This article originally appeared on VICE UK.
There are numerous ways to make a living from bed, but none so seemingly glamorous as the cam girl. As awareness of the profession grows, so too do the number of people working in the industry, says Elysia Downings, a 29-year-old cam girl from Derbyshire. “The competition’s definitely growing,” she tells me.
The data certainly does seem to support this. The UK’s top camming platform, AdultWork, boasts that up to 50,000 industry professionals could be working on the site at any one time. It’s tricky to glean hard data on how much the camming industry makes, but the ONS estimated back in 2014 that sex work is a £5.3 billion industry in the UK.
But how much do cam girls really make? Everyone’s perception of “a lot” and “a little” when it comes to money is different, so I decided to find out once and for all just how lucrative this job is by asking some cam girls themselves.
ELYSIA DOWNINGS, 29, DERBYSHIRE
VICE: Do you think people have the wrong idea about how much cam girls really make?
Elysia Downings: I think there’s a lot of misinformation, to be honest. People think it’s an easy job and doesn’t require any investment or skill, but it’s not the case at all. If it pays well, it’s because the performer is good at their job – like in any other industry.
Did you have any idea how much you’d earn before you became a cam girl?
Not really! It was a bit of a last-chance saloon for me as I’d lost my job and am a single mother of a young child. I signed on with Off The Record, an agency, initially, and took home £700 in the first week, which blew my mind! That’s when I knew I’d made the right decision.
So how does the industry work? How do you get paid and by who?
Right, so I’ll log into AdultWork and switch my cam on. Rates are charged by the minute and vary from girl to girl. For instance, I charge £2/minute for group chats, so that’s where a few different people are in the same room. In those cases, they can tip you – I once got a group of guys who tipped me a tenner each every time I spanked myself. It was crazy, but so, so empowering! For one-on-one, I charge £4/min, and if I’m doing a findom night, it’s £8/min. I pay 35 percent of everything I make to AdultWork, 5 percent to my agency and 3 percent to another software provider. I also do some sugar baby work on the side to boost my earnings.
VICE: What’s the most you’ve taken home in a week?
About £5,000! But in the interest of balance, I also once had an eight-hour shift where I only made £0.81! It’s very variable. It’s also a job where you get out exactly what you put in – the more hours you work, the more clients and regulars you find. It’s kind of limitless, to be honest!
SCARLETT, 29, BRISTOL
VICE: How long have you been camming?
Scarlett: Only about a year on and off part-time.
How are you finding it so far?
AMAZING! I wish I’d started sooner to be honest, but I let the shame attached to sex work put me off. It’s enabled me to increase my earning potential loads, and even paid for a two-month trip to Thailand!
How much have you taken home so far?
About £7,000 so far. I’ve only been working part-time though and obviously with a two-month break in the middle. Even so, I’m a trained masseuse and make much more as a cam girl per hour worked.
Are the agency fees worth it?
Totally! I’ve met so many amazing girls, and to be honest it really does help to build a support network when you’re starting in this job, as it can get quite lonely. They also promote us a lot, which helps to bring clients.
LOLA MOON, 24, DORSET
VICE: Did you have any idea how much you’d be earning when you became a cam girl?
Lola: No! Like a lot of the girls, it started as a side hustle to help me save money to go travelling after uni. In my first week of part-time camming, I made £500. I was working a retail job and well, a few months into camming, I decided to give it up and do more camming. I worked out I’d make much more money this way, and in fewer hours.
Talk us through how it works when you enter the chat – how do you start generating money?
I tend to go into the free chat to start to drum up some attention. Then I either take people into private chats or groups, depending on what they’re after. One thing I think people don’t perhaps understand is that I really don’t get naked as much as you’d think. Definitely not in group chats, although I’ll sometimes flash for tips.
What’s the most you’ve earned in a week?
£700 after paying fees etc. Before camming, I was barely managing to save anything – this job allowed me to pay off my overdraft and save £6,000 to travel around India. Everyone has their opinions on sex work, but it’s given me a level of financial freedom I could never have reached so quickly in any other job.
Elizabeth , 26, Scotland
VICE: We’ve heard you’re a big earner! How much did you make in your first year of camming?
Elizabeth: You know, it’s mad. I went into this thinking – hoping – I’d earn £1,000 a week. And one year on, I’ve earned well into six figures. In a bad week I take home £2,000, which I appreciate is a lot for most people. I am so grateful though, because it’s enabled me to save towards my dream of buying a house near my family without a mortgage.
Did you always earn this much?
To be honest – yeah! Not all of that comes from camming – I should clarify that I do some findomming as well, which I had some experience with before I started. It’s been wild.
Do you have any advice for other womxn on how to earn the big bucks?
Honestly, I always say: be yourself. I’m a total goofball on cam and am just myself. I don’t try to play a sexy character, and I think my clients value my authenticity because it means we are able to build a relationship, which always pays off.
It must be hard not to let all that money go to your head…
It is! Or rather, it’s important not to let your ego get carried away with it. I stay grounded by living a pretty normal life, I don’t spend a lot at all and still live in the same little flat with a broken bath. I also donate to charity because I think it’s important to use the money to do good and be generous.