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
Last week, I had a pushy customer on cam who went from a "cute begging little boy" routine trying to sweet-talk me into fingering my ass (after I already told him that I don't do anal cam shows), to insulting me and textually yelling at me that I have to finger my ass for him. While I don't enjoy dealing with people like that, spending time with that dumbass netted me $28 in profit. I could have kicked him out or insulted him back, but I actually wanted to see how long he'd last so as to extract as much money from him as possible.
I've never gotten so much as 28 cents when regular people (feminists, conservatives, and other irritants) insult and degrade me. At least when a customer is a rude and obnoxious person, they have the decency to pay me for putting up with them.
by Furry Girl
In one week, I can now make as much money camming as I'll make in an entire month of operating my small porn sites. This makes me quite sad in many ways, and I feel like I'm staring down a precipice and deciding which way forward and how to channel my energy into the most productive outlets. A theme I noticed during this summer's Desiree Alliance conference in both casual discussion and formal talks was that a lot of sex workers are looking to branch out and diversify right now. We're all asking where the good money is these days, and there is no one-size-fits-all answer. Here's my piece of the puzzle when it comes to the indie porn and camming worlds.
First, for those unfamiliar, camming is like being an online peepshow performer. I log in whenever I like, and on the network I use - iFriends - I set my own per-minute rate. I get half of the $4-a-minute that I charge, so a 10-minute cam show nets me $20 in profit. I don't make $120 per hour, though - more than half of my time is spent just waiting around for customers. I have the option to either a) engage in free chat and beg illiterate, pushy cheapskates to buy private shows from me, or b) only let people see me who are already paying customers. That latter option is the way to go. So, I sit there, logged in, looking cute, waiting for someone to decide they like my profile image and description, ready to spring to life when someone picks me. I've been using the in-between time to keep up on sex worker's rights blogs as I wait around for customers, which strikes me as an excellent system of double-dipping.
As someone who started into porn in 2002, camming has never been a huge thing for me until these last few months. I began occasionally working on iFriends back in 2005, but found that my time was better spent (in the profit-per-hour sense) maintaining my subscription porn sites. This summer, I've had a lot of expenses, which made me give iFriends a try again. I wasn't expecting much, but figured, "What the hell? I'll log in while I'm sitting here reading my RSS feeds anyway." With the recession in full swing, and the porn industry practically circling the drain, I was surprised to discover that private, pay-per-minute cam shows are selling well. I'm making as much or more (per hour logged in) as I was before the recession.
What's the explanation for this? I emailed five other cam performers who also have experience in the porn side of the adult industry.
Isobel Wren (on CamWorld.com) - new to doing cam shows, but involved in nude/alt modeling since 2005 - said that camming is now 60% of her income. "Honestly I wish I'd discovered it earlier, I enjoy the heck out of camming and I really enjoy that I can make a comparable amount of money without traveling across the country, hell, without traveling from my HOUSE!" She had used to travel for modeling gigs, but "the majority of the people who booked traveling models were hobbiest photographers. When the recession hit these guys couldn't afford to pay $100 an hour for a model any more."
Mistress Roxxie (on CamModels.com) said, "I previously made more than enough with my websites, but business hasn't been so good and I need to make up that extra income somewhere. Modeling isn't worth the time and energy I would need to put into it. I tried doing more pro-domme work, but that industry is saturated." A sex worker since 2001, she told me that camming is "100% crucial" to making ends meet now.
Adorable Audrey (on NiteFlirt.com) has been involved in amateur porn sites for around ten years. "Camming was a little less than half my income before the recession, and about 65% of it since the beginning of this year," when she went back to working a straight full-time job on top of operating her porn sites.
Tasty Trixie (on CamModels.com) got her start with camming in 2000 before going onto starting her first porn site. She observed that camming might be good because rather than in spite of the economy. "During a recession or when news in the world is bad, people crave a personal, service-oriented touch to everything, especially something as intimate as sexual pleasure. We saw that with 9/11 - there was never a better time to cam that whole year than in the aftermath of of the towers falling."
Delia DeLions (on CamModels.com) has been in the industry since the early 2000s with her partner Trixie. "It has been really nice to have the extra income coming in at a time when things have been pretty tight. With the slumping revenue from our websites it does end up being a larger portion of our overall income."
Everyone was in solid agreement on the growing importance of interactivity with online erotic entertainment. As Delia said, "With the massive amounts of free porn that are out there on illegal tube sites, bit torrents, forums, etc., I think the value of live entertainment with potential for interaction like cam shows does increase." Trixie noted, "Once you've established your customer account on a camsite, paying for shows becomes far less intrusive than having to put on a condom for meatworld sex. You don't even feel or see the money coming out of your pocket; there's no physical exchange of money, you just grab your dick and start jerking."
Trixie suggests an important angle I hadn't thought of: "There might also be less competition from camgirls who aren't serious about making money because of the visibility of naughty-cams all over; it might be more obvious to them that you aren't going to be able to retain any privacy or keep your webwhoring a secret... In the old days of camming there was more of an illusion of safety/freedom from discovery - maybe people don't have that anymore." (Although, Audrey suspects the opposite. "The sites are definitely more competitive these days... and more camgirls than ever, possibly a result of more unemployment overall.")
Keep in mind, the people I spoke with have experience in amateur, niche, fetish, and independent porn, so if they are finding that customers are in search of more personal connections, I can't imagine how the mainstream cookie-cutter porn industry must be feeling.
I understand the strong appeal of interactive entertainment, but I've wondered why clients pick cam shows over other forms of erotic fun. If you're looking for conversation and personal interaction, why spend $200-400 for an hour for private cam shows when you can find a dominatrix or escort to see you in the flesh? For my tastes and comfort level, if I had $20 to spend, I'd buy porn, and if I had hundreds to spend, I'd buy an in-person session with a sex worker. Maybe for most of our cam show customers, though, the first option is too impersonal, and the latter is too personal - potentially crossing some kind of arbitrary line into "seediness" or "cheating". I suspect that camming is the ideal neutral zone for clients not yet ready (or who will never be ready) to take the plunge and see sex workers in person, but who still crave individualized experiences.
So, what should small-time pornographers like me do? What are the pros and cons that I'm looking at right now? It comes down to both money and my personal satisfaction.
Porn has become an unreliable source of full-time income for me, even though it's still great to have that recurring revenue stream, however much it dwindles. I'm not going to close my sites and declare failure or anything, but I need to seriously think about how my time and energies are best spent, and make decisive cutbacks to the porn site part of my work. (I can't help but notice the perfect harmony in the fact that my time spent porning versus camming is now about 1:4 on the profit-per-hour-spent-working ratio, and 1:4 weeks of the month I'm bleeding and can't be on cam anyway.)
Despite its mishmash of incongruous 1997/2010-looking interfaces, animated sparkling GIFs, and truly embrassing insistence on always referring to us chat hosts as "stars" ("I am a star! A big bright shining star!"), iFriends has never been late paying me. CCBill, the renowned "most stable" porn site billing processor, has flat-out not sent my checks three times this year. They claim these checks must have gotten lost in the mail, but in this economy, I'm simply not swallowing it. CCBill has paid like clockwork for years and never once has a check ever been "lost in the mail" before, nor am I missing any other pieces of mail from other senders. (And, of course, when these checks mysteriously go "missing in the mail", I have to pay a $30 fee to re-issue the "lost" check.)
There's also the issue of my enjoyment with what I'm doing. The vast majority of the work associated with running porn sites is boring. 95% of the job is staring at a computer, not all that different on the surface from what the rest of my white collar friends do. I love that other 5%, though. I love the creative process, even if I'm not the most creative person in the world. I love still photography, and challenging myself to get better at shooting other people as well as myself.
But, I also love interaction with clients on cam - especially submissives and the ones with interesting kinks. I love getting into a good session with someone who clicks with me, I love the immediate feedback, I love the variety of human sexuality, I love how glowingly happy people often look (when they have their own cam I can watch) when they have a great experience with me. At the end of 8 hours of camming, I tend to come away feeling more accomplished than I do after 8 hours of resizing photos or trying to explain to technophobic site members to how watch my videos on their WebTV. (Of course, the price I pay for the ease of camming is giving 50% of my income to iFriends. In comparison, with my adult sites, between credit card processing, hosting, and affiliates, I'm losing at least 25%, maybe as much as 35%, of my sales price.)
I don't have any grand solutions or "take home point", I'm mostly scheming out loud and hoping to see what other people have to say on the subject. I like being a pornographer and I like being a cam whore - they each have their ups and downs. I'm working on finding my own balance in the current financial climate.
In the comments, I'd love to hear from other sex workers who do camming and porn. I'd also love to see more sex workers in any sector writing on their own blogs about how the recession has changed their business so we can have a conversation about how we're adapting to the economy. It feels like the elephant in the room, and I'd love to see if we can all help each other by sharing ideas and experiences. (Let me know if this prompts you to write something, I'll link to it from here.)
by Furry Girl
During the last week, I decided to spend a good chunk of time camming again. It's something I don't do a lot, but figured I'd give it an honest go for a week and see how the market is doing right now. I spent 28 hours working, and made more money than I expected. I was, in fact, earning what I used to make on cam before the recession, which delighted me.
I enjoy interactive aspects of my work. I like meeting people with strange fetishes, or who I find engaging in some way. Getting paid to talk about things that interest me or turn me on is awesome. I'm also a curious person by nature, and I like knowing intimate and "strange" secrets about people. I like the trust of being informed about things a client hasn't told many other people, or maybe even no one. It's that kind of intimacy many people can only share with strangers. I take derive a sense of conspiratorial excitement in knowing things about a man that even his wife doesn't know, even though I wish people had kink-friendly relationships where they could freely share their fantasies with their partners.
Most people are polite, though that anonymity that brings stark honesty also brings about some inevitable rudeness and assholery. Worse than that, however, are the viewers who don't give me any idea what they want me to do. These are the guys who sit there quietly waiting for me to - I don't know - put on a Vegas-style stage show for them. Or finger my ass. Or recite the periodic table of the elements. Or something. These guys are the extreme version of the ones who merely type "do something sexy" or "do whatever you want." Maybe I'm just a shitty entertainer, but I need something to work with.
I had a perfect example of this type tonight. He paid $111 for a 37-minute cam show, which is much longer than these types usually stay. (I keep half of that money, by the way - the cam network gets the other half.) I don't know if he enjoyed himself. I don't even know if he spoke English, although his IP address placed him on the east coast of the United States. I spent most of the cam show fully clothed, smiling at the computer because I thought maybe not getting naked would force him to tell me to do something. I'm not one of those sex workers who engages in client-bashing often, but I just have to share this example of what not to do if you're paying for a sex worker's time.
Keep in mind, this entire chat log represents 37 minutes of time, as shown by the time stamps:
[23:18] MRQUIETMAN Entered Room
FURRY-GIRL [23:18]: Hello there. How are you doing?
MRQUIETMAN [23:18]: h9
FURRY-GIRL [23:19]: So, what brought you to my chat room?
MRQUIETMAN [23:20]: cut
FURRY-GIRL [23:20]: I need a little bit of help from you so I know what you're into. :)
FURRY-GIRL [23:21]: Can you tell me something that turns you on?
MRQUIETMAN [23:21]: age
FURRY-GIRL [23:21]: I'm 26. Or, is "age" your turn-on?
MRQUIETMAN [23:21]: usa
FURRY-GIRL [23:21]: I live in Seattle.
FURRY-GIRL [23:23]: I don't know if you're new to cam shows, but you need to give me some kind of hint about what you like, so we can go from there.
MRQUIETMAN [23:23]: ru pretty
FURRY-GIRL [23:23]: Yes, I think so. :)
FURRY-GIRL [23:24]: What would you like to watch me do? Or, what would you like to talk about?
FURRY-GIRL [23:26]: Don't be shy, I won't bite.
FURRY-GIRL [23:27]: Do you like hairy girls?
MRQUIETMAN [23:28]: me nietgher\
FURRY-GIRL [23:28]: What sorts of things turn you on? Name your pleasure.
FURRY-GIRL [23:30]: You're paying by the minute, and I'm happy to just sit here and smile, but is there anything you'd like me to do?
MRQUIETMAN [23:32]: hot
FURRY-GIRL [23:32]: Okay, I'll sit here in smile if that's what you'd like to see.
FURRY-GIRL [23:34]: Are you sure there's nothing I can do for you, or show you, or talk to you about?
MRQUIETMAN [23:34]: nice beeties
FURRY-GIRL [23:35]: Thank you. By chance, is English not your native language? Habla Espanol?
MRQUIETMAN [23:36]: nowwwwwwwwww mew ur pussy
FURRY-GIRL [23:36]: Yes, that, I can do.
MRQUIETMAN [23:37]: nice
FURRY-GIRL [23:37]: Thank you.
MRQUIETMAN [23:39]: can talk
FURRY-GIRL [23:40]: I can't hear you speak aloud, if that's what you're asking. And I don't broadcast audio. We type things into the text box at the top of the chat window.
FURRY-GIRL [23:43]: Anything I can show you in particular?
MRQUIETMAN [23:45]: ur face
FURRY-GIRL [23:46]: Got any fantasies or dirty thoughts you want to chat about?
MRQUIETMAN [23:46]: ur sexy
FURRY-GIRL [23:46]: Thank you.
MRQUIETMAN [23:48]: yes
FURRY-GIRL [23:48]: Are you a boob man?
MRQUIETMAN [23:50]: and a coch nan
FURRY-GIRL [23:50]: "Coch"? Cock, or cooch?
MRQUIETMAN [23:50]: cock
FURRY-GIRL [23:51]: What kinds of cock do you like?
[23:52] MRQUIETMAN Has left
I did eventually end up naked, but who knows if my client had a nice evening. I wonder why he picked my chat room - was he a fan of hairy pussy, a fan of strapons, or simply a fan of clicking randomly on things on the internet until a naked girl appeared?
Sex work is filled with mysteries.
Furry Girl: legs now closed for business.
My adult sites
- Cocksexual.com: Strapons
- EroticRed.com: Menstruation
- FurryGirl.com: Unshaved
- TheSensualVegan.com: Store
- VegPorn.com: Herbivores
More of me online
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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
Vaguely similar 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
- Laura Agustín
- Lux Nightmare [2006-2007]
- Maggie McNeill
- Our Porn, Ourselves
- Sequoia Redd
- Serpent Libertine
- Sexonomics by Brooke Magnanti
- Shit They Say to Sex Workers
- Stuff Sex Workers Eat
- Women Against Feminism