Webcamming, or camming, is the primary money earner for millions of people across the UK, as well as being one of the fastest growing industries in 2020 thanks to sites like Onlyfans taking it upon themselves to be the platform of choice. Offering convenient and secure ways for anyone to monetise their social media following, it provides a desperately needed opportunity, during the single worst global recession in history, for people to make the money to pay bills and buy food.
During a time when work opportunities are scarce thanks to entire industries going under and millions of people being forced to adjust their lifestyles, it is just bizarre that many people would look down at any means of making a living. I also think it’s hypocritical, in my experience the same people who would cast judgement on any performer, would probably be found signing up to watch in the middle of the night.
GETTING THE LAYOUT
Josephine (not her real name), who has been performing in front of a camera professionally for ten years and has circled the globe in that time, says that this is usually the case. According to her, camming, like most adult entertainment, relies on a transaction mostly based on curiosity, temptation and, quite often, a certain amount of loneliness.
“It isn’t something to be ashamed of.”
“Webcammers like myself essentially offer paid for viewing where someone pays for a private show. Daytime shows make very little money in comparison to the house between eleven pm and 3 am. This is where I make the most money,” she says, “Before Lockdown this was the time when men and women would be coming home alone from nights out and looking for some entertainment and personal connection.
“Over the course of the last year (2020-2021), people haven’t been going out; instead they’ve been at home, bored, sitting at their computer late at night or lying in bed and just wanting something new and interesting. It isn’t something to be ashamed of, it relieves stress, it helps in its own way to keep people following the rules which keeps everyone safe. And if it stays someone’s dirty little secret, so be it. Why judge?”
Our interview took place over Zoom and Josephine does not look much like the character she portrays in front of her audience (she actually uses an Iphone instead of a webcam). The character has changed and developed over the years, but has always maintained a certain die-hard biker chick appeal. Heavy mascara, mohawk hair styles, tattoos, piercings and biker boots contrast with the woman in her early thirties with a knitted jumper, blue jeans and thick socks struggling to control a hairless Sphynx cat that clearly wants all of her attention.
“I wanted something that I could control and build while travelling when and where I wanted.”
“I’ve always had a character,” she continues, “That way I’m just acting and playing a role for an audience and it’s a creative process that allows me to change whatever I want when I want to. I think that getting into character and playing a role is essential for keeping my professional life completely separate from my private life. That and lots of makeup.”
TRAVELLING THE WORLD
Josephine started camming because she wanted to travel the world and have something that she could do consistently. She did not want to be tied down to a particular place though and being remote and light on her feet were essentials.
“I didn’t want to temp or get part time jobs or work in bars,” she explains, “I wanted something that I could control and build while travelling when and where I wanted.”
Prior to 2020, her modus-operandi was to visit a different country and rent an apartment for two to six months at a time. This would give her enough time to travel, explore and set up a perfect studio and backdrop for her shows all while never revealing her actual location to her audience. She would still take full advantage of the locations to get some good promotional shots or short videos done because a great portfolio catalogue of media is essential to keeping fans loyal.
“Meteoric success is just that, brilliant and brief. Be consistent”
“They always ask where I am or where I’m going next,” she says, “But I never give them answers like that. When it comes to the chatrooms, I always control the direction and tone of a conversation. If someone steps out of line once, they’re gone. I have put too much time and effort into this to have any time for fools.”
WHAT WORKS AND WHAT DOES NOT
Josephine has a degree in marketing and over the years has had the opportunity to make use of it for some very impressive corporate brands. While these opportunities did present themselves to her and came at the right time. She doesn’t believe that success comes from being unique or lucky or even from working spectacularly hard. Instead she says that her secret has come from almost one thing alone.
“Consistency is the most important thing,” she says, “Uniqueness is totally overrated. Get an idea, set it into motion and consistently work at it. It’s simple.”
Speaking with her, it’s clear that she gets very frustrated with the modern idea that any success needs to be immediate and surprising. Meteoric success, she says, is exactly that, it’s a shooting star. Brilliant and brief.
“For the first couple of shows I had no viewers,” she says, “I got disheartened at first and then I just started working at it and using the tools that are so readily available. I watched a Youtube video on how to set up a performance studio which was all of twenty minutes long and then did exactly what was suggested. I didn’t reinvent the wheel, I just did exactly what someone else has done.”
“I have a Zooey Deschanel strategy,”
Studio: Even though her studio location regularly changes, her studio style does not. Her “studio” consists of a telescopic tripod for her iphone that can be adjusted for height and a simple laptop that can be used for chat room engagements. She also has a number of different plug adapters and chargers. The rest is makeup and a bag full of props. The rest she sorts out “On set” as it were following the set up guidelines she learnt on Youtube ten years ago.
“Camera angles and lighting are so important, and I’m a big lover good lines and a hater of anything tacky,” she says, “‘It isn’t rocket science though, the viewers just want to be able to see things clearly.’
For anyone coming into the industry or thinking about doing it, Josephine definitely recommends it, “This a serious industry backed by very serious platforms that want to keep you safe and secure,” she says, “But it is up to the individual to protect their privacy.”
She reveals to what lengths she has gone to keep what she does completely secret from her family and most of her friends. She even takes this a step further by ensuring that her character’s makeup is completely different to how she normally dresses. It’s what she calls her Zooey Deschanel Strategy.
“Have you ever been able to recognise her without her glasses and bangs?” Josephine asks, “She looks completely different. I would walk right past her on the street without thinking. Clark Kent would have totally gotten away with it. Nobody would have guessed he was Superman.”
“Raise your standards, do not lower them”
Not all performers go to such lengths to keep their personas separate. Many just don’t have that concern. Today it is an industry that is protected by invested companies that take privacy and security very seriously, so for many it’s just about changing a name to something catchy and just going for it and having some fun.
For Josephine, one of her main motivations to keep things separate is the acute awareness that her nephews will soon be teenagers and will be scouring every inch of the internet in search of illicit and forbidden fruits.
“I don’t want an angry phone call from my sister because her sons found Aunty Joe’s apples,” she says.
The other key to success is to take things seriously and be professional. She set her standards a long time ago and has not changed them, “I certainly won’t lower them for anyone,” she says, “Your standards should be the bedrock that you fall on.”
The actual show is a small part of the entire job, she explains, “Most of the professional work goes into the preparation. Keeping healthy, keeping in shape, looking after your skin and taking care of your body and knowing when to share with your audience and knowing when to draw the line.”
At the same time, it’s important not to take yourself too seriously. There is only one way to learn what works and what doesn’t in any industry and that is by making all of the little mistakes as soon as you can. With this in mind, she definitely recommends throwing yourself into anything you do because while you’re stumbling around you’ll make all the mistakes pretty fast.
“Learn from everything you do,” she says, “Especially mistakes.”
ALWAYS PLAN AHEAD. PREPARATION IS KEY.
For years, Josephine wanted to visit Asia. And had planned an extensive tour of SouthEast Asia including Indonesia which was supposed to last three months. The plan was this was all going to be funded by webcaming. The plan included exotic locations, gorgeous balcony views, daily updates to her followers and what she promised to be the very best camming in the evening.
‘You have to be a bit of secret agent,”
‘It was only when I arrived at the hotel that I discovered that the limited internet in the area I was in meant camming was impossible,’ she says, ‘But also any kind of adult entertainment was illegal in the region and couldn’t be accessed on any of the internet! So I had no way of doing anything. It was still a good trip and very relaxing but it became an expensive holiday rather than a working trip.”
While Josephine contests the idea that this sort of work is degrading in any way, saying that there are a lot of jobs that demand a lot more and offer less. She does admit that you have to be careful with what you make available online.
Promotion happens through sites like Twitter, Tinder and Instagram – and revealing and suggestive images are used which can and often do, stay on the internet for years. She can still find images from ten years ago with only a few clicks of a mouse.
‘This does pose a real threat to consider if you’re looking for work elsewhere as some businesses do a thorough background check,’ she says, ‘This is why setting up fake performance names and being careful with what you put online is so important at the start.’
After almost a decade of running her business Josephine has had a couple of experiences that in hindsight she chalks down as being naive or downright stupidity. She says that it’s like being a minor celebrity, you’ll have loyal fans but some of them will deliberately go out of their way to invade your private life if you let them.
“At the start I was stupid and had my telephone number on an Instagram account,” she recalls, “Just because it asked for it during the account set up and I never even thought about it again until I wasI regularly blocking telephone numbers when i received unwarranted messages or calls.”
She has stories to tell of other performers who haven’t taken the time to be careful who have had letters put through their letter boxes and received messages in public boards trying to oust them. There is the potentially devastating trend at the moment of trying to out performers on Onlyfans to family, friends and places of work.
‘You have to be a bit of a secret agent,” she says, “Aside from my character I’m not even really on social media. It just doesn’t appeal to me anymore and I find it so much easier to be able to switch off after hours without having it constantly demanding my attention.”
STILL WORTH IT?
“Every job comes with its risks and responsibilities,” she says, “You just have to weigh the pros and cons and make sure that you look after yourself on each step. It isn’t a run of the mill kind of job though, if anything I’d compare it to a high skyline cable worker or a rooftop construction worker. You have to watch every step and not take anything for granted.”
But I travel extensively, I work twenty hours a week and I have a reason and motivation to stay fit. I’ve been able to work throughout 2020 and grow my business so I haven’t had the financial worry on top of Lockdowns,” she adds.
“Importantly, I’m able to pay my bills, save money and study for my degree. There are worse jobs out there so if you think you could enjoy this job, then you should try it, just be sure to do your homework. It’s all about safeguarding your future.”