Smutlancer Spotlight: Dirty Lola
Hey Folks! Are you feeling a little burned out from 2020? If you are, you aren’t alone. I’m right there with you. I can’t speak for you, but I know for me, I’m learning that it’s important to take breaks from sex-related content. While I enjoy being in this industry, I need some time to veg out in front of the TV and find ways to recharge my internal batteries, especially during this pandemic.
I used to feel guilty about feeling this way because many of my peers consume this content 24/7 and don’t seem to need a break. I’ve asked myself, “Am I meant for this work if I need a break from sex content?” “Shouldn’t I be immersed in the sex industry 24/7 if I want to be taken seriously?”
But after conducting this month’s Smutlancer Spotlight with Dirty Lola, I’m glad to say those doubts and questions are slowly subsided.
Dirty Lola (she/her) is a sex edutainer, speaker, and self-proclaimed dildo slinger. Known for her live sex ed Q&A show Sex Ed A Go-Go and as co-host of New York Magazine’s The Cut’s “Sex Probz” web series, Lola has spent almost a decade working to end stigma and shame surrounding sex and sexuality. Having started her journey sharing personal discoveries with polyamory and kink online, Lola now uses her knowledge, warm candor, and public platforms to teach the masses in-person and to rapt Internet audiences.
Lola and I not only chat about her smutlancing journey but we also talk about the need to take breaks from erotic content because sex work is still work. So, if Dirty Lola needs to take content breaks now and then, it’s safe to say that we all can take breaks when we need them too – without the guilt trip.
Check out our interview.
How do you make money as a smutlancer? What topic and/or type of content do you get paid to create?
I am the Creative Director of the Spectrum Journal, which is part of Spectrum Boutique, [an] online sex shop that’s based in Detroit [that’s] owned by Zoe Ligon aka Thongria. So, that’s a fairly new job for me.
I’m a brand ambassador right now for B-Vibe and I create content for their blog, both video and in print. I work at a phone sex line called Pep. It’s based in Albuquerque, but I’ve been doing that for the last few months.
And then outside of that, I teach workshops and I do speaking engagements. I [hosted], when we weren’t in the middle of a pandemic, a live sex ed Q&A and variety show called Sex Ed A Go-Go. I’ve been doing that for, oh my god, almost seven years. I [also] have a web series called Sex Probz. Yes, so, so many ways. *laughs*
That’s awesome. How long have you been a smutlancer? When did you get interested in the topic of sex and creating content about it?
It’s been about a decade. I started a blog in 2010. I haven’t always been making money at it, but I started creating content in 2010. We’re finally at a point of making money doing what we love.
Nice! Are you a full-time or part-time smutlancer? Do you have a day job that’s vanilla?
Nothing I do is vanilla. Before this, I was mostly freelance but had a sex shop job. And right now, that’s gone. [So], I have no day job. Everything is freelance. I haven’t had a vanilla job since 2014.
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?
I am very open about my work with everybody. I mean, family knows… friends. It’s on the internet. And I do work under a pseudonym. It used to be to hide my identity but now it’s just a name that sticks. I like to separate. This is my work vs. this is my regular life. And technically, my pseudonym is my legal name. My middle name is Lolita. *laughs*
My name would’ve been some form of Lolita had it not already been taken on Twitter. It got shortened to Lola because somebody else had Dirty Lolita already. But it worked out because the Twitter [name] came before I was even really thinking about doing content. It was more of an outlet to do things and not be under my regular name.
When and how did you realize this was what you wanted to do professionally?
Probably after my first sex-ed conference, which was 2012. I think that was when I realized I wanted to do something more in the sex-positive community. [So], I started figuring out how to do the show, Sex Ed A Go-Go.
I don’t think I realized it COULD be a career until probably around 2015/2016 because that was when I really started teaching more, getting gigs, doing a lot more things under Dirty Lola, and doing things that were PAID under Dirty Lola. I definitely knew I wanted to do some kind of work. I didn’t know it was gonna be ALL of the work. [So], I think around 2015 was when I was like, “If I could make this work, so I don’t have to ever work a day job again, that would be amazing!”
How did you get started and how long before you felt like you had “made it” (by any definition you choose)?
I got started writing micro erotica on Twitter when I first joined. So, I would just [share] my sexual exploits and I’d call it storytime. Then, folks started asking if I could put it in a blog or something so they could go back to it, and wouldn’t have to scroll, and it would be in order. So, I started doing my blog and then the show happened. So, I really just got it started talking about dirty things on the internet and talking to people about sex on the internet. And then that moved into me doing the show, answering questions and doing things.
I think the pandemic, honestly, was the thing that made me realize I had made it. Being in the middle of a pandemic and still not only having work but being busy when a lot of people were unable to work but still being able to get gigs. I was teaching A TON online when everything first hit. Everything kinda switched gears and people were like, “Hey, come teach for us.” And then these other jobs, like the stuff with Pep and Spectrum. I put [myself] in a position through the many things I’ve been doing over the years, where it’s made me able to do this work and qualified to do this work.”
So, this was the first year where I’m like, “I’m making almost exclusively all of my money through jobs that I do as a freelance person.” I am my boss. I’m making my own schedule. I’m doing work on my own timeframe, paying bills and not fretting about paying bills. So, this year has really felt like “We did it!” *laughs*
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started creating content about sex or became a smutlancer?
I was so focused on being right. Like this is what you need to do to own a business, and I think that’s different for everybody. [But] people tell you, You need an LLC and You gotta have ‘this’ and If you don’t have ‘this’, you’re not in a good place [or]You gotta have a whole separate bank account for your stuff.
[But it’s] yes and no depending on what you do. Like, I was doing all of that and then I just had all this stuff to juggle that wasn’t working for me. Then I realized, “Oh that doesn’t make or break me being a business.” I’m still a solopreneur. I don’t need an LLC [but] maybe I’ll get a DBA (Doing Business As).
I wish someone would’ve [given] me a broader sense of what you can do and that it’s gonna be different for each person doing a business. For what I do, from what I read, having an LLC isn’t necessarily a thing. So, not having one doesn’t mean I’m not professional or that I’m not at a certain level of my career. But maybe having a DBA would be easier. But I wish I got a better picture of all the parts of running a business… like, “here are the pieces, see what fits.”
Instead, I think we got a lot of you gotta have this. But why? I felt like I had to do so much searching just to find general stuff like having an EIN, why that’s important over using your social security number and how easy it was to get it. When I finally got one, I was like, “oh, that’s it? I didn’t have to go through all this stuff just to get an EIN?” So, I wish there was more of a business breakdown when I started.
Also, about how much to charge for things and how to set your prices to make sure you’re not underselling yourself or undercutting other people. I think those are things I overtime found and still struggle with a little bit that I wish I got more of in the beginning.
[Lastly], sex work is work and even though what we do is about sex, it’s still hard work that sometimes you get burned out from so you have to figure out how not to get burned out. I always try to remind people that yes, it’s fun but it’s also still work.
So, how do you not get burned out from work?
I try to take breaks. Like, REAL REAL breaks. Not looking at my phone. Not doing work. I’ll clean out my emails and make a real effort to have a day or two, where I’m just gonna watch movies.
I [also] try to remember I can go to a talk or a conference or something online that I’m not working at, that’s another way. Because I still want to learn, and this stuff is important to me. So, I try to participate in things as a participant and not as someone about to do a job… So many people are doing amazing classes and talks, so I’ve been trying to find one that I would [attend] just for enjoyment’s sake and not be in work mode.
And all the other self-care stuff – bubble baths, face masks, and really focusing on myself and remembering I have to take care of myself. But now working from home, it’s really kinda just, “okay, we’re not allowed to do any work today. We can’t answer any emails. We’re not gonna write anything. We’re not gonna think about writing. Nothing.” And that’s the only way because otherwise, you’re gonna run yourself into the ground.
Thank you for that because I think people don’t think this is work. They think you can’t get burned out and it’s like, damn, I don’t want to talk about sex today. I just want to be a person and just chill out.
Yeah, and read nonsense books. Anything that’s not sex-related. I listen to [the] podcast LeVar Burton Reads because his voice is so soothing. It’s not erotica. It’s short stories. It’s Syfy. It’s so far away from what we do and it’s nice. I’ll put it on while I’m cooking dinner. There’s another one called Missing Legends. That one is [about] legends and fairytales [but] they kinda break it down and do a retelling to make it a little easier to digest. Nothing to do with sex. I like [podcasts] like that, True Crime, The Read. All those are great.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re smutlancing?
I’m up around nine o clock. I talk to my partner who’s on the west coast. I make breakfast. I try to stretch and do something for my body. Take a shower; do all those wonderful things. And I usually try to settle down to start working around 1pm because for me, that’s when my brain can focus – early afternoon when the sun is bright.
And I really hunker down and go through my emails, get back to people, do what I need to do, and I usually make a to-do list. I have this beautiful binder that I put together [and] I bought all these project sheets and to-do lists. So, I usually already have a to-do list laid out for the day with short term projects. It’s usually if I need to call somebody, if I have a meeting coming up, or anything in the day, I have that mapped out. And then [I’ll] usually have one or two projects I need to tackle.
I try to do work at least until 5-6pm and stop to make dinner. And then I do my best writing at night, so if I have an article I need to work on or anything like that, that’s always a night project. I’ve tried writing during the day. It’s never gonna work. *laughs* So, if I have to write a story, I usually set myself up around 9/10 o clock and I’ll sit and work on that. That’s a good workday.
A bad workday is just being scattered with everything all over the place and kinda doing things as they come through. But if it’s a good workday, I get my basic easy stuff done during the day, and then in the evening, I’ll get writing done.
If I’m being nice to myself, I’ll be in bed by 2 am. If I’m not, I might stay up all night. Who knows if it’s a writing night?! [It] depends on what’s going on. Especially with the pandemic, I just feel like my clock is all off. And not leaving the house, working from home, getting used to that. I used to have to go into the shop, [but] that’s not a thing anymore. So, I’m getting used to that [as well].
What, if anything, is your favorite content to create or type of smutlancing work to do?
I really love performing. I miss that. I LOVE being on stage and teaching through entertainment. That is the thing that never feels like work to me. It’s over way too fast when I’m doing it and I’m like, “Oh my god, the show’s already over.” That is a thing that I can’t get enough of is being on stage performing for folks live.
My second favorite thing would be doing Q&A sessions sometimes on Instagram. I just like talking to people. And I like having that rapport. I think direct contact with folks and answering questions that way or even when I do workshops. I try to facilitate conversation and questions, so anytime I get a chance to directly interact with people is my favorite way to do this work.
And what’s your favorite type of content that you get paid to create?
I enjoy the articles I create because I think they’re short and sweet. I’m a listicle type of person and I think, especially in this day and age, it’s hard for people to read [long] articles sometimes. So, I can give them little bitesize things that might pique their curiosity and they can go and find out more information… I like giving people that little boost into, “Ooo, I didn’t know that. Let me do my own research on this.”
Cool. And do you have a favorite type of topic you like to write about?
I don’t know if it’s a favorite, but I end up talking about dating a whole lot. That comes up so much for me. Dating and butt stuff. Two things that come up that I end up writing about.
What do you want your legacy to be as a smutlancer?
I want my legacy to be that I was great at what I did and I did it without a college degree. I didn’t go to college. I was self-taught and I’ve done A LOT of work into learning what I needed to learn and to [get] the skills I gained. I have no qualms with anyone who goes the academic route, but I think it’s not always something accessible to people.
I think my biggest stake in this game has always been reminding people that I don’t have a college degree and [yet] you respect me and you’re listening to me. So, take that, tell the parts of your life and realize that a piece of paper is wonderful and helpful, and yes, you want your doctor to have one, but sometimes there are other ways people can gain knowledge and be able to teach you.
And also, I’d like to be remembered for being easy and warm. And I think I’m doing that, that people felt welcome in whatever capacity I was teaching in, that I was approachable, and that people could ask questions and didn’t feel intimidated.
What do you absolutely need to have when you’re ready to sit down and work to be productive?
I need it to be well lit, so whether that’s good sunlight or good lighting. I have to wear something cozy. It has to be soft and comfortable. Nothing restricting. Some kind of beverage, usually water, just something I can reach out and take a sip if I need it. I try not to snack while I’m working because I’ll snack and not work. I take snack breaks, but I can’t eat and work at the same time. I’ve tried it and it doesn’t work. And my binder or notebook. Whenever I’m recording things about work, it has to be near me. That’s my basics for my setup when I’m working.
I [also] need the Chillhop Spotify playlist. I found Chillhop during the pandemic. It is so good if your brain is a ball of yarn like mine tends to be. It’s just a lot going on sometimes. [Chillhop] is amazing because it’s good background music.
Who or what inspired you to become a smutlancer?
Ducky Dolittle is probably the biggest influence. She’s someone who’s a huge name in Sex Ed and [doesn’t] have a college degree. She’s self-taught. So, [I] was like, “Okay, you’ve done so many things in your life and you’ve moved through all of this. I can do this too.”
Are there any social/charitable causes that are close to your heart and connected to your work as a smutlancer?
I work with The Effig Foundation for Sex Positivity, which is an amazing not-for-profit organization whose mission is to reduce sexual shame and normalize conversations around human sexuality by fostering sex-positive art and education. They helped Sex Ed A Go-Go’s 2018 tour, and I now work with them as a member of their advisory board. https://www.effing.org/
Name the best, strangest, funniest, wildest (you pick) thing you’ve experienced as a smutlancer — from a client, someone online, anyone.
Meeting one of my really good friends online. I met a bunch of people when Twitter was still kinda the Wild Wild West… It’s so funny [how] you [can] meet somebody when you’re online posting Titty Tuesday pictures and then the next thing [you know] I’m at her wedding in Sacramento years later.
We were just digital people, talking to each other and fangirling each other’s work and now here we are, friends, for years and going to weddings and things. You know?! That’s the thing I think is weird… Other things feel so normal but this, I’m like, “Yes, that’s freaky.” *Laughs*