Your Next Step: Stepping Stone or Career Path?
SPECIAL FEATURE: Hawk Kinkaid is a featured writer from the brand new anthology Johns, Mark, Tricks and Chickenhawks. Learn more about the anthology and read other original HOOK Exclusive content here.
You’re taking clients. You’ve got a routine down. You know when to answer calls and when to send them to voicemail. The hustle is more of a predictable entrepreneurship, and you start wondering… what now?
The reality is that, for many guys, sex work is a time limited business. Some men work while attending college or between jobs. Others channel their experience into a decades-long career. That’s true for people who work in porn and it’s true for men in other areas of the industry, including escorting and bodywork.
Knowing which is right for you is a tough matter. I put together these questions to help you assess where you are and where you would like to be going.
Can I imagine myself doing this in five years?
Visualizing where you would like to be in the future can help you understand if there are priorities that require you to be aware of possible exit strategies. If you are thinking of leaving the industry in a year (or two or three or four), it’s great to understand what that means – what practical goals you want to accomplish or financial needs you have to meet before then. If you can’t see yourself working more than two years in the business, set some goals for those two years to raise enough money to pay off an outstanding debt, put some money away for an important investment or transition away from one income to a potentially lesser income.
Do I want to develop strong relationships with clients?
Clients are customers, and like in other fields of emotional labor (like nursing, bartending, hairdressing), you are indebted to their generosity and their commitment. You can whittle away less desirable clients for ones that suit your interests, needs and comfort level. Catering to a select group is what often creates a more regular income, which is more useful than the frequent feast and famine many of us endure. Building up a select client base and communicating with them is an investment in your long-term security even when it means giving up potential new clients in favor of last minute requests.
Am I prepared to have open conversations with friends or family?
Working part-time for a short time while raising money for an immediate need like rent or a tuition payment rarely requires disclosure. While I think it’s a great idea for both safety and mental stability to build up a support system that respects your decisions, I know some men have a hard time sharing their business with friends or family. That decision becomes more difficult the longer you participate in the industry.
Even using a stage name doesn’t always protect men working in the industry from the impact of stigma and the profound isolation many find when they cannot embrace a supportive network of friends and/or family. It is important to think about the process of disclosure if you are going to move from a temporary space in the industry to a long-term career. Support is important for all of us.
Are you ready for long conversations about the industry with people you date?
Love is a wonderful thing, but make no mistake, many sexworkers face some serious challenges in finding and developing a long-term relationship. There are many scenarios. There are workers who begin sexwork after they have been in a long-term relationship who have already established a foundation. Other times single men entering the industry end up dating other men in the industry, dating their clients or finding frustration with non-workers as they sort out parameters that both individuals are comfortable maintaining.
It is not impossible but people inside and outside the industry you are romantically interested in will need to share their feelings, articulate boundaries and if their long-term goals line up with your own. Issues of jealousy, insecurity and fear can be part of many conversations. Talking these things out is critical.
Can you set boundaries with your money?
Being in for the long haul means planning for many of life’s practical necessities like healthcare, taxes and retirement. The money can be great, especially when it seems to flit quickly from here to gone. The importance of sitting down, making a financial plan, and doing the self-care necessary to maintain stability and security is a must for people looking to work long-term.
Public healthcare can only get you so far, and as you age, you might find that you need/want new treatments or services not covered by the local clinic. You may not like taxes, but as an entertainer, you have to pay them. You may get by for years under the radar, but after ten or so years of reporting nothing, you might just red flag yourself into an audit. Finally, you may not want to do this forever, so putting together a plan that allows you to stockpile funds for retirement, pay taxes, and obtain medical care are some of the ways you can separate the serious from the part-time dabbling.
I hope these questions should get you thinking clearly whether your time in the industry is a stepping stone or major career path and how to manage either path.