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Please Help Set Me Up in the Industry?

Why it's more work than you think to be an independent sex worker

· Behind the Curtain

Inspired by this Twitter thread from Erin Black, an amazing Chicago escort (sorry for stealing your idea Erin!).

A lot of non sex workers (or "muggles") I talk to about my job seem to think it's easy money to be an escort. "You must be loaded! All you have to do is fuck some guys sometimes!" they tell me, with wonder and mild disgust in their eyes. Well, no, it's not as easy as that actually. Inevitably, these are the people who contact me a few months later, asking for help to get into it too - but I really can't do what it is they're asking, and they don't really know what they're asking me to do for them.

They have this notion that either I'm some diseased trollop because I sleep with a lot of people (easily proven false, actually), or I'm some high flying, glamourous model. This comes from the stigma and shame attached to sex work - "street walkers are gross drug addicts", "girls working in brothels are exploited/too stupid to get another job/don't speak enough English to do anything else", "there are two kinds of workers, hookers and escorts; escorts are the classy ones", "why would anyone fuck for money when they could just get a proper job". These are all super untrue, and super offensive assumptions to make, which I'm sure I'll discuss in another post sometime. Often when a muggle asks me for an industry leg up, they think I'll catapult them into a world of fancy dinners and "high class", nowhere near a brothel or street corner. Thankfully, if they're genuine, they're willing to learn that whorearchy, the unacceptable concept of some forms of work being "better" or "classier" than others, is a mental hurdle to overcome.

When people ask me to help them, they just think I'll introduce me to my clients or something, and they won't have to pay for or really do anything except turn up and look pretty - that's almost what you do in brothel or agency work (simplified, I know you have to hustle to win clients, but the ads etc are taken care of by the management), which is why I encourage newbies to start out in one. Someone else takes care of your advertising, sometimes they also take care of photos, you have an incall space there for the nominal fee you pay (like $10ish a shift), security is available, there are cameras in reception, someone else answers calls for you, there's a bunch of people there you can learn things from, and clients come to you without the need for you to do anything until they're inside the building already. Obviously not every brothel or agency has all of these things, some have more, some are toxic environments, but you get my point. As an independent worker, you do all of this stuff by yourself, or you pay someone to do it for you.

I break down the costs of independent sex work in another post, but that's honestly the biggest thing that makes people look at me like I have three heads. "What do you mean advertising costs that much?? Can't I just take some selfies? I don't have to hire a photographer do I? I need to rent another apartment??" They see my posted rates and think I'm making bank, but they don't even think about what I have to pay for as an independent worker - nor do they consider that I pay tax, too. You don't have to pay for expensive advertising, or lingerie, or get your nails done every week, or splash out on a good photographer; but you're going to need to consider that this will probably affect your bottom line, depending on what kind of niche you're looking at - these things will matter a lot less at different price points and in different places.

Business is going to be really slow as you get yourself established. It's not cash cash cash right away, you might need a second job to make ends meet for a while - if not forever. Simply because you've put yourself up on advertising, that does not mean anyone must purchase your services, and many clients are naturally wary of brand new escorts - especially the kind of newbie who comes swanning in expecting to charge $800/hr and only get long dates with barely any sex. Don't ever forget that there are slow periods, so you will probably need a job you can go back to or maintain for when the money isn't flowing. Many escorts make it without a second job, but those are the ones who treat everything they do as a business, and they're not interested in pausing this to give you a free hand up. You better start at the bottom and work up, because otherwise not only will clients avoid you, your peers will too.

When you're starting out as a private sex worker, these days you're jumping into an already saturated market; there are a lot more private escorts today than even five years ago, because the internet makes it so much easier to reach potential clients. In this online world, we all work incredibly hard to create images for ourselves that portray only our best features, so newbies have a lot of catching up to do in order to be competitive; you can no longer just throw up a text ad and some selfies and think that's all you'll have to do all week - that ad will need to be maintained and checked on, and you'll have admin to do while you're answering clients. What they are really asking when they say "help set me up" is "help me create an entire persona and brand from scratch in a niche that will suit my looks, age, gender, client preferences, and kinks, while also paying me the bulk cash I know you get. Also, give me all of the knowledge you've had to scrape from wherever you could all by yourself, while I do very little to no research on even basic practices". Creating your own brand and finding the niche you fit in is not only a lot of work, it's also something you really have to do most of yourself; what works for me may not work for you. A lot of us really had to make a hell of a lot of mistakes along the way when learning our trade, and whilst we would love to help you avoid the worse ones, it also stings a little that people expect that knowledge, gained through a lot of serious pain, at the drop of a hat. I can only speak to my own experience, but there are ladies out there who have spent a lot longer in the industry and offer mentoring - for a fee.

What does an escort brand involve? Well, my qualifications aren't in marketing, so I can't speak in professional sense, but the following things spring to mind:

  1. A certain image. Are you going for a sassy goth? The girl next door? A sultry temptress? A bronzed beach babe? A bookish chick? An androgenous siren? A butch athlete? Everything you do must now revolve around that image. The copy that you write, the pictures that you have taken, the services that you offer. That is now who you are, and you need to sell it.
  2. Several different platforms must support this brand. No advertising on the cute GFE platforms if you're a Dominatrix, for example.
  3. You need to project that persona in bookings and online, whether it's really you or not. You are selling a fantasy experience, and the client will expect you to embody what you have advertised.
  4. It takes a really long time to properly establish your brand. You will be constantly refining it, over and over again. I have existed as Sienna for less than a year, and I still wonder where the path I'm heading down will take me. I know many escorts who are still refining their brand after three years or so. And don't even get me started on what happens when you rebrand (decide to start fresh with a new name and persona) and have to unlearn your previous personality to start from scratch.
  5. Constantly promoting that brand everywhere, ensuring that it fits a niche, and trying to improve to ethically compete with others in that niche.

And all that aside? It's really important for every worker to earn their stripes. Sure, we want you to learn from our mistakes so that you don't make really horrid, life changing ones; but you need to make your own mistakes to learn and grow in the industry. Us salty established workers tend to get a little bitter when some upstart wants all our industry knowledge without bothering to try anything first. Start at a brothel. Learn the hard way how to hustle clients into paying for extras in an environment where help is in the next room. Pick up terminology from the other workers, learn the little tricks of how to work on your period, do your own research. There is no hand-holding when you become independent. No one comes with you to bookings unless they're getting paid as well, which will affect your bottom line. No one will fix your branding unless you pay them. You need to show that you can help yourself before anyone in the industry will be inclined to help you. Sliding into someone's DMs to ask for help without establishing rapport and showing that you can work for yourself and hold your own is very poor etiquette.

You can see what it involves for someone like me, not a professional mentor, amounts to a lot of unpaid work and emotional labour, when I already have to do this for my own brand - which your brand is now also taking time away from. Many established escorts hire PAs to take away a lot of the labour of maintaining advertising and promoting themselves, in addition to scheduling bookings and organising tours, that's how much work it is. I am already effectively working two jobs, and I can't actually add on a third! The reality that you see in the media and online is hardly ever true. That "high class escort" you see in ads, with the Louboutins and Agent Provocateur? Some sex workers have it, others just have extremely good marketing, but either way - behind it is a lot of hustle, and a lot of work; the reality is that you're probably not going to end up exactly like that, and the image you have in your head of glitz, glamour, and tons of cash is rare and achievable for only the most lucky and dedicated (and even then, it's likely a carefully polished and shiny lie). That said: my work is some of the most fun I've ever had in a job. I get to dictate my own hours, and craft experiences for people that really, honestly help them. If this post doesn't totally put you off, give it a shot! It's so rewarding to give a client a beautiful experience. Just be aware of the ton of admin coming your way!

Edited: 05 April 2018 to add second to last paragraph.

Edit 10 May 2018: I now have a quick guide on how to start escorting. This is not definitive, and not a guide on brand creation, just a "where to start".

Edit: 03 Feb 2020 to bring it up to date.