Ha ha ha.
Ok, no, I am in NO way laughing at you. I’m laughing at the fact that I’ve gotten this question a lot. And for me it just didn’t work that way.
Partly due to the Life Art Project, partly due to a breakup, partly due to being a college senior at the age of 19, partly due to hanging out with perverts at club subMISSION and Neverware parties in London… I met a guy named Alexander Jacobs of Cobra Whips. IMHO one of the best single tail makers in the world. After a funny tale of getting to know one another (involving a schoolgirl uniform, a caning competition, and a friend being a really good friend and literally pushing me) he asked if I would like to be in a BDSM educational porn. I said yes, and ended up doing a film called “Kiss of the Lash” back in 2000. It was fun, absurd, and I decided for a thousand reasons to use my birth name in filming.
I came back to the states and did porn on the sides while working other jobs, and I preferred to do kink films that showed something interesting and weren’t just generic porn. Add to that fact that I’d been doing rope obsessively since I was young and learned from some really amazing humans over the years. Add to that then that I had taught a few classes back in the late 90s assisting as well at Temple of Atonement. Add to that living in Oregon and a great local scene who would ask folks who knew stuff to share it with local folks…
Then I was in a car crash NYE 2002-2003. I lost my day job over all of it, and decided to take the full time porn plunge, and within a year I was able to be shooting in SF, or LA, or NYC, or whatever… and I’d call folks up that I had met at local events and say “hi, looking for a free presenter, I’ll be in NYC?” And they knew me, had seen me play, and said yes because I was free and funny and nice and knew my stuff. A year or two later I was doing so many of them that I was getting to be a kink “name” and I could ask a stipend without an issue. Then I cut my porn down and was traveling on kink and making money, while also pro domming, doing private classes etc in the places I went to. Then I started doing university gigs and…
And then I wrote a book. Writing a solo book pushed it over the edge from me contacting folks to them contacting me. I actually have a whole rant here in response to a guy asking about how to break into the national presenter circuit:
http://fetlife.com/groups/108/group_posts/24865 (I have copied my response to the poster’s question below, but others chimed in there too)
That’s all how I fell into it. Along the way I lost relationships and gained others, lost homes and gained others, had adventures and misadventures alike.
As for “discovering I had a calling”- the first half… that’s trickier. It is part of the life art project. It is part of my spiritual edict from Bear, the cruel and loving Bitch I serve (said always with love). It is what I know in my core I need to do. I know in my core that what I have is important for other people to be able to realize how amazing what they have in their core is.
Because I need it, and it needs me.
Heya! I teach internationally, and am definately part of that crazy thing folks refer to as “the circuit”- which exists because I, Jay Wiseman and others have found that if you teach in the same area more than once every 9 months, you go from being a “guest star”, someone folks will pay full price to see, to being a local (some regions vary- SF and Phoenix I can do every 6 months for example with no issue, while in Sydney it was like pulling teeth for once a year). Event producers know this too, so will rarely hire folks in the same region for the same type of con as another event of their same topic.
That said, the route I took: -Teach locally. Get known in your area for knowing your stuff, and knowing it well.
-Play locally. make friends with lots of folks.
-Produce your own events that people like (totally optional).
-Attend big events and scmooze with event producers in a non-slimy way, or just play big in the dungeon while someone nearby mentions that you teach on this stuff too.
-Dress for success- be someone who shines with confidence and pizazz in some way, a way that is authentic to your journey.
-Write articles and essays online that people enjoy.
-Shoot porn that people watch (totally optional)
-Write a book, get it published, and take it everywhere with you. Everywhere. Sell it out of your suitcase if you need to.
-Get that book reviewed and talked about, and in turn, you reviewed and talked about.
-Appear on podcasts, in magazines, in the newspaper, or have your own podcast/magazine/newspaper etc.
-Have a promotional website that plugs you and plugs you well.
-Get people who will talk about you for you so you don’t look like an egotistical git.
-Perform in stage shows or other interesting acts so people can hire you for more than teaching.
-Have a mailing list, blog, or other way people can keep up with you without having to search for you.
-Have a core set of classes you can do with your eyes closed while tied up upside down in front of a room of 400+ (TES 2005 I think it was).
-Design new classes, on a variety of topics, coming out with a minimum of 2 new classes a year to stay fresh. (I design about 10 a year right now as this is my full time living, sometimes more).
-Have a variety of teaching styles if you can. IE hands on ropework and discussions on dealing with our taboos and lectures on the academic background of fiber magics or body modification.
-Be willing to pimp yourself and contact events. If you wait for them, you’ll likely be waiting a long time.
-Have a slice of humility while knowing in your core that your time is important.
-If you make a deal to teach, do not break it unless you dislocate your wrists (bondage classes BC) or are hospitalized with pneumonia (Desire California). If you have to cancel, offer to cover the cost of the flight yourself, etc, so they don’t loose money on you.
-If you make a deal to teach, do not allow folks to talk you down from your fee/rates/agreement, whatever it was. If they offered to cover your gas, require it. If you don’t, word will get out that you are a pushover and easy to take advantage of.
-Learn new skills all the time. Do not rest on your laurels, it will show.
-Stay connected with humans. The other option I did not take was to become an untouchable celebrity who goes offsite for every meal. Don’t get me wrong- it is crazy making to be interrupted every single meal to be asked questions, can I have just 5 minutes of your time, etc… but I am given feedback that those who are high godlike celebs in any field get a different kind of following… and its not my style of following.
-Leave them hungry for more. I tend to leave teasers of “gosh, I wish we had more time, I could talk about X for 20 more hours”- folks will ask you the next year to talk for another 20hrs on X. It really works.
-Learn NLP or other teaching improvement techniques. This includes learning how to use the technology of education (handouts, books, visual aids, lecturing, music, power point, flip charts, lighting, seating styles, group participation, asking questions, etc) properly, not just to have them.
-Be patient. I taught my first class in 1998 in the scene, and I didn’t get asked to teach somewhere until 2003, and wasn’t paid until 2004. How did I stay financially solvent when touring? I shot porn in the same cities to afford the airfare, did burlesque and shows, and was willing to do 2 events in 1 weekend when starting… other folks I know pay out of pocket the first year or 3 presenting nationally.
People will ask you to teach when they perceive adding you to the roster will bring in more $ than it will take to afford you.
But the key to all of the above. Authenticity. Skill. Enthusiasm. Integrity.
Follow your bliss, and bright blessings on the journey, hope the rambling helped 🙂
-Lee Harrington http://www.PassionAndSoul.com