Dear Tits And Sass: Agency Edition

by suzyhooker on November 21, 2011 · 4 comments

in Dear Tits and Sass, Prostitution

Time again for us to share our thoughts on the many dilemmas that arise around sex work. And this question is a doozy. The issue of whether or not to work for an agency is surely one to stir up debate, so feel free to leave your own insights and experiences in the comment. And if you’ve got a problem, email info [at] titsandsass.com and we’ll do our best to help or call in a guest who can. Please note this offer is only good for current sex workers with work-related inquiries. 

Dear Tits and Sass,

Now that Craigslist is no longer such a useful arena for scouring out clients, and I am not sure where to turn. I am considering working for an escort agency. The splits I have found out about from a few of them seem quite a lot less compared to how much I charged on my own, and I am a bit nervous about not having total control over how I want to do sex work, yet it also seems like a relatively easy way to make stable money. What are some things to expect from working for an agency? Is it safe and the diminished splits worthwhile? Is sex or a photography session expected at the initial “interview”? Are there questions I should ask or things to establish before I decide to start?

Sincerely,
Seeking Business


Violet: The compromises you make working for an agency might be worthwhile, and might not be. It really comes down to your boundaries and priorities. I’ve been working with my agency for about six months, and before that I was doing something similar to what Seeking Business seems to be: trolling Craigslist for clients. The chief advantage, in my opinion, is that you save time by doing less legwork, and cut down on the number of unpaid hours you’re putting into your branding, advertising, screening, and general administrative work. But in outsourcing those tasks, you do lose control over them. I find that I don’t like my agency’s website, nor do I really like our phone girl’s etiquette. Her screening leaves a bit to be desired, as well. But I do think the fee split is fair, I like that my agency offers an incall for our use and, most of all, I love that I don’t need to participate in review board culture. So, for me, the 12 percent-20 percent fee that I hand over after every call is entirely worth not having to run a 24/7 home business. I tell my agency when I’ll be on call, and I don’t have to think about work at all when I’m not. It’s about as hassle-free as you can get.

As far as the initial interview and general expectations go, focus on finding a boss you can work with. For me, professionalism and an employee-first mentality were key. I asked around about the agencies in my city and called the one that was mentioned by my local sex worker outreach program. The phone girl asked me to email my pictures and restrictions, and I met my boss that evening. He bought me a couple of drinks, told me how the agency runs, asked me about my experience, expectations and motivations, and then we set a date to take some more pictures. At no point did my boss imply that I’d be having sex with him. On the other hand, he did pressure me to let him take my pictures, which is equally perturbing, given the incriminating power of a face picture. Regardless, it’s definitely a good idea to interview with a couple of agencies. No doubt you’ll have your pick of them, and you can be more assured of finding the best fit.

Deborah: I’ve only worked for one agency (I’ve been independent ever since I left) and I got lucky right out of the gate. If there was a single man involved with that operation, I didn’t know about it. My agent was a woman who used to do the work herself, and she hired another woman to answer the phones and occasionally drive us. She was level-headed, honest, and never threatened me or stole from me. Honestly, I respected her so much that I wish she were still in my life. I’ve come to think the 40-60 (in the worker’s favor) split was quite fair, since the agent was taking on the cost of maintaining an incall, paying for advertising and pictures, doing the legwork of setting up appointments and screening, and if there were any legal issues, she would have borne the brunt—and possibly all—of the repercussions.

I would be very suspicious of and uncomfortable with an agency run by men because I’ve yet to meet a man who can handle being in charge of a woman’s sexual labor. While it might be reasonable for an agent of any gender to ask to see you nude to make sure you don’t have some skin rash or fresh scars (or tattoos, if they’re avoiding that), it is absolutely not okay for them to ask you for sex of any sort. Nor is it okay for them to tell you to see a client for free so they can get a report on how you are. If they want one of their regulars to have the thrill of breaking in the new girl, they can pay you. Even after you start working for them, if they want to give a discount to a loyal big spender, that discount comes out of their cut, not yours. No honest agent will ever ask you to work for less than your established rate with them. The minute they don’t give you your fair share, try to intimidate you into sharing your tips, or withhold credit card payments, I would leave and never look back. Ditto that if they don’t honor your wishes to not see a certain client again. If you’re going to work for someone else, it is imperative that they earn and keep your trust.

Questions to ask would be how they handle the money (collecting theirs, giving you yours,) what system is in place to assure your security, how often you’re expected to work, how they screen, and how much they’ll back you up if you need to turn down a date or leave it early because of inappropriate behavior. Some warning signs would be an interest in keeping you from talking to other women who work for them, inappropriate personal and/or sexual comments, and any drug use in front of you. If they can’t behave professionally with you on the very first meeting, they definitely aren’t operating a professional business.

Lolo de Sucre: After trying out the “non-pro” thing briefly, I joined an agency for a little while. I probably did a dozen appointments or so with them before moving on, and honestly I’d probably recommend the same to anyone else who’s getting started with sex work and wants a little guidance. My agency had this niche market of the “girls-next-door” who only do sex work part-time. All of our photos were either fully clothed or in bathing suits. Figure out what kind of pictures you’re comfortable having out in the world (like face pics or not, fully clothed versus lingerie or topless, etc) and you can most likely find an agency that will be ok with that.

Never have sex with anyone for free, ever, unless you want to. It’s definitely not necessary or universally required by agencies. For legal reasons, I’d generally avoid sending sexually explicit emails to people you don’t know—if they ask you to email your limits and boundaries, I personally wouldn’t respond.

Figure out their screening procedures, the level of sexual contact most clients expect, and if they allow online reviews (and how you feel about them). Check out their website and see if they represent their escorts in a way that you think is classy and respectful. It’s also a good idea to ask how they’ll feel if you decide to switch agencies or go independent some day. My “manager,” or pimp, harassed me a lot after I started working independently, so keep your future plans in mind.

All in all, I think agencies can be helpful for beginners in the business. Mine gave me some decent advice about how to work in the most legal way possible, and various tricks for making my session feel more date-like to the customers. That said, I recommend working alone as soon as you feel ready. You have total control over how you screen, what you do, and what you charge. Sure, it’s a little more work on your end, but for me, having total control was worth it. I also feel really strongly about keeping all illegal activity private from as many people as possible, and your pimp or madam is one more person who’s privy to the information. When the agency manager got upset that I was leaving, he knew my real name and threatened to blackmail me. Hopefully that won’t happen to you, but I believe it’s important to always protect yourself as much as possible.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Liliana November 23, 2011 at 3:22 pm

How would you go about finding an agency to work with? Backpage just seems very… sketchy.

Reply

Jessie Nicole Jessie Nicole November 23, 2011 at 4:54 pm

I would echo a lot of this advice. Definitely go into any interview questioning if you would want to work for them instead of trying to mold yourself to what they’re looking for. Check out their website, and see if you like and fit in with their marketing.

I think a major factor in my decision would be geography too. Do you know the city that you live in very well? Is it a metropolitan area or smaller or rural place? Can you expect a lot of clients coming in from out of town for conventions and the like? That can affect a agency’s success as well as your business model. When I worked independently it was in a small town and the market was pretty easy to navigate on my own. Moving to Chicago I was nervous because I didn’t know the culture, or what to expect at all, and having an agency really helped me out. My experience mirrored Charlotte’s in that it was run by one woman, and she was incredibly helpful and supportive. She had also worked as an escort herself, and was very sympathetic to any complaints or issues we had.

If you can – other sex workers can be a big help giving advice in your area about agencies that are good to work for, or, if you do decide to go independent, what to expect and how a usual call goes. I’ve found that it varies from place to place, not by much, but enough to want some preparation.

Good luck!

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Alice November 25, 2011 at 10:36 am

In the two and a half years of me being in this business I have worked with three different agencies as well as being independent.

I found the first one on craigslist. It was terrible. The owner was a not that tall Italian and a total douche. He asked for me to audition, he hardly screened, sent me clients under the influence, and when I left he threatened not only me but my family as well.

After that I found a woman owned agency. She was spectacular, and I was her best girl. She was always fair and always took my side. Every once in a while she would get fed up with things and business would slip.

So I ended up going Indy, it is nice to decide everything or yourself but it is a lot of responsibility and a ton more work.

Then I became friends with another male agency owner and started answering their phones. I loved dealing with the customers but hated dealing with the girls. He babied them so much and I wanted them to take responsibility for their work.

The point is that just like everything else every agency is different and you need to find one that works for you.

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Alice November 25, 2011 at 1:24 pm

I just realized my comment was not very helpful. Like I said the first agency I found on craigslist, which has now been replaced with back page. The second one I found on a local review board, the owner has a presence on the board and I liked her attitude. The third I met at a meet and greet. The easiest way I think would be to google search escorts in your town, you are bound to hit some agencies and see if you like their site.

Wether it is worth it, well that is up to if you are willing to put in work or if you rather have someone do it for you. You won’t know until you try.

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