Three Ways Sex Work Has Made Me a Better Business Owner
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Three Ways Sex Work Has Made Me a Better Business Owner
In my line of work, I've learned how to negotiate, spot an unreliable client and say no.
My new podcast co-host was struggling for weeks. She had been trying to write an email to a potential sponsorship partner who couldn’t afford us, and when she mentioned it to me, I was shocked. Our new recovery podcast was growing fast, and the client had originally agreed to our rate per episode. But then he turned around and tried to lowball us.
To me, it was simple. He couldn't afford us, and on top of that, he was being a dick about it, falsely believing we needed him more than he needed us. She felt bad about saying no and was so concerned about the feelings of someone who tried to screw us over. In the coming weeks, a lot of my friends would come to me with similar situations. Someone would ask them for something ridiculous and they were worried about how to say no.
But I excel in these situations.
I'm a sex worker, and I have to be able to determine quickly whether or not a client is worth talking to, taking on, dealing with. The stakes are higher than in a regular job—I could get robbed, raped, arrested or even murdered. Never underestimate the power of your life being on the line to find out that "Hey, I can do this."
A common refrain among women I know is that they “feel bad” saying no or otherwise setting a boundary. These beliefs are taught to us by a society that doesn’t want us to have our own backs. The next time you are thinking of a potential client's needs as more important than your own, remember that they aren’t thinking the same way. They have their best interests at heart, and you have to have yours. Nobody else will ever have them for you in the business world. The best you can hope for is that your needs intersect with theirs.
Here are a few tips I've learned over the years.
1. Be Fiercely Protective of Your Time
Most customers do not turn into sales. In sex work, we call lookie-loos “fantasy bookers.” They exist everywhere. They want to think of themselves as the person who will buy goods or services, but they don’t intend on actually purchasing anything. I give them five minutes. I’m here to help if you’re lonely but not for free. At the end of five minutes, if they haven’t made any motion to actually book, I ask them if they’d like to. Then, I let them know that I’d be happy to continue the conversation if they Venmo me.
They never do, but now my line is free for someone who might.
My sessions start the minute the second person walks into the room and end when my timer goes off. Oh, you didn’t cum? Not my job, not my problem. You have bought time. It’s run out. If a project (making them cum, writing a grant, whatever) takes more time than what they paid for, just politely let them know that the funds have been used, and if they’d like more work, here’s how much more money they need to give you. As for clients who can’t afford you? Keep it moving. They will find someone they can afford, and someone who can afford you will find you.
2. Don’t Take on Too Much
When we think about the kind of workload to handle, we typically look at how much time we have and how much we can squeeze into it. We live in a society that teaches us that we are what we do, so more doing is how we combat the inner "not enough-ness" that comes from believing that. We also need to consider energy. As a sex worker, I cannot see more than two clients in a day and be OK emotionally the next day. It’s not a time thing—last week, I had a massage client and then worked an overnight. Technically, that’s a 13-hour day. But it felt the same as two one-hour sessions.
Each client has a different energy that requires a different character from me. When you look at a project and plan your deadlines, consider how much emotional energy that project may take. How demanding is the client? How important is it that everything be just right? Is there anything you will have to learn or that’s a bit out of your depth or may be triggering to you or may be something that's too far down your list of tasks to enjoy? These are all considerations when you look at how each client, each gig, each project fits into your overall world. If you burn yourself out, you’ll have to stop completely. Just like it’s better to clean your house a little every day than once a month, it’s important to regulate the in-and-out flow of your limited energetic reserves.
3. Trust Your Gut, and Don't Make Decisions Out of Desperation
In the summer of 2020, I went to Arizona to feature at a comedy club. The gig was paying crap, but I’d just had COVID and wanted to use my immunity to do my favorite thing. I figured I could work there, get a nice hotel, etc. Where I live in Los Angeles was pretty much locked down, and I’d barely had any sex work outside of the rare QAnon client. I decided that I would make a certain amount of money while I was there. I didn’t. All my calls either couldn’t afford me or refused to screen or were drunk.
This wore my resolve down and trampled the trust in my gut. The last day, I got a call from someone who I normally would have not taken. Something didn’t feel right. He was coming on too strong for a guy about to show up to a sure thing. When he was late, a thought reoccurred—I need to cancel. But I didn’t. He sent his LinkedIn profile as a screenshot, but I barely glanced at it. I had decided that I was going to make that money that day—I had a Botox appointment in the morning, and this appointment was how I was going to pay for it.
Eventually, he would rob me. The companies on his profile didn’t exist and hadn’t existed for years. I knew when he made me download some investment app, in which he claimed to deposit 10 times my asking price—always a huge red flag, especially when someone will just tip you extra instead of asking for credit and consideration for it—that I was never going to see that money. But now I had a large man in my hotel room, where my dog and my wallet and my laptop were. I had to do what I had to do to keep myself safe in that moment and that was give him what he came for. That day, I had decided that my desire to make money was more important than my gut instincts, and I paid the price.
Someone once told me that the things that are meant for you can’t miss you and that you can't do anything about the things that aren't meant for you. They told me this about dating, but it’s true in business, as well. It’s easy to get into a scarcity mindset when we work for ourselves. For marginalized people, specifically, we are taught that our policies and voices don’t matter. But if you can’t have your own back in your business dealings, nobody else will. And I guarantee the person on the other end of the email is not going to be hurt that you said no. They are just going to move along to the next person who may say yes.