Both have pros and cons and you simply need to go with what works best for YOU. However here are some food for thought on the topic.
As a freelance model, you need to be: very organized, able to research companies /designers to find out their legitimacy, have a "go-getter" attitude, able to multitask, very internet savvy and most importantly accessible via phone or email. Agencies usually have a team of employees working behind the scenes that scout gigs, keep track of invoices, negotiate and set rates with clients, assure all needed information from the client are provided before and after a gig. As a freelance model, you will need to juggle all those tasks yourself. Besides hard work you are solely in control of your career and destiny. What you put in is what you will get back.
The advantages are:
You can manage your schedule based on your life not the agent’s needs.
You can continue to embrace your own style and not conform to your agent’s requirements.
Also, agents usually work with 10 or more girls and sometimes you can fall under the radar and never get called for any assignments. Being that you are in a contract with them you can’t leave or look for other gigs on your own. This actually happened to me at one agency and those were the toughest and longest months of my life waiting until I could end my contract while not getting any work.
Now, as an agency model you’re only major role is to model. A good agent will make sure your day is worry free. Your agent usually calls and emails you about casting information and you show up with your portfolio and a smile. That’s all! If you get the gig your agent will call or email you back with the great news. They will negotiate a rate, gather all the information you need for the job such as what to bring, wear study or prepare for. Your agency will make sure you get paid within 60-90 days and follow up until the client pays you.
The advantages are:
Agencies have working relationships with certain clients and that bond can increase your chances of getting the gig.
As an agency model you have more opportunities to book with major clients who prefer using agencies for liability reasons.
Agency models tend to get paid more money.
This is just a glimpse of the two, I strongly recommend that you try them both and learn what works best for you and your lifestyle. However, if you can’t find an agent please don’t get discourage or attempt to give up on your dream, God might be making the choice for you. Rejection is God’s form of protection.
Check with the BBB (Better Business Bureau) regarding companies and agencies.
Create a business email separate from your personal email (same goes for phone numbers).
If a company asks for you to send provocative pictures -- (RED FLAG ON THE BUSINESS BEING LEGIT).
Trust your instincts on projects that you may feel are questionable (your safety is priority #1).
As a freelance model, you need to be very cautious of giving your information out freely, I cannot stress enough on doing your research.