Tips for long-term success and sustainability
This essay is an expansion of a popular twitter thread posted by the author on August 4, 2020.
I’ve been an in-person and online sex worker since 2003, and in that time I’ve been fortunate to break into the top ranks of the digital space and, more important, keep my brand there. I’m a jack-of-all-trades, straddling the chasm between online and in-person sex work that was previously nigh impossible to conquer at the same time.
In the last 16 years, there’s very few aspects of online sex work (clip production, phone/webcam/text sessions, custom content, fanclubs, membership sites, etc) that I haven’t navigated and excelled in. It’s been my greatest joy to use my success and acquired knowledge to mentor and empower other sex workers for personal and financial independence.
If you’re struggling with your own success in this arena, I’m going to share a few of my secrets. Whether you’ve just entered the industry, pivoted to online sex work due to the pandemic, or you’re a veteran of the screen, the same rules always apply. Yes, there’s a on-going obstacle course of promotion and content creation and mastering platforms, but following these rules is the best wisdom I can offer.
These are the things I wished someone had told me all those years ago.
Define (or redefine) what success is for you
We tend to become obsessed with the bottom line, the daily/weekly/monthly sales numbers, site rankings, and followers and think of these metrics as a reflection of our self-worth. The porn industry, as an industry created by and for men, has fostered an environment of comparison and competition, and it only serves to make us feel small. Fuck you, patriarchy, you don’t get to make the rules anymore.
Instead, look at your goals. Where do you want to be in 1–3 years? 5-10 years? 20 and beyond? How much do you need to make to accomplish that? What are you looking to do with the money you make? What are your personal goals, outside of sex work, and how do those mesh with your professional goals?
And most importantly—WHO do you want to be? The beauty of this work is that it gives us the freedom to define ourselves on our own terms, so don’t lose sight of the person you want to become in pursuit of money. Money brings comfort, but in of itself will not bring you happiness.
Whatever areas you choose, you have to provide the same consistent time, effort, and output in order to build your audience. This means daily updates, a regular cam schedule, dedicated hours, and consistency in your content. This is critical. When you are sporadic in your work, your fans and clients fall off rapidly and it can be incredibly difficult to reacquire them.
This means establishing a good workflow and time management, but also understanding where your energy is best spent so you can maintain an efficient work/life balance. It takes time to establish a solid rhythm and method, but it should be something you constantly evaluate. Are you working harder, or smarter? If you’re pouring hours into your work and it’s not generating income, you need to re-evaluate in a hurry.
Shameless plug: If you are struggling, I recommend this class, it’s the one I’ve received the most praise for, by far!
Success is in the adult industry is much like success everywhere else, it hinges on luck. The “self-made” myth that it’s only hard work that gets you ahead is very damaging and classist.
That being said, you need to be poised and prepared to seize opportunities when they appear. It takes hard work to make the most of lucky breaks, but chances are you won’t see that luck appear right away. In the meantime, you have to be patient and just keep going. If someone else who started at the same time as you, with a similar look or style, in the same niche seems to be doing MUCH better than you—don’t let it get to you. They just got lucky, you aren’t a failure. Read that again: You are not a failure.
Growing your audience and traffic takes time and every platform is different. If you’re expecting to throw up an OnlyFans and instantly make six figures, you’re setting yourself up for frustration. Every brand’s development is unique and you’ll be learning as much about yourself as you’ll learn about the industry.
You also need to embrace humility in this process, because it’s a great deal to learn and navigate. This has been my career for 15 years and I’m still learning. It will be difficult and overwhelming and you’ll feel that you can’t manage it all. That’s normal. Trust me, we all feel like that at times. Take a deep breath, focus on your goals, and keep on going.
Find your own niche
It may be helpful to look at what others are doing for inspiration and direction, but what works for them may not work for you, and you’ll only get frustrated in the process. Copying others is a huge source of venom in the online sphere and if you get caught, it will cost you reputation. It’s good to observe and examine what others are doing, then to ask yourself how that could be improved upon for your brand. Innovation will distinguish you faster than imitation, always.
This also applies to your name. If you chose a common name, chances are that there are others who are already using it and you’ll have an uphill battle building name recognition. You should chose a name that you can register a domain name of (even if you’re not going to use it yet), and have consistent screen names across all the services and social media sites. It also helps to do a copyright/trademark search on that name just to be safe that you’re not inadvertently infringing on someone else’s rights.
Embrace your evolution
Yes, you can absolutely rebrand yourself. You can reinvent yourself as many times as you need to. Your brand will grow and change in proportion to your personal evolution. That means you may start out in one area and find you don’t enjoy those activities or don’t want to make that content any more. If that happens, don’t hesitate to move on. Don’t delete your old content–I assure you it won’t hurt your new image–just do more of the things you enjoy and the audience will find you. If you find you don’t thrive in one type of offering, such as texting or webcamming, don’t feel you have to stay there.
Let this one sink in: you are allowed to evolve and change in your work, especially as you learn more about who you are and what you love. Just because you chose one direction in the beginning doesn’t mean you have to keep it up. If it no longer serves, let it go.
Invest in your business
This is a business, and all businesses require investment.
This means equipment, cameras, lighting, computers, workspaces, clothing, and most importantly– your education. The first few years, expect to invest up to 50% of your net depending on the type of work you’re doing. The days of recording low-res videos on a webcam to make $10k a month on clip sites are long gone. You are now competing in a market where you need to stand out from a sea of others, and the quality of your content is a big factor. This can be daunting when you’re trying to bootstrap your way up, but it’s better to research heavily and make smart choices about your investments than to buy random equipment that you’ll turn around and throw away 6 months later.
You don’t have to spend thousands on equipment, but you do need to make educated purchases for the kind of online work you’re doing (such as camming). It’s a good idea to establish a budget and do your homework!
Prioritize your education and knowledge first, it will save you the most money. The online space previously was the wild west with very few resources, but now you can find classes, books, and resources readily. We share announcements of classes and materials in the Wicked Alliance and I’m happy to provide a starter list for anyone who contacts me. Just keep in mind that knowledge is money and although many of us are happy to help others, it’s disrespectful to expect free help or education.
Remember that you need to treat this as a business, so use the business tools already available online! A good place to start is a startup cost calculator.
Don’t try to do it all
I see people spread themselves too thin and then feel exhausted when they try to manage multiple sites and services. Pick one or two areas (phone/cam and fanclub for example) and focus on those. Don’t feel you have to be on every social media platform. When you’re spread too far beyond your time and energy limits, you won’t be consistent; you’ll race towards burnout.
It took me many years and eventually building an entire creative team to manage the production and channels where I distribute my content. It takes three people to manage my brand, and although I’m grateful that I built something that supports the salaries of two other women, it took a long time to get here. Most of us start out solo, and when you’re one person, you can find yourself in an endless hole of work. Make sure you’re giving yourself breaks and taking personal time too. Your work/life balance is vital to your mental and physical health. Take care of yourself.
Build a support system thoughtfully
Surround yourself with positive influences and supportive peers. Online sex work can be very isolating, so bridge that gap. I created the Wicked Alliance community for this reason! (If you’d like an Slack invite.. let me know!) It’s important to build a community of support to share resources, ideas, and to celebrate your successes. Not everyone in the industry will be kind to you and you’ll find sex work social media to be catty and negative at times. Don’t fall into high schoolish cliques and popularity clubs. There are some truly incredible humans in this industry, cultivate friendships with them. These people will be your real peers and there truly is enough to go around that petty competitiveness is unnecessary.
Outside the industry, gauge your civilian friends and family carefully when you discuss your work. Some of them will be your biggest cheerleaders and others won’t. That’s ok but it doesn’t mean you have to listen to criticisms or give in to negative stigma about what you do. Same goes for your romantic partners.
Speaking of romantic partners, think twice about using a partner in your business. Although there are some isolated cases of great sex worker duos, involving your romantic partner(s) in your work can be a very sticky situation. Our world is full of horror stories of bad breakups where partners sabotage businesses, contest a lack of model releases, demand percentages of revenue, or engage in legal fights over who owns the content. If you do decide to work with a partner, make sure you have ironclad agreements and set good boundaries between work and personal responsibilities. It will save you a lot of head and heartache down the road if things go south.
In closing, sex work can give us access to financial resources and opulent lives that we never thought possible, but at the end of the day, it’s still a business. It’s a vehicle that will get you where you want to go, but you have to drive that vehicle.
For me, sex work has given me access to an extraordinary life and exceptional friendships. I love the power and freedom that comes from being an entrepreneur, but I also know that it demands a lot of my time and energy. Your mileage will vary as you navigate your own path, so be kind with yourself as you figure that path out. Keep your goals and dreams at the forefront.
Most of all, know that I believe in you. You’ve got this.
Alexandra Snow is a professional Dominatrix, media producer, educator, and sex worker activist. She leads the Wicked Collective, an independent sex worker Collective in Columbus, OH. She also heads up the Wicked Alliance, a sex work support and education project born out of necessity during the pandemic. You can find more of her work at AlexandraSnow.com or follow her on Twitter at @dominasnow. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org