I've searched high and low for reliable (hell, even believable-looking) statistics on just how many cam girls there really are on the world wide web. Studying the camming industry as a separate demographic from simply, say, “porn” or “adult entertainment,” has led me to some startling conclusions.

First of all, it’s like as professionals we simply don't exist. Whoever the Gods and Goddesses of statistics are, they have not deemed us worthy of quantification. And that’s strange. It’s not as if we're invisible. If you believe the ads you see plastered all over just about every porn site in the world, there is big money to be made by rendezvousing with digital johns in the dirty virtual strip club otherwise known as the internet. You would think there’s at least as many cam models as there are strippers, and that’s a well-researched demographic.

So why wouldn't someone be at least attempting to keep track of this business?

I don't know the answer to this question, but I do know that the complete lack of coherent information about camming means beginners have to climb an appallingly steep learning curve. I see young girls lured in by the promise of big money while working at home consistently disappointed by actual results. Their grumblings and mumblings are pasted far and wide across various forums and review sites. This is because they have no idea how much work it actually takes to be even moderately successful in this business.

Can you make some walking around money? Sure. Can you quit your job at Wal-Mart and support your new baby with your good looks and willingness to bare it all for anonymous strangers from the comfort and safety of your bedroom at your parents house?

You have got to be kidding me.

It’s kind of like the network marketing pitch. Big-Money-Part-Time-Be-Your-Own-Boss-Easy-Money-Blah-Blah-blah. The truth of the matter is that camming is like anything else: you can get out of it what you put into it, but starting out you'll be giving way more than you get.

I have to sheepishly admit here that I bought into the hype. I was one of those girls who believed the ads. I fired up my webcam with absolute fervor and dedication. But then I quickly ran out of my new girl status, and realized that the money wasn't leaping into my lap like those shiny, blinking ads promised me. After my first year, I was making (roughly averaged) 30 dollars an hour. That’s if you ONLY count my time on camera. For what I was doing, this was completely unacceptable. If you count the time I spent working off camera as well, that 30 bucks an hour dropped down to less than I could make as a bartender hustling drinks, instead of my ass.

Ultimately I ended up being too stubborn to fail and with the support of my loved ones I persisted and flattened the various learning curves one by one. Now I actually make what could be considered a modest living at it…5+ years later. Woo-hoo.

So what does it actually take to make a living as a cam model?

The first thing to understand is that pretty, beautiful, gorgeous, hot, sexy, etc. are all qualities that will neither make nor break you. Your looks will rarely play into your success or failure. One caveat: If you have a twin who is willing to play ball, you might stand a slightly better chance than most.

Truthfully in this game you will spend more time working off camera than on. Your skills and effort behind the scenes will determine the ultimate results.

The number one quality you need to have is entrepreneurship. Hustle. If you think that you are going to sign up at a site and magically have people stream into your digital storefront on a consistent basis then you are seriously delusional. It’s work sister, make no mistake about it.

The sneaky truth of the matter is, like with network marketing, you must build your own customer base to make a living . The customer pool is limited and often horribly fatigued at the big cam sites. Jaded consumers with a sense of “I’ve-seen-it-all” entitlement are what you can expect from the indigenous customer base. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is where you should be spending your time. You need to bring in fresh traffic to your own page or your failure will be epic. They will make memes about your gullibility. The big bad interwebs will eat you alive, and the worst part of it all is, you will be naked and vulnerable while they do it…and there will be a record kept of it somewhere for your grandkids to find one day.

So automatically that leaves you in charge of creating, marketing and promoting a personal brand and image that is strong enough to rise above these inherent challenges. Even if it’s just hustling a particular site or forum to carve out a bigger piece of the pie, it’s still marketing, and if you suck at it, you will fail.

Imagine the self-esteem issues that choking in this very public business must bring the hordes of unaware young women who think simply being pretty and having a broadband connection will gain them financial independence. Imagine the indignant and bitter realization after only a couple of months…that sexy and beautiful are…(gasp)…actually easily found cheaply. It takes more. Lot’s more.

First of all, there is the branding I mentioned. If you suck at it, you will fail. Then there is your social media presence: finding, capturing and capitalizing on niche markets before they get over-saturated. Don’t forget content production, media formatting and building and maintaining viable distribution channels. As your success builds this becomes more and more important.

These are each individual disciplines that people spend years in school to learn. You better be an autodidact and become good at all of them, or you will find yourself forever mired in the notoriously low-end amateur category. And how long do you think most girls can pull off “amateur” without it looking like an outright lie?

This means that you better spend some time learning industry standard tools like Lightroom, Photoshop, Premiere, Vegas, etc. etc. You should also hook up with a pro photographer/videographer, or become exceptionally stellar at taking selfies. Don’t want to learn this all yourself? Then you better think about hiring yourself a production team with all the many thousands of dollars that you are not even making yet. While you are spending money, you might as well invest a few grand into some basic production equipment (DSLR, lights, wardrobe, pro makeup, etc.) that you can maybe scrape by with for awhile in the very beginning.

So, as you can see, it’s not as easy as turning on your webcam, painting on a smile and taking off your clothes. Don’t believe the hype. If you meet a successful cam-girl, meaning someone who actually makes a living doing it, then tip your hat and treat her seriously because once you get past the pretty face (conventionally pretty or otherwise), there is a business force to be reckoned with.