Cam Girl Economics

Former Cam Girl Aella offers a detailed, analytical, and interesting guide to the economics of the industry.

My credentials: I was a camgirl for five years. My highest earning month was $50,000, and my highest rank (on MFC) was #7, meaning I earned the 7th most money that month. I was, at one point, one of the most (if not the most) widely known working camgirls thanks to some viral content. My average income per hour was $200. Getting there was not easy and took a ton of mistakes and work, so I hope this helps you.

I was initially surprised that a cam girl can make more money than a prostitute. But the reason is simple, a cam girl is selling a non-rival good and can thus have more customers at a point in time than a prostitute. (In other words, the same economics as online education!) I suspect women would prefer to be cam girls than prostitutes so we should expect the supply of cam girls to increase and the supply of prostitutes to decrease thus raising the price of hiring a prostitute.

Male psychology plays an important role for the clever cam girl:

Men want a few things, and probably one of the biggest is winning a competition.

You see, you’re not just trying to get a guy to pay you – you’re trying to get a guy to pay you in front of a bunch of other guys. This is a super key. A man wants to feel attention from an attractive women on him, and this is made even more satisfying when it’s to the exclusion of those around him. He is showing off his power by buying your happiness.

So, when tipped, make sure you say his name (or username). A lot of girls use subtly masculine-competition language when referring to high tippers, such as “hero,” “champion,” or “winner”. I often would ask questions like “who is going to save my night?” or “who is going to be the one to make me feel x”?

The ‘control show’ I mentioned above plays into this. Give men a way to fight against each other, with tokens. A common tactic is to have guys buy into “teams”, and whichever team tips the most, wins (with the prize being a video or literally anything – you’d be surprised at how many competition prizes are just the guy’s name being listed on the girl’s profile). Have guys fight to put on or off your clothes, or force you/rescue you from doing something gross.

The most profitable thing I ever did was have a ‘war’ with another camgirl, and it became my tipping members vs. hers. Competition is bread and butter. Competition is love. Competition is life. Competition is your key to a life full of luxury handbags and butlers.

Just don’t be too obvious about it. All of this stuff I’m saying can be done with too heavy a hand, and then guys feel gross and leave.

Intrinsic and extrinsic incentives:

Divorce what you’re doing from money as much as you can. Never refer to tokens as money!! Refer to tokens as little as you can while still being clear. One of my camgirl friends would use the technique where she’d say, “This is  like – I’m sitting at a bar, all alone over here. Is someone gonna be a gentleman and get me a drink?” And then someone would tip and she’d drink.

Classic marketing advice:

How do you get whales? A lot of it is high variance – a tiny fraction of the camwatching population is made out of very rich men, and so you might get one passing through your cam room once a week without you ever knowing, and you have no idea when or if you’ll be doing something interesting at that point.

But one technique to help is to give them something to do. If you have listed tip options as “40 tokens spank! 20 tokens kiss the mirror!” and your whale has 40,000 tokens he wants to drop today, then the best he’s going to get from you is some crying and screaming.

Thus, always have the absurd “nobody would ever buy that that would be insane” option.

Hat tip: Emil O W Kirkegaard.


I had to Google this (no really, I swear!), but evidently a "whale" is a member "who frequently contribute[s] more than average amounts of $." This information, of course, is courtesy of

It's actually a pretty common term in casinos and gambling, referring to people who gamble large amounts of money ( I assume this is where that usage came from:

It is also a common term in describing certain customers of computer/mobile games. The majority of players will spend nothing or only small amount on ingame purchases, but a small minority (10%) will vastly outspend everyone else and can be responsible for more than half the earnings.

80/20 applies to the digital economy too.

Gambling/spending "whale" was the original usage and has been frequently used since the 70s. The online "whale" is derived from that usage, by way of online casinos, and then gradually extended to mobile gaming in general.

and on Wall Street

And in the meta-competition of professional sports, where cities are fighting for a franchise to move to their city, a whale is the big spender who'll put up the hundred of millions of dollars to buy a team and move it. Or save it from being moved. Steve Ballmer with the Clippers, Vivek Ranadive with the Sacramento Kings, etc.

Don't complain, I had to google "whale" AND "Cam girl".

This comment and many others here displays the shocking ignorance of the readers here. For all the talks of "IQ" and "bell curve", the average person here doesn't even know what a "whale" or a "cam girl" is? This is why Trump is relevant and you are not.

I've been called a Starbucks whale. I not only know what a cam girl is but I enjoy adult entertainment and it is a hell of a lot safer and less nerve-wracking than cheating on your wife, which is something I don't do. (By my wife's and my definition, fantasy sex over the Internet is not cheating and is no worse or better than reading Playboy.) I figured the high-IQ people on this board could figure out whale and camgirl from the context.

Hmm, maybe. Basically I made a bad guess when I saw the title -- "cam" from camera (right thus far) which means "room" in Italian/Latin, so it was a "femme de chambre", a "room maid". After reading the first quotation with this interpretation, nothing was making much sense, so I looked on the internet for "cam girl". I knew the concept of course but not the name.

$200 an hour is not more than a high end escort would make, and that seems like the more apt comparison for the 7th ranked camgirl. Camgirls are more in control of their scheduling, but high end sex workers typically earn around $1,000 for an hour, and anywhere between $3,000 and $15,000 for a day. As someone who is smart, savvy and white, that’s where she would slot into.

My reference point to 'high end' was Eliot Spitzer - my memory is that type of 'high end' is thousands of dollars per hour/visit/whatever the proper term may be.

It's a bit like comparing independent contractors and full time workers. The contractor makes more per hour of actual work for the client, but they have more downtime, and costs of getting the next job. The camgirl can work a lot of hours, whenever she wants, and will not provide lower quality because she is working more.

Those new service jobs!

Trump is creating so many high paying jobs like this. He is making America great again. God Bless! #maga2020

> I was initially surprised that a cam girl can make more money than a prostitute. But the reason is simple, a cam girl is selling a non-rival good and can thus have more customers at a point in time than a prostitute. (In other words, the same economics as online education!) I suspect women would prefer to be cam girls than prostitutes so we should expect the supply of cam girls to increase and the supply of prostitutes to decrease thus raising the price of hiring a prostitute.

At "was once #7", you are looking at a point in the curve pretty close to the highest earnings. And because camgirls sell non-rival goods, the curve is not a bell curve, it's a power law curve. Most people who try to be camgirls make very little.

"I suspect women would prefer to be cam girls than prostitutes so we should expect the supply of cam girls to increase and the supply of prostitutes to decrease thus raising the price of hiring a prostitute."

I would guess that strippers become cam girls, not prostitutes, as strippers are the cleverer of the two. If there's any effect on decreasing supply, it's going to be on strippers.

'as strippers are the cleverer of the two'

If you say so - Germany does not seem to have strippers, as you can pay something like 15 euros to see naked people at a public sauna. Or for free in the summer time at a FKK lake.

"A fool visits a strip club while the intellectual visits a brothel"

There is in fact an extensive strip club economy in Germany. To the extent there are fewer than one might expect, it's because prostitution is legal in Germany and, well, sucks off some of the clientele.

A good reminder that prior is a troll who's just playing at a persona.

Of course he's a troll. Only a troll would expect us to believe people would rather look at the random middle aged naked people they would see at a sauna vs professional strippers. Greatest satire poster on the internet.

Strangely enough, you see all sorts of people, from the young to the old, tattoed, pierced, breast enhanced or reduced. The variety on a normal day at Vierordtbad or Europabad or Caracalla includes pretty much all the types of women who would be considered suitable for a strip club, as well as many more women who are much more appealing than such a commercially stylized stereotype as a stripper.

From your first link - 'If you want to find the strip clubs in a city, head to the red light district'

I have been to Karlsruhe's red light district several times over the last 25 years. There are no strip clubs. And now, having searched for 'strip club Karlsruhe,' nothing much comes up (to be honest, no good idea what the term is in German).

What is more interesting is how quickly Hooters went out of business in Karlsruhe, in part because no one was interested in paying higher prices to be served by women who could just as likely be seen naked as not at a place like Vierordtbad or Epplesee.

Do readers see the connection between this blog post and the previous blog post? Productivity and economic growth. It's the American version of productive capital and economic freedom - very individualistic. WWFD (What Would Friedman do).

Too funny! I did not see a connection between this and the Torenberg.

I did note a strong parallel between this behind the scenes breakdown of acting like a girlfriend to lonely men for tokens and the stage show of fresh prodigy earning Pioneer grants from signal-fatigued, impact hungry philanthropists.

Yeah, that was exactly the comment I was going to make: the Pioneer gamified competitions and the camgirl gamified competitions. TIE:
Tournaments In Everything.

'the same economics as online education'

Particularly if one if willing to pander to those providing the funding.

'thus raising the price of hiring a prostitute'

Not if German experience over the last few years is any guide -

'Paradise is more or less at the top end of the market. The Stuttgart flagship, like all seven branches in the chain, has a vaguely Moroccan theme - think brass lanterns, swirly carpets and low sofas draped in naked women and men in red bathrobes. Sex goes for around €50. Prices are low and falling. There are at least 400,000 sex workers in Germany, and the market is saturated.


The vast majority of sex workers in Germany are immigrants. Some have taken the plunge with gritted teeth, knowing they’ll make more money in a month than they would in years back home. Several have been pressured into it by hard-up family members. Many have pimps, who are sometimes their boyfriends. The women I spoke to hadn’t selected sex work from a buffet of tempting options. Almost all had underestimated how unpleasant the work would be.'

However, it appears flat rate brothels are no longer legal - yep, there were places where through the sort of judicious planning and stamina that also motivates a certain type of person to get maximum value out of an all you can eat buffet, it appears as if the price per sex act could become cheaper than buying a pack of cigarettes. You just had to ignore that the women are basically slaves of criminal organizations, which is the major reason for the ban.

'Competition is bread and butter. Competition is love. Competition is life. Competition is your key to a life full of luxury handbags and butlers.'

There is something utterly depressing about such a perspective, even when empirically lucrative.

Any rising cost of hiring a prostitute in the U.S. is likely due to the FOSTA/SESTA law and the strict enforcement of anti prostitution/solicitation laws in the U.S. (often under the false guise of "preventing human trafficking").

In another comment someone asked about overlap between the cam girl and escort markets, from the point of view of a client. I'd ask the same question, from the point of view of the woman providing the service.

I suspect that cam work may be the gateway for many women into sex work. Some, not satisfied with their income as a camgirl, move on to contact sex work.

To expand on Alex Tabarrok's opinion, if you asked all women, most would say they'd prefer to be a camgirl than a prostitute -- only because most will do neither. But I suspect if you asked experienced sexworkers, many/the majority would say they prefer full-contact sexwork to cam girl. Contact sex workers have a lot more choice over who they see as a customer and can set their own limitations. There's also the financial aspect: as the article makes clear, only a small percentage of camgirls make bank from their work, but even a not-conventionally beautiful woman can make good money as a prostitute, while facing less competition than camgirls do.

Seems that no one else seem to have notices that camgirl customers and John's seeing hookers are completely different markets and goods. One is about voyeurism the other is about a physical act--often with the illusion of some emotional intimacy.

The degree to which this would be considered substitutes seems a bit like apples and oranges.

That's a fair question: how much overlap in the customer base? How much substitution between products?

This reminds me very much of a piece I'd read years ago on Japanese hostess clubs, by an ex-hostess. Camgirls are basically virtual hostesses.

A lot of girls think nothing of licking another girl, it's not even controversial to some, but most guys would never do that to another guy. It shows women have fewer moral hangups. In fact, in the porn world, from what I understand, fake lesbian scenes are OK with some porn stars but they won't do a hetero scene out of respect for their real world partner. Reading a book by a Australian porn star now.

It seems accepted statistically that women are measurably more likely than men to have same-sex attraction and activity.

So the question is: nature or nurture?

Duh, is because girls are hotter than guys, girls are just doing what guys would like to do.

Do you lick filipino boys, Ray?

He better not lick any boys! He only lick me or I chop off his titi!

" I suspect women would prefer to be cam girls than prostitutes so we should expect the supply of cam girls to increase and the supply of prostitutes to decrease thus raising the price of hiring a prostitute."
What the girls want matters little. There has to be a demand. While there is a clear demand for camgirls, it is likely limited and much smaller than the demand for prostitutes. Even if there was more demand, they won't all have the skills for it.

"More would prefer to be camgirls than prostitutes..."

Red apples vs. Green apples. They're all prostitutes.

Everyone is a prostitute, only the price is different.

If you have ever watched "Ninja" stream on Twitch you can get a similar idea of the economics.

The guys outdoing each other with the "tips." Evidently he makes hundreds of thousands being tipped by middle school boys who are mad about Fortnight and go nuts with mommys credit card. The scrolling chiron of their names. Or like the tv talibangelists and their prayer chirons. Lots of parallels.

Is the gambing whale competing with other whales for the attentions of the casino host? I think this one is different.

"Is the gambling whale competing with other whales for the attentions of the casino host?"

Actually I would think yes. In a way. They are seeking acknowledgement, perks, status, etc. (although most games (except poker) are not competitions directly between gamblers, I am sure there's an element of showing off who will swing the biggest bets.

Although it's probably not the sole motivation.

Cam girl is and game streamer are specific subtypes of online interactive video performance, so it's not too surprising there are a lot of economic similarities. Twitch and YouTube streaming have a different monetization model than the camgirl platforms though.

On Twitch and YouTube, a major goal of streamers is to get viewers to purchase automatically renewed monthly payments (called subscriptions on Twitch and memberships on YouTube), though one time tips are also possible. These platforms have various support machinery for this. As an intermediate step, both have a free option for viewers to get notified when a stream is going to start, possibly with some other minor benefits, followers in Twitch and subscribers (how confusing!) on YouTube. I'd estimate 1 to 5% of followers are subscribers (or subscribers/members in YouTube parlance). Ninja has over 12 million followers on Twitch and the base subscription is $5/month. He's an outlier obviously.

What on earth is a "cam girl"?

Like you dont know...

Not the foggiest. Something sleazy, presumably?

Ask your wife. she knows.

Oh heavens yes. Darling you simply must investigate these with me.

That's the first time I have been impersonated on this comment section.
A very emotional moment for me.

Then for the love of God do not google "findom." Context clues sufficed for cam girl, but I had about 5 innocent seconds in which I envisioned a children's program about little fishes, centered around Prince Finn, who swim around and learn lessons like being kind to the new fish in school, or telling grown-ups when something scares you, like the time Prince Finn went on the finternet and looked up the word "findom."

Is this an American phenomenon, like multi-level marketing (MLM)? Well, no, it's not like MLM: cam girls make money, while the marks in MLM lose money. The similarity is in the marks. Is it any wonder that our country elected a con man as president. Con markets in everything.

Don't assume the 'whales' are rich. I recently read an article on 'Freemium' mobile games, and they pointed out that while the vast majority of players paid either nothing or just a few dollars a month to play, game revenue was dominated by a handful of 'Whales' who paid $1000/mo or even more to play a silly mobile game. I assumed they'd be the children of billionaires or arab oil sheikhs , but it turned out that most 'whales' were low income young males who simply spent every nickel they had playing the game. They interviewed people who worked two jobs and lived at home to pay for their freemium game addiction. Crazy.

I really wish those people didn't exist, because then the selection of games available would be much improved. Every free game trying to goad you into hundreds of dollars of purchases is absurd and stupid. You just can't play them.

>Thus, always have the absurd “nobody would ever buy
> that that would be insane” option.

Most Kickstarter campaigns will also have the ludicrously expensive insane option, too. Just in case someone really rich with goodwill towards you passes by.

Any decent restaurant that is ever patronised by City of London traders will have one or two £1000+ bottles of wine on its wine list, too - even if the food is not especially expensive. Just in case a group of traders who have just received large bonuses show up with one or more women they are trying to impress.

"Men want a few things, and probably one of the biggest is winning a competition."

Brazilian prostitute Bruna became the highest paid prostitute in the country by posting reviews of her customers, who would then compete with each other to get higher ratings from her.

Gamification. Have nudge economists used it? I can't think of an example, but then one would not be obvious and work, as Aella says.

It's going to be amusing to watch Alex try to apply these ideas to the blog, making commenters compete against each other for trivial goals.

Maybe it's happening already, some comments get reposted by Tyler, some get trolled.

Why do you think social sites have 'like' buttons?

Or think of the market that exists in fake followers on Twitter.

Now do the same analysis, but for findom.

ok isn't this a little creepy?

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