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12 Game-Changing Lessons From 12 Years in the Adult Business Trenches

Blog Post Written By: Melrose Michaels


I'm unpacking 12 game-changing lessons from my 12 years in the adult business in this must-read blog. From transforming mistakes into milestones to turning competition into collaboration, I'll reveal hard-earned secrets that reshaped my path. Discover why consistency is king, why breaks are your secret weapon for breakthroughs, and why it's never just about earning but learning. Dive deep with me into the pivotal lessons that aren't just about surviving in business but thriving. Whether you're a seasoned adult entrepreneur or just starting, these insights are goldmines for anyone ready to level up. So keep reading to transform your adult business playbook! 

To give this entire conversation context, I must preface things about myself as an adult creator. So, for those who don’t know my story, I started performing in the adult industry in 2011 as a webcam model on MyFreeCams. I saw early success there, breaking the top 30 in my first month on the platform. It wasn’t luck either. I lived on the website. I wouldn’t log off until I made my token goals & some days, that meant no sleep.

I would come home from my corporate job, log on to MFC, & stay online all night until I had work the following day back at the bank. It was easy to be motivated & inspired because the idea that I could earn money online from the comfort of my bedroom was so novel. It seemed like magic to me. No boss, no hours, whatever I feel like doing & an internet connection. What was this sorcery?! 

But over time, the magic wears off. It becomes routine & work just like any other career. And for me, that’s where many of the lessons I discuss below come into play. No career path, no matter how inspiring or passionate you may feel about it or by it, will maintain that effect on you forever. Every career and business has what is commonly called ‘overhead’ or the tedious work that comes with it. We may love webcamming live, but I bet we all hate slow times when chats are silent. We may love creating content, but editing it can be a drag. We may love producing content and making it our own beautiful work of art, but scheduling it is a pain, especially across multiple platforms. Every time of business will have these mundane, boring parts. You won’t love them, feel inspired by them, or be passionate about doing them. But they still have to be done. 

So, I’ve thought about the lessons I’ve learned over the years that keep me pushing through the tedious work of running an adult creator business and growing year after year. The first lesson, which is usually the hardest to learn, makes the BIGGEST impact on any adult business.

Consistency. Over. Everything.

I’ve said this a million times - just like other adult creators who’ve found success. Consistency is a major - if not the primary component of any content creator business, especially in the adult space. 

If you’re a live webcam performer, taking days offline will feel like a week off to your fanbase & regulars online. If you’re not consistently maintaining a cam schedule that fans can predict & know when to log on to see you, you won’t grow or maintain an audience.

The same logic applies to consistently posting adult content on clip stores, fan site platforms, tube sites, etc. You want to think of your fans as ‘tuning in’ to see you or watch your content. They have to know when to do that - and where. That also plays into your social media promo. If you’re consistent across your adult platforms but not consistently promoting across your social media, you’re not growing your ‘sales funnel’ of new and potentially paying customers or subscribers. 

This is an entire machine that needs to run like a well-oiled one. This is the most challenging piece of a content creation business to crack and one of the most essential tasks to hire support for once you have the resources. None of my content would be getting scheduled consistently if it wasn’t for my assistant. It’s also a task I hate doing - one of my business's ‘boring/uninspiring’ components. So when you have those specifically come up - you can delegate and hire out for - do it. It’s well worth it, and it’ll benefit you, your mental health, and your overall satisfaction with your day to day quality of your work life.

The second lesson I learned was...

Don't burn bridges, even with fans.

This one is going to feel controversial to some degree with creators listening. We’ve all encountered horrible trolls online that push our boundaries, are cruel or mean, and worse. Those aren’t considered ‘fans’ to me, so please understand those people are not who I’m talking about in this context. 

When I say ‘don’t burn bridges,’ I mean intentionally damage relationships. I want every person I’ve ever worked for, worked with, or interacted with, even fans, to have a good taste in their mouth when they say my name. No matter what, you NEVER want to burn bridges with people because one day - when you least expect it, you may need to walk back across that bridge. 

In my 12 years in this industry, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve crossed paths a second or third time over with the same people running platforms, the same creators in our space, or the same fans I’ve encountered before. Usually in a different capacity than the first time I had interacted with them. I even have fans who spent years in my orbit - without spending a dollar, who now spend tens of thousands a year on me. Because I always showed them kindness when they couldn’t spend, they are incredibly generous now that they can. And I’m not saying give these fans tons of free time and attention. I’m saying a gentle touch now and then once in a while is plenty. 

Even if the initial experience with someone isn’t the best, I always aim to leave my last impression on them as a kind one. I believe everyone we meet in life (fans included) contributes to our experience on this earth. And vice versa. I never want people to say I negatively impacted them. Therefore, I try to leave people and places better than I found them. This extends into my third lesson as well…

Everyone is still growing & evolving; we’re all imperfect, and we are all going to make mistakes. For that reason, I never publicly bash anyone.

I take problems to the source, & try to address them directly. Now more than ever, I know how easy it is for someone on social media, especially Twitter, to take something out of context and run with it. It happens here on SexWorkCEO content occasionally, and it’s so hard because our landscape is so intricate. It all has layers and nuance, and that’s hard to convey in limited characters. But for the most part, when platforms or people behind them fail me, there’s usually an explanation why. Frequently, the person running support left, and they are in the process of rehiring someone new. Or they are working on a feature, and there’s a bug in the tech. This list can go on forever. The people behind these platforms are still people. They are doing their best to navigate building their business just like I am. It’s hard. Really hard. First, I attempt to communicate with them privately and figure out the issue. By doing this, I have a better shot at resolving it or getting the support I need instead of blasting them on social without knowing why something may be happening. 

The same goes for other creators in the space. Everyone is going through things I know nothing about. I have no idea what they are facing or what rumors around them are true, nor do I have the time to investigate it. I try not to comment on things I am not educated on, and I’ll never fully know anyone I interact with in real life, even less so on the internet. I have had disagreements with other creators. I’ve had falling-outs with creators I once considered extremely close friends. I may have restricted those people's access to me in real life, but I’m still rooting for them to succeed. Just not; it’s from the sidelines. I would never bash or talk publicly about them because it doesn’t serve anyone. 

And I know some of you are thinking right now, “What about the predators out there? What about people who need to be named to protect others?” For me, that’s different. And I agree - we do need to name those people. 

But the lesson's focus on not publicly bashing people concerns my earlier point of not burning bridges. Because I can tell you right now I’ve had challenging relationships with companies I’ve worked with in adult. Just like people, companies will grow and evolve as well. Many of those I had issues with have improved across the board. Because I didn’t tweet or scream from the rooftops about their failures during their growing pain period, there’s still an opportunity for me to work with them now as Sex Work CEO—something I would never still have if I had kicked them while they were down publicly. 

Let’s change gears for the next lesson I’ve learned in my 12 years in adult. The fourth lesson is that…

Breaks create breakthroughs.

This lesson was hard because I kept fighting myself on it. I never give myself breaks. I fill every gap in my calendar with work nearly every chance I get. I tend not to make time for social events or seeing my friends, and I have often sacrificed time with my family. I’m terrible about prioritizing work above essential things in my life, which leaves no time for ‘breaks’ from work, as you can imagine. 

Until I had to take a trip one weekend (not too long ago) to a place about 4 hours from where I lived that had no service. I had to visit a friend because I promised I would. And not it came time to deliver. I probably wouldn’t have agreed if I had known there’d be no service. But here I was, 4 hours from internet or cell service, and had two full days offline ahead of me. Do you know what happened? In the 48 hours I was there, I became insanely inspired. I had a whole page in my notes app filled with new ideas across all my businesses. I had fun. I was present for once. I had deep, uninterrupted conversations with people I cared about. The most surprising thing is that I returned from a pretty action-packed weekend of events with them, with almost no downtime, still feeling energized going into the following week. That was when I understood why people emphasized the importance of taking breaks. Because they genuinely breed breakthroughs. 

Last week, I was watching a podcast I love, Diary of a CEO, and the guest he had on was talking about ‘peak happiness’ for people. She had mentioned that no matter how long a person took a vacation, their ‘peak happiness’ was usually around 42 hours into the trip. Meaning that even if you just took 2-3 day breaks or vacations, you could come back happy and energized. This aligned with what I had experienced on that recent visit to my friend. It finally clicked for me, and now I plan accordingly. 

One of my goals for 2024 is to plan mini trips and vacations that are only 2-3 days in total. Not only to form better connections with the people I love and care about but also to give me those ‘breakthroughs’ that I know are waiting for me. Disguised as breaks. 

This last lesson is such an excellent segway to the next one. Because breaks don’t directly make you money, they teach you a lot in the process. This is why lesson five is that…

It's more about learning than earning.

As online sex workers or digital creators, we often earn a certain amount of money that makes it almost silly to take on additional jobs or positions. But let me tell you, that’s a fallacy. A great example is when I took on my role working for Fancentro. Many people don't understand that I was already a webcam performer earning between $10,000 and $30,000 monthly when I agreed to take on a marketing role internally at FanCentro for around $3,000. I already have a ton of marketing experience. Still, knowing that I wanted to build a company like Sex Wock CEO in the future, I knew that I could learn a lot from seeing how an adult company worked internally. I didn't make this choice based on the potential to earn money there. Instead, it was a choice I made, sacrificing money I could have been earning on live cam to learn skills that would make me stronger for my future aspirations.

We all go through these periods when we're learning will be more important than earning, and it's essential to know how to identify those and when to step down in income to take advantage of an opportunity that could slingshot you towards your future goals and earning aspirations. So many entrepreneurs overlook steps like this because they feel like setbacks, even though they are periods of growth and often undervalued. 

Lesson six I had to wrap my head around because I’m such an inherently competitive person…

There's no competition, only collaboration.

I have always been competitive for as long as I can remember. Not only have I been competitive with others, but I have also been competitive out of spite and feeling underestimated.

I came across a quote: “If you want to go fast, go alone, but if you want to go far, go together.” This quote changed my life because I was at a point in my career where, no matter what I tried to do independently, I still only had 24 hours a day available as an entrepreneur. This meant I had to, no matter how I felt, hire other people to help me achieve the goal I was working towards because I needed their additional 24 hours. 

Hiring people for the first time was scary for me. Because I am so competitive, I'm always worried someone will steal my ideas or turn around and hire someone else to execute them. It is a valid fear because it does happen. But if I am good enough at the mission I'm trying to pursue, what I'm doing should win regardless. And the only way to build something unique is with a team of other amazing people. This is when collaboration started to make sense to me because you have to collaborate with others to build something significant. Not only because you won't know everything there is to know but because you won't have the means, the contacts, the access, or the skills to do it otherwise. One person can rarely do such an assortment of things and do them well. Because I'm also building multiple businesses, I have even less time to be good at many skills. Which inevitably meant that I needed to collaborate with people to build my dreams. When you realize the power of collaboration, the only competition in the end is the one with who you were yesterday. Understanding that was a huge unlock for me. Now, on to lesson seven…

Diversify your adult businesses by platform and vertical.

I've always been on multiple platforms as an adult creator. After diversifying out of webcam modeling, I immediately started making and posting clips across various clip sites. When fansites started to boom, I was on Fancentro and OnlyFans. But when I began to focus on fan sites in general, I stopped updating my clip stores and stopped live-camming altogether. I'm sure we all remember a time, not long ago when OnlyFans banned explicit adult content from their platform.

At that time, running my fan site was my primary source of income, and in the three days they decided to ban explicit content, I lost around $10,000. If this doesn’t teach a girl to diversify, I’m unsure what will, haha.

Diversification comes in a few forms, not only in the platforms you distribute to but also in the verticals you distribute in. This lesson taught me not just to run a fan site but also to focus on sexting in the phone sex vertical, uploading clips in the clip store vertical, and streaming in the live cam vertical, as well as now bringing Slushy into the mix and focusing on the short form content vertical. Diversification also means moving into different areas of adult work - not only across different platforms. I don’t know about you, but I’m not trying to make $10,000 mistakes twice 🫣 😂. The once was enough. Speaking of mistakes. That takes us to lesson eight…

My biggest mistake in my adult business was not capturing fan emails sooner.

I know I have mentioned many times over through our sex work CEO channels how important it is to capture fan emails. This is because I spent about eight years not capturing them, which had to have cost me, based on my calculations, at least 100,000 or more fan emails. It's frustrating to look back at years of hard work in this landscape and think I have cost myself such a massive opportunity by not capturing fan emails sooner.

Because in the short time I have started, it has paid off in dividends. I always refer to this as my biggest mistake because it can't be undone since we can't go back in time. Lesson nine (and my second biggest mistake) is, thankfully, a mistake that, if you are currently making it, there is still time to correct it…

Not attending Conferences & expos sooner. 

This is the second biggest because it's not time-sensitive like email capture - you can still start now and have it wildly impactful to your business. This became super evident when I returned from the conferences overseas just this past September. In the two weeks that I attended XBIZ Amsterdam, TES Prague, and AW Ibiza, I was able to 11x my business. That means the money I earned before those conferences became 11 times larger in the few months since I returned. Not only is this an excellent opportunity to network and meet people, but it is also a great opportunity to learn and expand your skills and knowledge gaps. I know Expos and conventions can be expensive, which is a huge reason I didn't do more of them sooner. But ultimately, as soon as you have the resources and can attend these events, you will be better off. In my case, that is certainly how it worked out. 

Now, on to lesson ten…

You can get a lot more if you only dare to ask.

Don't get me wrong, I believe in a person's ability to manifest what they want out of life, but there is a caveat. You also have to take the actions and behaviors that align you with achieving that outcome, and one of those actions or behaviors is asking for what you want in general. Many people don't know this, but FanCentro as a company didn't seek me out to hire me back in the day. I sought them out and made the ask. And this represents so many things I have accomplished in my life. I have never been called back from my application or interview for any job I've had. I have always followed up and asked them for updates regarding the positions.

These early experiences have always taught and reinforced me that you need to ask people for things you want in life. Not only because most people don't know what you want, so they don't give it to you, but also because every time you don't ask, you're sacrificing the thing you want as a byproduct. Always make the ask. The worst anyone can ever say is ‘no,’ and you’re exactly where you are now.

Lesson eleven I’m still learning to deal with. But at least now I have the proper framework for doing so…

Imposter syndrome never goes away. You just work on creating so much evidence your inner voice can always be proven wrong when you present yourself with the facts.

I can't tell you how many times a week I feel like an imposter. Whether that is to my fans as an adult creator or to you, the #CEOsquad within my company, Sex Work CEO, this is partially because we all have and maintain such high standards for ourselves that nothing we ever do seems to feel good enough. But one of the ways, or the only way, I found to battle my imposter syndrome is by presenting myself with evidence that the negative self-talk isn't factual. There is no imposter if you have evidence to support that you are who you claim to be. And in the bigger picture, we are all our people. No one can be an imposter of themselves anyway.

As for feeling like an imposter within Sex Work CEO, all of the feedback and messages you guys send me about how our education or information has positively impacted your business is the evidence I use to fight when my inner voice tells me what I'm creating and putting out doesn't matter or won't make a difference. So, as always, thank you for sharing your results with me. It means a lot to me and serves as the evidence I use to keep going when things get hard. Because they inevitably will. Because that’s business.

This finally brings us to the twelfth and final lesson…

You have to realize it's all a game (business). It will have moments where you're losing and moments where you're winning. 

Those moments teach you how to level up the next time you face a setback. When I ultimately started framing business in my mind to be like a game, everything felt better to me. I started looking at problems more like challenges I had to defeat to get to the next level versus my failures as finite death or the end of something. Just like in games, you can always respond and try again if you have the capacity. When you realize this, everything feels like less pressure. It'll help you stay motivated and stay the course for the long run. Try reframing your adult business on these terms, and look for solutions to defeat the level. Hopefully, that helps you as much as it did me.

That’s a Wrap!

My 12-year journey in the adult industry has yielded invaluable lessons. From the pivotal role of consistency to the transformative power of collaboration, each insight has contributed to my business growth. Breaks, viewed as catalysts for breakthroughs, underscore the importance of learning over immediate earnings. Embracing the philosophy of not burning bridges has fostered positive relationships while diversifying across platforms and capturing fan emails early became crucial strategies for adaptability. Finally, the mindset of treating business as a game has infused challenges with a sense of playfulness, transforming setbacks into opportunities for growth. I hope these lessons inspire and guide you in navigating the ever-evolving landscape of the adult industry.


If you enjoyed this blog, you'll really love the Twitter Space we did focusing on this topic.

Have a question or comment about this topic? DM or tag @sexworkceo on Twitter and Instagram, or send us an email. We're always here to help; it's what we love to do! Want to be part of the conversation? Join us on Tuesdays at 1 p.m. CST on Twitter, where we discuss new topics weekly to help take your adult content creator business to the next level.



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