you or need you, how long will it be before you get back to me?

Do I have to go through an assistant to speak with you?

How do you advocate for clients?

What kind of Industry relationships do you have?

What do you expect of your clients?

What happens if I am unhappy?