Sex Work, The Economy & Burn Out
Updated: Nov 16
I've often recounted what led me to decide to start working in the adult industry: I was working an office/events job and had started becoming incredibly unhappy in the position I had held for nearly 3 years. I hadn't had a single day off in 6 weeks (including weekends) and I was, simply put, burned out as fuck. I ended up going on a nearly 3-month medical stress leave of absence. Halfway through my leave, I decided to start an OnlyFans; I mean, I had all this free time, may as well find some way to capitalize on it, right? (Which, turns out, deciding to take on another job and work is not what you're supposed to be doing on leave.)
After a few weeks back from my stress leave, I left that job for another, which turned out to be hands-down the most toxic work environment I've ever encountered. I left in less than 6 months, and decided to work for myself full-time, even though I honestly wasn't making as much as I should've been to make that move sustainable. But I had a good chunk in savings, and I figured the extra time spent focusing on content creation would likely boost my revenue - and I was right. I made double my previous highest earning month within the first month of me becoming self-employed. Things really ramped up from there, and I was quickly making more than I'd ever made working in stressful office jobs; and I was doing it on my own! It felt amazing and I felt unstoppable.
And then in the past 6 months or so, things have been not-so-great.
It's no secret that the economy's taken a nosedive; people have less disposable income, especially when it comes to luxuries - which porn is.
But the thing is that within the industry, you're surrounded by creators who say that they're still making upwards of $50k/month - a figure I've never even come close to achieving. And all the advice forums come back to one thing: "There is no slow season, if you're not seeing as much traffic or revenue, then you're just not marketing properly or your content just isn't good enough. You just need to work harder."
And so, I have been. I've been working my ass off - I've taken one single full day off work since early August (making that 6 weeks of no days off pale in comparison to the nearly 3 months I've now worked non-stop.) I worked until 2-4am every night for nearly a month, trying to edit & update videos & their listings to increase SEO, creating spreadsheet after spreadsheet. I've spent countless hours trying to analyze data to help understand where I should focus my efforts, and nearly every waking hour on social media, trying to increase engagement and reach new audiences.
"Then just take a day off! You work for yourself, you get to decide when to take time."
But the problem is that I do work for myself, which means that my entire income depends on how active I am. I'm not in a position to be able to afford to take a day off social media or without checking my pages - I don't have the luxury of thousands of subscribers with hundreds renewing every day.
I think people, especially those on Twitter, think I have a larger subscriber base than I do. And considering my following, I'd probably think so too if I didn't know that the industry average is to have about 1-2% of your followers become subscribers. I have a comfortable amount of subscribers most months, but I make just enough to scrape by at this point. New subscribers are fewer and farther between, videos get purchased less often, everything is less active. Which means I need to work twice as hard as I used to to get half the return. Every hour I don't spend online is another hour I don't make money.
And that knowledge is what's led to me working nearly every single waking hour. And I mean nearly every single waking hour.
I've never been a huge fan of cooking, but now it has the double drawback of also taking time away from work. And so, instead of wasting an hour away from work to cook and eat, I order food in - or just skip meals so that I can work more instead of taking 15-20 minutes to stuff food into my face.
I've spent so much money on take out and so little time outside of my bed or off my couch, which has resulted in me being in the worst shape of my life. I'm not as strong as I used to be, I've gained weight, I get winded easily, and worst of all, it's started affecting my physical health.
You can imagine that a lot of body issues arise at this point, which are then exacerbated by the fact that my entire livelihood depends on how desirable people believe me to be. I spend my days taking photos of myself nude, then looking through all of them and judging my body, trying to decide whether or not other people would want to jerk off to it. I often hate looking at the photos, especially when I'm reminded of how much better that lingerie piece used to fit, how much more confident I felt posing, now sticking to 2-3 safe poses that are angled just right to make me feel comfortable enough to share them.
"Maybe the reason people have lost interest is because they're bored of the same poses? Or the same backgrounds? Or maybe they miss the old Willow, and wish I looked like I did before, or whatever the beauty standard is now. Maybe they don't like this body anymore."
I've stopped socializing as much, not only because I feel like I should be using that time to work, but because being asked "what have you been up to lately?" and having absolutely nothing to report is demoralizing. I don't have hobbies. I don't have stories to share. Hell, I barely even watch TV because if I'm home, I could and should be working, so I can't even chat about whatever pop culture bullshit I'd usually talk about.
And then, it all snowballs, because the problem with being a content creator, and being the content, is that it's hard not to internalize that you, as a person, are the reason business isn't going well.
"Of course no one's subscribing - why would they? You don't even do anything, you're not an interesting person, you have nothing to offer. They don't care about you because there's nothing to care about. What do you even bring to the table? Of course people don't want to pay to see you naked - have you seen yourself lately?" The frustrating thing is that you often can't vocalize any of this. People buy porn for the fantasy, they talk to content creators and providers and cam girls to make their days brighter; no one wants to buy porn from the sad girl and be reminded of how depressing the world is. And so you smile and post about how great your tits are and how you're cool af and worth their time & money while not believing a word of it.
I love this job, I really do. The past 6 months though, it doesn't feel like it loves me back.
I love making content, I love chatting with subscribers, I love creating spreadsheets and writing video descriptions and coming up with fun video ideas and live streaming. But my love for it doesn't pay the bills. I envisioned myself working in this industry for years, and I still want that to be the case. But it's getting harder to see that as a reality. I still don't know where I'm going wrong, I still don't know what strategies will make things better, but I do know that I can't keep going at this pace.
So I'm putting my foot down and making myself take more time away from my screens, try to leave my house more often, try to cook more often, maybe exercise when I can. The guilt of it has made me anxious - "you can't afford to not be working right now" but I'm trying to push through it and allow myself time to rest.
I wish I could end this with some sort of amazing revelation or piece of advice for others struggling, but I don't have any answers. All I have are hopes that things turn around and that we all learn to be a little bit kinder to ourselves and each other.