Tools and Tips for Transgender Performers by Trip Richards and Sophie Ladder
Entering the webcam, clip, phone sex, and fanclub vertical as a transgender performer comes with different tips that you can use to navigate the adult industry in a way that will be profitable. While a lot of the basics for webcam, clips, and all other forms of independent adult content overlap like equipment and general site usage there are also things that will be different as a transgender performer that can cause unnecessary stressors or financial pitfalls if you are not prepared for them. Trip Richards (FtM) and Sophie Ladder (MtF) have offered their advice to newcomer trans performers looking for more in-depth insight into getting started.
Table of Contents:
Basic Starter Toolkit for Trans Performers
Trip Richards and Sophie Ladder have prepared your “basic starter” tips as a transgender performer.
Basic Starter Tips (FtM)
Getting started as an adult content creator can seem daunting. But really it doesn’t need to be complex. If you have a smartphone and a computer, you’re most of the way there already! And if you have a few favorite sex toys or accessories already, you’re ready to start performing.
That said, there’s ways to maximize your success as a visual artist. The two biggest factors here are good lighting and a pleasant space in which to work.
Depending on your room and your schedule, you may be able to use natural light. However, investing in some additional lighting is a good idea. For the first few years I was a webcammer, I made do with just some bright desk lamps. So you don’t need anything fancy. A ring light is also fairly inexpensive and will help to illuminate your space. Keep in mind that light sources including windows should always be positioned behind or to the side of your camera, never visible in the frame of your lens.
You don’t need a fancy “cam room” in which to stream or record, but you do need a space that’s clean and organized. Avoid unnecessary background clutter, and also make sure there are no personal/private objects in view. Depending on what type of show or video you are planning, you can work from a bed, a sofa, or even the floor. A few cute props and comfy pillows are nice, but I don’t think it’s necessary to spend money on decorations when you’re first starting out. You are the star of the show after all!
After you’ve set up your room and lighting for the first time, start your camera and practice some of the positions you might find yourself in during a cam show or clip filming session, then watch the footage yourself. Is everything in focus and properly lit? Is there anything distracting in the background? Are parts of your body out of frame in some positions? Do you have everything you need within reach during the show? Think about how things will look for viewers, and then adjust your space as needed.
For live streaming, having a decent webcam is important, as is having a computer that can handle streaming. The most popular webcam amongst new cam models seems to be the logitech C920. For computer specs, I recommend an intel core i7 and 8gb ram. I personally have always streamed from a laptop, for the sake of mobility and convenience, but if you have a desktop computer it works great too, and is likely more powerful. You can probably make do with less than these specs, but one of the biggest issues during live streams is lagging and a more powerful computer will help ensure that your stream is smooth. Most webcam sites have decent setup guides for streaming including OBS setup guides (OBS is a third-party streaming app that integrates with webcam sites and provides more streaming features and usually a faster higher-resolution stream).
For filming clips, a smartphone is usually sufficient. I recently invested in a digital camera, but for almost my entire career I have filmed on phones. Provided that your ambient lighting is good, modern smartphones offer good quality and ease of usage. While it is easy to record using the front camera on your phone because it allows you to see yourself, you will get the best video quality using the main (rear) camera.
Depending on the type of content you are planning to create, and your personal preferences, you may want to include toys or accessories in your show. Many webcam sites now offer integration with high-tech toys that respond to viewers’ tips. Lovense is a popular brand you’ll see many streamers using. This can be a good way to increase engagement during live shows, but I don’t think they are necessary for success. Many viewers do enjoy seeing penetration, so if you’re comfortable using dildos, plugs, etc that will add to your show offerings. Some models also incorporate outfits and gear (such as leather) into their show. At the most basic, beginning your show in a pair of cute underwear is a good way to get things started. (Trip Richards)
Basic Starter Tips (MtF)
What equipment do you need to film porn? These days, not too much. You can start out just using your phone on a tripod, especially if you have a newer model. If you’re looking to upgrade I would suggest a mirrorless camera – you can get great quality at an affordable price.
The most important part of filming in light. Great lighting can make even a shitty camera’s video look good. Natural light is great, but you likely will have to supplement whatever natural light you have with some photo lights. I would recommend getting some softboxes to direct the light at you while not casting harsh shadows. The basic lighting setup for photography is called three-point lighting, and is a good place to start, but has a few downsides. Three (or four) point lighting assumes you’ll remain in one spot and can be good for solos and photos, but for partnered content or any where you’ll be moving around a lot, I would suggest soap opera lighting. Soap opera lighting is even throughout the set and doesn’t have to be reset for each different shot. You can achieve this through my #1 lighting tip, and that is;
BOUNCE LIGHT. When you point a light up at the ceiling it will bounce off and fill out the scene, helping to eliminate any shadows present from eye-level light sources. You can also bounce off walls if you so choose. I always take one of my softboxes with the cover removed and set it as high as I can, pointed up at the ceiling with a 45° angle between the ceiling and the box, facing toward the set. Then you can set up a softbox or two at eye-level pointed at yourself in the set and your simple setup should look pretty decent. The main softboxes should be illuminating you / the center of the frame, and the bounce light fills in the shadows and makes everything softer.
What are ring lights used for? Ring lights are designed for close-up shots where the camera is in the center of the ring so the lighting does not look like it is coming from one side of the camera, but all sides. Any further away use of a ring light functions as a directional light, like your softboxes.
Having high-end technology is useful but not required. A nice gaming laptop will export your videos faster, but you can still edit on an older laptop. A high-speed internet connection will let you upload your videos faster, but you can still upload on slower speeds. A nice microphone will get you better audio than your camera’s built-in mic, but no one’s going to complain about the onboard mic.
For the most bare-bones starter kit: cell phone and tripod. You film, edit, and upload on your phone, trying to get the best natural light you can. Then add in some lights to fill out the scene, a laptop to edit on, maybe a nice camera. (Sophie Ladder)
Marketing as a Transgender Adult Performer / Content Creator
Marketing yourself as a transgender performer will have many overlapping similarities with cisgendered performers but also has the added benefit of marketing to a specific niche of interest within porn consumers.
Tips and Tricks for Marketing as a FtM Creator
Social media is essential for getting your name out there and building a brand. That said, social media can be a challenging environment for sex workers in general and trans sex workers in particular. Twitter is currently the most anything-goes of the social platforms, and you can post full nudity and hardcore sex content on your twitter provided that your account is set to “sensitive content” (meaning it will only be displayed to users who have opted-in to see that type of content). Instagram has a lot of user traffic and engagement, but is very strict about no nudity, no suggestive content, and nothing that relates to selling sexual services. So you’ll have to get creative to market yourself on there.
Collaborating with other models is a great way to expand your audience. Obviously if you are a solo performer who works alone, this won’t be part of your business model. But if you do create partnered content, it’s an opportunity for both of you to gain additional visibility. In general, I find that the biggest audience for trans male content is gay men who want to see trans men performing with cisgender men. This is not to say that you must create this type of content, but it is the most lucrative.
If you do collaborate with other models, there are a few things to keep in mind. Collaborations of this type are usually called “trade content” meaning that no money is exchanged and you both co-own the footage and have rights to distribute it wherever you wish. It is very important to collect signed model releases from anyone you collaborate with. A release should include their legal name, birth date, a picture of their government-issued ID, and a statement that they are consenting to their image being used in material that is sexually explicit and that will be uploaded to the internet. Even if you are just filming with a good friend, it’s still essential to have a release; this protects you and your content into the future. My release also includes the stipulation that we will only share the content behind paywalls and not upload it to any free sites.
When you collaborate with someone, take the time before-hand to discuss consent, boundaries, and what you each want to get out of the filming experience. It’s important that everyone is on the same page. Obviously this conversation will be different if you are filming with a friend or partner versus someone you don’t know already, but having ground rules in place is always important.
Lots of performers – whether they are solo models or do collaboration (hardcore) videos – participate in engagement or shout-out groups. I am personally uncertain of how effective this strategy is at resulting in sales. After all, it doesn’t matter how many people retweet your content if it doesn’t drive paying traffic to your sites. But other models swear by it, so it’s worth a try! It makes sense to do shout-outs with other models who may have a similar audience as you; usually other trans men and cisgender male performers. (Trip Richards)
Tips and Tricks for Marketing as a MtF Creator
As a trans performer you’ll have to decide what words you are and aren’t okay with advertising yourself as. I avoid “transsexual” and never use “transvestite” but unfortunately those two terms are often much more searched than “transgender” on porn sites. Social media like twitter is a great way to market your content and grow your audience. Find other people making content like yours and follow them, and interact positively. Be wary of promo and shoutout accounts on social media, many of them are just seeking free content to post to their fans who have no intention of buying anything. Retweet groups have been highly successful for some people, but are against twitter’s ToS and many followers find RT groups annoying and will turn off your retweets. As you progress in the industry collaborating with more well-known creators is a great way to lift your profile. Having a presence across a wide variety of sites is always good for your brand. (Sophie Ladder)
Cam Show Dynamics and Basics as a Transgender Cam Model
Webcam shows can be a great and valuable source of income for adult creators and the transgender customer market is largely undersaturated with plenty of room for growth.
Cam Shows as a FtM Webcam Model
I recommend watching some popular streamers to see how they organize their shows. You’ll probably notice that every webcammer does things a little differently, but some ideas will work for everyone.
Most importantly, be interactive. Viewers are more likely to stick around – and tip – when the show seems lively. This can be tough on slow days, but do your best to keep conversation and action going. If you’re just sitting there staring into space or fiddling with your phone, viewers are unlikely to be interactive in return. Do your best to encourage viewers to chat; you can ask them questions, tell stories that elicit responses, and of course remind them to support what you’re doing. Anything to keep the show moving!
It’s good to set a reasonable goal or series of goals for the show. I have seen webcammers who set a single very high tip goal, but I think it’s better to have a series of smaller goals. For instance you can encourage people to tip for your underwear to come off, then when that goal is achieved, to tip for masturbation to start, and then at the next goal for toy play to begin. Most of the time, a stream concludes with an orgasm or cumshow. Definitely encourage viewers to tip for this; you can even create a hidden or ticket show that only viewers who have purchased a ticket can view. Chaturbate is the webcam site I’m most familiar with, and they have options for many types of tip goals and show structures.
Each webcam site is structured differently, but most have the option to do private shows in addition to public streams. During a private show, you can offer one-on-one attention to a viewer. Every model will handle these differently; I always chatted with the viewer before accepting a private show just to ensure that I was okay with performing whatever requests they had. Private shows are a great chance to make a lot of money in a short period of time, and you can set your own per-minute rates for privates.
As a trans performer, you are likely to encounter situations on webcam which are different from what cisgender performers experience. I always had to spend a lot of time educating people about my body – basically explaining to them what they were seeing on screen – and also dealing with ignorant and sometimes hurtful comments about my body and gender. Don’t be afraid to mute or block people if they are distracting from your show. But you can also use the opportunity of live camming to be educational and create connections with viewers who may be curious about trans people. (Trip Richards)
Cam Shows as a MtF Webcam Model
Camming can be a great way to make money if you’re willing to ride the ups and downs. For customers searching for trans women they mainly care about your dick. Many trans women find the formula of tipping to strip doesn’t work for them. Instead patrons of trans cammers seem more willing to tip toward a cumshow goal.
There are a few different formats of camming. Private-show focused, like Streamate, you just “hang out” doing non-sexual things in the public chat, and then viewers can take you private where you do sexual content. Public shows, like Chaturbate, viewers can come watch without paying, and you generally set tip goals for each act. So once you reach X tokens you’ll give a dildo blowjob, at Y tokens you will jerk off, etc. There are other formats you can do shows (eg; tokens pay for wheel spins) but those are the basics; a public audience tipping toward a goal, or people taking you private 1-on-1.
Success in cam is highly predicated upon regularity, you’ll do better if you can keep consistent hours. Not that popping on randomly isn’t worth it, but if your audience knows they can see you every Friday and Saturday from 5-9pm they can plan to see you at that time. (Sophie Ladder)
Creating Pornography / Clip Content as a Transgender Creator
Creating porn videos / short clips can be a fantastic passive revenue source for full-time streamers but it can also serve as your main full-time option depending on your preference. Many successful performers find an even split between cam shows and clip sales can be financially rewarding and take away some of the pressures that come with maintaining live webcam consistency.
Clip Tips for FtM Pornstars
Almost everyone with a smartphone already has the equipment they need to make successful clips that will offer passive income every time someone purchases them.
My advice about lighting and room organization for camming is the same for clips. It can be helpful to have a tripod to get additional angles (but when I was on a budget I got creative with propping the camera on a stack of books, so don’t feel like you need anything fancy when you’re starting!).
Clips are different from live shows insofar as you can explore specific themes in a scripted way. You can focus exclusively on performing and not worry about catering to a live audience or handling all the other issues that come up during live streaming.
I think it’s a good idea for a new performer to make a series of clips exploring various types of content and fetishes, and then see what sells best. For example, you could do a submissive role play video, a body worship video, a partnered video (if you work with a partner or other collaborator), and a toy play video. Depending on what types of kinks you’re personally into, you may want to focus mostly on them. Sex work is usually a mix of performing activities you personally enjoy, and those that your viewers seem interested in purchasing. I definitely don’t suggest that anyone make content they are personally uncomfortable with, but it’s also good to branch out and try new things. That might be your best selling content ever!
I find that some people who purchase clips want the illusion of you interacting directly with them, and others want to feel like a voyeur. For example, some people like eye contact with the camera during a blowjob scene, while others would rather watch from across the room and see you interacting with your partner. Try different camera angles and perspectives and see what is the most successful for you. (Trip Richards)
Clip Tips for MtF Pornstars
There are plenty of niches and fetishes out there, and part of the process of discovering yourself as a performer is finding out what niches do best for you. For each site you’re on, take some time to browse the content and see what kinds of things sell best on that site. For sites like Clips4Sale you can check the categories page to see what categories have a lot of clips in them (popular) and which ones have barely any (not popular). Try out a few different things that seem popular on the sites you use and see what sells well for you. The “recently sold” pages on clip sites can also be used to give you an idea of what is popular at the moment.
Tips for selling content is to be active in as many places as you can be. Many customers have the sites they are already on and like using, and you’re missing out on those potential buyers if you aren’t active on their site. Some traffic you are driving from your socials, and some is already on the sites, waiting for you. (Sophie Ladder)
Successful Services for Transgender Performers (Besides Cam and Clips)
While cam and clips tend to be the “bread and butter” of the independent adult industry there is room for growth and additional revenue streams by offering alternative services outside of just webcam and video creation.
Alternative Services for FtM Adult Content Creators
I think it’s a good idea to utilize multiple platforms and types of platforms. Currently, fan club sites like OnlyFans and JustForFans have the most traffic and the most opportunity for revenue. I believe this is because they combine the best parts of live streaming and clip sales; subscribers feel like they have a personal daily connection with the model, while also getting to watch full videos anytime they want. The other advantage of the fan sites is that, because they are subscription-based, they tend to offer renewing passive income rather than just a single sale. But that doesn’t mean you should ignore all the other possible revenue streams. Different consumers are going to gravitate toward different platforms, and your content should be available for them in multiple places. I find that it helps to release content simultaneously across multiple platforms. This minimizes my workload; once I have created a clip, I can upload it on multiple sites with minimal effort beyond copy/pasting a description and starting the upload. (Trip Richards)
Alternative Services for MtF Adult Content Creators
There are many ways to make money as an adult worker online. You can sext people or have phone sex through services like NiteFlirt and SextPanther where you set up your profile and explain what fetishes you cater to. There are fan sites, with OnlyFans being the most prominent, that you can set up to run in a number of different ways. You can post everything to your wall included with subscription, or you could do a free subscription and sell videos in the DMs, you could only post BTS and selfies, etc. You can sell used underwear or sex toys, people love to feel a personal connection to their favorite performers. You can sell custom videos, where people can get their exact fetishes filled. (Sophie Ladder)
Finding Transgender Friendly Websites and Site Recommendations
Not all sites are created equally and there is still a pool of websites that unfortunately don’t allow transgender performers on the platform or don’t provide transgender performers with the same level of traffic as cisgendered performers.
Finding Your Perfect Websites (FtM)
It can be overwhelming to decide what platforms to get started on. But doing some initial research will maximize your chances of success. Considerations include payout percentage, payout types, availability of accurate categories and tags, ease of uploading and managing, types of permitted content, and also site trustworthiness. As a trans male performer, you also want to think about where your potential audience will be, and how they will find you.
Payout percentages vary widely in the adult industry, from under 50% to over 80%. 50% seems to be the most common for live streaming sites, 65% for clip sites, and 80% for subscription-based fan club sites.
For performers in the US, receiving payouts is usually easy. Most sites offer options including direct deposit and physical checks. However, especially if you live elsewhere around the world, make sure that the site you’re considering offers payouts to your country/currency and in a format that you are comfortable receiving. Additionally, some sites have very high payout minimums for certain countries/regions, meaning that you may not receive any revenue until you make many sales.
Most adult sites are becoming more trans-inclusive in response to work from activists and also their realization that consumers are interested in non-cisgender content. But appropriate categories and tags for trans men specifically are still lagging. You may have to place yourself in a general “trans” category, which you’ll find is probably predominantly transgender women, or you may have to select your gender as “male” which means you’ll be categorized amongst cisgender men. Neither of these situations is ideal for trans male content, since our target audience may not be looking for us in these places.
That said, some sites are specifically inclusive. JustForFans is the best in this regard, as performers can self-identify as cis male, cis female, trans male, trans female, or nonbinary. In contrast, sites like Chaturbate and ManyVids has only a catch-all trans category, so some trans men appear there, and others choose to appear amongst cis male performers. In that case, you can pick whatever category you think suits you the best. On Chaturbate, you can actually change your gender category at will, so you can try and see which page category is more successful for you.
Site design varies widely, and it’s good to focus your effort on websites that are easy to navigate. This will depend a lot on how computer savvy you are, and your own preferences, but personally I do best on sites with a streamlined interface for uploads and content management. If I have to spend a lot of time figuring out how to even upload my content or get my cam working, it’s not a good sign.
Also consider the viewer’s side of things; is the site easy to navigate for them? Is the search bar easy to find and does it return relevant results? Is the site mobile-friendly? Does the site look aesthetically appealing? Would you be comfortable entering your credit card info to buy something? Many of these are somewhat subjective answers, but you should take them into account when signing up for a new platform.
Depending on what types of content you are interested in producing, you should keep an eye on each site’s permitted/banned content lists. These rules can seem arbitrary, but are usually driven by credit card companies which refuse to service certain types of content. If you are interested in so-called harder fetishes such as fisting, watersports, and impact play, for example, you should investigate whether the site will permit you to upload this material.
Unfortunately there are a lot of new pop-up sites which may not be secure, may not offer much traffic, and may not have longevity. When you’re considering sharing your content on a new site, it’s good to do some investigation of what types of performers/types of content already exist on the site. While there’s something to be said for bringing a fresh new face to the platform, it’s probably a red flag if nobody on the site looks like you or makes the types of content you’re making. It’s also good to investigate what sites your favorite performers are already on. Follow their twitters and other social feeds and see what sites they are promoting. This can give you a sense of where they are finding success.
Speaking personally as transmale creator, I am focused on JustForFans for subscription-based content, ManyVids for individual video sales, and (although I am not currently broadcasting) Chaturbate for live shows. I have made these choices based on the inclusivity of the platform, features they offer, the traffic/revenue they provide, and my confidence in their longevity and stability. (Trip Richards)
Finding Your Perfect Website (MtF)
For selling clips I would suggest starting out on ManyVids and Clips4Sale. You can take a look at my restrictions spreadsheet that lays out what content is allowed on what sites, but also its traffic ranking. Chaturbate is a good trans-friendly camming site that is easy to start on.
One thing to look for when joining a site is seeing how long they have been around. A site being new doesn’t mean it will definitely fail, but sites that have been around for a long time have proven themselves to be stable. I’ve seen many sites come and go, and am always wary of startups. (Sophie Ladder)
Final Notes for New Trans Models
While getting started as a trans performer may seem overwhelming at first, the financial possibilities are endless!
Trip Richards Final Tips for New Performers
Don’t even forget that you are sexy and desirable! There’s a massive and largely-untapped audience of people who are interested in looking at trans bodies, and your job is to connect with them. Being a trans performer unfortunately does mean dealing with transphobia and harassment, so focus on the people who are supportive of you and care about you. For every hateful person who leaves a nasty comment (and for every person who acts entitled but refuses to pay you for your time and energy), there’s another person who is happy to support what you are creating.
Sophie Ladders Final Tips for New Performers
Be wary of people who will try and take advantage of you because you are new. Some people will try to get lower prices, special treatment, or cross boundaries because you are new. Be firm and if you’re ever unsure if something a customer is requesting is normal or not, message a more established model to ask. Before working with anyone else (individual or company), go message other models you’ve seen working with them to ask how the experience was. Most people in this industry are wonderful delights, but there are those you want to avoid, and asking other models is the easiest way to find out who those people are.
Connect with Trip Richards and Sophie Ladder
Trip Richards and Sophie Ladder are both iconic transgender performers that serve as great community role models and advocates. You can connect with Trip Richards on Twitter, support him on JustForFans, or purchase his content on ManyVids. You can connect with Sophie Ladder on Twitter or directly on her website (SophieLadder.com)