Do you find yourself struggling with the way in which you manage your finances? Are you stuck in a perpetual cycle of anxiety when it comes to your spending? Or perhaps you are an independent companion looking for advice on how to better manage your business expenses? This article is just for you.
Last Updated: August 23rd, 2019
Disclaimer: The following is mostly individual to me and my own limited experiences and I do not pretend to be speaking for all providers.
I can never overemphasize the importance of saving money in this industry. Having money in the bank is the key to your mental health, the key to avoiding risky situations that threaten your safety, and the key to building the kind of business you love. If you want to build a healthy business with exclusively amazing clients you genuinely enjoy and who treat you with the respect you deserve, you must start with the way you manage your finances.
There is a common misconception in this industry that you need to be drowning in success to have the luxury of setting and maintaining high standards. This is not true. What if I told you, this is a luxury you can afford? It is one I have built my entire business around being able to afford. It does, however, require fore-planning and sacrifices on your part.
When there is money lacking in the bank and the bills are creeping up, most providers revert to survival mode, the trigger state to one of the most dangerous places to be: desperation. In times of desperation, getting any business, no matter where it’s from, becomes the better option to having none. This is when we make ourselves most vulnerable to danger.
“Bad things do not always happen when you are desperate, but all bad things happen when you are desperate.”
When you are desperate, your standards drop to the floor and you are more willing to cut corners and take risks you otherwise would not. Sure, you might have it all over your website that you are strict with screening and only accept high-caliber clients, but when rent is due tomorrow and you’re $1000 short, that questionable client who requested a $500 call is going to start looking enticing and be harder to turn down.
Not all money is good money, and knowing to hold out for quality calls with quality clients is one of the best ways to ensure your own safety and sanity in this industry. Saying “No” to bad clients and leaving undesirable money on the table is one of the most important things you can do as a sex worker.
Ask any experienced provider and they will all tell you one of the hallmarks of this industry is the inconsistency when it comes to income. When times are good, the phone is ringing non-stop and client supply abundant, but when times are bad, clients are nowhere to be seen. One of the biggest mistakes a provider can make is assume that just because they had one good month, the next one will be the same.
Personal story: When I first joined this industry, like many others before me, I found myself overwhelmed by the flow of money. I had a first few good months and quickly increased all my expenses, foolishly believing this would be the norm. This change came at a very heavy cost: more luxury meant a higher income that needed to be sustained.
When bills were on top of me and work was scarce, I was unable to give myself the luxury to say “No” to undesirable clients or take breaks when required. After a year of living this way, I was burnt out, mentally depleted, and with a sickening heavy feeling in my stomach I carried every single day.
Sick of the toll my expensive lifestyle was having on my mental health, I made the decision to give up luxury for the sake of my sanity. I downgraded a lot of my expenses and started to live frugally so I never again felt the desperation of seeing clients I loathed because bills needed to be paid – a simple decision that turned my life around.
A year later, I’ve paid off my entire $30,000 credit card debt, have thousands saved, and have built a stable of regulars for myself that respect me and whom I genuinely enjoy spending time with. I can afford to take time off whenever I need to, am no longer scared to lose business by firing clients who behave inappropriately, comfortably say “No” to 95% of enquiries I receive, ride through the slow times with ease and minimal stress, and simultaneously manage to balance being a full-time university student. This is all possible because my frugality and financial fore-planning gave me room to. It takes time and a bit of patience, but I promise you and your business can too reach a similar healthy point.
If you spend all that you have as soon as you get it, you will always be stuck in the same place.
I hear it all the time from self-proclaimed problem spenders: “I wish I could just be better with my money!” as they carry on with their self-destructive habits. To that I say: there’s not a magic pill solution to becoming better with your money. It’ll never be easy in the sense that one day it’ll be something that magically “comes naturally to you” with all the flowers and rainbows, and you’ll be skipping through life happily. Making better decisions in life is often not done with ease, but something we consciously choose to do in spite of those uncomfortable impulses. It is up to you as an individual to learn to prioritize your sanity and mental health over temporary reward, as for every purchase you make that puts you in a bind is a purchase you make in exchange of your sanity and health.
How do I maintain frugality? I think about the consequences of NOT being frugal and the manners in which I pay every time I make poor decisions. I used to have an addiction to tattoos and jewelry and would easily blow away thousands per month if left to my own devices. However, I have learned to resist to these impulses because I know I will pay for it later in stress and anxiety, and I know stress and anxiety to be one of my biggest triggers for desperation.
Understand that patience and giving up immediate luxury is the key to long-term reward.
The easiest way to avoid the pitfall of desperation is to learn to live well below your means. In the simplest terms possible, this means making sure your income outnumbers your expenses to ensure there is always money in the bank. You want to avoid living payday-to-payday with the mindset of “I’ll just make more later.” It doesn’t matter what your income level is – I have met people who make $2000 a month with more savings and comfortable living situations than people who make five figures a month and are perpetually broke, living payday-to-payday, dollar to dollar.
The first step you can take to achieve this is through lowering your monthly fixed costs. This means bills you are locked into making regular monthly payments on, including things like rent, mortgage, insurance, car lease, utility bills, minimum credit card payments, and so on. Adding up all of these expenses sums up to the minimum amount of money you need every month just to survive. If you live in the fanciest condo in downtown Toronto and have monthly bills that add up to $8000 a month versus living more modestly and having fixed monthly bills of $2000, it is a lot less pressure on you to make the bare minimum to survive. If you have a slow month, it is much easier to make do when your fixed costs are low, and if you have a killer month, you’ve now not only made enough to cover your living costs, but now have more disposable income available to stash away for rainier days.
The kind of fixed costs to lower is all dependent on you and your own needs. I personally downgraded my living situation by moving back in with my parents and out of the condo I was struggling to afford, and buying a used car with cash rather than dealing with a monthly lease or finance payment. If you find yourself struggling to pay rent every month, it might be a smart move to consider downgrading your living situation to something that is more financially comfortable for you, and if your car payments are so high they’re almost causing you an aneurysm every month, it might be worth considering downgrading your automobile to one you can buy outright with cash.
Personally, I’m a huge commitment-phobe when it comes to finances, and do not like having many monthly payments I need to commit to as I find it tends to put me in a “need-to-work” mentality. For awhile, I lived so frugally that my monthly bills only totalled $1000. Although I lived simply and without many luxuries, I had peace of mind and there is no price tag in the world that is ever worth giving up for again. Because my bills were so low, I had a lot more disposable income available I was able to channel into my debt, paying it off much quicker than I would have otherwise. I also managed to quickly build an emergency fund of over 6 months’ worth of bills so if for some reason I needed or wanted to stop working for awhile, I wouldn’t have to worry about where to get the money from.
Pay your bills first. A lot of people seem to have the bad habit of spending on themselves and other non-essentials while leaving their bills for last. “Oh, whatever, I’ll just make my rent money next week!” Then, before they know it, rent is due in 3 days, they’re $1500 short, and business has dried up. Enter stress, panic, and desperation, and rinse and repeat this cycle every month. This unnecessary stress can really be avoided by making sure the first amount of money that comes in that month is immediately allocated towards your essential must-pay fixed costs.
Build an emergency fund of at least 3 months. Depending on who you’re asking, some people will advise you to prioritize paying off debt over building an emergency fund. Personally, I disagree and think an emergency fund should be your first priority and only after you have those first 3 months saved up you should turn your focus into channeling excess income to any debt you might have. This is also why it is so important to have as low as possible of fixed costs. If your fixed costs add up to $2000, a 3-month emergency fund is only $6000 and easier to put together, as opposed to $15,000 if your monthly expenses all add up to $5000. You have to make sure your emergency fund is easily accessible as a liquid asset (money you can access quickly, such as cash) in case of an emergency and not locked into any kind of investment that requires time to withdraw (ie: bonds). Whenever you end up needing to dip into your emergency fund, your first priority should revert to replenishing it back to full health.
Managing Business Costs as an Independent Escort
When you are working independently, you are also in charge of paying your own overhead costs such as advertising, incall rentals, etc. Working independently brings in a whole new slew of issues and spending triggers you need to watch out for. I’ve actually come to notice that the people who are the worst with money also tend to be the worst in managing their costs as a business owner, often spending more than is necessary and making many poor financial business decisions. Generally, you want to carefully calculate the amount you spend on overhead so more of the money you make goes into your pocket as opposed to someone else’s.
Money buys you patience. As a business owner, patience is one of the most important things to have, especially when you are going through a rainy and slow period. A common trend I’ve noticed amongst the struggling and impatient is to increase – yes, increase – their overhead costs and the time they spend working. They’ll try to make themselves available all hours of the day “just in case” a booking comes in, or incessantly bump their ads multiple times a day. Similar to a problem gambler, the less returns that come in, the more the desperate mind will throw back in to try to “gain it back” and “make it worth it.”
When there is money in the bank to pay the bills, the slower periods are a lot more tolerable to ride through. Whenever I have a slow couple weeks, I just kick back and relax and don’t stress about it, because I know it is just temporary and a good period is just around the corner.
Money buys you the ability to be selective. This industry is a unique one in that it is generally not advisable to see every Jack and Joe who tries to throw money your way. I personally make it no secret I reject over 95% of enquiries that come my way (I swear half my brand is built on isolating myself from these guys. See: my Twitter feed). Rather than trying to convert every person who messages me into a paying customer, having money in the bank allows me to wait for clients who prove themselves to be of good caliber and who I know will be a good match for me. As I mentioned earlier, it is much harder to say “No” to a client when you are drowning in bills and debt and in need some income, any income, but this pressure just all about disappears when you know your bills are comfortably taken care of.
Familiarize yourself with common spending hole triggers and take preventative action against them.
One of the most common spending triggers I’ve seen in this industry is the tendency to take blind financial risks with only your fingers crossed, and when the risk doesn’t pan out in your favour, the even worse tendency to keep throwing money into the lost cause. This is very similar to a gambler’s fallacy and lacks understanding of the concept of a sunk cost.
Anyone that partakes in any kind of high-risk financial investment is most guilty of falling into this spending hole. Touring providers are the ones most guilty of this phenomenon. A lot of you will pour thousands into a tour in accumulated costs of advertising, accommodation and travel costs. You then get to your touring location, your phone is silent, and instead of chalking up the tour as a fail and cutting your losses, many of you will refuse to do that and instead continue spending money you don’t have!
I remember being guilty of this exact thing my first ever tour. I spent over $3000 on overhead, and by the time my last day came around, I had only made $2000. At this point, my net loss was only $1000 and I should have walked away then. However, back then I refused to accept my tour as fail, and instead made the terrible decision of extending my tour, throwing an extra $1000 on premium advertisement spots and two extra hotel nights (arrrghhhh). Now even more desperate to make back the costs I incurred, I became lax with my screening and the one client I did see made my skin crawl so bad I ended up bursting into tears as soon as he left the room. At the end of it all, what should have only been a net loss of $1000 turned into $2000 and an unnecessary horrible experience. Live and learn, huh?
Money buys you a safety cushion to take risks. For your business to grow, you need to get out of your comfort zone and become comfortable with taking risks that might affect your income in the short-term. This can mean anything from raising your rates, increasing your booking time minimum, and trying to tour new cities. Knowing there are savings to carry me through any rough times is the reason I am able to comfortably take said risks. Having money stacked helps carry me through this adjustment period with the least amount of stress possible. You can not please everyone – as you grow, you will lose some clients along the way, but you need to have faith in the process that newer and better clients will come and replace them.
Take calculated and minimized risks. When you do take risks, you also want to make sure they are wise and carefully calculated to minimize any potential losses. This means not throwing all caution to the winds where you jump into situations with only “hope” to have your back. In regards to the touring example, this can mean advertising your tour in advance and waiting till you have a set amount of pre-bookings before committing to booking flights and hotels. If the day of your tour comes near and you still don’t have enough prebookings to make you comfortable with the financial risk involved, instead of saying “Fuck it” and going anyway with the hope you’ll get lucky and get a string of last minute bookings, save yourself the grief and cancel the tour instead. Relying on luck is very high-risk and leads to a lot of unnecessary stress and often huge losses.
If you work out of hotels, maximize your time by stacking calls and protect your investment with pre-bookings. Similar to touring, paying for hotels requires an initial investment of money that has the possibility of resulting in a loss. To minimize this loss, you want to make sure you are mostly relying on prebookings. I worked exclusively out of hotels for a full year and my modus-operandi was to pick one or two days of the week, book the hotel, and advertise the dates in advance for prebookings. If the hotel had a cancellation policy of 48 hours, and 2 days prior I still had no bookings, I would cancel the hotel and not work that day. Having at least a call or two prebooked ensures that you’ll make some money, and at the very least not be out of the hotel’s cost. When working out of hotels, always remember it is easier to fill a single day or two with bookings than it is to spread it out over multiple nights. The more nights you book, the more spots that need to be filled, and the more you pay in hotels cost.
On that same topic, do not rely too heavily on same-day clients. Last minute clients are often flakey and massive timewasters and never what I’ve ever considered to be reliable income. It is okay to fish same-day clients when you’re able to (ie: during tours with some empty gaps or when hosting all-day incalls and having in-between availability) as sometimes you can get lucky and get an extra client or two out of it, but I would heavily advise against relying on them. This is why I highly recommend to never go on a tour or work a day at a hotel when you have zero prebookings. Be smart and make sure the majority of your income is coming from clients who prebook, and that if you do manage to get a same-day client, you see it is a bonus and not a necessity.
Be patient with the returns on your advertisements. You have to learn to see your advertisement returns in long-term installments, not short-term. If you’re trying a new platform, throw up a basic ad and learn to wait and see if anything comes of it before investing further. Try to not get so antsy when you don’t get enquiries immediately flooding in as lot of websites might only render you a couple clients a month rather than on a consistent daily/weekly basis. A lot of clients also like to take their time researching a companion, and they might see your ad and follow you online over a period of time before finally committing to a booking. Majority of my clients these days tell me they’d been following me for some time before deciding to contact me about a booking. Don’t assume that just because you’re not getting booked immediately that your ads aren’t working. Clients who take the time to do their research before booking are most often the best kind of clients to have and more likely to become regulars.
When trying out a new platform, minimize potential losses by starting basic. For example, if you’re trying out Slixa for the first time in your city, don’t jump right in with their most expensive options, instead testing the platform with their simplest basic ad for maybe $50/month and leaving it running for a couple months or so. If you net no clients at the end of your two months, you’ll only be out of maybe $100 than if you’d spent $500, and if you manage to only get one client that spends $600, you just made $500 out of your $100 investment. When you see a platform start to give you a decent amount of return on your basic investment is when I would suggest considering upgrading to their more lucrative advertisement options (P.S: Slixa I love you, you’re the best!).
Make an advertising budget and stick to it. This is SO important because I see so many providers who grow impatient with their ads not bringing in as many clients as they want, so they make the decision to continuously bump their ads, upgrade unnecessarily, and just become generally careless with their expenditures. The mentality is that if they increase their exposure, they are more likely to get booked today/tomorrow/this week. The problem with doing this is that you’ve now not only increased the amount of money you need to make back before profiting, but you’re now essentially gambling with a sunk cost and trying to appeal to mostly flakey last-minute clients. Remember: once the money is spent, it is gone. If something isn’t working for you, you need to learn to cut your losses and let it go and not keep trying to recover it.
If your advertisement budget is $300 a month spread through four different websites, and one of the websites isn’t bringing in clients one month, chalk it up as the cost of running a business and don’t go over your budget trying to force returns where they aren’t happening. The following month, you can take the money out of the platform that is not working and allocate it instead into upgrading one of your ads in a platform that is bringing you business.
And my final piece of advice for you today: Go easy on yourself and forgive yourself for all mistakes you have made. We learn more from our failures than our successes and every mistake made serves as a lesson and guideline to what doesn’t work and ultimately leads to making better overall decisions. This business is known for being brutal on providers’ mental health, and one of the best ways to prevent against this is by gaining better control of your finances. If you are one of those people whose always struggled to get a grip on their spending and finds themselves in a perpetual state of financial anxiety, I really do hope any of my above tips are helpful in improving your overall financial state. I believe in you! I wish you the best of luck wherever you are on your journey.
(I might consider writing a more advanced guide later on budgeting and investing, but that’s for another time.)
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Guides I’m Currently Working On:
- Marketing to the Right Clients
- Finding Success Outside Review Culture
- Feeling Not Good Enough: Managing your Insecurities
- Narcissists, Sociopaths and Psychopaths: Using your Intuition to Detect Toxic Clients
(Someone should bully me to finish writing these.)