- A freelance writer who used to be a sex worker says her experiences prepared her for freelancing during the coronavirus pandemic.
- She learned how to find her ideal client through creating her own vetting process, which she now uses to find publications she wants to work with.
- She discovered what niche she succeeded in and used that knowledge to build up specific writing beats.
- She also learned the importance of a diversified revenue stream.
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The author is a freelance writer whose identity has been verified by Business Insider. She has written under a pen name.
In 2008, the world entered into what was, until recently, considered to be the most severe financial crisis since the Great Depression in the 1930s. Almost no industry was unaffected by the great recession: businesses shuttered, jobs dried up, and I, an out-of-state college student with no family support, panicked. It was supposed to be my junior year of college, and despite working part-time and doing odd jobs whenever I could, making ends meet was hard. I decided to take a semester off to work full-time, get ahead of the curve, and save some money.
I turned 21 in February of that year and a few months later sold sex for the first time. Initially it was supposed to be a one-time thing to get me over a financial hump I was experiencing. But with fast cash on my mind, things snowballed, and one time turned into a few clients throughout the month. Before long, I had traded in my minimum-wage lunch aide job for escorting and part-time dancing at a peep show.
It turns out that 2008 was quite possibly the first time adulthood knocked me on my arse, giving me my first taste of grown-people problems. Working as a call girl and stripper was at once financially lucrative and emotionally draining. After a year I tapped out. I moved “back east,” put my days as a sex worker behind me, and finished my BA degree.
These days I work as a freelance writer, and while my hustle may be different, I’ve been able to use the principles I learned while running my own escorting business to help me stay afloat as a writing professional in the wake of COVID-19.
The importance of knowing your ideal client
As an escort I had to be really particular about the vetting process when it came to the type of clients I interacted with. Not only did I have to worry about time-wasting and dangerous johns, but also staying one step in front of the law was important for me as well. My screening process involved either a reference from a provider they’d seen before or some other type of identification to prove who they were and their occupation.
I didn’t know it at the time, but what I was learning was essentially how to profile and define my ideal client or customer base. While writing doesn’t require me to worry so much about my personal safety, understanding my ideal customer is just as important in the world of journalism. Similar to when I was a service provider, my ideal clients are respectful and know how to communicate in a timely and effective manner. Freelancing is hard enough without feeling like I’m begging to be paid, so publications or businesses I like to work with generally have a reputation of paying fair and equitable rates no later than 30 days after publication. Focusing on ideal clients has been especially important since the start of COVID-19, as lots of publications have frozen budgets, stopped working with freelancers, or even simply gone out of business.
Find your niche and work it
Having a niche or specialty is just as important as knowing your customer base, especially when attempting to scale a business during an economic downturn. Branding myself as an adventurous co-ed, I decided to specialise in a girlfriend-like experience. Sex work taught me how to create a persona that would pique the interest of a particular demographic of the public. Over time I was able to build rapport with some clients, which definitely came in handy when business inevitably slowed up.
As a writer, some of the beats I cover are travel, health and wellness, sex, art, and culture. I also specialise in soul-baring personal essays. Homing in on a few topics has allowed me to position myself as an authority on those particular subjects. Having established niches in writing enables me to market my writing services to publications and businesses in a palatable way that will demonstrate why I’m the person for the job. While I’ve certainly felt the ripple effect of COVID-19, the landing has felt a bit softer as I have reoccurring anchor gigs as well as an established network of editors to reach out to.
Don’t be afraid to diversify
In addition to escorting and dancing, I began selling add-ons like used panties and foot fetish photo-sets. The panty business appealed to my customer base, while the for-sale photos allowed me to enter into a slightly adjacent market. Both products created passive income streams that allowed me to make additional money in a hands-off way.
When it comes to my journalism career today, writing is my main thing, but I also do a variety of other gigs to bridge the gap. I regularly take on transcription work, sensitivity readings, and have done one-on-one writing coaching on occasion.
One of the other things sex work taught me is the importance of self-care. I didn’t exactly take the best care of myself when I was going through the first major recession of my lifetime. But as an older and wiser version of myself, I remind myself to always keep a piece of me for me – and that this too shall pass.
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