Smutlancer Spotlight: Kayla Lords
Editor’s note: I never thought I’d be in the spotlight because I originally created it to showcase other people I admire before handing it over to Chelsea. When Chelsea asked to interview me, I couldn’t make myself say no, but I also didn’t think I had anything interesting to say. Chelsea disagrees with me on that, and we’ll let you decide for yourself. ~KL
Happy Holidays (if you celebrate)! While the pandemic has made social gatherings little to non-existent as well as taken so many people away from us, I hope you’re able to find a little pocket of joy going into a new year.
A special gift we have for this month’s Smutlancer Spotlight, our last Spotlight of 2020, is interviewing the brilliant smutlancer originator herself, Mrs. Kayla Lords!
Kayla Lords (she/her) is a freelance sex writer, podcaster, blogger, international speaker, award-winning sex blogger, and all-around sex content creating human. As a writer, she focuses on sex and kink, primarily on BDSM and power exchange. Kayla works with private clients to write their content and manage their social media. She also co-hosts two podcasts, runs a YouTube channel, and manages multiple blogs.
Since Kayla’s accomplishments have inspired and paved the way for many smutlancers to create the lives they desire, I think it’s time we put her in the hot seat! Don’t you?
In our interview, we talk about her humble beginnings as a smutlancer, managing personal relationships as an adult content creator, finding her boundaries as a parent about her work, and much more.
We hope you enjoy it!
How do you make money as a smutlancer? What topic and/or type of content do you get paid to create?
My smutlancer income comes in two main parts:
There’s the money I earn as a freelance sex writer. I work with adult brands to write their blog content, manage their social media, and act as a spokesperson/sex expert from time to time.
The second part is as “Kayla Lords, content creator on the internet.” In that space, my income varies greatly. I make a small but steady income from the content I create with my partner/husband/dom, John Brownstone, for Loving BDSM: Patreon, affiliate sales, sponsorships. I also make income in my partnerships with Molly Moore for The Smutlancer site and Obscene Ideas. Although we don’t pay ourselves; we reinvest it back into our work. And now, I help John Brownstone earn his income through his BDSM toy shop (The Kinkery). It’s his shop and his income, but I take an active role in running the shop, [so] we share all income earned. I feel like I can “count” it because it all ends up in the same bank account, lol.
That second part sounds like a lot, but it’s a fraction of what I make compared to my freelance work. That’s primarily because I only recently started focusing on that side of my income and treating it as seriously as I do my freelance life. I’m damn good as a freelance service provider for my clients, and I finally decided I needed to treat my projects and goals with the same care I show clients.
What made you decide that it was time to treat your own projects and goals with the same care you show clients?
I had a bit of an epiphany that the reason I [saw] good results in freelance life was [that] I focused on it (not much of an epiphany, I know). I [also] realized that if I wanted to see better results under my projects, I needed to focus on it more and treat it with the same care and attention that I treat my clients.
How long have you been a smutlancer? When did you get interested in sex and creating content about it?
I guess I should say “since 2017 when I made up the word” but by the definition of smutlancer (creating content about sex and getting paid), I think my first paid anything was in 2015. That was the year I got my first offer for an affiliate partnership — from a ridiculous cheeseburger ball gag maker. It was also the year I started getting pitches published (some paid but many more unpaid) under the name Kayla Lords.
I became interested in the idea of smutlancing long before I tried to make money with it. I began blogging under my legal name in 2011 but knew I wanted to write about my sexual life (or lack thereof) after my divorce that year. I needed to stay fully anonymous (so no real name, no photos, no voice recordings, etc.) at the time. In 2012, I settled on a name for myself and began blogging as Kayla Lords.
From the very first post, I loved it. I felt free in my anonymity. Under a “fake” name, I became my most authentic self and realized this was the kind of content I loved creating. I’d spent the first 32 years of my life sexually repressed and I knew I’d never go back to that. But at the same time, I wanted to help other people and share my experiences. It was at that time I figured out I was kinky and realized what I love talking about more than sex is BDSM and power exchange. I’ve reveled in the ability to create different forms of content about topics I care about from 2012 to now.
Are you a full-time or part-time smutlancer? Do you have a day job?
I’m a full-time smutlancer. When I started blogging in 2012, I still had a day job (hence the need for total anonymity). In 2014, I became a freelance writer with a focus on vanilla content. In 2015, I realized I wanted to write all content as Kayla Lords, including my freelance work. By 2017, 75 percent of my income was smutlancing income, and today it’s about 95 percent because I have one vanilla freelance client left.
I spend the vast majority of my days as “Kayla Lords” — which makes that little bit of time working with a vanilla client a bit fraught. I have to make sure I sign my legal name to the right emails and send messages from the right email account. I look forward to the day when it’s all smut, all the time.
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?
Kayla Lords is a pseudonym, but my family has a basic idea of what I do. We’re in a “Don’t ask, don’t tell” kind of situation. I meant to keep it from them completely but I “outed” myself (for lack of a better word) as someone in an “alternative lifestyle relationship” and “sex writer” to my family after John Brownstone was fully found out by his family [in 2017]. It didn’t seem fair for his business to be in the public domain and for me to keep some semblance of anonymity, especially since his family could have told my family. My family accepted my veiled explanation and respected my desire not to share my pseudonym with them.
Then, in 2019, while I was at Eroticon, my stepfather found my site and social media accounts. That was when I still regularly posted nude images on my blog and talked more openly about my sex life. He freaked out, making my mother’s life a little miserable in the process. She was happy not knowing the details, but he did that, “Look at this!” thing with every new revelation. By the time we got back from London, he didn’t want us in his house or anywhere near him. My mom, on the other hand, continued to love and support me, even if she didn’t quite understand my need to put my sex life on the internet. At that point, I told other family members my pseudonym and explained why they might not want to go look at it. But I’d just lived through the worst (the potential judgment of my mother, with whom I’m very close) and survived. I could handle anything else after that. My stepfather still won’t speak to us. I was banned from “his” house pre-pandemic. But the family that matters most to me knows who I am and what I do. They don’t read it or seek it out, but they’re aware.
As for my friends, I have one vanilla friend left from my pre-kink, pre-Kayla Lords days, and she has a vague idea. I’m the one who makes sure she orders the good lube (shout-out to the Butters Hygienics Co.!) But other than her, my friend group is mostly other sex bloggers and kinksters. I prefer it that way because I want to be able to be my full authentic self with people I spend time with [often].
Okay, so I have a lot of questions about this because that’s A LOT to digest. Thankfully, your mom was supportive but how do you cope with the backlash from your stepdad? Especially when it comes to being “banned” from the house and seeing your mom? How do you and John Brownstone maintain boundaries with your children around the work y’all do? And do you think you’re limiting yourself by choosing to have the majority of your friends as sex bloggers and kinksters or do you view this decision as a form of self-care?
I never had a good relationship with my stepdad (he married my mother when I was 25, so he was never a “father figure” to me.) So while not visiting them sucked (pre-pandemic), I don’t feel a sense of loss from his condemnation. My mother is a very stubborn woman. [She] should have been a diplomat in another life because she manages to walk the line between keeping him happy and doing what she wants. So, before the pandemic, she came to visit me all the time, so I never had to give up any part of that connection.
John Brownstone and I used to be highly secretive about what we do with the kids because we didn’t think they could handle it or that it was “right” to tell them. But after talking to and learning from Molly Moore and how she raised her kids (who are older than mine), I took a different approach. I treat talking about our business like talking about sex — I keep it age-appropriate. So my kids, who are currently 15 and 11, have known for years that we do “adult” work and I write about “adult” things. As they’ve gotten older, we’ve allowed them to know a little more about what we do without going into details. We’re mindful that they’re still children, so we work hard to schedule podcast and video recordings and anything they might overhear for times when they’re at school or not around.
As for friends, I have long been a person who made friends with the people I work with. So to be friends with primarily sex bloggers and kinkster’s I’ve met through the local kink community or online fits with the way I’ve always made friends. I’m one of those people who will only ever have one or two people I’m close to (outside of marriage) because that’s how I’m wired. It’s never felt weird that most of my connections are within this specific group. That being said, I would label it as a form of self-care because what I really don’t want to do is explain myself over and over again to a vanilla person. That’s exhausting and anxiety-inducing. It’s easier for me to start from the common ground of sex and kink.
When and how did you realize this was what you wanted to do professionally?
I think I figured out this was my goal (then labeled a dream because I wasn’t sure it was achievable yet) as soon as I started freelancing in 2014. But since I didn’t believe it was possible, I focused only on vanilla work at first. I was pitching ideas about dating, sex, and divorce under my legal name. [However], I never felt comfortable really diving into the details that mattered to me — my full sexual awakening, my journey into kink, stuff like that.
The dream became an actionable goal slowly as I got pitches accepted, got paid for my writing, and negotiated blog post sponsorships. I began to devour anything I could get my eyes on about how to make money online. I couldn’t find anything written about making money writing about sex, [so] I translated all the “vanilla” advice into “smutlancing” advice knowing the limitations of sex content on the internet (shadow bans, censorship, etc). But I began to believe I could do it, so I decided to try. And now, here I am.
You mentioned, “I began to believe I could do it, so I decided to try.” What/when was the moment that you started to believe you could be a smutlancer? What fuels you to keep going?
I think there were a lot of little moments that added up to something:
- Getting positive feedback on a blog post
- Having a stranger say yes when I pitched an idea
- Having someone approach me to write something
I’m the type of person who’s constantly looking for patterns and making connections to decide what to do about a problem I want to solve – including how I want to earn money. It wasn’t that I dreamt of being a smutlancer. It’s that I decided to write about sex, and then I began to see a bunch of signals that maybe this was a thing I could really do. Once I decided to work for it, it became a self-fulfilling prophecy as I managed to gain more clients and earn more money.
I’m a goal/accomplishment fiend. I get really excited about new ideas, projects, plans, and even methods that align with what I want to do — talk about kink, write about sex, etc. And seeing any forward movement keeps me working at it (which means that lulls and dips are hard to handle).
How did you get started and how long before you felt like you had “made it”?
I still don’t feel like I’ve “made it” but that’s only because I always have new goals I’m working towards [often]. My full-time income is as a sex writer, and I make a very good living at it. By most people’s definitions, this is it. This is what “making it” looks like. But I’m not ready to call myself done or to stop reaching for new things. I don’t want to do freelance work forever. I want to build my own things (sites, audiences, and products) and earn income on my own terms, dictated only by my own deadlines and the needs of my audience. As a freelancer, I work under deadlines that yes, I agree to, but are demanded by someone else. It’s worked well for me so far, but it’s not where I want to end up. I want the freedom to determine the entirety of my work and my income. Of course, with that freedom comes a lot of responsibility and worry, but it’s where I’m headed. I haven’t made it there yet.
I’ll likely never “make it” because I’ll probably always have goals I want to achieve. And yet, I have to remind myself to take a step back every so often and see how far I’ve come. It’s important to acknowledge the progress and really see [my acomplishments]. I might not be satisfied, but yes, I know that I’ve managed to build a real, sustainable career out of a sex blog I began in 2012. That counts as making it.
What’s one thing you wish you had known when you started creating content about sex or became a smutlancer?
That it was possible. That the sad cliche that “no one will pay for sexual content (even informative) because porn is free” is bullshit. Yes, many people only want free stuff. But I don’t need everyone to pay me. I need sites that make money (and are willing to spend money) to pay me, and ultimately, I need enough people to be willing to buy my thing, join my Patreon, or whatever. And not realizing the truth of that probably set me back a few years. I thought this was a fever dream never meant to be a reality. It was only when I started achieving monetary goals and learning about the adult brand industry that I realized just how much money is already made from sex (products and services) and that there’s plenty to go around.
The exact dream you might picture in your head may not come true. But there’s so much money to be made in smutlancing. Everything is content these days, and all of it starts with words or thoughts, most of which are written. It might not be easy to achieve, but it’s definitely possible. I want more people to know that, so they can start earlier than I did.
What does a typical day look like for you when you’re smutlancing?
I’m extremely routine-oriented, so most days look similar, with a few deviations because I also deal with kids and their schedules. So I try to work Monday through Friday and take weekends off (because I definitely need downtime and the chance to recharge). It doesn’t always work that way, and I tend to work two weekends out of every month, but never full days. On a typical weekday workday, I wake up around 6am because I’ve got to get kids up and off to school. Once I’m home, usually around 7:30am, I’ll read, shower, and/or listen to podcasts. I need quiet time to ease into my workday so I start from a place of calm. Depending on my to-do list (and I always have a to-do list), I may start work around 9:30 or 10am. Sometimes earlier, sometimes later. I always break for lunch around noon and get back to it at 1pm. I often work up until dinner. In a perfect world, I stop at dinner time, but many days I work after dinner. When I do, I have a better chance of taking a weekend off.
In that workday, what I’m doing depends on the day of the week. I do the bulk of my freelancing work on Monday and Tuesday, mostly to get it out of the way. I podcast/live stream/record content for Loving BDSM on Wednesdays and work on other projects on Thursday and Friday. The order I might do tasks varies from day to day and my energy level but my blocks of work time are fairly consistent.
What, if anything, is your favorite content to create or type of smutlancing work to do?
My absolute favorite type of content to create has to be podcasts and videos. I’m not as strong in either as I am in writing, but I love having conversations, [so] audio and video allow me to do that. Being the massive introvert I am, I prefer the one-way conversation of a recording. I don’t do interviews because my social anxiety makes it too difficult. But give me a topic or ask me a question, and I will talk for as long as possible, which is also another weakness because conciseness isn’t a strength of mine. I don’t care what the topic is about: BDSM, sex, or smutlancing. If it’s something I feel I have experience with or an opinion on, I love talking about it. I’ve found that audio and video allow for a deeper connection with [my] audience, and I’m addicted to growing my audience. That being said, recording makes me feel much more vulnerable. I don’t edit myself in the same way that I do when I write. I can’t take my time to choose the right word or phrase. I’m often awkward, and I “um” and “uhhh” all over the place. But the joy of sharing content in that way overshadows all of my anxieties about it.
In a perfect world, what would you want your legacy to be as a smutlancer?
That I did seemingly impossible things, achieved goals no one thought I could, pissed off my haters (not really, but I’ve got a slight petty side that enjoys the thought), and brought a LOT of people with me along the way. I want to achieve my goals because I’m a goal-oriented person who can visualize what I want. I also don’t want anyone else to be stuck in ignorance or confusion the way I was in the past, so I want to share what I learn with as many people as possible. I believe that we can all rise together, and I want to do my part to make that happen.
What do you absolutely need to have when you’re ready to sit down and work to be productive?
I need a written to-do list (I make mine weekly now), a relatively clean desk, and not too many unread emails mocking me in the notifications on my desktop. I must have, no matter what, some kind of caffeine. In the morning, it’s an iced coffee (no matter the season, it’s always iced).
In the afternoon, it might be a second iced coffee or more likely a Diet Coke. I have to mute my computer, so I don’t hear notifications dinging all day. I [also] have to close social media browsers, so I’m not tempted to doom scroll through Twitter. My phone has to be in another room so it can’t distract me. After that, I need to be in comfortable clothes, and I need it to be a little bit cool.
After that, I mostly need silence to concentrate. But I’m a procrastinator, so if it’s too quiet or I really don’t want to focus, I’m the one doing the most talking — either to John Brownstone who sits a few feet away or sometimes, when she’s available, to Molly [Moore] on Skype.
Who or what inspired you to become a smutlancer?
I was inspired to start a sex blog by the long-gone sex bloggers back in 2012. They showed me that it was possible to write about sex. The only blogger still around from those days that I read back in the day is Hyacinth Jones of A Dissolute’s Life Means… Her writing was then and continues to be brilliant. She shares in a powerful and vulnerable way that I have never managed to do, but I knew I wanted to write the way she did about my own sex life.
I was [also] inspired by Girl on the Net to believe that making money, a viable income, from a sex blog and as a writer was possible. I didn’t really know her for a long time, but I watched what she did on Twitter, how she managed her blog, read her writing, and admired her “hustle.” It’s through workshops she led at Eroticon and things she said (in-person and online) that I’ve learned the serious work she’s put into it. I still want to be Girl on the Net when I grow up.
Are there any social/charitable causes that are close to your heart and connected to your work as a smutlancer?
I don’t know if this counts as anything much, but I started volunteering with different Get Out the Vote (GOTV) campaigns [for] the 2020 election. I didn’t work on behalf of any specific candidate, but I wrote (and continue to write) postcards to people encouraging them to vote or to register to vote. It’s not at all about sex, but it is connected to writing. I had no idea this kind of opportunity existed until I saw a random tweet from Rachel Kramer Bussel (an amazing erotica editor and sex writer) talking about her volunteer efforts. I was tired of feeling helpless (politically-speaking) like the only option for change were things I’m not suited [for] — phone banking, door-to-door canvassing, shouting on Twitter. But writing messages to people? I can do that.
It’s something I see myself doing for many years to come. I’ve written postcards for Flip the West, Postcards 2 Swing States, and Reclaim Our Vote. I’ve also written letters for Vote Forward and am still writing them for the upcoming special election in Georgia. For the 2020 general election, I wrote to a total of 500 people. For the Georgia special election, it’ll be closer to 350. And I hope to help reach even more people in the future.
Name the best, strangest, funniest, wildest thing you’ve experienced as a smutlancer — from a client, someone online, anyone.
I briefly mentioned it before, but I think [the] saddest but funniest thing might have to be the cheeseburger ball gag. It was the first time a brand ever reached out to me. And it was before I realized I could just apply or register to become an affiliate from most retailers or brands. So being asked to become an affiliate and help sell these ridiculous things made me feel special. It’s laughable now, but I envisioned the affiliate sales rolling in. Not only did I get a much-needed reality check in affiliate marketing, [but] I also learned that I’m not cut out for shilling products I find ridiculous. It also put me on the path to figuring out what does work for me with affiliate sales. I cringe and laugh when I remember the enthusiastic tweets I wrote to promote a cheeseburger ball gag I would NEVER have owned in a million years.