How to Make It As a Smutlancer if You’re Not Very Good at Smutlancing
It’s time, I think, to tackle one of the biggest questions that smutlancers have to deal with. It’s one I personally struggle with on a daily basis, and recent conversations with a couple of colleagues tell me I am not the only one. How do you make it as a Smutlancer if you’re just not very good?
You know the feeling, right?
You stare and stare at a blank page. All the ideas which felt excellent when you weren’t sitting at your desk have suddenly flown away like startled birds.
You know you have a deadline for this or that client, but there are only so many things you can think to say about vibrators – and it’s all been said already! By far better people than you!
Maybe you managed to score an awesome book deal, but now you actually come to write or edit the damn thing, the publisher’s faith in you seems wildly misplaced.
Maybe you thought you could do this and then a massive global pandemic came along, upending your world and making everything infinitely more difficult? How do you deal with the knowledge that somewhere someone else would almost certainly do your job better?
I’ll let you in on a secret: I’ve been sex blogging for nine years and smutlancing professionally for six, and I still don’t think I really deserve to be here. I made less money this year than in previous years. My income has fluctuated wildly over the time I’ve been working, and I look with envy at Kayla’s amazing output and think “Shit, I’ll never be that hardworking/good/professional/skilled.” Alongside my income, the quality of my work rollercoasters up and down depending on my mood, inspiration, and how easy my clients are to work with. I’ve picked up and put down any number of fun projects. And even though some have been successful there’s a nagging feeling in the back of my mind that the ones which worked only did so because of luck.
I am bad at this. Very bad at this. I spend a lot of time encouraging peers in their work because I hope that even if I can’t be good at this, I can help someone else who is. Let’s face it: this isn’t a piece about what to do if you’re no good, it’s about how to deal with imposter syndrome.
What is Imposter Syndrome?
Imposter syndrome is when you look around you and feel like everyone else knows far more about what they’re doing than you do. It’s about feeling like a fraud because you’ve somehow managed to “cheat” your way into a profession that you don’t really deserve to be in. I think it’s probably more prevalent in creative or otherwise rewarding jobs because the sense that you’ve “won” can be pretty high if you’re writing about orgasms for a living.
What do you do?
Oh, I taste cake/test hot tubs/write about sex for money.
Yeah. You lucky git.
The first thing to remember, if you’re feeling the onset of imposter syndrome, is that you can’t just think it away. If you’re feeling it, you’ll probably find it a frequent visitor. Imposter syndrome is often a sign that you’re in a job you genuinely like. It comes partly from the fear that you won’t be “allowed” to do that job anymore if people find you out. So the first thing I do when I realize I’m spiraling into a panic about it is to recognize that I’m lucky to have a job I want to cling to.
Talk to Your Colleagues
One of the most helpful things for me as a newbie Smutlancer was attending Eroticon – ages ago, back in 2014. Not only did I pick up tons of handy tips, like the kind you find here and on the Smutlancer podcast, I also got to speak directly to the people who were doing the job I desperately wanted. I attended more Eroticons over the years and got to learn directly from other smutlancers about their worries and challenges. Realizing that I am not the only person who feels I might get “found out” one day helped me to relax a little and realize I was probably doing OK.
The other good thing about talking to your smutlancing colleagues is that it really hammers home to you that we aren’t competitors – we’re a community. There is plenty of work to go around because the nature of our business involves introducing new people to the world of erotica, sex toys, and other lovely stuff. The audience for our work gets larger as more of us join in because each of us brings something unique to the table, which will help to draw in new and curious people.
I might be pretty good at targeting straight cis men who are trying to slough off masturbation stigma (and I am, imposter syndrome aside. I can be pretty confident that I do that), but you might be able to bring insight into vaginismus, CBD oil and sex, applying color theory to picking the best dildo, or whatever else might represent the intersection of your sex interests and the rest of your life.
Remember Your USP
This leads me neatly on to the most important point – and the most helpful thing when dealing with imposter syndrome. It’s easy to look at what other people are doing and say “Oh, I can’t do that nearly as well.” For me, it’s often toy reviews or educational posts. I realize I will never be as good as some of my colleagues when it comes to reviewing toys or giving run-downs of the best lube brands, or talking about queer history or any other fascinating thing. But that’s OK. I know I am never going to do that because I don’t have to do everything.
Where your colleagues excel, let yourself embrace that and celebrate their achievements – by sharing their work and recommending them when people come to you with questions about their expertise. Meanwhile, nurture the areas of your work that you think you do well in: your USP. USP stands for “Unique Selling Point” and yes, it’s a bit sales-wanky, but it’s worth bearing in mind. It may take you a while to work out what your USP is, and it may change over the years as you develop new interests and niche projects. But by focusing on the thing you do best and not driving yourself to do everything, you should hopefully start to carve out a place in the industry that is distinctly you-shaped.
No one does what you do quite like you. When you establish and work on your own unique skills, you will also start to recognize the enormous value of what you bring to the sex industry. After all, you can’t be an imposter in a space you carved to perfectly fit yourself, can you?
Confession: I cried when I scanned the first few lines of this post after it landed in my inbox earlier. I really fucking needed this today. After months of not writing because I’m so ill and having only published two blog posts so far in 2021, I had a complete meltdown last night because I was on a call with some of my favourite people and we were all supposed to be writing about sex together, and I just couldn’t write anything. Thank you for the advice and the pep talk.
“No one does what you do quite like you.” I’m going to go and write that down in my planner right now, because I really need to remember it at the moment. It’s really fucking hard to remember that my voice matters and that I have Shit To Say that’s worth posting, but I feel like I spend all my time right now apologising for taking up space and wasting other people’s time. Being this ill doesn’t help, but that doesn’t mean I should roll over and let the imposter syndrome win.
Ahhh Quinn, I know you struggle with imposter syndrome a lot, and I kind of wish I could give you an Alice-in-Wonderland style bottle of self-confidence labelled ‘drink me’: the second you drank it you’d be able to see your own work from an outside perspective and understand how, even on the days you think are bad ones, you are still an exceptional writer. Being ill absolutely doesn’t help, but you’re doing brilliantly. I find pandemic means I might have one week when I’m super-prolific and another where all I want to do is lie in a pile and weep, so I think at the moment the best thing any of us can do is point to what we *have* done and go ‘LOOK! I did THAT! Even when everything’s super hard! GO ME!’
So: go you =)
My take on it: Write about things that happen to you. Take the vibrator example. If you give your account of using it with photos, then it’ll be interesting enough.
Why not add a video?
As a sex blogger (and a nudist), I find then I don’t have enough time to write about all things my followers want to know about me. I wish to suffer one day from a syndrome that I don’t know what else to write about. Write now I have 150 drafts 🙂
I completely agree re: writing things that happen to you. Sometimes focusing on the personal is the best way to shuffle through all the noise and ideas, and work out what the best thing is for you to bring to the table!
With photos/videos though, a note of caution: while I absolutely LOVE other people’s photos + vids, there is a danger in posting explicit pics/videos if you’re also trying to make money via channels which have strict content guidelines. I use Patreon, and it’s absolutely vital as an income stream for me, but if I were to post a photo or video of me using a vibrator I would get ditched from that platform and lose a significant portion of my income. Photos + videos can definitely be great ways to engage (and also brilliant when the words don’t come and you feel writing is too much!) but I’d always advise someone to be aware of the restrictions of the platforms you’re using (hosting, social, patreon etc) before choosing to publish something like this.
Congratulations on the 150 drafts though! That is amazing! I think I have plenty of drafts but they’re languishing there because I am not quite sure how to finish them. Oh to have ideas which I can actually see through to the end =) That’s one of my biggest Achilles’ heels!