The Dildo Business Is Harder Than You Think

I collect weird information the way magpies collect shiny things, and for much the same reason. Do you want to know how to get promoted in the Royal Navy circa 1812? Are you dying to find out why giant insects are impossible? Do you desperately need a traditional method of vampire disposal? I’m your guy. It doesn’t make me smart, and it’s rarely useful, but it’s lots of fun. So when I saw that someone had written about their experiences making dildos, I was fascinated.

It turns out that making dildos is actually pretty easy. First you make a model out of clay, and then you use silicone to make a mold from the model. Then you use more silicone to make a dildo from the mold. It all seems very cut and dry, but there are plenty of little tidbits that make it interesting. For instance, you have to make sure that your dildos always have a very wide base, to make sure that they’ll never get stuck in, well, places. Places that you don’t want a dildo to be stuck.

But if I’m honest, what really got me interested was something the author mentioned in passing — while he only made dildos as a side-gig, he could have cleared $200 000 a year if he did it full-time. Does that seem ridiculous? I ran the numbers myself, and it turns out 200K is entirely plausible. As you may know, my job doesn’t exactly pay well. 200K every year is a fortune to me. Hell, even 75K would be almost unimaginable wealth. Making that kind of money from the sex toy business seemed pretty appealing to me, so I decided to give it a try. I’ve never had any skill at ANY kind of visual art, but the money was just too good.

Mistake #1 : I got into the business for the wrong reason

Mistake #2 : I didn’t know my own limitations

When I started doing my research, one warning was clear : you can’t make dildos on the cheap. Even making hobbyist-grade dildos will require an investment of several hundred dollars, and making high-quality dildos requires special equipment that costs hundreds of dollars more. I did the math, and I could just barely afford to make a prototype and a single batch of dildos - assuming I cut every corner and made no mistakes.

Mistake #3 : If your plan can only succeed if NOTHING goes wrong, get a new plan

I went ahead and bought some modelling clay, and got busy making dicks. While anatomically correct dildos are always popular, fantasy dildos are a huge market these days. For an aspiring dildo-maker, that’s a license to let your imagination run wild. I made an exceptionally veiny human dildo, a gigantic monster dildo that I named “Goliath”, and even a dildo that was inspired by Worf from Star Trek.

For someone with no real interest in dildos, or even penises, this was a surprisingly positive experience. It was fun, it was creative, and it actually taught me something. I wasn’t bad at it, which was a shock, but none of my first attempts were particularly good. I’m normally allergic to re-doing my work. Hell, I’m barely going to do any editing on the article you’re reading right now. But every time I looked at one of my ‘finished’ models, I’d think to myself “I can do better,” so I went back and improved on them. I fixed mistakes, I added features, I smoothed out wrinkles (both figuratively and literally). By the end, I had several model dildos that I was pretty darn proud of.

The next step was a scary one. Making a prototype was a big deal. Up until this point, I had only spent $40 or so on clay. The silicone, pigments, and assorted paraphernalia needed for the prototype set me back almost $150. For me, that’s a pretty decent amount of money. I’ve got serious anxiety issues, and making that kind of financial commitment is stressful. I forged ahead, and things started to go wrong immediately.

Mistake #4 : You can’t skip steps just because you don’t understand them

When making a prototype, one of the earliest steps involves building it on a base shaped like half a cylinder. I didn’t see why this was important, and I couldn’t afford to buy seemingly-unimportant equipment (the writer suggested using a kind of plumbing pipe). It turns out that the base is crucial— it provides a regular shape that you can surround with plastic sheets. You then make the mold by pouring silicone into the container that you just created.

If you don’t have a base like that, you have to improvise. I cut off the top part of a Coke bottle, put my model inside, and then filled it with silicone. That worked — sort of. See, clay floats in silicone. Instead of walking away while the silicone dried, I had to spend hours holding my model under the surface with a toothpick, praying that everything would work out. That rattled me, but when everything dried it seemed like my mistake wasn’t going to matter. I kept going.

Mistake #5 : Don’t get rattled. Making one mistake can lead to more mistakes

I now had a model and a mold. It was time to make my first dildo. I mixed the silicone, coloured it, and poured it into the mold. If you’ve ever worked with silicone, you’re already cringing, because I just made a very serious mistake : silicone bonds really with silicone. If your mold is made of silicone, you have to coat it with a release agent before you add in the silicone that’s going to become your final product. Otherwise, your mold will become a solid chunk of silicone. In my agitation and haste, I forgot that vital step. When I woke up the next morning, I expected that I would be able to pull my first dildo right out of the mold. Instead I discovered that my mold and my prototype were utterly ruined.

I was faced with a stark choice. I could either give up or take a leap of faith & start my first batch of dildos. Making another prototype wasn’t an option — buying silicone in small quantities is prohibitively expensive, and unmixed silicone goes bad too quickly for me to buy a large quantity, make a prototype, possibly have to make another prototype, and then go into production.

I’m a naturally timid person. I don’t handle stress or risk well. Every instinct was screaming at me to cut my losses. But I’ve been timid for too damn long — I decided that it was time to take a chance. I placed an order for several buckets of silicone and got to work.

Mistake #6 : There’s a difference between being bold & being foolish

Without a prototype, I couldn’t know if my model would actually work as a dildo or not. Moving forward without a prototype was risky, but there were ways to mitigate that risk. I could have carefully studied my model and considered it light of the design constraints that I knew about. I could even have taken pictures of it and consulted with experts. Instead, I just started making dildos. I wanted to take a risk, but I went too far and ended up acting recklessly.

I ran into problems right away. The most basic one is very simple — silicone starts out as a liquid, and you can’t make it float uphill. Hold out your hand as if you‘re about to give a high-five. It would be really easy to make a silicone toy out of that. Now crook your fingers like you’re making a “come hither” gesture or the letter “C”. For a hobbyist, making a silicone toy like that is just this side of impossible — anything that sticks out from the main body of the toy (in this example, your fingers) can’t project back towards the base (your wrist).

My budget was limited, and therefore so was my supply of silicone. I chose to make 2 different toys — my veiny human model and my Worf-inspired model. Unfortunately, my human model had several points that projected towards the base just a little too much. Instead of rounded lumps, I ended up with little depressions. If I hadn’t ruined my prototype, I would have caught that mistake early enough to fix it.

Mistake #7 : Past mistakes can come back to haunt you

My Worf toy had a different problem. Remember how I skipped that vital “use a proper base” step? It turns out that there’s another good reason to have a proper base — it helps ensure that your model is as vertical as possible. The more your model curves, the more more complicated your mold is going to be. My Worf model was very curvy. Not only did I end up with a gigantic mold, it was almost impossible to get the toys out of it — I ended up having to use a crowbar, even though I had applied plenty of release agent. Of course, this ended up ripping small chunks out of the mold. If my model had been straight up-and-down, I might actually have ended up with some functional Worf toys.

After all was said and done, I had just under 20 dildos. Most were functional, but none were good enough to sell. They weren’t even particularly suited for decoration — mixing colours is fun, but creating attractive patterns is hard. In theory you can use all sorts of techniques like fading and marbling, but in practice it’s very difficult to stop different colours of silicone from blending into each other. My dildos are kind of neat to look at, but they aren’t art.

So that’s where I am. I spent more than I could reasonably afford, partially developed skills that I’ll never need, had a little fun, and gained a Rubbermaid bin full of sex toys that I keep between my computer and my liquor cabinet. Making dildos is fun, and it can even be profitable. But it’s also expensive — starting again, and doing it properly, would probably set me back a couple thousand dollars. If I had that kind of money, I wouldn’t use it to make dildos — I’d be filling out the paperwork to go back to grad school & finish my MA.

Dildonomics 101

If you want to make a single dildo, whether for yourself or for someone else, don’t. It will cost you at least $150, and that’s assuming you do everything perfectly. If, however, you’re interested in making dildos as a hobby or a side-hustle, or you’re just curious about the financial aspect of dildos, here are my numbers. All of this is based on the assumption that you’re working in small or medium batches. Your mileage may vary.

Each dildo requires between $12 and $30 worth of silicone. The cost to actually manufacture each dildo will be $1-$10 higher. That includes pigment, gloves, plastic wrap, assorted other expenses, and the amortized cost of your model, mold, prototype, and equipment.

A hand-made, artisanal dildo can be sold for anywhere between $25 and $90, depending on its size, complexity, quality, and the reputation of the creator. Realistically, the average profit margin is likely around $25/dildo.

If you’re very skilled and very fast, you can make up to 10 dildos every hour. More reasonably, you can probably make 3–5 every hour, with more complex dildos taking more time. This assumes that you have enough molds — silicone takes several hours to harden, so you won’t be using a mold more than 3 times per day.

If you spend two hours a day making dildos, you’ll probably end up producing 8 dildos. With a profit of $25/dildo, you’ve made $200 in 2 hours. Don’t get excited just yet, though — unless you have a lot of molds lying around, you can’t just make 8 dildos in a single two hour stretch. Instead, you might have to divide that up into two or three blocks spread throughout the day. And if you’re doing this to make money, you’re going to be spending a lot of time maintaining your website, dealing with customers, and shipping products. You also have basic logistical tasks to consider, like preparing your work-space and cleaning up your mess — this is a very messy hobby. My back-of-the-envelope calculations suggest that for every hour actually spent making dildos, you’ll spend about another hour doing everything else. Your $100/hour profit just became $50/hour. That still ain’t bad, especially for something that’s relatively enjoyable.

Of course, making 8 dildos a day will only turn a profit if you can line up 8 customers every day. Doing market research in this area is a challenge, especially if you’re broke like me. The fellow who got me into dildo-making said that his first few months in the field were slow, and then business exploded. He had far more customers than he could handle, and had to be extremely picky about which jobs he would actually take on. Anecdotally, I understand that a number of other dildo-smiths are also pretty busy, so much so that you have to pre-order their products months in advance.

It seems like demand seriously outpaces supply in this sector, but you have to keep in mind that the dildo-makers I’m talking about are at the top of their craft — when you buy from them, you’re getting a work of art. If you go into this business expecting 8 customers a day right away, or even in your first year, you might well be disappointed. Given the short shelf-life of unmixed silicone, you need to sell 5–10 dildos every week to avoid waste. If you can hit that target in your first six months, you’re doing well…and making a tidy profit.

There are other challenges. Offering a wide variety of dildos requires a wide variety of models and molds, and that costs money. Offering both soft and hard dildos, or dildos with a hard core and soft casing, means that you have to buy several types of silicone up front and hope that there’s demand for it. Making commercial-grade dildos means that you have to invest in a vacuum chamber and pump, which will set you back several hundred dollars. If you don’t want to spend that kind of money, you’ll only be able to produce a very limited range of dildos, which may well slow your growth.

Can you make money in the dildo game? Absolutely. But you have to have a lot of money to get started. As I learned so painfully, you can’t start a dildo business on the cheap. You also have to be patient and methodical. It doesn’t hurt to have some artistic talent, either.

Author’s Note #1 : Medium’s rules probably allow me to post photos of my dildos. I haven’t done that because I don’t want to take any chances with my Medium account. Some of things I have written are far too important to risk having them deleted.

Author’s Note #2 : The guy who inspired me to get into the dildo game stopped making dildos for money because there was too much drama associated with it. He didn’t want his writing on the subject to be shared widely for precisely that reason, so I haven’t provided a link to it.

If you enjoyed this story, you might also be interested in my other work -

Serious Stuff : The Legion Lost — 4 Years As Hostages Of The Taliban, The Plight of the Millennial, my thoughts on the White Poppy Campaign, a quick biographical sketch of a Canadian hero, thoughts on masculinity in the modern era, Black Dogs & Blue Devils : 7 Years of Depression, America, Sit Down. We Need To Talk, Happiness Is A Warm Gun, Home & Native Land, Trigger Warnings, The Sad, Strange Story of the Taliban’s Canadian Hostage

Fiction : Birthday Present — A Fairy Tale

Pop Culture : Preachin’ ‘Bout Preacher, On the Moral Status of Vampires, My Harry Potter apologia, an essay about Heinlein’s influence on Harry Potter, my reviews of Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Supergirl, The Magicians, and Star Wars : The Force Awakens, another essay about The Magicians, my essay about Star Trek, and my thoughts after reading every Discworld book …plus a third essay about The Magicians

Buying Stuff : My guide to purchasing knives, & my article about ethical clothing

Advice : Some general advice about life, & my opinion about New Year’s Resolutions

If you have a family member with autism, you might find these shirts that I made useful. They’re safety-oriented, and they’re also kind of over-priced, but take a look anyway.