Run your business like a business

Advice from a long-time entrepreneur and start-up consultant

Sex workers have some of the best entrepreneurial skills out of anyone I’ve met; we deal with marketing, managing scheduling and logistics, screening, customer service, and finances. On top of that, many of us deal with difficult clients and challenging situations, things that face anyone running their own business but can be amplified in our industry.

If you’re new to the business or want to improve your existing enterprise, this article is for you. It’s important to treat sex work as a legitimate business, because the work we do is real work. But perhaps you need a bit of help in refining your approach. Here’s some advice.

1. Act like a professional

Professionalism in any field varies widely, and can involve specific conduct, manners and behaviours, or work style. While sex work requires professionalism for various tasks, don’t adopt a stuffy demeanour; after all, our business is one of providing pleasure, and there should be a great amount of fun in that!

Instead, assume some simple yet appreciated business practices that not only represent you as a serious business person, but will also make your working life a bit easier.

Answer emails in a timely manner. There are many approaches to tackling a growing inbox while getting to messages on time (check out this article by Fast Company if you’re curious). I invite you to think like your clients: when you contact someone about a product or service from any industry, what are your expectations on response? An hour? A day? A week? I’m surprised to learn of providers taking days or weeks to reply to an email requesting an appointment; I think this is absurd. If you want to improve your sales and build clientele, you must respond in a timely manner — within 24 hours. Doing so will show you care about your clients’ business.

Communicate like a professional. In addition to timely responses, use professional language and communication skills when replying to clients and other providers. Short-hand texting and writing are for amateurs. Go pro with good writing, even if that’s not how someone reached out initially. If you don’t know how, learn; Google is a thing.

Be mindful of optics. People tend to hold (most) professionals to a higher standard of behaviour. They shouldn’t be complaining heavily about their clients in public forums, trashing other coworkers, spreading gossip, etc. Neither should you. Warning about dangerous clients via twitter is one thing; constant complaining about every little thing to the wide world is poor taste. Air your grievances elsewhere — to friends, in private chat rooms, your cat, a diary, wherever. Don’t spread gossip, and don’t let your clients spread it either. If they start talking about another sex worker, don’t engage; politely steer the conversation away.

2. Adopt a brand

Your brand should reflect your personality, services, and image, and will include your overall look, attitude, how you present yourself on social media, and how you communicate with clients and other service providers. It should also be geared towards your target market (more on that below). Whatever your brand is, use it to your advantage at every opportunity — in emails, texting, social media, your website, your ads. Acting professionally is key in this business, and staying on-brand helps with this. It earns you the respect you deserve and helps others to see you’re serious about your work.

Adopting a brand also includes figuring out your value proposition. A value proposition is how you position yourself in your industry; how you’re different from your competitors, how you’ll solve your clients’ problems, and your ‘secret sauce’. It conveys who you are, what you offer, the benefits of your services, and why someone should choose you, in a simple, concise statement.

You can read more about adopting a brand and image in my article on getting started in sex work).

3. Think like your clients.

Two (of many) mistakes entrepreneurs make when launching a business are:

  • Not understanding who their target market is.
  • Not understanding the deep needs of their customers.

In the tech space there tends to be a lot of ideas floating around, with everyone building a solution to problems that may or may not exist. I’m shocked to find that many companies haven’t done any customer research to really investigate the pain points and deep needs of what their clients want. A lot of them really have the attitude of, “If you build it, they will come”.

When I work with startups, the first thing I want to understand is, do they know the client base they are targeting and can they identify their target market? A target market is exactly who you expect to serve, and it can’t be “everyone”, because “everyone” is not going to buy your product or services. Think about it; Porsche’s target market isn’t going to be 20-year old undergraduate students; it’s going to be established professionals who can afford to buy their car.

Similarly, you, my sexy entrepreneur, need to do some thinking around your clients — who they are, what they like, what problems they have, and why they might want your services. To do this, here are some questions to reflect on:

  • Who is your target Client? (Don’t say everyone) Personify them: give them a name, age, gender and a job description. Imagine them as a real person with real problems.
  • What is your Client’s objective? What are they really trying to do? What is their deep-seated need they are trying to meet by engaging with you?
  • What challenges are they facing in having their needs met? What are their pain points?
  • What is the economic and emotional impact clients face when not achieving their objectives and having their needs met?
  • Imagine the Client using your service. What are your services’ qualities or capabilities? Why are you different?
  • In what way do your capabilities affect the Client’s ability to achieve their objectives?
  • What is the Client’s benefit of achieving those objectives?

By working through these questions, you can start to develop your brand further and develop a value proposition you can use in your marketing. It also helps you gain a deep understanding of and empathy towards your clients’ needs and desires.

4. Market yourself effectively.

We know that marketing our services to the wide world is key in client discovery, but it’s important to direct your marketing efforts to channels that will provide a good return on investment — both financially and in quality of clients. Sex workers are unfortunately unable to take advantage of more traditional marketing techniques such as print media, ads on social media, or Google (although huge props to Winnipeg escort Sensational Serena for having the brass to put herself out there on a downtown billboard; that’s some serious marketing right there). Because of this, we need to be creative and use other techniques to facilitate discovery by clients.

Take advantage of free marketing. Use free marketing as much as possible, such as Switter, twitter or instagram. You could also write a Medium blog or send out a newsletter every month. This helps you develop your brand and interact with would-be clients and other providers.

Ad platforms must provide a return on investment. Some advertising platforms give better results than others, but this can be a mixed bag; while one provider may land several amazing clients in a city using Slixa, it might not be so effective for other finding other clients elsewhere. Knowing which platforms bring you the best clients is important, so keep notes on this. Ask your clients how they discovered you. You can do this on your screening form with a multiple choice question that lists places where you advertise. If your ad platform provides stats on your ad performance, use this. For example, I have two ads on Slixa and am currently testing which one works better for clicks and tracking to my site. I’ll run it for a couple weeks and pick the one that provides the most traffic.

Use analytics. You can use Google Analytics on your website to track information about traffic by setting up a google account and inserting the tracking code in your site header (ask a web dev professional or a tech-savvy friend if you don’t know how). Some website providers come with built-in analytics which you can also use.

Analytics can be helpful to give you a very specific breakdown of where your traffic comes from, user geography, what pages they view, their behaviour flow on your site, timing of visits, and a bunch of other stuff that may even be a bit too advanced for what you might want. This can help you direct your efforts to methods that bring you more traffic, and presumably more clients.

Provide content. This can be writing, cam work, porn, or other media. One of my favourite content creators is Veronica Sway, who creates fun, cheeky videos that are sexy and creative, and a great way to attract traffic and followers. Your blog can be another way to provide content; I’ve had many clients tell me they were convinced to book after reading my work. Content is an important way to get people to discover you, so create as much as your schedule and skill allows.

5. Do your due diligence.

In the tech, finance or consulting spaces, this is known as Know Your Customer, and allows a company to investigate the identity and suitability of a person or company. In sex work, we call it screening, and it’s an absolute must for your safety. I’ve written about this in previous articles, so I won’t harp on it here.

What I will say is that the more that escorts screen, the more it sets the industry standard that screening is mandatory, and creates a safer environment for everyone involved. If someone refuses to screen, move on. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

6. Study your competitors.

Market competition refers to similar businesses selling a similar product or service. In its simplest form, there is a limited supply of buyers and sellers within the space are trying to achieve the greatest market share and revenue. Perfect competition refers to all sellers offering the same service at the same cost to a limited number of buyers, and all information about the transaction is known to both sides.

Fortunately sex work is very much imperfect in a competition sense. While fundamentally sex workers and their clients have some common goals, there are many factors that dictate choices made among actors on both sides of a sex work transaction: personalities, looks, mood, resources, personal situations, services, reviews, timing, and more can impact the decision on a client booking you or someone else. However some basics can be agreed upon.

In a given location, other sex workers are going to be your competitors in some manner (unless a client is going for a specific look or niche that you don’t fulfill). Understand who you’re competing against. It’s not going to be everyone, but it might be everyone in your price point, niche service, or looks. You should study what they do well and what they do poorly, so you can learn the good and omit the bad. If they’ve reached a goal similar to yours, study their techniques and marketing; they’ve obviously been doing something right. The point is not to hate your competitors, but instead learn from them. That’s the key takeaway.

7. Nurture your relationships.

Competition notwithstanding, it’s important to develop and nurture good relationships in this industry, among clients and especially with other sex workers. Other sex workers can be your allies, friends, and biggest supporters. Besides, a group of us makes for one helluva sexy party.

Trust me, you want other sex workers on your side when things go sideways, and who else understands the frustrations of time wasters better than a fellow sex worker?

Developing good relationships with clients is key for retention. There’s a finesse to this practice and every relationship with a client is different. I will casually text or email with some clients (after mutual agreement) and may have a free lunch date with long-time regulars. I do this because I genuinely enjoy it, and I know it will foster a better connection with them. Not everyone needs to do this, and how you manage your client relationship is entirely up to you. You may need to enforce boundaries from time to time, to maintain the distinction between business and pleasure. That’s ok. Do so politely and courteously.

There is a saying in business that it costs more to acquire a new customer than to keep them. If you spend a ton of money on advertising and only gain a couple new clients after a new and costly campaign, make sure they stick around for the long term. Nurturing these relationships is important to ensure you get the most lifetime value for your efforts.

Sadly, not all clients are awesome, nor do all cross your door beyond an initial meeting. That’s ok. It’s important to understand who will be a better client and who will waste your time (see my article on How to Identify a Time Waster). Once you know this, put more effort into better clients, and let go of bad clients who aren’t giving you value.

Please, don’t be shocked. No, not all clients are created equally. Those that provide a bigger return on investment should get more out of you than those who don’t. Return on investment doesn’t necessarily mean financial, mind you; people bring many things to the table and enrich our lives in many ways, and anyone you value should be treated well. The client booking three hours every few months because it’s within his budget is just as valuable to me as someone booking every week for a couple hours. (To the offended clients reading this: if you want better service, be a better client. It’s pretty easy.)

8. Give something back to the community.

Someone on my twitter feed posted that they’d never experienced so much support and inclusivity as they had in the sex work community, and this has been my experience, too. Being a good person is good business, and giving something back to the sex work community is a great way to show your appreciation for everyone involved. There’s a ton of ways to do this and they can range from writing articles for other sex workers, retweeting their schedules or tour dates, supporting sex-worker lead initiatives and groups, or hosting and attending events. Find something that works for you.

In short…

If you want better clients and better business, be a better business person. Put some time and effort into your work outside the boudoir and see where it can take you.

Catch me online!

Web: https://www.isobelandrews.com

Twitter: @lafemmeisobel

Toronto-based sex worker, entrepreneur, law student and all-round sassy babe. Follow me on twitter at @lafemmeisobel or visit my site at www.isobelandrews.com