The scene: a gorgeous cocktail bar on the thirty-eigthth floor of the Sofitel. The company: a delightful collection of favourite clients and good friends. As is my wont, I began quizzing the gathered company about what sort of topics they would consider interesting for my blogs. A good friend suggested I write an article covering the basic things one learns when starting out work as an escort.
I’m always nervous about giving advice to other workers. It’s not that I don’t consider myself experienced; I’ve been working in the sex industry for five years now and I feel like I have a lot to say. The problem is that everyone conducts their business so differently that I hesitate to offer any absolutes. How do I know my advice will necessarily be helpful? I don’t, and therefore I’m not going to present myself as an expert.
However, I’d still like to share my experiences with you. When I think about starting up my escorting business, I remember how nervous I was – worried for my physical safety, scared I’d look stupid or do the wrong thing. I didn’t truly feel validated as a professional until I’d accumulated five or six months of steady work. Here are the things I learned during that time. I hope you find my experiences interesting, if not informative.
1.It was worth waiting for the right people.
It takes a while to get started – seeing an escort is a major purchase decision and I’ve found it took a few months for the good enquiries to come through. A potential client would see my ad, check out my Twitter and then sit on it for a month or two before even making an enquiry. I mean we all need time to consider whether we’re seeing the right person. Considering how nerve-wracking it is for some guys to meet new women, I can hardly blame them for taking a while to think about it.
Unfortunately, while good, genuine clients take time to get in touch, timewasters don’t. So those first three months consisted of only ‘dickhead’ emails and text messages (“are you avail now?” and “send pics babe”) to the point where I:
a) Thought that the world must be entirely made up of dickheads, and
b) Was tempted to try and take jobs with some of these losers in order to actually get a job, any job, and not just be sitting around feeling like a failure.
Without exception, nothing good came of the ‘dickhead’ enquiries I pursued. Most didn’t result in sessions, and the ones that did turned out to be so dodgy that I wished I hadn’t taken the bookings in the first place. I wish I had just waited out those first few months and given the good people a while to appear. Nowadays if it gets quiet I don’t feel it’s such a blow to my self-confidence – I know that sometimes it’s slow, and I know that the people who will contact me in three months are probably looking at my ads or reading this blog, right now (hi, guys!)
3.Boundaries are learned, not set.
A boundary is an invisible ‘rule’ I set to define something I’m not willing to do in the course of my work. For example, I won’t visit strangers at their homes, supply unprotected sexual services or go on social dates to places where I hang out regularly in my personal life. A boundary is sometimes set to protect my physical safety, or sometimes it’s there to protect my mental well-being. Good sex work involves a lot of gentle management of boundaries, sometimes so subtly that clients don’t even realise that a rule is being enforced.
Relationships (whether professional or otherwise) are tricky things and I found that there was a degree of boundary-pushing that came from new clients. Sometimes innocent: “But I’d really like to give you a lift home!”. Sometimes blatantly disrespectful: “I paid you a lot so you should have unprotected sex with me”. I thought that I needed to stick by my boundaries without exception, and that if I ever let anyone cross them I was being a bad sex worker and letting myself down. I gave myself a pretty hard time whenever something went wrong.
Over time I learned that having my boundaries crossed was something that could happen occasionally no matter how careful I was. They were mostly small things, like giving discounts or giving up personal information that I didn’t want to discuss. Sometimes they were larger things that led to more distress. Sometimes I didn’t know where a boundary was until it was crossed – I’d try something out and then realise I didn’t want to repeat the experience.
Sticking by my boundaries wasn’t some sort of innate skill that I possessed from the start. It was a learned behaviour – and a difficult one at that. Being female-bodied, there is a cultural pressure to give way to the wishes of others. I was so used to letting men have their own way that it took a lot of trial and error before I became confident: the bad feelings that came along with having my boundaries crossed helped remind me to value my needs more the next time around. The learning process was a necessary one … rather than feeling like a failure, I should have realised that each transgression was helping me build a stronger motivation to stand up for myself.
3.My way is the ‘right’ way – for me.
Starting out, I had an intense curiosity about the way other workers were running their businesses. My background is in sales and marketing, so I have always been interested in entrepreneurship. The sex industry was a complete unknown to me. There aren’t many resources out there for running a sex work business and it wasn’t reasonable for me to expect other ladies to give up all their hard-earned secrets.
As I became more established in the industry I made some friends and was then able to ask a lot of questions. I received a lot of advice, both helpful and not so. I’m incredibly grateful for the advice I’ve received, but it hasn’t removed the need for my own trial-and-error process to discover what works for me. I know that the way I do business is not exactly the same an anyone else’s and I don’t expect any one approach to be ‘one size fits all.’ Rather than following every piece of advice, I picked out the bits that seemed good for me and continued doing things my own way.
Having an individual approach that feels good to me is more important that doing everything ‘right’ (whatever that is.) This choice is reflected in my success as an escort, because clients can see that I’m allowing my genuine individuality to shine through even if I’m also borrowing some ways of working from others.
I hope these ideas have helped! We’re all individuals, and we do our work in our own ways. But by talking about what we’ve learned, we can all profit from our shared experience.