How to Handle Client and Talent Poaching

By Silly Heather Your Paint Pal

Untitled design-3

I have never been a fan of booking myself. Because I run a full time business I try to avoid booking myself, the paper work, dealing with clients, and contracts. I’d rather let an agent book me and take  commission than spend my time booking events. There are ups and downs to working with agents and I encourage you to watch one of the best classes on FABAtv called Working with Agents to see if the agent route is a good format for you.

Screen Shot 2015-10-18 at 11.41.55 PM

I studied Business psychology and psychology of buying behaviors in college, and regardless of economic situation, buyers are always looking for the best deal. So, the biggest challenge I tend to run into when working through agents is client and talent poaching by the clients and agents. It can be a sticky situation and the difference between ruining an agent relationship and keeping a good name.

This past weekend I was hired for a Bar Mitzvah. I was contracted by an agent through another agent. So in other words, my booking agency doesn’t know the client. When I arrived at the event the other agent came to speak to me about setting up. Once I was all set up, he asked me if I owned my equipment. I explained that I do, and I knew where the conversation was going. He then asked me if I am always hired through (my agency) … This is where you need to use the most courtesy, common sense, and professionalism possible.

photo courtesy of
photo courtesy of

Here are a few ways to handle situations like this:

  1. ALWAYS respect the agency that hired you. After all you would not be there without them. Chances are they worked hard to deal with client, booking details, and logisticsDon't throw away a good thing
  2. Consider how much work you would be losing if you screw over your agency.  I remember when a DJ I used to do a lot of events with went rogue and went on FaceBook to bash the agency we worked through over a bad event. I can recall doing over 40 events with him in a years span, because of that rant he lost 40+ events for the year. Thats not an easy number to make up. I am sure he is still kicking himself over that one.
  3. Put yourself in your agents shoes. If this person or client is looking to cut the agent out, they will likely do the same thing to you should you hire extra help or assist them in meeting new talent. It’s always best to treat people as you wish to be treated.

I explained to the client (the other agent) that I allow _______________ to handle all my bookings. He insisted that I give him my personal details and that he would give me TONS of business. He was very persistent and proceeded to badger me about my pricing, and how much my agent was putting on top. He reminded me that, the extra commission could be mine if I just let him hire me. So here are 3 ways to answer an agent/client trying to poach you: 

  1. What’s your fee? I If I charge my agent $100 per hour and they add 20% which is standard for agents) then I would respond $130 an hour. I give them a higher rate than what they paid so that they feel like my agent gave them a “deal”
  2. Give me your personal details, I’ll go direct and help you make more money.. LOOK them right in the eyes and say “The same courtesy I would extend to you and your clients is the same respect I treat my agents with. If I am on a job hired by you I will only give out your cards and would not poach your clients. It’s what makes me different from others.. You can count on me to help you grow your business not hurt it”
  3. Do I really need to go through the agency? If you let me call you Ill refer you to all my friends… ( this is the situation when the client wants to book you direct)  If a client REALLY wants to book you they won’t let an agency stop them. If they really want to book your services then they will respect the terms of your booking. If they are insistent on booking you direct they are more than likely just trying to get a better deal, and if thats the case you are better off letting an agent book you at your full rate. In addition to that, RARELY do clients that poach you give you more business than a good agent will. ALWAYS measure what you can possibly gain against what you stand to loose.
image courtesy of
image courtesy of


My booking agency hires performers nationwide. We had an account for a large corporation, during one of our events the on site event manager poached our entertainer. She got all her information and went direct to book her for the next event. Of course we didn’t know until our client called us to find out why she was late for their event. Not only, did we add her to the DO NOT BOOK list, we also reserved the right to pursue legal claims against her because she was in breach of contract. Our contract explicitly states that you can not give your personal information to our clients while contracted through our agency. Although, we did not sue her, if the account and revenue loss was high, we could have easily sued her for damages.

It  is important to remember that bad business is hard to hide from, and bad news travels at the speed of light. When an entertainer poaches accounts in our area, agents speak amongst each other and make each other aware of that person. Not only do they loose out on jobs, they also create a bad name for themselves industry wide. So, avoid the headaches and bad blood and commit to good business practices.

Here are a few business practices I live by:

  1. All work should be respected. If I am on the job, I always represent my agency as I would my own. I pass out their cards and speak highly of their company.
  2. Make sure you communicate to your agency who was trying to poach you. After my event I immediately called my agent to let her know that the other agent was trying to cut her out and that she should be aware. I would not want to see her work hard to book great performers for him, only to cut her out once he built a roster he liked and at a lower rate.
  3. All that glitters isn’t gold- be good to those that are good to you and take care of relationships. This is a big but very small industry. Use integrity and people will always respect you.

It is impossible to change the deep rooted human desire to save money and go direct. And every situation doesn’t call for crucifying the person looking for the best deal, but it’s important for you to re affirm the value of your service and protect your interests. Here is a great blog about how to keep clients happy, and to stop contractors from stealing business.


I hope this blog gave you a little insight and confidence how to handle persistent deal seekers. Business is a never ending roller coaster ride of ups, downs, and highs and lows. At the end of the day it’s pretty simple, treat clients, agents, and customers great so that they are willing to go the extra mile for you.

As always feedback and personal stories are welcome. Sharing experiences helps.

Happy painting- Your Paint Pal


Leave a Reply