In case you didn’t know, Tumblr has an active sex worker community. They are the escorts, the strippers, the elite companions, the cam girls, the fetish models, the professional dommes and subs, the sugar babies and the spoiled girlfriends, the aspiring trophy wives, to name a few in the wide spectrum of what the community considers as ‘sex work’.
Fascinated with these women who are unapologetic on being sexual service providers, I followed a few… and was quickly blown away by their wit, charm, charisma and least of all, beauty.
They are businesswomen, plain and simple. Here are some things that they taught me that helped me prepare myself before becoming an entrepreneur.
1. Take control
Sex workers do sex work for a variety of reasons—they are people, and people are complex, after all. However, there is one common thread—the women are highly independent.
They rely on themselves and refuse to take the ‘oh pity me’ route. They realise that they need to take charge of their financial life, and build a business based on supply and demand. Most importantly, independent sex workers (as opposed to sex workers tied to an agency) are incredibly good at managing their time to run their business smoothly.
How this helped me: As a first-time one-woman entrepreneur, I knew that I had to do everything myself, then I realised that I had to do everything myself. Effective time management to handle every aspect of my business is crucial, and these ladies are pros—oftentimes juggling work/study along with their sex work.
2. Minimise risk
Many of sex workers operate their business in countries where prostitution is illegal. Because of this, sex workers have to take extra precautions to avoid getting busted by law enforcement.
Due to the lack of protection, sex workers are also very meticulous in screening their clients, you know, to avoid getting raped or murdered. Furthermore, reputable sex workers take precautions in avoiding STDs (sex workers from medical backgrounds are very helpful in this). They also take precautions against being flagged by the bank when making hefty cash deposits.
How this helped me: I realise that minimising risk is important and it should be ongoing. Leaving it unattended is a recipe for disaster. For example, I’ve become more attentive in checking my online bank account, to avoid late fees and penalties.
I read every finance-related T&C document—once I checked a contract and successfully negotiated for free travel insurance, because it was needed for the job. You have to see what could go wrong and fix it before it does.
3. Hustle hard
Haters of sex workers often say, “That’s an easy job—you just have to lie down and spread your legs!”
After following their blogs for a while, I found that successful sex workers are one of the hardest working people. They put in time to take care of their product (body), to produce marketing tools, to network, to maintain repeat clients, and to perform menial, administrative work like answering the gosh-darn emails and carrying out website maintenance.
How this helped me: There is no substitute for hard work—there is no reward for simply being ‘a pretty face’ (at least, not sustainably).
Glamour is superficial. Be humble—there’s no small task that’s beneath you.
4. You have to look out for your fellow women
Sex workers warn each other on horrible clients, especially physically abusive ones. They provide advice to new sex workers—ranging from tips on being discreet to photography referrals to verified websites to get clients.
Some even provide mentorship. Generally speaking, despite the few bad apples, the sex worker community on Tumblr is very supportive of one another. They maintain that low-paid ladies are just as equal as higher-paid ladies—and give advice to help improve the situation.
It’s honestly heartwarming and feministic. Some are also anti-trafficking activists, helping to stop the non-consensual sex trade.
How this helped me: Biggest lesson of all—putting other women down in order to get ahead is not cool. Having been exposed to life in the corporate sector, where female peers often fight for that one seat on the board, we have to realize that the solution is to have more seats, not to have more fights.
5. Your personal branding is important
Successful sex workers spend time working on their personal branding—this helps to attract the right type of clients. A sex worker that I follow charges $500 an hour, and she is extremely successful because of her personal branding as an educated multi-linguist. This niche enables her to charge more and it draws clients who are not intimidated by educated women.
How this helped me: I feel that in this globalised economy, telling clients what you can do will no longer be enough. There will always be competitors who are willing to charge way less than you.
So I’m going to shift my strategy—I’ll work on my personal branding instead of offering rock-bottom prices.
All in all, whether you are pro or anti sex work, you have to admit that being able to sell something that roughly 50% of the world population has the tools for is no easy feat. And that is why I have mad respect for sex workers.
This guest post was written by the founder of Kotak Koffee, Suraya is a Malaysian personal finance enthusiast hoping to make the world better for women, a bit at a time. She maintains a personal finance blog at ringgitohringgit.wordpress.com.