You probably remember my last post on this subject, discussing what exactly someone is asking you to do when they get you to "help" set them up. We still get asked how to start in the industry though, even if they don't want you to create their brand. Here's a really quick guide because I want something to send to people when they ask. My fingers are getting sore from typing the exact same thing over and over again. If you're really serious about getting into the industry, you won't mind doing a bit of reading - because sex workers across the world can't do all your work and research for you, and we will not hold your hand. We will be there for you if you are in danger or to correct your missteps, but most of us got into this industry without any help, and made our own mistakes.
Read the other post too so you understand that what you see on social media is the highlight reel.
Things to Read Up On
It's really, really important to know what your state laws are on sex work so you don't fall into any accidental traps. The Scarlet Alliance website has a resource for this, but here's the cliff notes:
NSW: Sex work is totally decriminalised. This means that it's regulated like any other industry. Brothels, agencies, street work, and private work are all legal.
Victoria: Brothels, agencies, and private work are all legal, but regulated. Street work is illegal. You must register for an SWA number to do private work, but the you fall under the establishment SWA if you work for someone else. Incalls are illegal, as are a number of things you may put in your advertising. You may not advertise that you have returned negative STI test results, nor are you allowed to use images with full frontal nudity or displaying genitals or simulated sex acts. You also can't describe services.
Tasmania: Private work is legal, brothels and agencies are criminalised. You can't "manage" another escort, so presumably PAs are also out, but you are allowed to do doubles with another worker, provided you are not managing them. Clients are not criminalised as long as they are seeing legal sex workers.
South Australia: Criminalised model. Everything is illegal! Funnily enough, it is not illegal to advertise things, but it will be used against you if you are caught exchanging sex for money. Brothels operate, but as "massage parlours", and are sometimes raided by police. Private workers do better here, but please be very careful. Police may not charge you with anything, but they will have you in their system as a "known sex worker" if you have any run ins with them.
Western Australia: Brothels and street work are illegal, as is "solicitation", which is interestingly broad. Prostitution itself is legal, but not regulated, nor are you required to register, and that means private work is the most popular, though brothels still exist. Agencies are legal.
Northern Territory: Up in the air momentarily as the Planning Act is amended (as of Feb 2020), but it should be the third jurisdiction in the world to have decriminalisation, per the Sex Industry Bill 2019, passed in December 2019.
Queensland: Brothels, private work, and agencies are all legal, but heavily regulated. Street work is illegal. The PLA pursues people and police are permitted to entrap you by asking you if you perform illegal services. Private workers must work alone, no bodyguard unless they're registered as one. You cannot describe services in your ads, nor can you state that you have had clear STI test results. You cannot perform uncovered services of any kind.
ACT: Brothels - legal but regulated, can only be in two suburbs. Agencies - legal, but regulated. Private work - legal, but regulated; you no longer have to register, but you may not work with another worker. Street work - illegal. It is illegal to advertise your STI results.
Sex Worker Organisations
Each state has its own sex worker support organisations, and you should hit them up with any questions - not random sex workers who probably don't want to talk to you about your issues with starting up.
NSW: SWOP NSW
TAS: They don't have one, but you can contact the Scarlet Alliance about the Tas Project
NT: NTAHC (SWOP NT)
QLD: Respect Inc.
ACT: Aids Action Council (SWOP ACT)
How to Start
I have described the differences between each of these forms of work in another blog post, but here's a run down of the places to start.
Brothels and Dungeons
Most of Australia prohibits brothels from advertising for positions, so all you have to do is call them up and go in for an introduction. Dungeons are specifically for kink work and BDSM, and many may require that you undertake training to work for them. A word of warning though: many brothels are quite fatphobic, and generally pretty cis-female in make up. If you're trans, there are some specifically trans brothels, but a lot of regular brothels will accept you as well. It pays to ask around! Dungeons are generally very accepting of all gender identities and body shapes though, which is wonderful. If you don't want to jump straight into full service sex work, many cities have massage parlours that offer erotic massage, so you can sort of ease yourself in. A lot of workers also start off as the receptionist at a brothel before jumping in with both feet - something to consider. Brothels are shift work, and the night shift is the most busy, so get used to working those hours. Brothel owners will take care of the advertising for you, and often will have photos taken. You will get to choose your own name - sort of! If you want "Jasmine" and there's already a Jasmine there, you have to choose something else; sometimes you may be given a list of options. The other workers there can offer you tips and advice if you ask, but you'll find most of it pretty easy!
Another case of "call them up". Again, because they're run by someone, they're kind of liable to be possibly transphobic and fatphobic, but there are lots of good ones out there that are ethically run. They'll advertise for you, but you may have to pay for photos in some cases, though most of the time they'll do that for you as well. They will also ask you what kind of services you're okay with offering, so have a good think about that. You will get a call when they have a client for you, and much of the time they have a driver who will take you there. They sometimes have an incall that they will host you at for the booking - expect it to be a bit sparse! This option is much lonelier than brothel work, but sometimes you get doubles or get to meet other workers in the incall.
I have no experience with this myself, so I can't offer concrete advice here, but it is the most dangerous form of sex work and not legal in most of the country. However, it is absolutely a valid form of sex work as well, you just need to take extra precautions, especially with regard to law enforcement - currently the only state where it is not prohibited is NSW. You'll find a fair bit of companionship, but no oversight, unless you have someone representing you (which is not always a pimp - do you want to be carrying your full night's takings with you on every booking?). It's probably the easiest form of sex work to just start in - find out where the street workers usually hang out, ask them which areas are for which kinds of workers (because there is often a trans corner, for example), and watch and wait. It is prudent to ask the other workers for tips on safety and haggling etc - they won't begrudge you those! Get to know the others!
My last blog post is the most relevant to this category. The way to get clients for private work is advertising, so you may need a little bit of capital. You can start with some free ads (Crockor offers this, Available Angels has two months free sometimes, Tryst has a free basic package, and there are one or two others) and smart phone selfies! Take a look at the other ads in your niche, and see what you like best. Do not plagiarise, but you can imitate things that you like. You'll need to consider how you're going to operate as well - incall or outcall? What services are you going to give? What will you charge? You don't get to make some of these choices with brothel and agency work, so it can be a sudden shock to realise that you set your own price. Once you have a little money, you can start advertising on the more expensive directories if you wish, and invest in professional photographs - these costs can stack up. Social media is also a good source of free advertising, but do be careful not to connect your real name to yourself in any way. Don't be friends with your work persona on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram! Be aware that there will be a lot of time wasters and people expecting free services, since those are not platforms optimised for sex work. Additionally, Facebook and Instagram do not like sex workers, and may ban you if you are too obvious.
Networking is a really valuable thing to invest in! Many sex workers are on Twitter. Some use Facebook, but to a lesser extent - I'm friends on Facebook with sex workers I have already established rapport with. Twitter is also a great place for you to sit back and observe - I've learned a lot about sex work just by reading what others post on Twitter! Find a sex worker whose profile you like, probably in your area (I checked advertising listings and followed the workers who were in Canberra), and have a look at who they follow, you'll soon be so far down the rabbit hole that you won't know where you are, and you might even make a few friends.
Please try to screen your clients if you are not a represented worker (agency/madam/brothel/dungeon), and especially if you're going to their house. At least have a buddy that you can tell where you're going, and when you're expected back, or when any bookings are scheduled to finish. Once you meet other workers, they may choose to share with you their screening methods, so you have a better idea of how to proceed; ask clients for references from other workers they have seen as well. Networking is an important resource for screening - if you are getting bad vibes off an enquiring client texting you, you can ask nicely of someone if they have his number in their phone or if his texts seem familiar.
Consider any intimate relationships you have and whether this is the kind of work that will sit well with them. Also consider the risks of showing your face online, and the risks of coming out as a sex worker to people you know, as well as giving out your real name to clients and other workers. Privacy in this industry is far more vital than probably any other area you have worked in before, as the physical safety of others often depends on it - you can't tell your friends someone else's secrets and the only consequences are a little cold shoulder. Make sure you're mature enough to handle these matters.
Health is very, very important in this line of work! Not just physical, but also mental. Learn how to perform a visual health check! Make sure you hold on to the condom as they're pulling out, this reduces the chances of any spillage. Make sure you're getting enough sleep and not working too many hours on shift at brothels or agencies, and stay hydrated while you're on shift. For vagina-owners, understand how to identify and treat bacterial vaginosis and thrush/yeast infections, and learn the usual triggers for you - look into boric acid capsule pessaries as a preventative measure. Learn to identify signs of burn out and know when to maybe take a break from working if it's starting to affect your mental health; ask around for sex worker friendly mental health professionals before you desperately need one. Develop some good coping strategies for stress, and remember to maintain that work-life balance, especially around other intimate relationships.
There are a particularly shitty subset of (majority male) clients who wait for new workers to pop up and then book them, just because they know newbies are easier to take advantage of. This is really something to watch out for, because they'll gaslight you into thinking your ad is misleading, and try to pressure you into services you aren't comfortable with. I was very lucky with my first few clients as an indie worker, but I got a couple of manipulative ones after that. Some workers are unlucky enough to get booked with legitimate ugly mugs (the term used to describe dangerous clients) because they aren't plugged into hooker social media and have no one to ask to check numbers.
Second phone. I cannot stress this enough. Do not use your personal phone, because I guarantee you have it connected to Facebook or something and clients will find out your real name. You don't want to be blackmailed on your first damn day. I use a different browser altogether for my sex work things - Chrome for personal stuff, Firefox for work.
More resources can be found at Red Files, but you will be required to prove that you are a sex worker before gaining access. Resources include tips for sexual health and general information on how to survive in the industry.
Fellow workers, if I've missed something you consider vital, please let me know!