Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Trade Secrets - Our Work

Post reproduced from Trade Secrets: Health and Safety in the Sex Industry which was published in BC, Canada in 2009. All advice given in these posts comes from sex industry workers who shared their experience and knowledge for this guide.

The Naked Truth will occasionally feature one section from the guide. This week's post is from Chapter Four: Our Work.

Note from Trina: This chapter is likely very outdated. If any of the information you see is incorrect, please comment below.

Our Work

This chapter explores getting started in various areas of the sex industry, what you make and what fines or fees you may be subjected to, negotiating pay and contracts, and tips to make more money. (Chapter Nine – Our Businesses – explores increasing your income potential more deeply.)

Adult Film and Modeling

“Workers must be sober when signing contracts and be well enough to perform. If someone is not well, they cannot work with us as it could lead to legal issues.”
"Some of the female models get breast implants but generally it reduces the amount of work that they can get, as natural breasted women are thought of as sexier."

Getting Started

Many models and actors get recruited into adult film and photo work through their friends or by transitioning to it from webcam work. But there are ways to get into it without knowing someone. You can occasionally find listings in newspapers or on adult entertainment websites and classifieds sites like Craigslist.

During an interview, you are sometimes required to sign contracts, have a few naked photo shots taken, and provide ID. Before commencing work in adult film, you are also usually required to produce recent STI test results.

Some modeling gigs have an online form-based application with picture uploads which begins the booking process. That may be followed by a phone interview and hopefully leads to a booking.

Legal Age

To ensure models are legal age, companies usually require two pieces of government issued photo ID. They will file copies of your ID with your photo(s) and the contracts you signed.

Job Requirements

Adult Film companies often require mandatory STI testing. Some adult film companies will pay models extra if they get their test results, but will still work with them at a lesser rate if they don't have their papers. Adult film always requires ID.

What Employers Expect

Employers prefer working with friendly, professional models and actors, who have good attitudes during a shoot.


Modelling – Usually about $100/hour
Adult Film - Anywhere from $250-$1200 per shoot (1-6 hours). Softer-core film gigs start at $100 an hour.

Negotiating Contracts

Most contracts for adult film and modeling work are pre-written. Most of the negotiation room you have is to agree or disagree to your pay, and list the sexual acts or poses you are not willing to do.

When you sign these contracts, you are waiving all rights to the images. You also waive rights to when, where, and how your images will be promoted, portrayed, or published.

If you are ever unsure of your rights, an entertainment lawyer can advise you.

Actors (and sometimes models) are required to sign production release forms at the close of the shoot day.

Contract work is very tricky. You sometimes find that what you’re expected to do, is different from your interpretation of the contract.

BDSM / Fetish

“We only hire Dommes with prior experience, but can train certain activities when clients are not around.”

Getting Started

Like most other sex industry workers, BDSM and Fetish work can be found on the Internet by placed ads in adult sections of newspapers and magazines, and also through fetish cultural activities.

You may be required to produce ID if you are working for an employer. Part of the interview process may also involve you posing for photos in the positions required for your particular clients. This is done to make sure you are capable of doing the work.

Regardless of how you get into this work, you must remain open-minded, non-judgemental, and expect to see some strange things. And know you’re doing a great and important service for your clients.


If you truly have power over your clients, you don't need extensive equipment. However, ambience and equipment make for better and more diverse sessions. BDSM and fetish cover endless varieties of unusual and bizarre activities. Adult toy stores, leather shops, grocery stores, and drug stores all have stuff you can buy to make your dungeon exciting.

The free sections of classifieds websites are also a great place to find stuff to start up a dungeon. The hardware store will become your best friend to buy chains, o-rings, clasps and other stuff. You should buy a power drill. Remember, anything can become bondage or suspension gear in a few easy steps.

Suggested equipment:

Sexy fetish costumes/shoes
Sissy gear - make-up, girly clothing/shoes and accessories in men’s sizes
Adult baby gear - diapers, crib, bottles etc
St. Andrew's Cross
Medical table
Medical supplies - enema bag, catheter kit, speculum etc
Bondage bed/chair
Plastic wrap for immobilization
Spanking bench...and the list goes on.

At the beginning you may have to get creative if a client asks for something, and you don't have the equipment. For instance, if you don't own a ball gag, stuff the client’s mouth with panties. Wrap pantyhose around his mouth and tie it at the back of his neck. This reduces the initial costs when first starting up.

When purchasing equipment, look for high-quality, well-made items that won't break, stain, or come untied. You can also find supplies at clothing stores that cater to fetish or Goth wear. Or why not have a submissive make your gear for you! Especially great if you need crosses, stocks, tables, and cages.

If you're just starting out, you can easily start a bag of tricks for cheap:

  • Go to your local hardware store and pick up some O-rings and D-rings and clasps, rope, clothespins or clamps, duct tape (and scissors for the removal). Burn or glue the ends of the rope so it won't fray. The D-rings will be used for wearable restraints; the 0-rings can be screwed into furniture or your wall.
  • Go to the pharmacy for some latex gloves, surgical masks, enema bags, etc
  • To make your own wrist and ankle cuffs and collars, you can get leather at a sewing or craft store, or some hardware stores. Line it with fur or silk so it's soft on the inside. Use D-rings to make the connectors. Fasten with snaps or ribbon/ leather laces (which also come in handy for cock and ball torture (CBT). If you're into recycling or on a limited budget, you can also make many types of restraints using old bicycle tubing.
  • Saran wrap or tensor bandages are fun for bondage and fetish play.
  • Pet store leashes are cheaper than sex store leashes. But never use a pet collar on a human.
  • Do not share items made of leather or other porous materials that cannot be completely sanitized as they can transmit bacteria.
  • Get a first aid kit.


You can access workshops for BDSM and seduction through local sex shops. However, much of your learning will be on the job, as well as the much-appreciated advice of more experienced workers and clients. You can also get a lot of information on the Internet.


Rates vary from worker to worker. But in general, it may work like this:

Domination and/or Submission - $150 - $400 / hour
Cost to rent a dungeon: $50-$100/hour

Exotic Dance

“I expect that they stick to their commitments and that they present themselves as professionals. I prefer they pay back money they borrowed and/or repay any pre-paid ticket money if they cannot finish a contract. This is not enforced, but is well received and well respected if they do. Also, I don’t proceed with legal action against them if they don’t. It’s more of a “moral obligation”, which I hope some will have enough integrity to adhere to. I also expect that they use logic and adhere to the law.”
“Be respectful of the other girls and try not to get in their way or act superior. Dancers see a lot of rookies come and go and are not always accommodating and patient with new girls, especially new girls with attitude. It's best to be respectful, quiet, and take their advice when appropriate.”
“It takes time to get a feel for the club and learn what works for you. Understand that making money takes time and investment. But make sure you're making more money than you're spending. This is a job, not volunteer work.”

Getting Started

Training and getting started depend on where you are and what type of dancing you’re looking at.

You can contact an agency or a club. Clubs that book independently sometimes publish job ads for exotic dancers in newspapers or exotic dancer magazines.

They will ask you to meet them in person, or email a photo of yourself and a copy of your photo identification (ID) to them. They may ask you to fill out a short form regarding your contact information, age, physical attributes, and social insurance number (SIN).

When you go to a club for the first time, bring your photo ID in case they want to see it.

To audition, you may be required to compete in an amateur contest. You should expect to be paid for being in the contest. Winners will often be paid more.

VIP dancing doesn't require any training either; just a good attitude, a hot look, and a hiring club. Take care of auditions or licensing ahead of time. You should be ready to work, have your ID on you, and bring a couple of sexy outfits. Some clubs have VIP girls on shift, most have drop in with house fees. Find out what the protocol is for the club you want to work at. Ask the DJ, other dancers, or manager ahead of time. Make sure you look sexy when you enquire.

Find out about fees, shifts, hours, payouts, tips, and contact rules. Ask about contact expectations, as well as laws (these are not always the same).


Many entertainers learn pole tricks and dance moves working in small towns with hardly any customers. Others prefer to practice walking and dancing in heels in their own homes.

If you're booked at a club for a Sunday, see if you can practice on the stage before the club opens, or if there are no customers in the bar. On Sundays, clubs usually open later. It is also the one day a week that clubs will book dancers just for the day and usually the day off for dancers who’ve worked Monday to Saturday.

Pole dance lessons are becoming more available. Check around to see if lessons are available in your area.


In some cities, you are required to get a license. Make sure you arrive with enough time to purchase your license before starting your gig. That means getting to the licensing office, standing in line, paying for your license, and getting back to the club in time for check-in. You will need to be extra early if the club has morning meetings with their dancers at the start of the week.

Licenses usually cost between $100 and $150. In Calgary, your license is good for a year from the date that you bought it. In Edmonton, your license is only valid until the end of December, so your best bet is to purchase early in the year. Licenses are also required in Toronto and Vaughn, Ontario.

Phone the licensing department of the city you’re working in to find out more.

What Agents Are Looking For

Agents and club owners are looking for a healthy, polished appearance, and a smile. They prefer professional, reliable entertainers who have realistic expectations, and get along with others.

What To Look For in an Agent

The best agents are kind, understanding, and supportive when you’re going through a crisis. They acknowledge when your show has improved by offering you a higher show price. They defend you and your show price to club owners. And they tell it to you straight when there’s a problem. The best agents do not lie to you.

Because being an agent can be extremely stressful, they are sometimes quite pushy on the phone. If you find that an agency is not treating you well, or that your bookings keep falling through, find another agency to work through until the storm passes over.


Approximate pay for female striptease artists in Canada:
Stage shows- $20 - $150 per show
Private shows- $25 - $60 per song
Massage- $5 - $15 per song
Lap dance- $10 - $60 per song
Stags- $200 - $500 for 4 songs or more

The following may be deducted from dancer's pay depending on location:

Agency commission – usually 10 - 15%
GST on agency commission
SOCAN/KPAC – music royalties
Floor fees – fees to the house for doing private shows
Service charges – accommodations, housekeeping, phone/cable, etc.
Fines – Dancers may be fined for missing shows and other infractions

Other Expenses:

“Tip out”- bouncers, bartender, DJ
Driver fee- depends on the distance and usually is around ½ the comparable taxi fare

Stage $ Tips

Stage tips range from zero to $250/day or more across the country. Alberta tips more. Manitoba, not at all. Ontario and Quebec tips involve interaction that includes having customers on stage. In Alberta and some parts of BC, customers participate in the "loonie toss" where a performer offers posters and other incentives for customers to win.

Pay rates for Male Striptease Artists:

Between $150 and $300
Additional tips from audience are common

Your Contract

Most dancers are VIP dancers and don't have a contract at all. They make their money from selling dances. They may have shift pay, hours scheduled, or drop-in.

Stage dancers have a weekly contract.

If you book through an agency, your agent will negotiate the terms of the contract with the club. Mostly, your ability to negotiate is restricted to saying yes or no to the gigs offered, and there may be some room to negotiate your show price. If you say no to a gig, you risk getting blacklisted by that agency (that is: not getting work through them for a while).

Your contract is pre-written. If you want a higher show price, you need to haggle your show price before the contract is developed for a particular club. The more professional clubs will have you sign your contract at the beginning of your week’s work. However, most of the time you will receive your contract at the end of the week when you’re getting paid. Basically, you are signing it in return for your earnings.

The problem with this is that your contract may not show the same show price you originally discussed with your agency. You’ve done all your shows and now you’re short a few hundred dollars.

Occasionally, if you are diligent with the agency, you may get your money back through a higher show price at another gig to compensate for the money you lost. But more often, you won’t receive the amount you had agreed to in the first place.

Before agreeing to a club booking, ask your agent if there are any added costs for working at that club, for example, accommodations. Ask what the rules are around mandatory floor time and private show quotas. Mandatory floor time involves dressing sexy and being in the bar at set day and evening times to do VIPs. A private show quota is the minimum amount of private shows you are expected to perform each week. If you do not perform the minimum of private dances and consequently tip out the amount for each show that you are expected to tip out; the remaining tip out amount will be deducted from your pay. Also, find out about club fines.

Negotiating Your Pay

Exotic dancers use many different strategies when asking for a higher show price. Use these suggestions from other dancers or come up with something creative on your own.

  • Go into the agency office with new promo, a great tan, and a flattering outfit.
  • Start turning down the bookings that are lower than what you want to be paid, unless it’s a booking you really want and you’re willing to take the cut.
  • Remember that the agency works for you, but they also have to fit you into the budget of the club.
  • Radiate confidence. Agents can smell insecurity.
  • Ask the agent to come by the bar and see your show. Phone them mentioning that they haven’t seen you in awhile and that you’d like them to come to the club to see your current skill level. Ask if you can buy THEM a drink. Keep it friendly, light and casual,
  • Make an image for yourself – a brand – and use gimmicks to increase your popularity and make a name for yourself.
  • Have your promo done professionally by talented photographers.
  • Get a website.
  • Buy big theme costumes and put lots of effort into your shows.
  • Take photos of yourself wearing all your costumes, list all the gimmicks you have and any training or certifications (fire, poi, etc), and take photos of some of your more difficult moves (flexibility, pole work, etc). Write a small bio with your stats, titles, and put it all together to give to agencies.
  • If a club owner was happy with your work, ask them to mention your shows to the agencies.
  • Buy club owners a drink and ask if they’d request you back.
  • When working, sit with customers and sell private dances. Emphasize to the agents that you hustle between shows. The money you make for the bar doing VIP’s is a strong justification for a raise.
  • Pale complexions can make you look sick under stage lights. A tan will help you look more healthy (spray-on or booth).
  • Dye your hair blonde.

Sex Work Indoor

Getting Started

To find work through an escort agency or in a massage parlour, you need only look for adult ads in the back of the newspapers or online at one of the popular classifieds sites. The employer may ask you to email photos of yourself.

Your in-person interview will be focused on how the business operates and what services you are willing to provide. You will likely provide your stats and your work name. You may have to identify any physical ‘flaws’ you have.

Employers usually ask you to provide proof of age (sometimes two pieces of ID) and/or proof of legal living/working status in Canada. You will probably find out that day if you’re hired, if you’re not told during the interview. You may even start work that day.


Your employer will usually train you on how to charge for extras and what ever else you need to know for working with the company. Seduction techniques, performance skills, and health and safety education is not normally provided.

You will learn these things from other sex workers. Many things you will learn the hard way from experience.

In some cities, individuals must be licensed to work for a massage parlour or an escort service. Be aware that you may be denied a license based on prior criminal convictions. Phone the licensing department of the city you’re working in to find out more.

Working for an Employer or Agency

When you work for an agency, the agency takes a cut of the money you earn. In return, the agency maintains the suite (if applicable), books the jobs, and takes care of the advertising and promotion.

Massage parlour work is run in a number of different ways. You may work for tips. You may get a percentage of the call. Or you may get paid only for extras beyond the cost of the massage.


Here is an example of a pay scale at an escort agency:
You get $180 for in-house with $65 going to the agency. Your first call of the day includes a book-on fee of $10. Some agencies also charge supply fees such as a $10 per month condom fee.

Agencies usually have a frequently used fining system too. You can be fined for a missed shift ($100), a missed call ($50), or having your phone turned off when you’re on-call ($45).

Workers generally report earning anywhere from $2000 to $4000 per month.

Independent escorts earn between $150 and $500 per hour depending on the services they offer, who their clientele tend to be, and what their expectations are financially. You have the benefit of setting your own rates but it’s wise not to undercut other escorts by charging substantially less than them. Undercutting can lead to a reduction in pay for everyone if clients start expecting lower rates.

Sex Work Street-Based

Getting Started
Street workers can work as independents or under the control of a pimp.

If you work for someone who has control of your earnings, you may or may not like the arrangement. If he or she provides security, protection, and a decent roof over your head, you might feel good about the relationship. If he or she abuses you, keeps most of your earnings, or otherwise exploits you, you probably don’t like it so much. (See Chapter Two - Our Coworkers for information on how to leave an abusive pimp.)

If you decide to start working the street, try to befriend another worker so he or she can share their block with you and introduce you around to others. (See Chapter One – Our Workspaces for safety tactics when working the street)


Rates vary depending upon service and individual price setting.

High Track: $100 - $600
Mid Track: $60 - $200
Low Track: $3 - $60 ($50 for full service)

Another description of the pay has been: $20 / $40 / $60 / $80 depending on service performed.


Getting Started
There are many different ways someone can work on the Internet. You can use an external pay site, where the business takes care of all the advertising, promotion, and bookings. You just book on for certain hours and get a paycheque.

You can work at a video site where you tape the performance then send it to the web company; or shoot the videos with the company and they upload them to the site.

You can get your own webcam and website, and/or set up a chat site (interactive). Or you could set a camera up in your room all day and night (or certain hours) for subscribers to check in anytime while you just do what you normally do (voyeuristic).

Be warned that anything you put out there will potentially be in cyberspace FOREVER. So be careful, decide on your own boundaries, and stick to them. If you don't want to show your face or otherwise disclose your identify, there are tons of creative ways around it.

It takes time to build up a fan base with webcam work, so don't get discouraged if it seems like you're not busy at first. There are a lot of sites out there, so do something to set yourself apart. If you have a certain thing that you like to do or are good at, that will help. The more you tease and draw out the performance aspect of your work, the more worked up your customers get (and the more money you make).

Be aware that because you are on the internet, you may be subject to laws in other countries. For instance, one performer worked with a webcam company that required that there was no self-fisting allowed because the clients were all American and fisting was illegal to do on webcam in that country. "So we could put four fingers in, but couldn’t stick in our thumb too."

Increasing Your Revenue Potential

Do your research. What's hot right now? What are the current trends out there that are getting lots of hits? Bubbles and balloons? Superheroes? MILFS? Take advantage of them, or create your own new ones.

If you're artsy, get creative with lighting and angles. What's your sexiest body part? Play it up! Appeal to that really kinky fetish your viewer didn't even know he had. Deep down, everyone's fantasies are kinky. Personalize your online character, so your fans will keep tuning in to see what you’re up to. Have fun with it.

If you are a live Internet sex worker who engages with your customers in a chat room or cam2cam (the client is also on a web cam so you can see each other); be aware, some of your viewers will try to get freebies from you. You can use this to your advantage, but use it sparingly so you’re not giving it all away for free. You don’t want to lose your audience too soon.

In a chat room, don't spend too much time chatting. Try to get them to buy shows right after they tell you what they want.

If they can see you and chat with you before they pay, focus the camera on your cleavage. They may not get turned on just seeing your face.

Another tip is to cover your feet. There are many foot fetish clients. If they can see your bare feet for free, they have no reason to buy a show.

Pay rates are usually by the minute, and there are different rates for video feed or live chat. You can also go with a membership, where the customer pays once, or it comes off their credit card monthly.

If you work for an external pay site, you book on for certain hours and get a paycheque.

For many companies, if you are doing a duo, the shows cost the same so you end up sharing the daily wage. Check this out beforehand for sure.

Webcam work usually pays about $60-$100 an hour

About Trade Secrets
Trade Secrets is a collaborative project that was contributed to by diverse members of the sex industry and their community.

About the Project

Who Contributed?

Some of this information may be outdated. Please feel free to comment below the relevant posts with information you'd like to add or update. Your help is appreciated.

Thank you for your commitment to supporting health and safety in the sex industry.

In Solidarity,

Trina Ricketts (Annie)

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