by Furry Girl
I've been a part-time cam ho since 2005, and in that time, I have been a worker bee for a network called iFriends. iFriends used to be the big dog on the block with web cams, but these days, that has been eclipsed by Streamate (aka CamModels.com). I'd been hesitant to jump ship on iFriends to try Streamate because of the much heftier cut of sales taken by the latter network. I decided to finally give it a go, and here's what I've learned after three months on Streamate. Your results may vary, of course, but here's my rundown of my pros and cons in an effort to help others who may be considering an iFriends/Streamate switch, or just curious about branching out into camming altogether.
For those of you not familiar with how web cam stuff works, here's the nutshell version: after submitting a model release, contract, and two forms of ID, you can log into the network at any time and make yourself available for clients. Most networks let you set your own per-minute rate. Generally, there is some kind of free/guest chat area where you hustle for clients and chat with them about what you do in private/paid shows. Different networks and settings option let you pick totally exclusive shows, or for multiple paying clients to watch you at the same time. Earnings can be erratic, so you might make $20 one night while making $200 another night, and you have to roll with the slow times and not assume a big payout every time you log in. The cam network is the one that brings in all or most of your clients, as well as running the streaming video platform and handling billing and customer service, and for this, they take a big cut of your sales. You're generally paid once a week via check, wire, or other options, and this is considered taxable, reported income.
I've liked web cam work because it's like working in a peep show or strip club, but from the lazy comfort of home, and where no one can try to jam a finger in me on the sly. I set my own hours, and if I'm not with a paying client, I can watch a movie, read blogs, write, or do anything else that still keeps me visible and in front of my computer. I do most of my movie and TV watching on cam. (Camming often feels like a way to justify watching TV shows.) So, I'm not just sitting there in a sad lonely peep show box, I'm doing something else in the background. I tend to not do serious work, however, because I need to be able to drop whatever I'm doing and instantly perk up and entertain someone when someone starts paying. (I also don't watch "emotional" things on TV that might give me sadface. I recently welled up with tears while watching a documentary on John Nash when he finally wins a Nobel Prize. Cam whoring and PBS programs go hand in hand.)
For my iFriends-versus-Streamate experiment, I decided to log two or three months on Streamate and see how that sample compares to past earnings on iFriends. I did not use my most recent iFriends time, since that's covering the holidays, during which it has been slow during previous years. I don't feel like it's the most accurate comparison, so I decided to make the iFriends comparison all of 2011, just so I feel like I'm getting a proper sample. (I keep records of my cam earnings. Spreadsheets and cam whoring also go hand in hand.)
On iFriends, I charge $4 a minute. iFriends takes 50%, so my take-home pay is $2 a minute for time spent with a paying client. In 2011, I averaged about $17 for every hour I spent logged into iFriends. It was a surprising sting to tally that up, because a few years ago, I could count on making at least $25 an hour for time spent logged in.
With Streamate, I charge $3.99 per minute for basic shows, and $4.99 for exclusive shows. Streamate takes 65%, leaving me with $1.40 or $1.75 per minute. So far, I have averaged $28 for every hour I spent logged into Streamate, a big jump up from iFriends. (This could be artificially high as the site's members "try out the new girl," so we'll see if the level stays the same over time.)
The hustle and the clientele
Of course, hourly averages are not the only things to compare. I find Streamate's members, in general, much more pushy and entitled than iFriends' members. The guys are less likely to even type "hi" at the start of a show, and might just type "pussy," "SPREAD ASSHOLE," or "hurry up!" I've politely stated "calm down and enjoy the show," or "relax, I'm just warming up," only to have people log off in a huff or tell me to go fuck myself because I'm ugly anyway. This would not be a good network for sex workers who have yet to develop a thick skin. Most of my shows are 2-5 minutes, instead of maybe 10-15 minutes on iFriends, but there are more customers who want these quickie naked shows. The guys generally expect to do the "get to know each other" chat for free in guest chat, and then only pay you for the "sex part" of the show. To me, whether I'm amusing you with my brain or my pussy, I want to be paid. (It's the analog to escort clients who can't understand why they should pay you to eat dinner with them, assuming that a stopwatch starts only when you get naked.) There's more of an expectation on Streamate of you spending a lot of time hustling and woo-ing and enticing. I hate hustling and woo-ing and enticing. You've seen my photos, you see the list of what sorts of things I'm into, and you are either interested in me or you're not. I'm not going to beg.
The technology and interface
Streamate cons: My biggest gripe is that the network freezes a lot for me, and I've heard from other cam hosts that they've had the same problem. Streamate's tech people went through some basic trouble-shooting with me, but ultimately had no solution. It's annoying because this has cost me clients and money, and there's nothing I can do to fix it. It's important to note that Streamate gives people the first 30 seconds of paid chat for free, so don't do anything but talk in that first 30 seconds. Streamate also does to-the-second billing, so if a client spends 3 minutes and 48 seconds with you, you will not be paid for 4 minutes. This to-the-second billing is better for clients, but it makes me feel like a cell phone plan, where guys are trying harder to maximize every single second. (I think this is part of why most don't even bother saying "hello" at the beginning. If typing "hello" takes you five seconds, that's 33 cents you "wasted" on being polite.)
Streamate pros: I love that the interface allows you to save common replies/statements, like "Would you like to see it all in a paid chat?" or "I'm sorry my video feed has frozen. I need to refresh and I'll be back in about 30 seconds." 90% of my free/guest area interactions on Streamate are me clicking a button to fire off an auto-reply to the questions I get asked constantly. It's a great feature and saves me the bother of explaining the same thing hundreds of times a night. The site overall is much more attractive than iFriends' cluttered design.
iFriends cons: Horrible tech support, many of my support tickets over the years have simply gone unanswered. Although the site has gone through design updates, they all are still stuck in the 1997 school of design. It's so confusing that some people honestly can't even figure out how to join or spend money on a private show - I've heard that from plenty of my site members as they got frustrated with trying to get a cam show with me. iFriends using cheesy language, like referring to cam performers as "stars," and tries to have this atmosphere of celebrity that's all the more laughable because the site is comprised mostly of broken English speakers from Eastern Europe and semi-literate American housewives. iFriends also blatantly lies in their advertising in an attempt to lure people into joining the site, and it's always embarrassed me to have my image used to sell these lies. My profile page promises readers that if they sign up, they'll get access to "my sizzling photos, steamy video clips, secret diary and so much more." While cam hosts do have the ability to upload all sorts of free stuff for members of our "fan clubs," a lot of us don't upload anything. To make it look like I am personally promise people that they will find "steamy video clips" and my "secret diary" is a shady business practice and one I've always been uncomfortable with. I also know that their blocking system doesn't work, or has bugs in it, because there's a at least one guy that I've blocked several times who keeps showing up using the same screen name.
iFriends pros: Doesn't freeze nearly as often as Streamate, and the latest redesign of my interface lets you refresh just the video feed, so I don't lose a customer and have to restart my entire browser in order to get it going again. I like that when a chatter appears in my room, the system tells me where they are from (based on their IP), just so I can to to be more personalized and ask something like, "How's the weather in New Zealand?" or something. I like the ability to refuse to let unregistered surfers see my video feed for free. I want to give as little as humanly possible to people who are unlikely to ever buy anything. I also like how iFriends displays, right under the cam window, how much money someone has spent so far. This lets me easily have mental rules like "I don't start toy shows until I've netted $10." (On Streamate, you can click and open a new window to see your payment stats, but it's not live and in real-time, and it requires clicking and being distracted. I want a little ticker right there under the chat window telling me how much I've made on the show.)
I've decided that I will only be working on Streamate now. There are more rude people and my cut is less, but I'm overall making more money. I'll now refer you to a strip club comparison post from Calico Lane which contains an infographic that explains it all.
by Furry Girl
If you don't already follow the funny/sad/personal Sex Worker Problems blog, I will agan remind you to do so. There was a post with a question about how to explain gaps in your resume if you move out of sex work and apply for straight jobs, and I shared my two cents about one could tackle that problem.
I’m almost 28, and I’ve been a sex worker since I was 18. I have no plans to leave sex work any time soon, but the “what would I tell potential employers” thing always seemed like a no-brainer to me, so long as one doesn’t mind lying. Here are two completely plausible lies that a potential straight employer has no way of disproving...
by Furry Girl
The mass outing of porn performers has been a big issue lately, and I wanted to post about the subject even while the story is unfolding. (I usually like to wait a bit and see how things turn out, rather than being a blogger who "keeps up" with the day's hot topic.) I want this discussion to be dominated by actual sex workers, not just whoever the first sex bloggers are to insert themselves into the situation for traffic. (Disclosure: having never worked in mainstream hardcore porn, I have never been tested at Adult Industry Medical, and I am not a part of the group who have been exposed by the hacking/publishing of their database.)
It seems like this initial leak is just from AIM's database, but there's also been talk about the privacy of performer's information in 2257 databases, which the anonymous angry leaker has said they already possess and plan on publishing soon. (2257 laws, in a nutshell, are federal laws in the United States that deal with the requirements for proving the age and identity of all performers in adult content.)
Last summer, one of the issues I brought up during my part of the privacy panel at the Desiree Alliance conference was that sex workers needed to be aware of how 2257 laws affect them. If you work in porn (or "fetish erotica" or "art nudes" or whatever other pretentious terms some people use), you're likely subject to signing a model release and providing the photographer with two forms of ID to prove your age. (You may also be subject to this if you're an escort/fetish worker who advertises on certain web directories, even if you're not even using "pornographic" images of yourself.) I made a point of talking about what 2257 means for sex workers because I don't think that most folk think as much about this as they should. You are handing over your private data to someone who might be reselling and licensing that data to anyone who wants it.
Personally, I shoot only exclusive content, which means I am not reselling a performer's information to dozens or hundreds of other people. But, if you're just shooting for generic, non-exclusive porn photographers, you need to know that that photographer may be planning to sell your shoot to 100 people, and all 100 of those people will be getting a copy of your identifying information. This isn't anything "underhanded," it's part of how the business works and stays in compliant with federal laws. Anyone who is publishing your shoot wants a copy of the proof that you're over 18, and you can understand why. Unlike a misdemeanor solicitation charge that other sex workers risk, pornographers who break laws are breaking federal laws, and risk going to prison if they fail to comply with all parts of 2257. (So much for porn being "sex work lite" or "the legal option", eh?)
If you're a stalker who has your eye on a certain performer, you could find out any names they use (especially if they are an actual "name" in porn), and shop around until you find a content re-seller who will sell you a video shoot or photo set of them, complete with their model release and IDs. I have no idea how well these big content malls actually police who they sell to, but I'd guess they don't do much to prevent stalkers from buying performer's private information. Someone could experiment with this on their own, and try an undercover investigation of the number of businesses found in Google under "adult content provider," and see if they'll sell to any random nobody without even a functional porn site. For example, here are two FAQ items on one content reseller that I'm guessing the performers didn't think about when they handed over their IDs:
Do you actually supply all the 2257 documentation?
We sure do. Together with the invoice, you get copies of IDs and model data files. Make a free purchase in the Bonuses section (yes, it’s 100% free) to see how these documents look.
Is this content on sale only here?
No. Normally, content providers put their content on sale on multiple sites. As a rule, the prices are the same from site to site.
I think that perfectly sums up how absurdly available one's images and personal information can become when they work for some pornographers. Plus, this reseller seems to offer a free sample purchase, so you, too, can obtain the private information of a porn performer just to get a feel for their purchasing system!
During my talk at the aforementioned Desiree Alliance con, here's what I suggested to sex workers as steps they can take to try and protect their privacy while working in porn:
* As a performer, you are required to provide IDs and information in a model release for 2257 records. This part you can't get around.
* Generic pornographers shoot content to license and resell to anyone who will buy it. This means that any random person could potentially buy your identity for as little as a few dollars. Your identity is for sale when you perform in non-exclusive content.
* The big issue: Your best defense against having your identity resold is to work with reputable, worker-friendly porn companies that shoot exclusive content.
* Being selective about who you work for will mean you're losing out on ways of earning income, but consider what it is that you're selling: your name, your address, and possibly your social security number.
*Use a passport as your primary form of ID - it doesn't list your home address. Use a secondary supporting document that doesn't list an address, like a birth certificate.
* Finally: I, as a pornographer, have no way of knowing if your model release lists your real home address, or your mail drop in another state.
So, where do we go from here? How can both sex workers and pornographers try to prevent future identity breaches, without the magical, probably-never-happening solution of "change the laws to favor privacy rights"?
Curious if you've been affected by the leaks thus far? Check out this database created by an ally, and view the README file first.
by Furry Girl
Welcome to the second installment of my series of advice that's for would-be sex workers. (The first one is here.)
I am happy to help rational, professionally-minded potential sex workers fill in some of the blanks they've missed in their own research. (I've stopped bothering to try and hand-hold anyone through the basics they could read online if only they'd ever heard of Google.) Most people, once they do real research, figure out that sex work is not actually a real-life version of this carnival game, where you jump in the windy box, grab fistfuls of cash, and then exit without having done any real work.
Of all the emails I receive with questions from new and would-be sex workers, I think that every single one of them has failed to ask an extremely important question: where they can find a good lawyer or a good accountant.
This week, I was asked by another sex worker for advice on what amounted to be, I take it, how to commit tax evasion. She explained that her finances were a mess, she had no idea where to start, had never filed a tax return, and didn't want to pay taxes on what she was earning, and figured there must be some way out of this problem. (Honey, none of us want to pay taxes.) I replied with one simple line, "Sorry, you need to hire an accountant and an attorney." She replied in an angry huff because I wouldn't give her "any quick advice" on what to do. My second, and final reply on the matter was, "You need serious legal and financial advice FROM PROFESSIONALS, and I will not risk being held legally liable for conspiracy charges for giving you any suggestions on how to avoid paying taxes." The part that pissed me off the most was her assumption in the first email, "It seems you are in a similar position to me so I was wondering how you do it." No, I am not in a similar position. Plenty of sex workers file and pay taxes. We're not all taking cash under the table and burying it in coffee cans in our yards or whatever. Asking me for my advice on doing something dodgy because you're assuming I do it myself is extremely rude.
So, here's golden rule number two for new/prospective sex workers:
You absolutely need to hire an attorney who specializes in adult businesses in your area. Also, hire an accountant who specializes in adult entertainers.
Let me say that again, since it obviously needs to be said, and no one listens to me when I implore them of it:
You absolutely need to hire an attorney who specializes in adult businesses in your area. Also, hire an accountant who specializes in adult entertainers.
I value a lot about the sex worker community and people coming together to help one another out, but I am sick of seeing non-lawyers and non-accountants exchange incorrect advice about their legal and tax issues. How many times have you read one escort advise another that if you ask the client if he's a cop, he has to tell you? Or if he gets naked (or has sex with you), then it means he's not law enforcement? If plenty of sex workers still believe in some 1970s-era crime movie idea about the legality of entrapment, who knows what other inadvertent, dangerous untruths they are sharing amongst each other. Leave the lawyering to the lawyers, folks- and focus on what you do best.
The very first thing I did when I decided to get into porn was to hire one of the best adult industry attorneys to advise me on how to incorporate, and the laws that impacted me. In the first couple of years, I hired him for an hour here and there to give me advice on my business and how to keep things above-board. I will never see that as money poorly spent, even though I was eating ramen noodles and buying my work clothes from Ross Dress For Less.
I cannot stress enough how important it is to talk to a lawyer, and it probably costs less than you'd think. (I spent $1000 initially, and that was before I ever had a single paying subscriber.) The law is complicated and changes all the time, on local, state, and federal levels, and your sister sex workers, no matter how smart, are not qualified to dispense legal advice on your problems. In fact, it's illegal to dispense legal advice if you're not a lawyer. Lawyers possess specialized knowledge that can keep your cute ass out of jail. (My first attorney has since retired, and he sold his business to JD Obenberger, who you might recognize from Red Light District Chicago's video series.) Sex workers can be great for helping each other understand their basic universal rights, like the right to not incriminate yourself if you've been arrested, but for anything beyond that, please, pay a lawyer.
Secondly, hire an accountant who specializes in adult entertainers. I didn't do this soon enough myself, and I wish I had. Back in 2003, I think, I hired someone I knew only as "TaxGrrrl" in Michigan off an adult industry message board to do my taxes, and she screwed up, leaving me with a fine for almost $1000. Now? I am thrilled to have Lori of TaxDomme.com keeping my financial life in working order. (And believe me, I am the world's sloppiest housekeeper when it comes to financial organization and orderly creation of spreadsheets, so if she can make my business tidy, she can make your life tidy, too.)
Sex work is about being a responsible professional, and sometimes, that means knowing when you need to turn to other professionals.
by Furry Girl
I've been contacted countless times by people who want to be sex workers, and I've advised many of them against it. Why? Because plenty of these emailers are terrified of being discovered. If you're already experiencing great concern over potential outings and shame, this is not a job for you to be considering. One would think this goes without saying- but it apparently doesn't, judging by the number of times I've encountered such people.
Emailers want to let me know that they are turned on by exhibitionism, consider themselves quite sex-positive, love performing, and eager for my advice. They also often let me know that they'd potentially be disowned by their families and "real friends", kicked out of school, lose custody of their children, and/or be fired from their conservative job if anyone found out. They want to how to not get "caught".
I tell such potential sex workers: imagine the person you'd least want knowing about it. They'll probably be the ones who find your alter ego first.
My bad outing story? Over dinner, some loser my mother was dating yelled at my grandmother that I "suck dick for money", jumping to his feet and pompously refusing to spend another minute at the same table as a whore. So, picture your own elderly grandmother, with an enraged asshole screaming at her that you suck dick for money. Can you handle that? (The irony about this situation, however, is that every time in my life that dick-sucking has transpired and money has changed hands, I have never once been the one being paid to suck a dick. But I didn't want to try and explain that to an upset woman in her late 80s.)
So, here it is, short and concise, for all my would-be sex worker readers:
The first rule of sex work is: you will be caught being a sex worker.
The second rule of sex work is: YOU WILL BE CAUGHT BEING A SEX WORKER.
Accept those rules before you start quizzing myself or others about how to get started in the business. Sex work can offer great things to those of us with big hearts, abundant sexual energy, creativity, and business-savvy, but those freedoms and rewards do come at a certain price.
by Furry Girl
More than the occasional misogynistic viewers, exorbitant credit card processing fees, and normal people thinking I'm going to molest their children, I get annoyed by those who treat me as though my work could be done by a retarded monkey. After all, if I possessed any skills, ambitions, or intelligence, I wouldn't be "selling myself", would I?
Sex work exists in the consciousness of almost everyone as the last refuge of the stupid, the lazy, and the desperate. This dismissive viewpoint takes many forms, but the one that often irks me the most is when it's coming from people who express interest in being sex workers.
I get questions (on Myspace, Twitter, and email) all the time from people who want to start their own porn sites. Most of them including wording such as, "Quick question...", or "If I could have just a few minutes of your time..."
Asking me to explain how to run an independent porn company in such a manner is insulting, and it means you assume that everything I've worked for and learned in the last 7 years can be taught in a couple of sentences. I basically have a master's degree in making internet porn. Would you contact an engineer or any other (non-sex) professional and assume they can teach you what they do in a handful of off-hand remarks?
Running a porn site is not a get-rich quick scheme where you click a few buttons on your computer and hundred dollar bills start shooting out of your DVD drive. It's a job - a skilled job - and it takes plenty of time to get good at it. You're going to need to pour a lot of energy in it, and it can be quite some time before it's profitable. You're going to need some capital for investing in equipment and consulting with a local attorney. You're going to need to learn new skills and hone your existing ones. Plenty of people fail at operating porn sites - even those who have good content and a love for their work.
Jobs that involve sexuality aren't magical zero-effort high-yield professions, and by assuming they are, you're showing me that you haven't thought this through before contacting me. It's not that I don't ever dispense helpful advice, but you have to demonstrate that you're not expecting me to try and spoon-feed you information when it's obvious you haven't spent any of your own time researching this new career path for yourself. If you don't care enough to try and learn about it independently, why should I care about it for you? And if you're unwilling to take the initiative to seek out information on your own, do you really think you'll be good at running a business?
Perfectly acceptable questions to send me:
"Do you use a content management system?"
"Merchant account or third party billing?"
"Do you encode to multiple video formats?"
"How do you make a website?"
"Are there any laws or anything I need to know about?"
"How much does a digital camera cost?"
The first set of questions show me that the person has done their own research, and they're looking to fill in the gaps. They're also not asking me questions that Google could answer for them, which shows that they respect my time. The second set of questions tells me this person hasn't contemplated the idea of being a pornographer for very long, and probably doesn't know much about the internet or technology in the first place. (If I reply at all, I tell them to spend at least a hundred hours reading adult webmaster resource sites like YNOT.com before contacting me again.)
Much like the "Sex Workers Are People, Too" PSA, I'd love to see a "Sex Work is Work" PSA. I think that we're much more accomplished at convincing the world that we're people than we are at getting them to believe that what we do is work.
Whether it's running porn sites, escorting, pro-domming, or phone sex, those of us who are successful at what we do have gotten to that point because of plain old hard work, determination, and smarts.
Just like any other person who's good at their job.
Furry Girl: a good time not yet had by all.
- I operate SWAAY.org, an accessible sex workers' rights site that educates the general public about our lives and our issues.
- I've been vegan for 13 years because it's the easiest way for an individual to contribute to less violence, suffering, and exploitation.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
More of me online
Enjoy my writing? I enjoy presents!
Buy SWAAY shirts:
Browse by topic
- (Anti-) Beauty Standards
- 80s Movies' Wisdom
- Add to Your Lexicon
- Advice for Sex Workers
- Allies and "Allies"
- Atheism / Religion
- Book Reviews
- Crab Mentality
- Events & Happenings
- Frequently Addressed Accusations
- Government & Law
- Infographics, Memes, & Ads
- Kink / BDSM
- Labor politics
- Leisure of the Theory Class
- Love & Relationships
- Nutters & Moralizers
- Other Political Issues
- Privacy & Anonymity
- Queer / Gender
- Seattle / WA Local
- Sex Toys & Products
- Sex Work
- Trafficking / "Rescue"
- Transitioning Out of Sex Work
- Violence Against Sex Workers
- Women as Oppressors
New to my blog? Some favorite posts
- "You have no right to dislike feminism after all it's done for you!"
- "You misrepresent true feminism by focusing on the bad feminists. They're not real feminists anyway!"
- An argument for more sex workers to be out?
- Degrading, violent desires
- Do you have what it takes to be an empowered sex worker?
- Feminism is the shitty relationship you had in your early 20s
- Feminist porn isn't a branch of sex workers' rights, it's an obstacle
- How are we branding sex workers rights in the US? (Let's focus more on *worker*, less on *sex*!)
- How to do your homework on trafficking, "rescue", and the affected communities
- Let's stop pretending that "objectification" is a thing that exists
- Musings on ethical porn and the red herrings of "feminist porn" and "violent porn"
- My call for a "working" class uprising against inaccessible discourse and the over-representation of dabblers
- Sex trafficking is the new crack: manufactured "epidemics" as political tools
- The common logical fallacies deployed by anti-sex worker activists
- Things I've gained from being a sex worker: an anti-paternalistic perspective
- Vigilantism and 'crushing bastards': in praise of anger, hatred, and taking joy in the smiting of one's enemies
- Want to play BINGO with the antis?
- Watch out for psuedoscience: my long-time nemeses of concern trolling and "teaching the controversy"
- What do I mean when I say "sex worker"? Why I'm against an overly-broad definition
- Why I call them "anti-sex worker" rather than "anti-porn" or "anti-prostitution," and why you should too
Favorite sex/ho blogs
- Amanda Brooks
- Asia Pacific Network of Sex Workers
- Belle de Jour
- Born Whore
- Bound, Not Gagged
- Dan Savage on SLOG
- Danny Wylde
- Jiz Lee
- Kat's Stories
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sex Worker Pie Charts
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Whore Madonna