I was recently spammed by an escort web designer who claimed a decade of experience. Besides the spamming (anyone who emails individuals without explicit opt-in permission violates anti-spam law), what really annoyed me was a website mock-up he provided using my photos. I called him on the copyright violation and he claimed my pictures weren’t copyrighted but he could “copyright” them for me for a fee (I think he was confusing copyright with watermark). My photographer owns the rights to my photos, the only right I have is the one to use them for my own promotion/advertising. That they aren’t copyrighted by this designer’s standards would no doubt have been unpleasant and infuriating news to my photographer. I had to be rude to get this guy to remove my mock-up from his site.
All that energy he put into creating mock-ups for every escort he spammed could have been used toward legit marketing or coming up with some beautifully-creative designs for his current clients. Using a service-provider who markets aggressively is not a bad thing. Using someone who wastes their energy in completely unproductive ways is not someone I want — I’d rather have their attention on the work they’re doing for me.
Just two days later, following escort links, I came across a gorgeous website and since the designer’s link at the bottom was unfamiliar to me, I clicked to the very attractive site of RentedDesign.com – a Canadian web design service for escorts utilizing WordPress as a CMS. Rented Design not only offers beautiful designs at reasonable rates (using WordPress!!) it is the design-boutique of G – a fellow escort. Intrigued, I asked G for an interview and she graciously offers us a look into ethical web design from the designer’s perspective.
Tell me about your web design philosophy from a designers’ point of view.
Keep it clean and simple. What I like to develop for my clients are clean and simple websites which create a convivial navigation experience for the visitors, and with an equally clean and simple back-end that makes it easy for my clients to maintain and update their site when needed.
While many Internet escorts have taken the same path as you in regards to their own websites, what made you decide to offer your design skills to other escorts?
Partly because I really enjoy coding and learning more about it with every project I do, and partly because I saw a real need for it.
From what I can see in the industry in my city, there seems to be only two choices for an escort who wants a website: either pay for a custom made site which can be quite expensive and which often doesn’t come with an integrated CMS (content management system), or use one of the “build your own website for free” platform which have very limited options in terms of design and functionality, and which usually come with unwanted advertisement.
What I offer is something in the middle: a website powered through WordPress, which provide one of the most user-friendly CMS. Rather than developing and designing the website from scratch, I use a professional theme which I customize to the needs and preferences of my client. I also take care of establishing a hosting account and installing WordPress for my client, installing and configuring all of the right plug-ins for things like spam blocking, search engine optimization, site backup, site security, analytics tracking, and coding other functionalities as needed.
The result is a professional looking website with an easy to use CMS to manage, maintain, and update the site, for a fraction of the price of a custom made website.
I want to offer my fellow sex workers the tools to run their own business professionally, at a reasonable cost. The packages rates I offer are quite low within this industry, and a fraction of what I would charge in the “mainstream” market. I believe in giving back to my community, and offering this kind of service to other sex workers is one of my way to do that.
What did you think it would be like to work for escorts? Has the reality matched your initial expectations so far?
So far, I’ve only had great experiences working for escorts.
What consistent flaws do you see in escort websites? What should an escort avoid?
Hmmm. That’s a difficult question. A lot of the flaws I see are probably simply preferences of mine, and other may not agree with me that they are flaws. But there are a few things that I would recommend a client to avoid:
– No music. One of the keyword in this industry is “discretion”. A lot of your visitors would probably prefer to keep their visit to your website secret, and the music that starts blasting as soon as they land on your site is a big deterrent to that.
– If you are “classy”, “sophisticated” and “high end”, there should be no need to state the obvious, whether in your text or in the imagery you use. Gold lettering as a sign of luxury is also over-done in my opinion, but maybe the marketing specialists will disagree with me on this.
– If you are going to have functionalities on your site that require regular updating, keep it up-to-date or get rid of it. If you’re never updating your calendar, your blog, or your Twitter feed, there’s no need to have them on your site. It gives a wrong first impression, and it could even cost you a potential client who won’t bother contacting you thinking you’re not in the business anymore.
How can an escort prepare for working with you? What homework should she do?
She should have all (or most) of her content ready: and idea of the structure of the site, her text, and her pictures in the appropriate format. She should also look around at other website (whether they are escorts website or not) and find out what she likes, and what she doesn’t. It’s always easier to get a project started on the right track when someone can give me concrete examples of what they like.
She should also have a good understanding of her business and of the clientele she’s trying to reach. Clients looking for a quick and mostly sexual encounter are typically different than clients who are looking for a romantic evening or afternoon with a companion. The same goes for clients who are looking for a “vanilla” encounter versus those who are looking for something more edgy and “kinky”.
The website should reflect the kind of experience she provides, and should cater to the expectations and preferences of her target clientele.
What makes a good web design client? What makes a bad one?
Well so far, I’ve only had good clients, so I can’t really tell!
Do you wish to grow your design business into a full-time job? Or are you happy keeping it boutique?
Yes, I’m currently working on building a portfolio and doing the research and work needed to take this side business into a full-time job, also venturing into a more “mainstream” market. I would be really happy if I could eventually make a decent living sitting at my computer and coding all day long!
Are you currently networking with local photographers or other service-people? I’m imagining a trusted referral network for your clients.
Yes, definitely. I know a few photographers who often work with escorts, and whom I can recommend to a client.
I also have a great network of fellow sex workers friends who I can recommend to someone looking for advice on how to start in the industry or how to make the jump from working with an agency to working independently. I’ve always believe in community building and solidarity among sex workers, and I’m always happy to give a recommendation or to send someone some business.
What sort of advertising/marketing techniques are you planning on using to promote your design service? What WON’T you do?
Until recently, I was mostly relying on word of mouth and on my credits on the sites I’ve build to bring me some business. But now that I made the decision to take this business a step further, I’m actually doing a lot of research and reading to better understand the market and figure out the best marketing/advertising strategy. I’m open to advice!
What sort of advice would you give any business professional who wants to provide services for escorts?
I think I’ll put my sex worker hat on to reply to this question:
Please don’t insult my intelligence, don’t assume that because I am a sex worker you can get bed me in exchange for your services, and don’t send me a business offer for a service I clearly don’t need (i.e., do your research first).
Oh, and don’t insult me thinking it will get you my business: I recently received an email from some alleged photographer who started is email by telling me that my pictures don’t look professional (they are very good and professionally done pictures) but that he could help with that. I don’t think so!
Do you think escort sites have changed much since in the past three years? Where do you see them going?
I’m seeing more and more CMS based websites. I think that’s the future of escort web design and development. A companion needs to keep in touch with her clientele, she needs to be connected to her client base and keep her clients interested and intrigued. A website that grows with her, that is part of and integrated with her social media presence, and that gives her control over her business is the perfect tool for a companion.
Just for fun, what are some of your design/artistic influences?
I’m much more a geek than an artist. But I tend to gravitate toward minimalist, pure, and clean design. White over black. While I started with a preference for sans serif, serif is winning me over these days.
I was so impressed by what I saw and heard that G is currently redoing my escort site for me. Very much looking forward to the final rollout! As someone who loves WordPress but is tired of code-wrangling — Rented Design is the perfect solution.