Starting out or working in the sex industry can be daunting in terms of the financial aspects. Money is coming in, sometimes more than you’ve ever made or even seen before. It can be a bit overwhelming to plan and handle your money. I am not at all a tax professional, financial planner, or really anything but a whore with some experience. This is just advice from me to you, not intended to substitute for professional (well, that kind) advice. It was also not intended to help you avoid the system. Pay your taxes!
First and foremost, you need to plan your budget. How much money do you need to pay rent, utilities, credit card payments, loans, car payments, food bills, and so on? How much money do you need each week or month in order to cover the necessities? Figure this out first. Everything else after this amount is disposable income.
Based on your budget, some market research, and the guidance of other sex workers, calculate your rate. I’m not an expert on this. There are others who can help you, like the book The Internet Escort’s Handbook by Amanda Brooks. Similar principles apply, no matter what type of sex work you do.
Set up a book-keeping system. Having no way to track how much money is coming in and going out will end up hurting you. You’ll have no way to know what you’re averaging and how much you’re spending. This can be as simple as a writing down everything you make in a notebook or as complex as a color-coded spreadsheet or financial software. A good, basic system is the date, the number of or type of appointment or job, and the amount made.
Figure out how to handle your cash. If you are working for a club, dungeon, or company that issues you a paycheck instead of you dealing with cash, skip this.
Decide what you want to do with your cash. Keep in mind that anything you deposit in a bank account, pay bills with, or buy large items with leaves a paper trail. If you want to keep your cash handy, one thing you should invest in is a good fire-proof safe. Keeping a lot of cash on hand is risky as a sex worker. If others find out, you can be at risk of robbery. A safe can help. Don’t hide cash in obvious places, like your mattress, the freezer, your toilet tank, and so on. If you’ve seen it in a movie, other people have, too. Consider having a dummy safe. This is a safe you hide in a more obvious place (under your bed, for example) and keep a small amount of cash in. Then, get a good, sturdy, floor-bolted safe or wall safe to keep more in. If a thief breaks in, the thief will quickly discover your dummy safe and leave your main safe alone.
Depositing cash is a good idea. Consider either a safety deposit box or a bank account. It’s a good idea to have three bank accounts: a personal checking, a savings, and a “business” checking. This can just be a personal account you filter all of your money through before it goes into your personal account. Keeping your money separate can demonstrate that you are organized in your business book-keeping.
Now that you have a budget and are handling your money, start some basic financial planning. What are your long term goals? Are you doing sex work to pay for something, pay off something? A really good rule of thumb is to have three months’ of expenses in savings. That way, if you want to take a break, you get fired, transition, the market turns around, you are hurt and can’t work, you’ll have a cushion. You’ll also have money in case of an emergency, like a car breaking down or a medical bill.
If you can afford it, consider basic health insurance, catastrophic only. If you are young and have no major health problems, you can usually get this cheaply. It will have a high deductable (sometimes $5,000 to $10,000), so it’s not for your annual exam or going into the doctor when you have a cold. It’s just in case you have a major event happen. If you get hit by a car or something equally terrible, the medical bills can wipe you out. Having insurance can protect you.
Once you have met your savings goal of three months’ expenses, start a savings plan for other things. If it’s for school, for a car or a house, or something else, think about your investments. This is my weakest area because, to be honest, having enough money to invest has never really happened to me before. But consider seeing a financial planner for this service, or someone like the Financial Madam. You can make low risk investments, like a savings account with interest, savings bonds, or certificates of deposit. You can also make higher risk investments, like stocks. Having a long-term retirement plan is an awesome idea.
In general, try to be smart with your money. If something is a business investment (like a computer to check your email on, a car, or sometimes clothes), talk to your tax preparer about what is deductible. Otherwise, try to avoid the impulse to spend all of your money just because it’s there. I went through a period like that when I first started working. I had an awesome time and got some lovely shoes, but when I needed to get out like right now, I had absolutely nothing to fall back on.
On the issue of things to do with your money, consider reinvesting in your business. Again, some of these things are tax deductible. Setting up a business model is a good idea. Decide what your long-term goals with your type of sex work are. Use some of your income to place ads in the right places to tap your target market. Get professional photographs. Set up a website. Make little investments to set yourself up for long-term success.
When things get more complicated, there are many more issues to consider, like becoming incorporated or becoming an LLC. These are things I know nothing about at all, hence, talk to a financial planner, an attorney, and definitely your fellow sex workers. Being smart with your money is the best way to gain your independence.