We’re living through an unprecedented crisis — for the economy, for the sex industry as a whole and for camming in particular. A whole bunch of folks have suddenly lost their livelihoods or had their business model crater in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, which means a whole lot of people are hurting. Now is a time when each of us is going to be asked to help, even as we’re struggling ourselves.
Which means now, more than ever, it matters how we ask for help. Whether it’s consulting, recommendations, a signal boost or other forms of assistance, successful, high profile folks will be asked to do more than usual. That means we must ask skillfully. Here are some tips on how to improve the odds of getting what you want.
How You Approach Matters
Know who you’re asking — scour every inch of their website, and read how they like to be approached. Perhaps they already offer the information you’re looking for. Don’t ask questions that could be answered by reading what they already share.
If someone makes it clear they don’t allow DMs for business purposes, that means you. Don’t DM them. If they ask for a tribute to be approached, offer to pay, or better yet, pay without being asked. You may well be a peer, but time is money. Similarly, if you are asking for professional advice, that’s priceless. Be prepared to offer something of value in return. If they won’t accept anything from you, offer to donate money or time to a charity of their choice.
How You Ask Matters
Be polite. You only have one chance to make a first impression. Use a greeting, give your name, offer a brief introduction, no more than a sentence or two: “Hi [Person of Interest], my name is Lulu. I saw you speak at [some event] a few years back and have been a fan ever since.”
Even with all this stay-at-home time, successful cammers still have a business to run. Assume that everyone is hair-on-fire busy. Skip the backstory, keep your ask short and sweet. Take a moment to proofread — check for spelling and grammar. Hasty, poorly written emails are less likely to be taken seriously.
Make your ask as easy as possible. Think through the steps this person might have to take to help you, and if you can eliminate any, do so. For example: “I’m hosting a benefit for [X]. Do you mind retweeting my pinned tweet?” Don’t make them have to chase down what you’re asking for.
How You Thank Matters
If you get a response, no matter whether that person is unable to assist you in any way or they offer more help than you could hope for in your wildest dreams, thank them. And not just by shooting off a “ty.” Take the time to craft an appropriate response acknowledging their time and intention.
The reason this is so important is there is another living, breathing human being on the other end of any request. Being asked to help, especially when times are tough, can be draining. Having to say “no” can be hard on a person. When you ask someone for help, a thoughtful expression of gratitude — even if it’s just for one’s time — is in order.
A Note to Advice Givers
Finally, a quick word for those getting asked to do more during these troubled times: I’m just here to say, however you handle requests is completely valid. Each of us has to manage our energy as best we can. If you want to help, that’s great. If you don’t have the bandwidth, that’s no crime, so don’t beat yourself up about it.
It’s also perfectly fine to set hard boundaries on how you like to be asked. Think about creating written guidelines on how to approach you — for examples I use myself, check here and here. Guidelines help you weed out timewasters and increase the likelihood you’ll get requests you’ll actually want to say “yes” to.
There’s also nothing wrong with charging for your expertise. Many of us (especially those of us raised femme/female) were taught that we shouldn’t accept anything in exchange for our efforts and that we’re supposed to make ourselves available to help others always and in all ways, even to the detriment of our own wellbeing.
Charging for your time, however, is actually fine. It’s often the right thing to do. It just seems to be human nature that folks value advice more when they pay for it. If you absolutely don’t want anything in return, then at the very least, instruct whomever you’re helping to pay it forward.
As sex workers in the COVID-19 era, we’re all in this together, so when reaching out for help, be kind. The care and feeding of your mentors matters now more than ever.
Until next time, be sweet to yourself.
Lola Davina is a longtime veteran of the sex industry and author of Thriving in Sex Work: Heartfelt Advice for Staying Sane in the Sex Industry, a self-help book for sex workers available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes and wherever else ebooks are sold. Get the audiobook version here. Contact Davina at Lola.Davina@ynotcam.com and visit her on Twitter at @Lola_Davina, as well as on Facebook.
Image of Lola Davina courtesy Pat Mazzera.