Escorting by the numbers

Getting hard data on the escort business is often difficult. What are girls charging? Are there things escorts can do to become more competitive. After all, escorting is a business and the clever escort is looking for intelligence about her trade.

by Hannah Jay

The Economist is the oldest and most successful news magazine in the world. It is read by the men and women who are the 1% and who occupy the power positions in law, government, media and finance. (And, if an escort is smart, she reads it too.) The Economist just ran a cover story called “The Sex Business: How Technology is Liberating the World’s Oldest Profession.”

The Economist’s line on escorts is libertarian:

This newspaper has never found it plausible that all prostitutes are victims. That fiction is becoming harder to sustain as much of the buying and selling of sex moves online. Personal websites mean prostitutes can market themselves and build their brands. Review sites bring trustworthy customer feedback to the commercial-sex trade for the first time. The shift makes it look more and more like a normal service industry.

While it is interesting to see The Economist adopt a very tolerant view of the escorting world in its leader (Economistese for editorial), what is more interesting are the statistics and economic insights which pepper The Economist brief on escorting.

Numbers

Start with pricing. The Economist took a look at world wide escort hourly rates from 2006 to 2014 and discovered that rates had declined from a high of just under $350 per hour in 2006 to a current level of just over $250 per hour.

Of course, there is wide spread regional variation in the escort market which is hard to capture but The Economist manages to look at escorts’ rates and the cost of living (relative to New York City) in the cities in which they work. Girls in Boston top the scale with a cost adjusted hourly rate of $370 while escorts in Tokyo are at the bottom with a mere $160 and hour. (Though The Economist notes that the low Tokyo rate may reflect the fact the survey did not capture higher priced girls who work outside the conventional, English language, escort market.)

It is something that a savvy escort already knows. While you can charge more in big, expensive cities, it costs more to live and work in big expensive cities.

The Economist then goes on to look at the prices for services performed “beyond the basic”. Essentially what escorts can charge for extras on an hourly basis. At the top of the list are two girls with each girl being able to charge an extra $120. Which suggests that a smart escort will have a close friend on her speed dial.

From there, multiple men, ejaculation in the mouth, oral sex and S/M all command premiums ranging from $100 all the way down to $25 for a spanking (given or received). The most lucrative extra is kissing coming in at $60, while, apparently, escorts only add $25 for anal sex. (A number I find more than a little surprising.) Again, pricing may vary by location.

For a girl looking at pricing extras The Economist gives a ballpark. At the same time, the further up the escort ladder you are the easier it is to charge more, sometimes much more, for extras. The Economist’s numbers are for an imaginary, average, escort. Your own business is unlikely to be average. Plus, there is no obligation to provide all or any of the escort extras The Economist lists.

It is hardly news that an escort’s appearance counts in absolute dollar terms. According to The Economist blondes can charge $285 an hour whereas having black hair puts you under $250. For Caucasian girls a $150 salon colour job will pay for itself in no time. Long hair is worth an extra $25 per hour.

Going to the gym is a hugely profitable investment for an escort. Girls described as athletic made an average of $290 an hour while girls described as average were $45 less an hour at $245. While there is certainly room for the BBW’s of the escort trade they came in at $200 an hour.

The Economist’s researchers left no stone unturned and discovered, and here’s a surprise, that escorts with cup sizes D and above made an average of $30 an hour more than their less well endowed sisters. If you are in need of a math problem try working out the number of dates it would take to pay for a $5000 boob job if you are currently an A cup. The return on investment could be significant if you plan to be an escort for a number of years. (The Economist, sadly, does not report on the premium, if any, paid by the clients for escorts with naturally large breasts.)

Race also effects pricing, at least in the five centers where The Economist could obtain data. In New York a white escort made, on average, $100 per hour more than a black escort. The gap was about the same in London England. In Washington, Atlanta and Miami, the gap was narrower, less than $100.

Price pressure was created by three intertwined factors: first, escorts were seen as a luxury item and when an economy is weak or in recession, demand for luxury items including escort services is reduced. Second, in many cities, new immigrants kept supply up and prices down. Finally, in recessions and in areas of high unemployment, girls were more likely to enter the business on a full or part time basis which also increased supply and put downward pressure on price.

A Grain of Salt

The Economist’s numbers on escorting come from a sample based on an unnamed review site with approximately 190,000 escorts listed. It sounds like a lot but the reality is that every escort is different and every escort market place has its own particular quirks.

Because there is no such thing as an “average” escort every girl needs to look at The Economist’s numbers from her own perspective. Essentially they are a guide rather than a rule book. However, for an ambitious escort there are some interesting ideas underscored by The Economist’s escort numbers.

Probably the most important idea in The Economist article is that what an escort charges is only one part of the equation: the cost of living where she is working is a huge factor in how well she does. The more expensive the city, all things being equal, the less well off the escort unless she can charge premium rates. But all things are rarely equal which is the problem with studies like this one.

The data on premiums for extras which an escort might provide is, again, interesting but also in need of significant revision when applied to any particular escort’s services. Extras are not, in fact, like extra toppings on a pizza: in many cases they represent services which are of great value to a small segment of a particular escort’s clientele but are of only limited interest to the rest of her market. A lot of the pricing information available on an escort review site is going to be based on the small sub-sample of the escorts who actually quote prices for the extras. A lot of clever escorts keep their extra prices off the internet so as to be able to charge a price which reflects the value of the extra service to a particular client.

Information about how the price per hour varies with physical characteristics is potentially significant for an escort. With, of course, the caveat that a lot of the details are self reported and that the averages do not really capture how any particular escort can market herself to achieve her best rates.

Using the Numbers

Having dumped the grain of salt on The Economist numbers there is still a lot for a savvy escort to take away from the research.

First off, blondes may not have more fun but they apparently make more money. If you are already a blonde you probably already know this. However, if you are an brunette escort it might be worth while to test The Economist’s numbers with a small experiment: try posting an ad with pictures of yourself in a blonde wig. While good human hair wigs are expensive, artificial hair wigs can be purchased inexpensively online. And, just for fun, and because these wigs are cheap, buy at least one with hair longer than your normal hair length. You can get wigs on Amazon starting at $10.00.

Following the old line, “If I have only one life to live, let me live it as a blonde.”, according to The Economist, should allow an escort to charge $30-50 more per hour. Once you have your blonde wigs take a few new pictures and put up a new ad where you normally advertise your escort services. (You can do this with your regular escort persona or, just for fun, create a brand new, blonde escort persona.) Keep track of the response to the ad. First, how many calls? Second, do the potential clients blink at your new “blonde” rate?

If you get a solid response to your blonde wig ad then it might be time to think about booking an appointment with a good colourist at a salon – (don’t try this at home, sometimes home colour works, sometimes it is ok, but sometimes home colour will just destroy your hair and, as an escort, that is a key asset). Alternatively, if you don’t mind wearing wigs, invest in a good blonde human hair wig. They run $200-350 for long styles but they are worth it.

A month long experiment as a blonde escort is a great way to find out if The Economist’s numbers apply to you and it is an opportunity to think about how you are marketing your escort services in general. Even if an escort does not see an increase in the rates she can charge, she will likely be better off having focused on marketing for a month.

The Economist’s numbers on body shape and breast size are both interesting and both can be used by a clever escort.

“Athletic” escorts commanded nearly $50 an hour, on average, more than their “average” sisters. Converting “average” into “athletic” is not just a matter of an escort going on a diet. A diet is part of it but for an escort to invest in her body she needs to do more than just cut out the high sugar sodas.

Going to the gym, going for a run, are commitments which many escorts may need to work up to. However, a simple “muffin top” reduction program is remarkably easy. It has just basic elements: eliminate junk food and walk one to two miles a day. That’s it. No special equipment, no gym membership, no weight machine. Now that simple “muffin top” reduction program will, as advertised, move an “average” girl to “thin” in a month or two and, according to The Economist, that move is worth $40 of the $50 extra dollars an hour “athletic” girls can charge. (And that sort of money adds up: if an escort is doing 10 dates a week shifting from average to thin is worth $1600 a month on The Economist’s numbers.)

The Economist’s numbers on “Cup size” suggest a $40 per hour differential between “flat” and “D+”. But before a clever escort rushes out to have a boob job for $5000 a moment’s thought is required. First off, simply by shifting from brunette to blonde or an “average” body to “thin” an escort can capture those additional dollars without the need for surgery.

More to the point: the real advantage of “D+” breasts lies in the advertising potential they offer. In fact, as my husband always says, “any more than a mouthful is wasted”. In an older, more sophisticated, world cup size was never an issue.

What The Economist numbers actually mean is that escort clients are willing to pay a premium for the perception of larger breasts. A perception which a good bra and a clever photographer can create working with little more than standard “B” cup breasts. Not for nothing was the push-up bra invented.

But The Economist numbers are a solid indication that in an escort’s advertising her breasts should be, as it were, front and center. They confirm what marketers have known for years namely that breasts sell. Bearing that in mind, the savvy escort will take a look at her advertising and, if necessary, shift the focus to her breasts – regardless of size. (And, realistically, most men if pressed cannot tell a “B” from a “C” or a “C” from a “D” without looking at the bra label – which no stylish girl ever fails to cut off as it spoils the line of her bra and outer wear.)

The Economist’s insight into escorts’ rates versus the cost of living in her city actually tells the financially literate escort something important about how she should manage her business. The fact of the matter is that it is much more expensive to live in New York City than it is to live in, say, Austin Texas. And, while elite escorts can charge far more money in New York City than they can in Austin, for mid range girls the capacity to charge more is constrained by the competition.

While some girls are quite happy to move to low cost environments most escorts are not prepared to relocate. The savvy escort alternative to relocation is to keep a sharp eye on her particular costs of living and doing business. Simple example: spending a Saturday morning combing the thrift shops for pretty designer and vintage clothing is a huge money saver. I’ve found Diane von Furstenberg wrap dresses, DKNY dresses and Ferragamo shoes at thrifts for $10-15 as compared to retail of $100-$400. (The real danger here is you’ll run out of closet space.)

Paying attention to your fixed costs – rent, cell, internet – can really drop your cost of living and doing business wherever you live. So can close attention to what are known as variable costs. Simply looking for the best deal for your escort advertising and hosting for your website helps a lot. So does having your escort photography done on a “time for pictures” basis by a professional photographer looking to expand his or her portfolio.

If you live carefully, even in an expensive city, you can keep your cost of living and your cost of doing business relatively low

The Economist treats escorting as a service business like any other service business and applies the standard economic measures to look at things like product differentiation and cost of service. There is a lot to be learned from this approach and reading the Economist article is worth every escort’s time.

The Economist article is a guide and a savvy escort will use it to shape her very unique business to the market she wants to service and to create the services which she wants to sell.

For the ambitious escort there is a key insight in The Economist article: an escort’s time is seen as a luxury by all segments of her potential market. The interesting thing about luxury goods is that they are weirdly price insensitive – as the economists would say – at the upper end of the market. In fact, high price is a signal for high quality in the luxury goods market. (Which explains why there are things like $50,000 Hermès Birkin bags that you have to be approved to buy.)

A savvy escort realizes that if she offers a luxury service she needs to send a serious price signal. The Economist article focused on “average”, a smart escort works very hard to ensure that she is never mistaken for average. Every bit of her marketing, her photographs, her website, her style and her pricing makes it very clear that she is the luxury item her select clientele has been looking for.