There is a running debate among actors about Agents, Managers, and Publicists, and whether you need them outside of the New York/LA areas. Those who have them feel strongly that professionals can help push you to the front of the competition. Outside of NY/LA the sense is that there are fewer casting directors and that they tend to know their local talent and decide whom they are going to bring in for auditions (as opposed to publishing breakdowns and expecting submissions).
Ideally, your relationship should work like this: The manager helps you set a vision for what kind of work you would like to do as an actor and helps you build a portfolio. They then provide guidance on appropriate training, photos, and reel. The manager works to sign you with agents, researching the agencies and setting up meetings.
Until you have an agent, or agents, managers can submit you for specific auditions and make "push calls" to talk you up to casting directors. That way you are still in front of casting directors and becoming known. It is also a selling point to potential agents that managers can speak about who knows your work and has called you in for auditions.
This should be very hands-on guidance with constant communication. Once you have agent representation, everyone should work together as a team on your behalf.
The manager and/or agent should always be submitting and pushing you out there. (Ask to see their submission report for you every month). They should only get paid when you book a job and get paid. For agents, don’t accept “exclusive” contracts. An agent should only get paid for work for which they submitted you.
Managers are not regulated and can charge anywhere from 10-25 percent, so that is something to consider if offered a working relationship with a manager. Signing any contract should be taken seriously, and having an attorney review the contract would be wise. As an actor, you are running a small business, and this is yet another cost.
Most actors below star level remain their own publicist. Professional publicists work on per project retainer or monthly budgets, depending on what arrangements you’ve made. Dallas Travers reportedly has a good program that helps actors do their own PR and other outside-the-box approaches to getting your name out there. I think there are also good points on publicity and relationship-building at HackHollywood.com; cheaper, but you will have to dig for them.
Deciding to hire professional representation is a personal decision, based on your needs as an actor. Just remember that as the CEO of a small business, the agent, manager, publicist, or whoever works for you and on your behalf. Conduct due diligence. Ask questions. Ask for references and to speak to other clients. Ask what jobs clients have booked. How large is the manager’s roster? How many managers are there in the agency? Check them out on IMDbpro.com and BBB.com. See if they have other similar talent in your age/gender/race/ethnicity bracket. Google the company name and reps name together with the word "scam", etc. Check them out through your union.
See if it makes sense for your career and then make a decision, understanding that you will still need to do 75-90 percent of the work if you get that much of the check. #KathrynBrowning