Mistress Matisse has some observations on making real money (“money to live comfortably, buy a house, create a retirement fund, build some security”) in the sex business:

If you want to make good money in the sex industry, then you need to do two things. One: get in the room with the client, and two: eliminate the middleman.

That means that any form of sex work you do which does not place you in the room with a client should be viewed as temporary and prone to marked fluctuations. Nice extra money, but not to be exclusively relied on to make you a steady, long-term living. So, phone sex, modeling, peep-shows, cam sites, and yes, porn videos — that kind of work can provide a continuous small trickle of money into your pocket, or it can occasionally inject a large wad of cash into your budget. But while I know a lot of people in the sex industry, I don’t personally know anyone who has made a decent living exclusively from such avenues for any long period of time.

(And no, the photographer who pays you to model for commercial publication is the not the client. He’s a middle-man. The guy who buys the magazine or joins the paysite is the client.)

The money in those gigs is a bit better if you own the venue. There was a window of time in which mom-and-pop porn sites could do pretty well. But unfortunately I think that era is over – between the federal government regulations, and the expansion of the corporate porn industry, a lot of indie porn sites have been muscled out of business, or at least out of the black.

As a middleman myself, or what’s worse, a middleman’s middleman, the guy who sells advertising to middlemen or sends them traffic, I can’t agree more with her “temporary and prone to marked fluctuations” characterization. “Eliminate the middleman” is the plain English, the $100 word from B-school is “disintermediation”, and I noticed long ago that without constant vigilance and a ready flexibility, I’m never more than six months away from being disintermediated right out of business. The internet is the great disintermediator, it brings the clients and the talent together in a way that makes middlemen increasingly seem irrelevant.

As an aside, this disintermediation effect means that indie porn continues to thrive, but at a lower level of visibility. How many indie camgirls are there out there, who hook up with clients on Craig’s List and turn on their webcams after he PayPals them forty bucks? I dunno. Neither do you. The biggest remaining barrier on the internet is the payment middleman — PayPal will kill that transaction if it can spot it. Of course, if you can literally get in the room with the client, good old fashioned folding cash money still works.

Matisse concludes:

So if you want to make a good living in the sex industry, my advice is: Set up your own shop, run the business yourself, and deal with your clients directly and personally. Don’t be fodder in someone else’s money machine.

And that’s advice you can take to the bank, in the sex industry or any other.

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