Smutlancer Profile: Girl on the Net
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This is the first in a new series that I’m (unimaginatively) calling Smutlancer Profiles. There are plenty of ways to make money creating content about sex, so lets hear from people actually doing it! A massive thank you to Girl on the Net for being the first person to do it! It’s not always easy to be first.
I have looked up to and admired Girl on the Net for years. When I heard her speak at Eroticon 2017, I knew I had found one of my people. From her nervousness when speaking in front of people or meeting someone new to her way of sharing information, I connected with her on multiple levels.
We’ve been loving each other mutually for a while now, and I knew at the start of this Smutlancer profile project, I wanted her to be one of the people featured here. She’s shared a lot in the following questions, and while I could have edited it or broken it up into two parts, I didn’t want to. Take your time with this. Come back and soak up her brilliance when you need to. GOTN always has plenty to teach and share, and I have no doubt you’ll find something to learn here, too.
Meet Girl on the Net
Find her at girlonthenet.com
Follow her on Twitter or Facebook
How do you make money as a smutlancer? What topic and/or type of content do you get paid to create?
Lots of different things! I run the social media for @HotOctopuss, write blog posts for @Sextoysuk and do various other bits and pieces of content work – so when I’m writing copy for people it’s usually for the purposes of user engagement and SEO. I have written everything from tips on how to have hands-free orgasms to run-downs of the best sex toys to use as defensive weapons in the event of apocalypse.
I also pitch and write articles for the mainstream media – though I do less of this at the moment than I used to as I’m focusing more on my own site. On my own site, I sell adverts, run a Patreon which helps me create audio porn, and I’m also signed up to a (very limited) number of affiliate programs which I can link people to if they want to buy the toys I like. I only do a little bit of this, though, because it makes me annoyed to have to promote companies for literally no up-front fee. I think affiliate programs can be a great way to start making income if your traffic is small and if you’re happy to spend a lot of time writing about sex toys, but my audience engagement is much higher when I write my usual stuff – real-life sex stories and feminist rants about shagging.
On top of this, of course, there’s income from books and related stuff: rights and royalties. I’ve written two books since I started blogging, one of which was published as an ebook and the other which was picked up by a traditional publisher.
How long have you been a smutlancer? When did you get interested in sex and creating content about it?
I’ve been blogging since 2011 and I think my first paid work came in around 2013 or thereabouts. I’d always wanted to be a writer (in fact, I have a hilariously terrible ‘novel’ that I wrote back when I was 12/13 in the style of a Point Horror book, when I spent an entire summer bashing away at an old typewriter my gran had given me) but I wasn’t really sure exactly what I wanted to write about. Then, with an ex-boyfriend, I discussed the possibility of us starting a sex blog together. We were both extremely kinky and keen to bury our faces into every delightful new fetish we came across, and we had a go at writing a few posts each, that could potentially grow into a blog. His were beautiful! But he got cold feet, understandably, so we shelved the idea. When the two of us split up and I was dating more regularly, I realized I really wanted to write about some of my experiences – to challenge some of the weird myths (“Women can’t possibly like sex!”) that I was bumping up against in my dating life. He gave me his consent to write about him, with a few caveats, and I got stuck into it.
The ‘getting paid for it’ sort of grew organically, and it was fairly late in the game (2014 or so) that I realized it might be possible to make a living from it. In fact, it was when I first went to Eroticon and met other amazing bloggers who were doing just that!
Are you a full-time or part-time smutlancer? Do you have a day job?
In 2014 I quit my day job, and if I’m honest I assumed I’d have to go back to getting another day job fairly soon. Luckily for me, my living costs are fairly low because I’m quite tight, and I’ve managed to build up enough work that I can cover my mortgage/bills etc every month, so with luck it’ll be a long time before I need to consider a 9-5 job again!
Are you open with anyone about the work you do? Do you only tell close friends and family or are you public about your work? Do you work under a pseudonym?
My close friends and family know what I do, as well as my partner – of course! The whole of my second book was basically a long love letter to him, and I am intensely grateful to him (and my ex) for letting me share slices of the fun that we have had together. Exactly what I tell people depends on the person, though.
My Mum knows that I blog, and what my blog name is, but she has said up-front that she would prefer not to read it, because she wants me to be able to write without worrying that she’s looking over my shoulder and judging me. I love my Mum so much for this: she has always been fiercely supportive of both my ambitions and my independence. As a consequence, she owns signed copies of both of my books, and they sit proudly on her bookshelves having never been opened, because I trust her completely not to read them.
My Dad, on the other hand, knows what I do but does not know my blog name. This is because I did a big round of ‘telling people I’m a sex blogger’ when my first book came out – including giving extracts of some of the less saucy bits to my Mum and my sister and others who would be interested. I offered a copy of this to my Dad and he immediately said ‘oh well I’ll just use that to find you and read EVERYTHING then, of course!’ so he never received a copy. He frequently nags me to tell him, and has often joked that maybe I don’t want him to read because I’m ‘ashamed’ of my work. I’m not ashamed, I just don’t really want my father to read all the intense nitty-gritty detail of exactly how I like to be fucked in the arse.
My friends mostly know too, and they are immensely supportive. Especially Claire, who appears in my second book, and my best friend, about whom I have written only a teeny tiny bit because I want to keep our precious friendship mostly to myself.
When and how did you realize this was what you wanted to do professionally?
About three months after I’d quit my day job. My plan was: save up enough money that I could make do for three months (I literally budgeted down to absolute bare-bones living, then saved three months’ worth of that), then pick up work during those three months, and measure ‘success’ by how long I had extended my time for.
So (rough estimates) it cost me £1400 to live each month, I had £3200 saved, and in the first couple of weeks I made £350. Sweet! That extended my time by an extra week. The week after that, I made £500, which extended me by another week and a bit, etcetera etcetera. By month 3 I realized I’d made £1800 in that last month, which bought me more than an extra month. It was that moment when I realized not only that I could do this, but that being able to keep doing it meant the world to me.
How did you get started and how long before you felt like you had “made it” (by any definition you choose)?
Hahahahahaha (please repeat laughter until you fall off your chair). I have not ‘made it’ and I don’t think I will ever, ever, ever look at my career and think ‘yep, that’s it, I’m there!’ I think the idea of ‘making it’ is a little like the ‘happy ever after’ that we’re encouraged to chase in our romantic lives. While you can be blissfully happy for periods of time, doubt and anxiety and stress and ambition will always creep in, and it will always seem like there is one more thing for you to do before you are finally ‘made.’
It’s a really difficult balance, because of course there are sex bloggers who say to me ‘I wish I could do what you do’ and I know exactly what they mean. And – plug here – I am always always up for giving advice to other bloggers if you would like some. Please ask me if there are things you’d like to know! Becoming ‘like me’ is probably not a laudable goal – I am good at some stuff and bad at other stuff. I absolutely suck at making money, and while I find contract work easy, making the absolutely shitloads of traffic on my website actually pay me a living income is still a task that eludes me. I’m working on it.
So I have definitely ‘made it’ in that I have achieved a goal I never thought I would achieve: being a ‘writer’ as an official thing. My job is ‘writer.’ But I haven’t ‘made it’ by the ever-shifting standards I always set myself, which are based mostly on my own insecurity and ambition.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started creating content about sex or became a smutlancer?
I am doing TWO because I am incapable of following simple instructions…
Monetise from the beginning. Optimise from the beginning. The content that you write on your own site will sit there forever. I don’t expect anyone to be an amazing blogger right off the bat – I certainly wasn’t, and I am still not really. But you will kick yourself if in 2 years time you start making a bit of money from your blog, and then you look back at all the traffic you’ve had in previous years and wonder… how much could I have been making if I’d just included these ads/links from the start? How much more traffic could I have got if I’d spent just 5 minutes doing some on-page optimisation for this really relevant keyword?
Set yourself realistic goals, and when you achieve them force yourself to take a break – even if it’s just 15 minutes to sit in an armchair with a cup of coffee – and tell yourself ‘well done.’ It is far too easy to just rush on to the next goal or target without properly giving yourself credit for the hard work you’ve done so far.
[CN: mental health stuff] A couple of times in my blogging life I’ve had quite severe mental health crises. In that, I have found myself incapable of working, leaving the house, and sometimes even speaking without developing a significant stutter. Part of this is because I am obsessed with being/doing more/better today than yesterday, and that is not a healthy way to be. When you are setting goals, include ‘take time off’ as one of your goals. It is not just valid – it is vital. Add it to your to-do list, and do it. Go for a walk, watch a film, ring a friend, go to the pub. This is not frippery, it’s fucking important. Hat tip to my therapist for that one.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re smutlancing?
Wake up, scroll through Twitter in bed and check emails. Retweet things I like, and hunt for inspiration for blog posts or stories. Try to time getting out of bed for the moment when I get a kick of excitement about writing something .
Drink coffee, have cigarette. Toast. More coffee, more cigarettes.
Go to my desk, which is in what I think is the nicest room of my house – a little bedroom overlooking the garden, with a sloping ceiling that feels like a hug. Use one elbow to swoosh all the papers that have gathered on my desk to one side, then fire up my laptop. On a good, creative day I will avoid opening Twitter or any other social network. On a bad day I’ll hunker over them for ages before kicking myself for procrastinating.
The rest of the day is spent writing (usually blog posts for me and clients, or short stories) and scheduling social media posts (for clients or me), responding to emails, checking stats on Analytics and my ad networks, and then if it’s a good day I get to record audio porn for my Patreon people. Towards the end of the day I’ll tie up loose ends like replying to the next deluge of emails that have hit my inbox – responding to guest blog pitches and saying ‘no thanks’ to companies that are kind enough to offer me the opportunity to work for them for free.
In the afternoon, when I get to the ‘fuck this I can’t think properly’ stage I’ll go out for a walk so I can get my 10,000 steps in, and pound the pavements to some punk songs in an effort to get the inspiration flowing in my brain. It doesn’t usually work, but it’s fun so fuck it: see the answer above where I said my therapist has made me schedule in ‘fun’ time. In the spirit of this I also usually take wank breaks halfway through the morning and halfway through the afternoon.
Once or twice a week I’ll have a Skype call, usually with a client or to do an interview for a podcast, and sometimes I’ll spend time crafting pitches for stories if I want to do some linkbuilding or get more paid work from media.
At about 6 I knock off and go do a bunch of housework. As a freelancer/work-from-home person it is very easy to fall into the trap of ending up doing all the housework, or having to run errands, because you’re ‘at home’ all day so you couldn’t possibly be working! It’s absolute bullshit and it does my head in. So my partner and I have (over a long time) evolved a pattern of chore-doing that works for both of us. I do 70% of the household chores, to make up for the fact that he spends a lot of time commuting, and he does the other 30% later in the evening. Unless he’s working from home, in which case he’ll do more. Also he always lets me eat 50% of his dessert when we go out for dinner, as a token of apology for the gender pay gap. That’s got nothing to do with work, I just enjoy it as a system because usually I’m too full to have pudding until one nanosecond after his salted caramel cheesecake arrives.
What, if anything, is your favorite content to create or type of smutlancing work to do?
In terms of the most pleasurable work, recording audio porn has to be number one. It’s joyful to be able to focus on the sound of the words (having written the words already so not needing to worry about editing). And the fact that audio porn is funded by Patreon, which is basically a core group of people who are most supportive of me and what I’m doing, it takes a lot of the stress and worry out of it. What’s more, when they give me feedback on my work it is always a treasured thing, because I know they are coming from a place of love and support and helping me do my very best. Audio porn is my absolute fave.
What do you absolutely need to have when you’re ready to sit down and work (snacks, type of environment, favorite blanket, clothes, or accessory, etc?) to be productive?
Silence. That’s the only thing, really. I could write anywhere as long as there was no noise. No music, no chatting, no interruptions. No phones pinging or buzzing at random. Just total, blissful, delicious silence.
As a bonus, though, I do like having my own space – my own room and domain in which to write. Having my own office, that I can decorate or mess up however I like, is a magical thing and I am incredibly privileged and lucky to have it.
Who or what inspired you to become a smutlancer?
Right at the start of my smutlancer journey, Cara Sutra was a huge influence – she gave a talk at Eroticon 2014 that was incredibly practical and helpful, and laid out pretty much everything I needed to know to get started. I recommend her advice on copywriting as well as the absolutely amazing advice that you give here on this site Kayla!
The other person I should mention is the amazing Blake (@pandorablake), who was my first ever client (I took a job writing copy for their excellent website Dreams of Spanking). Without them I don’t think I’d have gained the experience or confidence to do what I do today.
Name the best, strangest, funniest, wildest thing you’ve experienced as a smutlancer — from a client, someone online, anyone.
My favorite person from my favorite company in the sex industry – Will from Doxy – sponsored me to go to Berlin to see the Venus exhibition. The exhibition was amazing (you can read my account of Venus Berlin here if you like), and it introduced me to so much incredible stuff. I had a whale of a time, and then things got even better on Saturday night when we were invited to a VIP party in a bar overlooking the city, where naked dancers poured milkshake all over each other. It was the glammest I have ever felt in my life.