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What does this escort do with her money?
June 30, 2015 | Finances, For escorts, Taxes
There are some elite escorts who make $2,000 an hour and up. Many others are able to command $200 to $400 an hour for their services. Some of these girls are the classic «low volume providers». They don’t work much—they leisurely hustle; but they do work smart—they have both money and time. On the other hand, there are escorts who work five or six days a week and see four or five clients a day and charge a paltry sum. They have neither time nor money. Why? And, more importantly, how can a girl avoid this unhappy state of affairs?
by Hannah Jay
The old saying is that “money can’t buy happiness” was obviously said by an unhappy rich person; for the rest of us, money is a key ingredient to a happy, well-balanced life. Having lots of money may not be guaranteed to make you happy, but not having any is a sure fire recipe for misery.
Virtually every girl I have talked to who is escorting, is doing it for the money. Sure there are some adventurous souls who like the high life and see the money as a delightful bonus, but they are few and far between. However, a lot of girls who escort seem to have a poor understanding of financial basics. To be successful at escorting it is not enough to have a number of clients seeing you and then charging what the traffic will bear. You need to take charge of your own financial affairs.
I had a wonderful conversation with a girl in Atlanta who seems to have it figured out. Chelsea – and yes of course that is her working name – has been escorting for four years. She is now a low volume, high- end provider, but that has taken a lot of discipline.
“When I started I was very, very naïve,” Chelsea told me. “One month I was totally broke by the 15th and I had no idea what I was going to do. I was twenty and I’d just been laid off from a servers job. I’d seen the ads and I thought, why not? So I did. I was so green but I was incredibly lucky because my third client, who is still a client, gave me invaluable advice about screening and saying “no”. He also told me that the rate I was charging was sending the wrong message.”
“That was a huge, huge insight. I was charging $100 a date. That was what the other girls advertising were charging so I did the same. My client told me to raise my rates—a lot. He said, “What you charge tells potential clients what you think you are worth. It also screens the cheapskates.” And he showed me some of the websites where girls are charging $600 or $1,000 an hour.”
“Of course those girls had great photographs and their write ups were amazing. I wasn’t sure I was quite ready for that world. But I decided to give it a try. I had been escorting under a different name and so I created “Chelsea”. I’d been using a selfie for my ad which was sort of cute but the background was a mess and I had no clue how about lighting. The only thing I had right was my outfit which was just an unbuttoned white men’s shirt over a black lacy bra. It was a bit naughty, but nothing explicit.”
“Anyway, I wanted to get Chelsea right. I took some more pictures with a really clean background, more light and less makeup. I was going for the wholesome college girl look. And I wrote a few lines, with my client’s help, where I teased a bit and suggested a phone call, email or a visit to my website. The website was two pages. A welcome page and a page on my rates and services. Better to have that on the web than be haggling on the phone. Because you never know who is calling.”
“I honestly was not expecting much. And, boy was I wrong! My new ad was so unlike all the other sleazy ads, it was like it had flashing neon lights around it. I had so many calls I barely had time to do anything else but chat. Talk about encouraging. But most of the callers were just curious, others were belligerent that I had the audacity to charge some much, and the nice ones who thought they would like to see me, never called back. But then I got a call from a guy who, honestly, sounded like a trial lawyer on the phone. Low, powerful voice. And he spoke in crisp sentences. He’d seen my ad; looked at my rates; and inquired if I was available that evening for dinner.”
“He was from out of town and was, in fact, a trial lawyer. He said he liked to relax for a couple of hours at the end of the day and asked me to join him for a quiet drink in an upscale bar, followed by dinner at the city’s best restaurant. I was speechless. (Well, except to say, Yes! ) It was about a three hour date and he paid me $1,500 plus a $300 tip. We had a wonderful time, and he was a gentleman all evening, even between the sheets. Best of all, he wanted to see me twice a week while the trial lasted. Believe it or not, the trial lasted nearly a year. He flew home on weekends.”
The money was great: nearly $4,000 a week. I decided I didn’t need to see other clients as well. I was an escort with one gig. I’d never really had so much money before. But I loved to shop. So, because I liked to look nice for my client, I would buy at least one new dress a week. Retail. Designer. And shoes and sometimes a bag. Pretty lingerie seemed to be a business expense. So was a nicer apartment. It was not at all hard to convince myself that a $4,000 diamond bracelet from Tiffany’s was a business expense, as was a new bed (which it kinda was.)
Well, you know what’s coming. A year later the trial settled. And then he was gone. And so was $16,000 a month. I had spent every penny of that and I had no other clients. But a few things had changed: I had an expensive apartment full of pricey furniture. I also had many bills, and a closet full of glamorous eveningwear, but nothing to wear day to day.
Suddenly I had no income, with sky high expenses. At our last encounter, my lawyer told me that what I should do is find a really good accountant/business adviser (who was not, by the way, a client).
I wasn’t so sure about that. Doesn’t that just cost money? I mean what was I supposed to do, walk into some accountant’s office and announce, “I am a high-end escort, please help”? After I quickly put Chelsea back in the escort game, advertising everywhere I could think of, that was exactly what I did. I looked around and found Jackie – thirty, pretty, gay and smart. Although she actually advertised accounting and business advising for the LBGT community, I figured she was really advertising open-mindedness. We met for coffee. I told her what I did and she wasn’t shocked. In fact, it turned out that her ad had brought her no less than seven escorts and a dominatrix.
My financial education began the next day. Jackie marched me down to her bank –where I opened a personal account under my own name. She also advised me to set up a business account and I learned the concept of separating business expenses from personal income. Who knew? Jackie said that for tax purposes, bookkeeping and so on, it would help keep things straight if I ran my escorting like a business.
Jackie set up a really simple program on my phone to track what I was paid and what I spent on my business. Now, everything had to go through the business account where it would count for taxes. Yikes, taxes! I hadn’t paid any taxes at all from my business that first year. All Jackie said was that this might be a problem but we needed to get on a business “footing” as she put it, before we really could deal with that problem.
During one of my business boot camp sessions, Jackie asked me a question I had never considered before: How much did I want to make from my business? I’d never thought about it as a decision before. (As much as I can, had always been my vague money goal.) Since I was currently spending every dollar that came in just to stay afloat, I had absolutely no idea what my answer was. So Jackie explained that every month I had revenue – the money I earned from my clients – as well as business expenses – the money I had to spend to make that revenue – and once taxes were calculated, what was left was the money I actually made.
We worked through a couple of budgets where Jackie showed me how many clients I was seeing at how much per hour and then turned that into revenue, took away expenses (things like part of my apartment rent, utilities, all of my business phone, part of my internet bill, hair and nail costs, make up, photography, lingerie I used for work, sheets, laundry— it was a long list) and came to another number which she told me was my net revenue. Then she deducted taxes. That gave me a number which she called my “take home”. Even $10,000 a month in revenue left a pitiful sum as “take home”.
Jackie was pretty tough. She never talked about my escorting business. It was always “consulting” and the bottom line was that I was barely breaking without my lucrative lawyer. “You need to replace that revenue,” was Jackie’s prescription. “And you also need to cut your expenses immediately.”
Next Jackie took the spreadsheet she had been working on and created a set of projections. Basically mapping out the next five business years. We made a few changes and then asked another question I had not thought about, “When do you want to retire?”
It is a pretty ridiculous question to ask an escort. I mean when I got into the business I wanted to make my next month’s rent. I was not thinking much further ahead than that. And then, when I was making what I thought was pretty good money, there was no way I was going to quit. Of course I was not planning on escorting forever. Just for now. Jackie wasn’t satisfied with that, so she said, “Let’s do a five year plan with you leaving the business at the end of five years. You don’t have to of course but we can adjust the plan as we go.” And we have.
Jackie’s plan was pretty savvy. The first and most of the second years I would be working to build the revenue side of the business, seeing a few more clients, charging a bit more money, while keeping my costs as low as possible – my hairdresser became a bit of a stranger, my latte consumption went down, I learned about thrift store shopping – and, most importantly of all, 25% of my after tax income went into a savings account.
Years three, four and five were all about maximizing revenue and holding down expenses while increasing the amount I was saving after tax. Jackie was pretty clear, “I want you to have saved at least a year and a half’s revenue by the end of the plan. That way you have real choices.”
I stuck with the plan. It turned out it wasn’t too hard to reduce my expenses that first year and with a bit of advertising and some really cute pictures I managed to get my revenues up quite a bit. I hated paying taxes and I really hated having to pay the back taxes on that first year. But, it turned out, that my first year also had a lot of expenses which I could deduct. Truth to tell, Jackie and I pretty much guessed at the revenue for that year but I had kept all my receipts and the rent receipts so it was not that ugly. But I was working hard and not having a lot of fun as we got things straightened out. But the next two years were brilliant. First off, my trial lawyer came back to town to argue another case. Only six months this time but that made a huge difference. Second, I had a bunch of regulars. About a dozen clients who I saw at least once a month. I moved my rates up a little each year and I advertised some great packages for the weekends.
I thought it would hurt to trim my expenses so drastically, but it was actually pretty painless. Now I’m used to it and I actually enjoy living more minimally and simply. One funny thing is that although I love shopping as much as the next girl, now I am really selective. Originally out of necessity, but now by choice, I have developed a style and look, for my escorting life honed by scouring the consignment shops and flea markets and sales racks. I’ve refined my fresh-faced appeal, and now tend toward a more classic sensibility I ‘ve streamlined my make-up (5 products) and skincare (3 products), adopted a low maintenance hair style (my hair is healthier), and do my own basic manicure and polish. I learned to make lattes at home and I loved knowing I was saving 4 after tax dollars every time I made one. I’ve also learned how to cook. Now I can indulge in good food and champagne at home at a fraction of the cost.
This is my second to last year on my plan. I meet Jackie every couple of months to check in. She keeps track of my receipts and my revenues and also makes sure that my savings are growing. It turns out that I actually have begun to love saving money. Even though my revenues have gone up pretty steadily, I try to live on about the same amount of money I did the first year. That means more money goes into savings every month. I just passed the year and a half income savings goal and there are 18 months left in the plan.”
I asked Chelsea what changes having money in the bank made. Did money buy happiness?
“I was pretty happy in my first year because I didn’t worry about money at all. But I had basically nothing to show for that year. You can’t live like that. Now I have options.”
Like what I asked.
“Well, I am pretty sure I am not going to quit escorting at the end of the five year plan. I have already established a more selective, higher end, more regular clientele. I have never really been a high volume escort, but now I really want to focus on higher value clients. Getting control of my expenses, having a business plan, and having enough money in the bank that I can take a month off and not worry about it, has given me more control, confidence, and peace of mind.
It’s given me the incentive to go back to school part time. It’s a bit ironic, actually. At the same time as I was growing my business, Jackie was growing hers. She’s been so successful that now she needs an assistant. So I am taking some accounting and business management courses, and starting in the Fall I am going to work at her office. It should be interesting and, having been paying her fees these last few years, lucrative.”
Talking with Chelsea I could see the basics of her money strategy: treat your escorting as a business. Look to increase revenue while keeping expenses under control. Get advice. Have a plan and stick to it. Save money and have a savings goal. Build a life that makes you happy. Because everyone know, escorting is a “for now” enterprise.
Paying attention to Chelsea’s story will mean that, as you work as an escort, you are not only earning a good income, you are saving for whatever is next. It’s up to you to make “happily ever after” happen to you.
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