There's this weird idea around that escorts all make squillions. I'm not sure where it came from exactly (actually, that's a lie - it's good marketing), because you don't see us turning up to bookings in Maseratis or inviting you to our mansions for incalls. Yes, it can be pretty good money, but it's not the high flying CEO lifestyle - and for the vast majority, sometimes it's barely breaking even. I want to break down the costs of independent escorting for you, because I'm often asked why I charge what I do. You can absolutely be independent with less money, but you need to be really savvy and have enough spare time to do a lot of things yourself, as well as perhaps deciding that you don't need to do all of it - escorts on shoestring budgets are some of the most resourceful people I know. It's incredibly important to look at all of this through a class lens as well - survival sex workers (those literally using sex work to feed themselves and their dependants, with little to no extra money at the end of the week) will not be able to afford to do a lot of this stuff.
Getting started is probably the most expensive part of independent escorting. You have an advantage if you've done brothel or agency work, because some things are already taken care of for you, but even so, you're putting a lot of capital into getting running with no guaranteed return on that investment.
Putting up ads is a pretty sucky part of indie work, because it can get very expensive, and you sit there comparing yourself to all of the other beautiful people in your area, and second guess literally all of your choices. You need to advertise with multiple sources so it makes it easier for clients to find you and have some assurance that you're a real sex worker. In some cities, picking one site and rolling with it will work fine; but in others, you're honestly going to miss half of your potential business by sticking to one website. Here are some options (for Australia, obviously):
- Crockor - free to post, but $2 per bump, and $5 for a featured ad.
- Locanto sponsor/top ads - from $30 to $45 per week, plus bumps if necessary in your area to get your ad to the top. You cannot post free ads.
- Escorting websites - Scarlet Blue, Escorts and Babes, Private Girls, Available Angels, etc etc. These guys really charge. Basic packages will run you around $70 a month at a minimum, mid-range from $100-$400 a month, and the top end anywhere from $400 up. But they also provide full spreads of pictures, a user friendly way to enter and organise your data (services are boxes you can check, rates tools are easy to use etc), their SEO attracts more users than your private website ever will, and they seriously help you by tweeting out your ads to their extremely large Twitter followings.
- Newspaper advertisements - they run from $10 a line up, so consider your advert three lines minimum (their online tools don't tell you how many lines), so $30 a day minimum... or $210 for a week long tour.
Your images are what will attract people the most. If you don't have images that potential clients find intriguing, your ad isn't going to get looked at very often, which means no business; gone are the days when you could post a text ad in the newspaper and have calls flooding in (although, don't be ruling out the newspaper ad just yet - plenty of older clients use it exclusively). You can do really well with selfies on a lot of sites (Cracker/Backpage, and now that they're gone, Crockor, are all about the selfies), but for others, you must have professional pictures; Scarlet Blue will not let you list with them if you don't. A lot of the time, if there are no professional photos on your profile, clients will expect your rates to be lower than those with professional photos; I don't make the rules, this is legitimately what they'll expect - the illusion of luxury is a big marketing tool.
Professional photography will cost you anywhere from $300 to $1200 for a shoot plus edits. Each photographer includes a certain number of edits in the price, or they may charge per edit ($50++), which can add up quickly. Location also costs if it's not included with the photographer - hotel rooms, studios, whatever; add in another $100. Hair and make up is also something you might need to pay for if you can't do it yourself; hair will start at $100, make up at $50, nails from $30, and they all go up from there. You'll also need lingerie for these shoots, especially given that some states prohibit nudity in their escort advertising - and for some reason, tiny pieces of lace are stupidly expensive, especially in this country; add another $100+. One Honey Birdette set? $375.
Incalls vs. Outcalls
In Victoria, it's illegal to do incalls - have the client come to you - but it's also the most convenient for most clients, as they want to come on their work lunch break, or they don't want you to come to their house; if you don't have an incall, you'll miss bookings. It's nice to not have to allow for your own travel time as well! The only thing is, in many states, it's illegal to work out of your place of residence; there's also the small niggling point of perhaps you don't really want clients to know where you actually live. You then get an incall; a whole extra property to pay for! Rent and bond, rates, furnishing it, having a certain standard for security, paying extra for a location that is central to clients - it's a big chunk of cash. I don't even want to put a dollar amount on it, because it's just so varied, but think seriously north of $2k. If you can't afford to get and maintain an incall, but you have clients who need one, your next choice is getting a hotel every so often. Not overly cheap either - depending on your marketing and location, you may not be able to get away with something less than $100 a pop, probably more.
Outcalls are the other option if maintaining an incall is too much. This is what I do - I have a day job, so maintaining an extra property is not economically feasible for me, since I'd be using it so infrequently, nor do I have the time to go over and clean/maintain it. Outcalls also have a cost (quelle surprise). Can you afford a car? Is it even a good idea in your city to have one? You're either on public transport (lol, not in Canberra) or you're in an Uber or taxi there and back - let's average $40 per booking. Paying a private driver is the safer option, but again, $$$.
Lingerie, shoes, outfits suitable for outcalls, make up, toys, condoms... Add a lot to this list if you're a kink provider, because you'll need restraints, leather and latex, whips and floggers and paddles, clamps, electro-stim sets, harnesses... If you do massage, you're going to need a table and oils. If you're a BBW, there's a much smaller selection of stores for your outfits, at a higher price. If you're a man, suits and colognes (I guess? Male/masculine escorts, feel free to jump in here) in addition to the range of toys.
It's a lot of capital gone when you need to pay so much for the tools of your trade!
There's a cost to being presentable at every booking. Have you had a look a the price list at Mecca? Make up is insane. Here's a (non-comprehensive) list of things an escort may pay for in any given month:
- Nails - I'm going to be honest, I had to look up the prices for this. I don't do anything with my nails, because I go bouldering, and you can have neither fingernails nor toenails in those climbing shoes. As far as I can tell, it's going to run you between $20 and $60 a week for nails. Please someone correct me if I'm wrong, because I have literally no idea!
- Hair - trims start at $50. Girls with short styles will need it done more regularly than those with long hair. Hair care products probably average out to a $5 per week cost, depending on how much and what brand you use. Some workers go for hair extensions as well, and wigs! Don't forget the time cost of doing your hair before every booking - I'll be honest, I don't do much to my hair except brush it, but I'm lucky with my hair!
- Make up - I don't want to talk about how expensive this can get. Your pharmacy/supermarket stuff will cost you ~$10 every time you buy a new product, but anything long lasting and amazing from Sephora or Mecca is north of there. Go on, look at their websites. Now consider that we have to reapply between bookings because it gets messed up and then we shower. Some girls also get eyelash extensions, which are a foreign and magical concept to me, but I'm fortunate enough to have really long eyelashes naturally - once every three weeks for touch ups.
- Rent - for your incall, if applicable. In Canberra, one bedroom apartments start at $400 per week.
- Transport and hotel costs - if you're outcall only, or you do both incall and outcall, this will apply to you.
- Lingerie - you gotta keep it fresh, and lingerie wears out. Obviously no one is buying Agent Provocateur or Honey Birdette every week, but one or two new sets a month to replace old, broken, or stained sets is a good ballpark; anywhere from $80 to $800 for two sets in a month.
- Phone bills - yeah, we have to own a second phone! $30+ per month, add in the cost of the handset if it isn't the old one with the cracked screen you keep around for emergencies. More than one persona? Well you need two SIMs and maybe two phones if you don't own one which has two slots.
- Consumables - condoms, tissues, gloves, cleaning products, snacks and drinks for your incall, lube. If you're a kink provider, add in medical grade cleaning products etc. $50-$200+ a month.
- Toys - I get a lot of requests for toys, and if you want good quality ones that are going to last and not give your vagina 394560 infections, you may need to invest. My last vibrator was $200. Any worker who provides kink services will be paying even more for their gear. You're going to maybe get one of these a month, perhaps less, perhaps more.
- Advertising - I think I probably spend about $80 a week on advertising? You don't get to throw the ad up and then ignore it! I also have this website - I toyed with the idea of paying someone to design it for me (and I contacted a lot of people about it, hit me up for recommendations), but in the end decided to try it myself; which turned out okay, I guess. I've paid someone to do copy for me for future ads; a good alternative for those who aren't writers.
- Gym memberships - I pay for this anyway (three of them, why am I like this?), but it's often a necessity to stay in the same condition as your advertising. Lots of clients complain when you aren't exactly the same as your photos, so there's a lot of pressure to maintain that body shape.
- Personal assistant - some of the more established and high volume escorts pay a PA to sort through their inboxes and schedule for them. $100-$200 a week, from what I've heard.
- Tours - if you are an escort who tours, there's a lot of financial risk involved! Maybe you go on a tour and make a loss, maybe you make heaps of money; either way, there's an initial investment in flights and hotel bookings. This is why a lot of escorts won't tour until they get enough deposits to at least cover their expenses.
- Cosmetic procedures - we're really getting into the big ticket items now. There's a lot of social pressure for women to look perfect, and that is very much magnified in the escorting world. Not only do we see each other naked and airbrushed a lot (hello insecurities, my old friend), but we're also in competition with each other for clients (sort of, we all have our own niches). Everything from relatively inexpensive regular botox and fillers, right up to rhinoplasty, breast and butt implants, and nip/tucks and liposuction.
- And on top of all of this, we pay tax!! And probably an accountant to do that tax, because it's confusing enough for people with jobs that give them payslips.
A lot of these things are optional! I don't do my nails, I rarely cut my hair, I wear minimal make up (not out of any self confidence - I'm just literally really bad at it), I don't have an incall, a PA, or any cosmetic enhancements
Different price points draw different expectations of how much you have to spend - it's going to be difficult to market yourself as a "luxury companion" and charge $1000/hr if you don't spend the money for luxury items and advertising. Conversely, many workers simply will not be able to afford so much in this post, and will have access to less clients and/or a different pool of clients as a result, or will be forced to go into debt in order to get business. Then you have the mid-range hoes, like me, who pick and choose from the things on this list as they can afford them. Many escorts have dependants as well, like kids or elderly or disabled relatives, not to mention disabilities of their own. There are plenty of weeks where you'll get nothing (historically, all of bloody January), and weeks where you'll get several cancellations in a row, or just time wasters and no shows. If you get sick, you can't work; if you get injured, you probably can't work, as it's a physical job; if your mental health breaks down, you may not be able to work. But conversely, there are weeks you'll be so busy you can barely breathe, and make enough to cover all the debt you've accrued over the slow weeks, with enough for some savings. Weeks where you'll get tons of new clients who are legitimate and easy, and your regulars will be clamouring to spend time with you. This business is swings and roundabouts!
No one sex worker has the same requirements as the next, but the fact remains that this is not a business that's all glitz and glamour and heaps of cash, and it's very important to remember that. In fact, this is one of the few industries where we all do pretty close to the same job, but with a spectrum of income and privilege that goes from poverty and homelessness to boutique apartments and caviar, from disabled and mentally ill to able bodied and active. I'm very lucky to be financially comfortable enough to feel secure, while also being able to help out my friends with spare cash when they need it. We charge what we believe is a fair rate for our time and services, and we take into account how much we have to spend to maintain our business as well. What it costs us to get established and maintain our business is not something a lot of clients or outside observers ever really consider. It's good to pull back the curtain a little, and humanise us, so people have a better understanding of what we do.
This blog has been amended to correct the fact that Locanto now charges to post sex work ads. (16:32 AEST 02 March 2018, CO Rain Morgan.)
Edit 10 May 2018: Cracker and Backpage are gone, amended to reflect that.
Edit 14 August 2018: Include mock up table and update things to reflect current trends.