The last thing I expected during a recent catch-up call with Domino Damoiselle, a professional cam girl and stripper who once instructed me in the art of phone sex, was to grill her about personal branding. But within minutes, it occurred to me just how business savvy and proactive the 29-year-old is.
Self-employed and financially independent, Domino is a masterful one-woman marketing machine, with 24,500 Twitter followers and 8,441 fans on Instagram as of this writing. She also runs her own website, The Domino Effect, devoted to sex, stripping, and camming, complete with a blog and an e-commerce section where you can purchase her gently worn panties for $50 a pair.
When we think of entrepreneurship, we tend to imagine zany geniuses huddled behind computers, wearing hoodies and flip-flops with socks, building the next great tech company or waiting for the next hackathon to start. These are the uber wealthy guys profiled on 60 Minutes, whose stories anchor countless self-help books. But their tales are anomalous.
Like many a career-minded gal, I’m a sucker for motivational words spoken by mega moguls. But when seeking inspiration or career guidance, aren’t practical tips more useful than sweeping aspirational statements and one-off tales of when-luck-meets-opportunity? Sometimes, the best advice comes from someone whose level of success is a bit more attainable than a floating tennis court in Dubai, even if his or her lifestyle and field of expertise lie outside your own.
Lo and behold, 9 personal branding tips from a successful entrepreneur who happens to be a professional sex worker.
1. Know who you are
“Imagine Wednesday Addams, Daria, Liz Lemon, and Darlene Connor having an orgy. I’m the result,” Domino says without hesitation when asked to describe herself.
As you shape your personal image and/or brand, Domino recommends focusing on the simplest question: Who am I? If you can’t answer immediately and without a shred of doubt, you have some introspection to do. And if you can’t answer without deviating from the truth, you’re in trouble for two reasons: 1.) It’s tedious to pretend to be someone you’re not, and 2.) People can smell bullshit.
2. Don’t apologize
If you can’t stand behind your brand, no one else will. So once you realize who you are, commit to it in spite of what anyone else might think. “I’m snarky and sarcastic and I have a dark sense of humor that some people really don’t like. But I make no apologies for who I am, and who I’m not,” says Domino. Unlike many cam girls, Domino refuses to lead a double life. “If someone judged me for what I do, they’re not the type of person I’d want to hang out with anyway.”
Such unshakable self-confidence stems from believing in her work. “Since I love sex and I’m fascinated by human behavior, this industry is a natural fit for me,” Domino says. When her camming and stripping days expire, she dreams of working as a sex counselor.
At first, it might not be evident how you can earn a living doing what you love. But by continuing to explore your interests rather than forsaking them in the name of financial security, time constraints, or other pressures, you’re more likely to solve the puzzle and to develop the certainty necessary to proceed without apology.
3. Spy on your rivals
Most industries are highly competitive, and camming is no exception. Luckily, in our high-tech world, it’s relatively easy to check up on the competition. Domino follows her peers on various social media networks, and she interacts with them regularly—never maliciously, but with an eye towards learning. The main benefit is that she’s better positioned to differentiate herself from the pack.
“I used to die my hair crazy colors—one week I’d have pink streaks, and the next I’d have a full head of blue—but I noticed a lot of other girls started doing it, so I stopped.” Since bucking the trend is important to Domino’s image, it would be off-brand for her to do something mainstream, a fate she avoids by staying up to date on the habits of her contemporaries.
4. Dodge “window shoppers”
Trying to sell a service or a product to uninterested parties—what Domino calls “window shoppers”—is a waste of precious time and energy. The first step to avoiding this is to figure out who your real audience is. By interacting with customers and participating in online forums dedicated to her field, Domino pinpointed her target market early on as “middle-aged guys who are single, or whose wives or girlfriends aren’t sleeping with them.”
Next, she focused on how to cater specifically to her demographic by going beyond the obvious strategies of posting sexy photos and brushing up on various fetishes. Brainstorming ultimately led her to the idea of integrating sports.
As a diehard Brewers fan, incorporating the baseball team into her persona came naturally. For instance, Domino sometimes shares provocative photos of her legs propped atop a couch with the game clearly playing on TV in the background. “I wanted to draw the attention of two groups, true fans and haters, because both include potential customers.” Sure enough, when people see her wearing their team’s logo (or their rival’s), they tend to approach her with more enthusiasm, which often translates into more dollars. In choosing a football team to support, Domino was especially shrewd. Though a longtime fan of the sport, she had never felt allegiance to any particular team. So she asked herself a critical question: Which NFL team has the wealthiest fan base? The idea was to attract men with enough disposable income to drop on luxury goods like pricy panties and hour-long sessions with an accomplished digital seductress. “Since San Francisco is such an expensive place to live, I figured the average income of a 49-ers supporter was pretty high, so I went with them.”
5. Embrace haters
As anyone with an online presence knows, fielding negative commentary is inevitable. “You can’t take it personally because it’s not personal. Online bullies are just bored, and probably unhappy,” says Domino.
Instead of dwelling on the hate, Domino exploits it. Every once in a while, between a photograph featuring side boob and another highlighting her ass, she’ll post a screenshot of an attack received by email. One recent example reads: “God you’re so ugly, it’s funny. Who the fuck would spend any money on you? Maybe hit the gym first. Still won’t get rid of that face…” The result was a stream of supportive commentary from fans rallying behind her.
6. Go with the tech flow
“I was doing a show with a regular customer a while ago and he kept glancing at his phone. When I asked him what was so fixating, he told me about Tinder.” The second after that session concluded, Domino downloaded the Tinder app and started exploring the platform. She was an early adopter of Snapchat, too.
To stay ahead of the curve, Domino pays attention to the world around her, beyond the sex industry. “I read Urban Dictionary to see what all the kids are talking about, and I’m always looking into which new apps are on the rise.”
7. Set goals mindfully
Domino agrees that failure isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but she sees no reason to set yourself up to fail by setting the bar too high. She encourages establishing goals that are both challenging to reach, and attainable.
When Domino first started camming in 2010, for example, she endeavored to earn $125 a day, a number that was neither easy nor impossible to hit. Today, she earns up to $1,000 a day. When she launched her website, she did so with the objective of promoting her brand, and not with any specific traffic goals clouding her mind. By focusing on developing a user friendly website with a solid content strategy rather than on data measures, she’s managed to gain serious traction. In January 2014, she received 6,893 unique visitors, a number that climbed to 111,146 by August 2014. Whether people land on her website from searching for obvious terms, or “two girls make love under a coconut tree,” Domino’s there to rope you in.
According to Domino, one of the most common mistakes new cam girls make is underestimating the importance of a stage name. No matter what kind of business you’re trying to grow, Domino emphasizes, no detail is too small to think all the way through.
When considering pseudonyms, Domino imagined herself using different names out in the real world. “I thought about what it would be like for a guy to see me at a club and to recognize my face from Instagram or Twitter, but not know how to pronounce my name. He’d probably be too timid to walk up to me and I’d miss out on the chance to make him a regular.” In the end, she selected Domino because it was memorable, easy to spell, easy to pronounce, and easy to Google.
From the outset, Domino was also careful to own as much of her brand as possible. Rather than allow an agency to buy her url and build her website, she did everything herself (sometimes calling on a tech savvy friend for support)—a time consuming move, but one that has afforded her control.
9. Welcome disruption
When it comes to the future of her business overall, Domino says, “people will always be horny, but everything evolves.” One concern is Operation Choke Point, an initiative led by the United States Justice Department to investigate the relationships between banks and payment processors that do business in categories at high risk for fraud. Domino also sees technology playing a larger role in the online sex industry. Instead of fearing change, however, she hedges against it by being frugal, consulting with a business manager regularly, and considering other career options.
“What I see destroying the sex industry are all the non-professional girls sending naked photos of themselves out into the world. That may be a nice way to bow out gracefully, actually—by way of sexual liberation.”