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On the Care and Feeding of Tickle Models

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o hai

Welcome to the first in a - potential - series of posts on "Stuff you need to know if you want to run a clip studio". People are always spamming Tickling Discussion with "I want to start a studio, where do I start?", and I thought it might be a good idea to collect all of this stuff in one place. I've been running Sole Mates since March of 2013 and while I'm not as famous or successful as the big guys, I certainly have a firm grasp on the stuff you'll need to know.

And of course, the most important thing you need to know (apart from the paperwork, I'll cover that later) is how to wrangle models. Dealing with the talent is the most fundamental aspect of your day to day work running a studio, and let's face it; there's a lot of creepy, awkward motherfuckers out there making my job infinitely more difficult by souring potential prospects on working with people in this extremely tiny niche. Odds are pretty damn good that if you creep one out or otherwise piss them off, you've just negatively impacted every other producer in your area. But I'll get to that in a bit.

Why should I listen to YOU?

As I've said, I've been running Sole Mates Footography (www.sole-mates.us) for nine years as of next month. In that time I've worked with a lot of models, some of whom will only work with me and others who have had such a good experience that they often express an interest in coming back. I'm in the unique position, often, of having to turn them away because I simply don't make enough money to hire them as often as I would like. I've also gotten models who otherwise would not do fetish work, or even tickling work specifically, to do tickle fetish work. I've worked with professionals, personal friends, and even the relatives(!) of personal friends. I've had models work for free just because it seemed like fun. In short, my success rate is far higher than my failure rate, with the kinds of people you'd never expect in a million years to do a tickle video. If you want to run a studio and have no idea how to handle talent, you could certainly do a lot worse in terms of advice for beginners.

Quick side note; due to the general nature of the demographics of this forum and the overall video industry I am going to be assuming a "male producer, female model" dynamic. This is not out of any desire to be non-inclusive and yes I know female producers and gay models exist and bla bla bla. I cannot speak on these particular setups because I am none of these things and let's face it, if you're reading this odds are neither are you. If you have some insight into that side of the industry, feel free to write your own blog.

Before you go

Look, let's get one thing out of the way right at the start. Models are women, and women are people. If you're the kind of person who isn't comfortable dealing with people in general, women, or attractive women specifically, this isn't the business for you. Go out and socialize and learn how to deal with people, because due to the nature of their work models are - unless they're complete dew-eyed newcomers - on heightened alert for any whiff of off-putting behavior from a strange man who approaches them with the intent to put them in front of a camera. You're going to be negotiating a lot of fine details and speaking frankly and honestly about what you need them to do and if you can't even say "the word" without stammering and breaking out into a cold sweat... you're not ready for this.

Furthermore, if the sole/primary reason you're starting a studio is because you feel it's the only way you're ever going to have a hope in hell of tickling a woman... don't. Work on yourself first. There is a huge difference between a personal session with a sex worker and a video shoot with a fetish model, and fetish models do not like to be treated as sex workers. (A small caveat, obviously, goes for the fetish models who are also sex workers - however, if this is the case they will let you know somehow. Do not bring up the subject yourself. The quickest route to Creeptown is to make a model think - justly or un-justly - that your primary reason for being there is getting off.

Section 1 - Scouting the Talent (...or, "Where do you find your models?")

Obviously, before you can hire the talent, you have to know how to find the talent. Unfortunately, this is often the hardest part of the entire process because of a lot of different factors. As much as we'd like to say "It's just tickling!", what we produce is considered sexual content, even if we're shooting the most vanilla of girl-next-door clips. If you're doing the topless-and-baby-oil stuff, you're going to have a much more difficult time.

I have little to no experience with the explicit stuff; I've only ever hired two, maybe three actual sex workers for my clips and it turned out to be a total accident. The first was a friend of a friend who I didn't know was a sex worker when I first met her, and naturally she introduced me to the other, who was her play partner at the time. They were the ones who suggested doing topless clips, and I agreed. If I had to advise, though, I'd say you'd find these kinds of women in the kinds of places you'd expect to find these kinds of women; escort services, strip clubs, or googling online to find local professionals. If you network in the right places (more on that later) you may simply bump into them, as I occasionally do.

That said... where do you find non-fetish models or "girl next door" types? This is a bit harder. Craigslist is not really an option because they've cracked down hard on fetish ads in their Talent Gigs section, but if you don't mind risking/having your account suspended eventually, you may be able to try there. Modeling agencies, especially those dealing in adult talent or porn stars, are another good bet, but be prepared to pay out the wazoo. Modeling websites like One Model Place or Model Mayhem are another option, but be prepared to both pay a monthly fee for access and cross your fingers and hope you pass the screening process. (You probably won't, unless you're already a professional photographer or could pass for one.)

At this point, I'd say my three biggest sources are Instagram, referrals, and my wider social circle, in that order. I meet models on Instagram, they refer me to other models, and once in a while one of my friends finds out what I do and asks to give it a go. Your best bet as a fledgling fetish photographer is definitely Instagram. I would not recommend hitting up your friends, but you know 'em better than I do. If you think you can pull it off without making things weird, go for it.

Another option is actually social media, specifically Facebook or the like. (You might have some luck on Fetlife, but I sure as hell didn't.) Facebook has tons of Groups for photographers and models; I actually met one of my biggest "stars" of 2021 that way. Simply join, wait for a model to post her Instagram, then either approach her directly via IG or bookmark her for later. The reason why you want to do this is twofold; for one, your IG account is probably more representative of what you do than your Facebook profile, and two, you want to safeguard yourself from being "outed" by a vindictive model who decides you're a creep who needs to be "punished" because reasons. Most models are professional and gracious; some aren't. The sad fact is that odds are pretty good the community will side with her over a photographer who may or may not have even done anything wrong. To be fair, though, I have never actually had this happen so as long as you're professional and courteous to everyone you should be fine.

Section 2 - Approaching the Talent

This is the part where a lot of would-be producers slip up. It's both the most difficult part of the process but also the easiest. It's the most difficult, because I can guarantee that the first thought that pops into your head is going to be, "What do I say to this Goddess so that she doesn't scream in terror and run the other way?". It's the easiest, because the answer is really simple.

But first, you need to absolve yourself of a few notions.

First of all... she's not a Goddess. She's not even a Mistress. Like I said up yonder, models are women and women are people. They put on their pants one leg at a time and sit down to shit just like you do. They have weird quirks and laugh at fart jokes and sometimes even put on an attitude to scare away unwanted attention even if they're actively looking for work. So the absolute first thing you need to do is absolve yourself of the notion that she's better than you just because she's hot. You are hiring her. That makes you the boss, figuratively (and literally) speaking. If she takes the job, then if she doesn't do what you need her to do, she doesn't get paid. Don't kiss her ass, fawn all over her, and for God's sake, do not call her by her professional title. I've worked with multiple women who go by either "Goddess" or "Mistress" and I've never called them such. It puts you in a subservient position, which is fine if you want to be a client, but not if you want to be an employer who doesn't get walked all over by the talent. Pun intended.

Second all, in spite of all of that and at the risk of contradicting myself, you are nothing without your talent. I'll expand on this a bit more eventually, but understand that unless you're a hot woman yourself (or a woman at all, given the demographics of this community), none of your customers are tuning in specifically to see you. They're tuning in to see the talent sweat and squirm and piss themselves laughing under your command. If you make it a habit of mistreating models, eventually you won't be able to hire anyone worth shooting with and your business will go under. So while you should have a spine and not let them take advantage of you, you should still do your absolute best to make sure that the experience of working with you is safe, comfortable, mutually beneficial, and most importantly... fun. Models who have fun shooting with you not only come back when asked, but they also ask to come back themselves and, more importantly, they tell their friends that they need to work with you, too.

This is how you network, get talent that you otherwise would not, and build a reputation as a stand-up producer. Being able to point towards models who have worked with you in the past and will tell prospective new talent that you're a good egg and they should totally do it goes a long, long way towards keeping you in the business.

Okay, so what do you actually say to them? Glad you asked. I'm about to give you the magic phrase that has worked 100% of the time I've used it. Are you ready? Here it is.

"Hi. Are you interested in working with me?"

Wait, what? That's it? Yes, that's it. Simply introduce yourself and ask. There's no voodoo about it.

"But Arch", you may cry. "What if she says no?"

Ah, well that's the second thing you need to understand. While it's true that this phrase has worked with every model that it's worked with, it's also true that a lot of models have either said no, or simply not responded at all. And that's okay. Tell yourself that over and over again until it sinks in; nobody is obligated to work with me. It doesn't matter how badly you want this woman on your Clips4Sale page, or whether she's the most gorgeous/ticklish woman you've ever seen with feet that may well be gifted from the Tickle Gods themselves. If she says no, or doesn't respond at all... move on.

I really mean that. If she refuses, simply thank her for her time and don't message her again. Don't beg. Don't be passive-aggressive. Don't insult her. Move. On.

The reason I say this is that odds are pretty good that you'll be refused a lot. I estimate that for every 'yes' I get, I get upwards of twenty to thirty 'no'/'no response'. That's just the nature of the game. But the ones who do say yes are the ones you want anyway. I mean, think about it; do you really think a woman whose arm you have to twist to get in front of your camera is going to produce any sellable footage? My number-one pet peeve with fetish clips is a disengaged model who clearly doesn't want to be there. The ones who say yes of their own volition will be easier to work with, stand a greater chance of actually showing up, and - unless you turn them off entirely - will probably want to come back in the future.

"But Arch!", you cry again. "Women hate being tickled! Women hate my tickle fetish! Why would a ticklish woman agree to do this? They're just in it for the money!"

Reel it back in there, Bobby Joe. First things first; do you intend to charge for your clips? Then I have news for you; you're in it for the money, too. And if you aren't, and are just using this as a way to feed your fetish, then you didn't actually read the section marked Before You Go, because being a producer is not about getting your rocks off. Secondly, are there women on the TMF? There are? Well then, women don't hate your tickle fetish. Not every woman who is open to being tickled is on the TMF, so it's your job to go out and find them. And sometimes even the ones who hate it will still agree to the shoot, have a ball, and want to come back for more. Ariana outright refused me when I first came knocking on the grounds that she was "way too ticklish". She'll be doing her third shoot soon. So, you tell me; does that sound like hate to you?

...and before you point and go "Aha! Caught you!", yes; it is technically possible to turn a no into a yes. You're not ready to try it. After all, you're reading this, aren't you? Go out and get some experience first, then you'll be able to get a better sense as to when to keep the conversation going beyond the no.

OMG! She responded! NOW WHAT?!

Stay tuned, my frens. The initial conversation is crucial, and deserves a post of its very own.

- Arch
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    This is amazing! A greatly needed document, perfectly written.
    Good post. I've been fortunate enough to work with one excellent model in the past when I was producing clips, and some unreliable ones. I'd also say that everything you've written is applicable to one of my hobbies - non-tickling photography.
    Quote Originally Posted by TicklingTips
    Good post. I've been fortunate enough to work with one excellent model in the past when I was producing clips, and some unreliable ones. I'd also say that everything you've written is applicable to one of my hobbies - non-tickling photography.
    Precisely. I've done work for fashion models and bands in a non-fetish context, and a lot of the same principles apply.
    You obviously have your shit together. Well explained and informative read. Not that I have any ambition to become a producer, but you explained a lot that I'm sure many people have wondered about.