You can find the first part of this round table here.
Has anyone had a regular whom they legitimately could not stand? The kind of guy that just wouldn’t go away? Maybe his personality was foul, or maybe he was living in a fantasy world with you? What are some defense mechanisms for coping that with sort of regular?
Leigh: This can take a couple of forms for me: I’ve had regulars who are really good clients, in the sense of being well-behaved and pleasant, but whose fetishes I’ve found really emotionally draining or just plain gross to accommodate. Then there are the “why on earth do you keep booking me?” guys who will make appointments really consistently, but complain the whole time, appearing generally unhappy with their experience. The professionalism-nerd in me finds the latter much harder to deal with. I can be extra gentle with myself around seeing Mr. Creepy-Fantasies, and tell myself that I’m providing a life-improving service, but guys in the second group are both annoying to spend time with, and leave me feeling like I’m lousy at what I do, which is much more of a blow. If I had to pick a worst-instance, there was a guy who was actually a house-regular at the dungeon where I first started working who probably takes the cake. To start with, he smelled rank. He wore the same the clothing all the time, and it smelled like he didn’t take his trousers off when he had to piss either. But he came in two or three times a week the entire time I was working there, and while he’d go through phases where he’d focus on one woman, and see her once or twice a week, he was remarkably un-picky in whom he saw overall. On top of this, he also didn’t openly have a fetish. You’d ask him what he wanted to do and he’d say “I dunno,” and nothing you tried seemed to get more or less of a rise out of him. And boy, did we try everything, from cross dressing to diapers to floggings to role play to rope bondage. (I don’t think anyone ever tried foot worship, because, well, you wouldn’t even put your feet on him, seriously.) My pet theory was that he wasn’t a submissive at all, that he was actually a top who got off on making women uncomfortable or humiliating them, and his noxious odor was the tool of choice.
I’ve found with tricky regulars, especially as an independent, there’s lots of ways to make them more manageable—whether internally, by scheduling them when you’ll have time to decompress, or when you really need the money, so it feels like an extra-solid accomplishment, or externally, by over time finding ways to defuse their irritating foibles. But I think the biggest single thing that makes it workable is that it’s a really clearly defined time limit: I only have to suck it up for an hour or two, and then I’m done until the next booking. The fact that I know exactly what I’m making and how long it’ll take is a big part of making it sustainable for me. I imagine that I’d have a much harder time working in a club or camming, for that reason, since the hustling gets done while you’re meeting the client, rather than beforehand. This ties right back in to why I focus so much on cultivating regulars in the first place: predictability is a big bonus that’s worth a lot of tradeoffs to me personally. I find not knowing what my week looks like much more stressful than the pushiest, grossest regular.
Caty: When I encountered this—”baby I LOVE YOU”, that is—when I was much younger, I used to just take the easy way out and agree to keep seeing them, say, every night for a week, until they ran out of money to see me. I guess I was lucky enough—well, in this sense—to live somewhere where most clients’ incomes just can’t take seeing me several times a week. Callous, maybe, but it worked efficiently enough.
Otherwise, often just dropping the pretense of giving a shit will do wonders. That way, you don’t put the besotted client in a Romeo and Juliet situation by blacklisting, making them feel like they have to win you over again and possibly having them turn violent stalker in the process. Rather, they just don’t want to see you anymore because you’re not the girl they thought you were!
Josephine: I wish there were an easy strategy to adhere to. I’ve tried to to pawn them off on younger, more patient dancers. If that didn’t work, there were only two semi-effective methods that did: drinking copiously OR bluntly setting clear boundaries: “I appreciate your generosity, but I hope you know not to expect anything in return.”
Ephemeral: Is it sad that there were quite a few I couldn’t stand? I don’t think I’ve ever had a regular that didn’t get irritating at some point. I will say there is one guy that’s such a headache simply because he is a huge pain to talk to. He’s not rude, or clingy, but he re-defines “bored to death.” The only sex he can stay erect and ejaculate from is very carefully done oral to a small penis suffocating underneath the fat fold of a pudgy lower gut. Yes, it’s as agonizing as it sounds. Throughout this process he is eerily silent. He’s a very awkward kisser and his lips are continuously chapped. Figuring out what he wants in the first place has been a series of trial and error because he seems remarkably indifferent and/or uninterested in everything I do. After I perform the world’s least sexy blowjob, we’re left with 2/3 of the 90 minute booking to talk, or cuddle…except he does neither. He has a gruff, cynical opinion on every conversation topic under the sun. He actively hates, or tastelessly makes fun of everything, including himself and his own life. It leads to a painfully dull interaction, that feels depressing even after he leaves…ugh! When I was too fed up with it, I sat on top of his belly and said these words to him very clearly: “Despite everything else, you’re fucking ME right now, and that’s awesome, so cheer the fuck up.” Now we just talk about me, which is easy, because even with all the cynicism in the world he can’t deny that yes, I AM awesome.
How do you cultivate regulars? What defines a “regular” for you?
Josephine: Get a work e-mail and a google voice number! Cultivating regulars has always been easy for me: I generally zero in on guys that work or live near the club whom I have a natural rapport with. As in, if our conversation didn’t feel TOO forced, I’ll invite him back. I might even offer a small “reward” as incentive: a copy of a movie or a book he might like, for example. That makes them feel special; men never get sick of having their special snowflake syndrome validated. Oh —and don’t forget his name! (Tip: say a name seven times in your head to remember it.)
Caty: I find that when someone sees me twice, and is on the precipice of becoming a regular but isn’t quite there yet, it’s a handy universal service worker trick to remember something about their concerns. If they were complaining about their work running a car dealership the first time you saw them, follow up on how that’s going! This might sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many people feel like the world at large doesn’t give a shit about them and thus just how potent it is to make them feel like at least one person remembers who they are and what they care about…especially if that person is the person they’re having commercial sex with. I put wacky little mnemonics on my phone when I save clients’ contact numbers so I can remember aspects of their lives they revealed in their first session with me to ask them about later, like “SpyUCameIn” for a man who told me anecdotes about working in Army Intelligence in his youth.
One thing I do on the deep acting side of things (thanks, Arlie Hochschild) is to find at least one thing about any potential regular that I like and then focus on that element of their personality, so I can come across as sincerely nurturing and sympathetic. My good reviews often go over how I’m an active listener and someone who’s easy to talk to. I’m not the most attractive woman in the world, I’m over thirty, and though I’m fairly uninhibited, I’m far from a Porn Star Experience, so I think this is what provides most of my appeal to my regulars. I try to keep a steady stream of cutesy lines and undemanding conversation going throughout the hour, try to make the client feel like we might already have inside jokes together after our very first session. This is also good for getting over initial distrust on both sides and arriving more quickly at mutual comfort in the transactional relationship–for example, my standard crack about calling to check in is, “I’m going to call my housemate now to let her know that you gave up ax murder for Lent,” or some such, because of course the thought of them hurting me is absurd, RIGHT? Of course we’re going to be great friends, RIGHT?
Leigh: I try to make it easy for them to book me! Once I’ve seen someone, and they’re not a pain in the rear, I like to send a follow-up “thanks, that was jolly” kind of letter, usually a day or two later —long enough that they could conceivably be thinking about the next appointment. And with a subset of my regulars, I actually initiate the booking process—every however long, I’ll send a text or e-mail saying, “So, how’s your Tuesday looking? I’d love to see you!” to get the ball rolling, which is way more effective than I would have predicted. This practice may or may not have been inspired by my dentist, who also has to hit that precise note of “expert professional” and “someone whom I’m comfortable letting stick their fingers in my mouth.”
For me, a regular isn’t defined by the frequency of booking, but rather by their predictability. I have clients whom I’ve had sessions with spanning over years, that I wouldn’t really call regulars because they could book twice one month, and then not again for six, and nothing about our time together would clearly indicate which one would be. A regular is someone who I’ll know reliably when I’ll see them again, whether it’s next week, same time, next month, or next year. They’re the people who let me plan my expenses comfortably, and who give me easily-readable performance indicators (I know I’m doing what they like, because they don’t vary their routine).
Ephemeral: I completely agree that there is no surefire formula to making any client into a loyal regular. However, there are a couple tips and tricks. I personally don’t consider a client a potential regular until the third booked appointment in a relatively short period of time, 3 months, max. But there aren’t any rules defining a regular for each individual escort. I’ve found that the most dependable regulars are the type that yearns to be considered more than just a client but instead a friend, and who will regularly re-book if they feel they are of higher rank than whomever else you see. They respond extremely well to an imaginary level of exclusivity. For example, sending photos that don’t appear on your website or in ads, adding a “VIP” section to your website only those with the pass code can read, or simply stating that you aren’t taking any new clients except for those you feel a connection with. I’ve used all of these methods to maintain regulars and I’d say the success rate is pretty high. I’ve also found going no review helps, because reviews damage the illusion of there being a uniqueness to your interactions with a regular. Also, I’ve really noticed that guys who are fans of reviews make terrible regulars – they are interested in a constantly changing array of new experiences, not building an intimate relationship with one person.
What are the potential downsides of seeing regular clients? How do you decide whether seeing regular clients is right for you?
Josephine: I think a few regulars are ok for everyone! The major downside is, of course, dependency. If you get a good regular it’s easy to let your hustle slip in other ways. The other major downside is that, a lot of times, regulars are bbbooorrrrriiinnng. I think if you’re the kind of person that converses naturally about any topic (as in, you’re a natural BSer) then regulars are a good investment. If you start to get antsy after a few songs, maybe not.
Leigh: Relying primarily on regulars definitely has a few drawbacks. Once they are established as regulars, it can sometimes be harder and more stressful to say “nope” to unreasonable requests, whether they’re about activities or scheduling. Not being available can sometimes feel like you’re not just turning down that particular session, but possibly cutting yourself off from future sessions with them. The exact freedom that having a strong regulars base gives me with new clients—to be demanding and picky and to take my time—rebounds when dealing with those regulars. The obnoxious fucker you know, I guess…
And while on the whole, regulars give me more security in my working life, it does mean that having one or two drop off the radar for a while can feel very worrying. The longer I go without advertising, the more of a hurdle it feels like to think about starting to do so again, having to sift through all the new flavors of bullshit, not knowing who’s going to flake (or stink!). At some point though, my core laziness will be overcome by either a desire to dump tricky regulars or a pressing need to re-inflate their ranks. It would probably be a little easier for me if I tried to balance periodic advertising and returning clientele a bit more.
Caty: I can’t really speak to the downsides of having regulars because where I live the market’s just not large enough to live entirely off one-off sessions, so there are no options for a healthy business besides cultivating regulars. There just isn’t enough business travel to my location to provide that steady stream of new clients. I don’t think I’d ever even thought about the possibility of being an escort who thrives off of one time callers until recently, since I’ve started speaking to younger escorts in big cities like New York. When I first started working in the early aughts, before internet escorting had even truly arrived, I became part of a clique of indie call girls who all saw the same regulars. We passed them around like trading cards and laughed about their quirks together, but it was an implicit certainty that creating loyal clients was the brass ring to reach for.
Ephemeral: Regulars do have drawbacks. The biggest headache is when they try to turn interactions outside of the booked time (e-mail correspondence, texts, phone calls, etc) into an entitlement and not a gift. Eventually, the questions of “reality vs fantasy” arise, and they may start pursuing concrete answers to questions like “Is this about the money or do we keep in touch because of something more?” They either don’t realize, or are unwilling to realize, that any free time or emotional energy given away is an investment into compensated time and energy later.
There’s also a tendency to take a less professional approach to meeting. For example, instead of setting a firm appointment time 24 hours in advance, a regular may feel that he’s somehow earned the right to simply shoot you an email asking if he can “swing by sometime later.” These wishy washy bookings usually happen…and sometimes don’t, but either way it is implied that making a big deal about any of these things could cost you the regular. Can you re-train them? Maybe. Is that additional effort always worth it? Ehhh…
That’s why it’s perfectly okay to fire a regular. Cut them off entirely, and best case scenario, they behave better from then on if you take them back. It’s also important to note that, especially in NYC, regs can disappear all the time without reason or warning. If you’re really dependent on just one or two guys, it might be worth expanding your client base, because at the end of the day, anything could happen. The best is when you have low-maintenance regular clients, but a healthy stream of new incoming clients to replace them if needed is important too. Of course, even this isn’t for everyone. One of the reasons I love working in NYC is that there’s such an insane number of men in Manhattan. If I need to spend a month or two only seeing guys I put virtually no effort into whatsoever, who probably won’t book twice because they have no interest in intimate exchanges—only strictly physical ones—I can do that, with little net loss to my average income. I guess what this boils down to is: the biggest risk in taking on regulars and becoming accustomed to them is thinking that their money is money you need. In a technical sense, yeah of course you do need it—we all do. But remember that it’s the money you need, not the man. There are countless men with just as much, or more, money who come in all shapes and sizes to suit the emotional and sexual capacity you are willing to expend. Don’t ever tie yourself to one man because you need that one man’s money — the money isn’t a unique property of the man.