Smutlancer Spotlight: Amy Norton
Editor’s note: The Smutlancer community will be closing at the end of 2021. The site will remain live for future smutlancers to use as a resource. The final blog post will publish right at the first of January. This is the last Smutlancer Spotlight. We are eternally grateful to Chelsea for picking up this idea and running with it. She made it better than we ever imagined it could be.
Merry Christmas! Merry Christmas! Happy Holidays! *attempts to sing like NSYNC*
Happy December, Smutlancers! It’s the most wonderful time of year, especially in New York. It gets colder. Lights, ornaments, and Christmas trees are everywhere. Emails start popping up in inboxes about holiday sales for Christmas. And Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and coffee shops have officially phased out pumpkin flavors :-(.
It’s also the dawn of a new year. I’ve been seeing tweets about New Year’s Resolutions; content creators are announcing their time off until 2022, and Secret Santas are officially in effect.
During this time of year, I like to think about highlights that happened throughout the year. One of my highlights has been writing this monthly column for the smutlancer. I know I talked about how grateful I am for the smutlancer in my last article, but it bears repeating because this is the final smutlancer profile. It’s the end of an era.
It’s so hard to say goodbye, but thankfully the site will still be up to support you in your smutlancing endeavors. This was a great practice of consistency for me and a fantastic opportunity to connect with like-minded people. I’ll be forever grateful for this opportunity and look forward to seeing what everyone does next.
Without further ado, here is my final smutlancer interview featuring none other than Amy Norton (she/her). Amy is a sex writer, reviewer, and pleasure product aficionado. She’s based in the UK, where she lives with one partner, two cats, and 150 vibrators!
During our interview, we talked about the importance of having a supportive partner, the time a client waited eight months to pay her, how grateful she is for the smutlancer community, and much more. Check it out:
How do you make money as a smutlancer?
There are a few different things. The thing that I started with was my blog, Coffee and Kink (C and K). I do a lot of product reviews on there, and for ages, I wasn’t really getting paid for any of that. It was a labor of love more than anything, but I did eventually start making money through affiliate sales on my blog. I’ve partnered with some companies, so I make a decent percentage of my income from affiliate sales from sex toys and lingerie.
I also get paid to write for other platforms as well. I’ve written for the smutlancer a couple of times. I’ve written for a sex tech guide here in the UK. I’ve written for places like Hot Octopus, Love Honey, and lots of different companies and publications platforms and websites.
I get sponsored content on my blog as well, so companies want me to write something with a link to their products. So, I get money from those kinds of sponsorships and a little bit from banner advertising on my site.
Although I have a couple of companies who have paid for monthly advertising packages, I think that’s pretty rare at this point. Most of them tend to want sponsored posts, which is fine because those posts perform better anyway.
I also do a little bit of product copy and product descriptions for adult retailers. I’ve just signed with a new company in Australia that launched a site selling primarily sex toys, lingerie, BDSM items, and things like that. I’m writing and improving their product sales copy as well.
How long have you been a smutlancer?
I started C and K on New Year’s Eve at the end of 2016 going into 2017, so it will be five years on 31st of December. For some reason, my partner and I were not going out for New Year’s. I think it was just because we were both really tired and we had a bunch of work. I was in the living room and he was in his office. He just came through at one point to me. I’d been working on [my blog] and I said, “Hey babe, I set up a sex blog.” He was just like, “Oh yeah, of course, you did. Yeah, that checks out.”
C and K isn’t my first blog. Years ago, I had a blog that was all about polyamory and consensual non-monogamy. So, C and K was kind of my second attempt at blogging and I learned a lot from that kind of first experience. So, I think I did a lot more things right the second time.
I’ve been interested in sex and sexuality for my entire adult life. Even as a teenager, I found this stuff fascinating. So, it kind of surprises me a little bit that it took me until I was 26 [years old] to realize I could take my fascination with sexuality and my writing skills and combine it [to] make a career. So, to actually answer your question, it’ll be five years next month, since I already started getting serious about making money and making a business out of creating sex content.
Are you a full-time or part-time smutlancer?
I am a full-time freelance writer. I had a day job until about a year and a half ago. I lost my job at the start of the pandemic, which weirdly was the best thing that ever happened to me. When I first found out I was losing my job, I had this moment like, “Oh, fuck!” I didn’t know what I was going to do ’cause my industry was destroyed by the pandemic. I’ve been freelancing on the side for years part-time making decent money, but not quite ‘quit your day job’ money. So, when I lost my job, I just thought, “Well, it’s now or never.”
So, I took the plunge, went full-time freelance, and I’ve never looked back. It’s the best thing I’ve ever done. So, I’m a full-time smutlancer. [Well], yes and no. I mean, I’m a full-time [smutlancer], but I do vanilla content as well under my legal name. I do mostly copywriting and a little bit of journalism in vanilla spaces. I should do the math on this income-wise but probably 65% to 70% of my income is the sex stuff at this point. 30-35% is the rest. It fluctuates slightly month to month, depending on what I’ve got going on.
Are you open with anyone about the work you do?
Amy Norton is not my legal name. It is a pseudonym. Am I open? Sort of. My close people know. Obviously, my partner knows what I do. Honestly, most of my close friends are people I’ve met through sex blogging, polyamory, the kink community, or the queer community.
My family [doesn’t know]. They know I’m a freelance writer and they know about the vanilla stuff. They do not know about C and K. I don’t think it would go down very well. They know I’m queer. I’ve written about queer stuff under my legal name but they don’t know that I’m polyam. They don’t know that I’m kinky and I don’t think they would like that very much. It’s hard in a way. It is a bit like a double life, which is frustrating. I don’t put my face to anything I do in this space publicly [but] I have the cartoon avatar. I have to be a little bit careful about identifying details. I live in a small town that’s super conservative, so I have to be a little bit circumspect about what I reveal and what I put out there. It’s a weird sort of in-between. There’s almost two of me. This side almost feels more real, authentic, and genuine.
I’m scared about my family finding out, but me and my partner have made a very stringent worst-case scenario plan for what we will do if everyone finds out and how we will handle it. I’m very lucky he’s very supportive of what I do. He’s always been very supportive of what I do. I don’t think I could do it in this way if I didn’t have a partner who was completely behind everything I do.
When and how did you realize this was what you wanted to do professionally?
I think I always knew I wanted to be a writer for most of my adult life. I actually started as a fiction writer, [which] was really my thing for a long time. I mean, I still do that [because] fiction is my first love, but there is solidly no money in it. It’s almost impossible to make money purely from fiction for most people. But when I started writing the blog, I thought maybe it would be a passion project for a year or two. It would be fun and then it would fizzle, but the more I did it, the more I realized I loved it.
[When] I started writing about sex, BDSM, non-monogamy, and sex toys, I realized that writing about these topics was my happy place. It was what I loved and it was what I was good at. I think that’s a very important combination for something that is going to become a career. So, it was probably six months to a year into writing C and K that I realized this is it. This is the thing that I really love, that I’m really good at, and that I want to do long-term.
How did you get started and how long before you felt like you had “made it”?
I started with a free WordPress website coffee and kink dot wordpress dot com back in the day. It was a free account. The one thing I did invest money in was I paid for the rights to an image I used as my site logo for a long time, which was like a piece of rope and a coffee cup. It was quite pretty. I had no knowledge of anything technical. I still have no knowledge of anything technical. I’m useless. I live with my tech guy. Honestly, my poor partner, every five minutes, I’m just like, “Babe, it broke. Fix it”.
Having made it? I don’t feel like I have [but] there are a couple of milestones. So, the first really big milestone was the first time I ever got paid to write about sex. It was early 2017. It must have been March because it was right after EroticCon in 2017, which was the first EroticCon I went to, and I pitched a piece to Girl On The Net for her guest blog series on her site. She accepted it and I wrote this article and I got paid a “tenner” (£10). And even though it was such a small amount of money, it was the first time that I’d actually got paid for words that I’d written in this space. I was so proud of it. That was really a game-changing moment for me.
The other really big turning point was going freelance in the middle of 2020 [because] I lost my day job. I had always envisioned I would quit one day rather than get laid off, but, you know, pandemics happened, I guess. That first day of waking up and being like, “Oh my God, I’m my own boss now” was equal parts “this is awesome” and “oh fuck!”
Another [milestone] was when a company I really love, really admire, and I own I think every single product I’ve ever made emailed me and asked me to consult on their new design. I thought, “oh, wow. I think I’ve made it.”
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started creating content about sex or became a smutlancer?
The biggest thing I wish I’d known is to place higher value on my own work. I think when we’re starting out, it’s fine to take a few lower-paid gigs to build a portfolio. I’m very, very grateful to the platforms that gave me a chance when I was brand new and had no portfolio.
But I found that companies, even large companies with large budgets, were coming to me asking for free content and free advertising or trying to talk down rates to ridiculously low levels to the point where it wasn’t even worth the time to do the work.
Too many times early on, I said, “I’ll write a review for you just for the product” or “I’ll do this for almost no money. Sure. Why not?”
I did learn quite quickly that was never going to serve me well. The companies who want to pay me almost nothing were never actually going to come back [and] give me more work at my proper rate. They would just take advantage. So, I think that’s really the thing I wish I’d learned earlier.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re smutlancing?
I’m not sure I have a typical day because I am a chaotic human. I don’t have a diagnosis or anything, but my friend who is a doctor strongly feels I have undiagnosed ADHD, which I think is probably true. I’m very unstructured.
I mean, on an ideal day, I will get up around 7 am. I’ll have breakfast, feed my cat and possibly even work out. I’ll get to my desk around like 9/9:30 am and write for a few hours. I do find these days that I do my best focusing earlier in the day. When I was younger, I used to be a real night owl. I would come alive at like eight o’clock at night. But that’s not true anymore.
Ideally, I’ll typically write until one or two in the afternoon and take a break for lunch. If I come back to work in the afternoon, I’ll do stuff that requires less brain [work] like queuing up tweets, finance, admin, chasing invoices, sending invoices, and updating links on my blog.
Sometimes I’ll just take the afternoon off work and do other things instead. My partner and I have been doing a lot of renovations at our house recently, so we’ll sometimes work on that in the afternoon. Sometimes I’ll go out. I’m part of a networking group for freelancers locally, so I’ll go to something like that or just take some time off in the afternoon to read or relax. I typically clock off work when it’s a full day about five o’clock. Sometimes I’ll come back and do a little bit more in the evening, particularly if my partner is out or is busy in the evening.
I know what works for me but I can’t be too rigid about it ’cause it’s not going to work with the reality of how my brain works and how my life is set up. So, structured, but flexible is what I aim for. Chaos is what I live in most of the time.
What, if anything, is your favorite content to create or type of smutlancing work to do?
I think probably, overall, my favorite thing to create is the sort of advice and ‘how to’ content. So, advising people on some aspect of kink or non-monogamy or something like that because that’s where the whole blog started. That was really what I imagined it was going to be at the beginning. At the beginning, I [also] said I’m not going to do sex toy reviews. Everyone does sex toy reviews. I’m not going to do that. And then now of course I do loads of them obviously. It really started out as I wanted to create the kind of content that I wish I’d had access to when I started in all of this and that’s the stuff where I get the really nice emails from people saying, “Hey, this thing that you wrote really helped.” So, I think that’s just the most rewarding side of it for me.
In a perfect world, what would you want your legacy to be as a smutlancer?
In an ideal world, I’d like to leave the world a more sex-positive, pleasure-focused, and consent-aware place than I found it.
What do you absolutely need to have when you’re ready to sit down and work?
Coffee. I’m not too fussy as long as it’s not instant. I’m a little bit of a coffee snob, so I will not drink instant coffee. I normally just brew up some black coffee and put a little bit of oat milk in it. It’s pretty simple really. Sometimes I’ll have something fancy, like a latte or a mocha. <
This time of year, I always have my SAD light on because I really struggle with the lack of daylight. So, I need my SAD light to help me stay awake and stay focused. I have SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder) that I suffer from to a certain extent.
The SAD light kind of simulates daylight, so it tricks your brain into thinking that it’s light out for longer than it is. It helps me to stay awake, stay focused and not get too depressed in the winter.
The other thing that I like to have at this time of year is a really nice blanket I put around my shoulders whenever I get cold. It’s very cozy. I always have it on hand when it’s cold out.
Who or what inspires you to be a smutlancer?
It’s two answers to this one. I’m very inspired by all the amazing people who blazed the trail in this work and who’ve been doing this stuff so amazingly for so long. People like Molly, Kayla, and Girl on the Net. All of those amazing writers who have been doing this for so long and pour out such amazing content.
The other side of it is [that] I’m inspired by my readers and my community. Hanging out in the kind of spaces I do, I meet so many amazing people, who’ve had so many fantastic experiences. They’re so generous with their knowledge, their wisdom, and things that they’ve learned.
This is slightly a tangent, but I think it’s relevant. I think there’s a real sense that sex is frivolous. There’s a sense that it’s not serious, it’s not important, and that what we do isn’t really meaningful. But I think it’s so fundamental to so many people [because] there’s so much misinformation and shame out there. Every time I get a message from someone who says, “Hey, this thing that you wrote was helpful to me” that is what inspires me to keep doing it.
Are there any social/charitable causes that are close to your heart and connected to your work as a smutlancer?
Yes, so I made a thing! Five years ago, I created a Smut-A-Thon, which was an idea I had in the middle of the night. I have cool friends who run with my random ideas. So, I decided I wanted to do a writing marathon challenge, get sponsored, and do it for charity. So the basic model is that we write intensely for a period of time. The core group does it for 12 hours, but other people kind of drop in and out throughout the day. We do it once a year. Every year we donate to a different charity.
The first year we did a Rape Crisis England and Wales and Backlash, which is a sexual freedom campaigning organization. We [also] did the Abortion Support Network, the National Network of Abortion Funds, and Endometriosis UK.
This year we did Gendered Intelligence in the UK and Trans Lifeline in the U S. We’ve raised about 12,000 pounds in total over the five years split between those various organizations. It’s really fun. It used to be in the summer, but then the pandemic happened. So, this year we did it like three weeks ago. A group of us got together in London and other people joined in from all over the world. It was great. It was so much fun. We’re @SmutForACause on Twitter if anyone would like to follow along and find out about what we’re doing.
Name the best, strangest, funniest, wildest thing you’ve experienced as a smutlancer.
There was a client who took eight months to pay me. They’d always pay quite promptly and then suddenly they stopped. I emailed the contact person. I got no response. I emailed their main info@ email. I got no response. Eventually, I put them on blast on Twitter. I don’t like taking grievances public, but it wasn’t a trivial amount of money. It was something like $800. About an hour later, I got a DM from a guy saying, “Oh my goodness! We’re so sorry. The person you were liaising with left, [so] we didn’t get any of the messages. Let me pay you right now. I still work with them, and they always pay me promptly now.
Since this is the final smutlancer interview, what is one thing the smutlancer community has done for you that you’ll never forget and will be eternally grateful for?
It made me not feel alone. I think that writing can be quite a lonely business. Most of the time it’s just us and our computers, right?! It’s not something that necessarily lends itself to working with lots of people unless you like co-writing. I’m very introverted, so [having] a computer, a cup of coffee, and a cat is my ideal working environment.
Sometimes it gets really lonely, particularly in something like sex content creation, where there aren’t many established rules and norms. Just having a community of people who get it is really is amazing. It’s really meaningful, whether it’s the Slack channel or on Twitter, or even just sliding into someone’s DM’s saying, “Hey, is this normal?” or “I’ve been asked to do this thing. What do you think?” So, not feeling alone and not feeling isolated are the [essential] things I’ve got from that community.
What are your final words that you would like to say to Kayla and Molly since this is the last smutlancer profile?
Thank you for everything you’ve created. Without this community, I wouldn’t be as far as I am in my smutlancing career now. I have so much love and respect for the two of them and the whole community. Everyone is amazing. I think they’ve made something special and I think they should be very proud of that.