How My Blog With Body-Safe Sex Toys Reviews Turned Into A $2K/Month Side Hustle
Hello! Who are you, and what business did you start?
I’m Cy, an award-winning sex blogger who’s critiqued over 200 body-safe sex toys. My review blog, Super Smash Cache, focuses on which sex toys are worth it, which ones fall short, and which ones may work for others but not for me (and vice versa).
As my “about me” page says:
When you’ve owned over $10,000 worth of sex toys, it’s only natural to play favorites and have a hierarchy. If a toy melts me into a puddle of heart-eyes-emojis, you’ll know. And you’ll understand why — I’m clear about what makes a toy amazing or good or meh.
My audience is sexually expressive individuals who love toys but side-eye luxury products’ marketing hype. Some of the best sex toys have the most minimalist packaging; some of the worst have the sleekest exterior.
I gave my honest take on THAT nearly-$300 massager that won a robotics design award, and I’ll never rave about a toy that sounds like a dolphin when you clench around it — no matter how many influencers post smiling selfies with it.
What's your backstory, and how did you come up with the idea?
Confidence in my sexuality was something I had to cultivate; I didn’t want others to feel alone like I did. I was resentful of the narrative that men having orgasms was expected, while women experiencing pleasure was extraordinary. “That’s just the way things are,” one of my (male) friends told me.
Women can take charge of their sexual experience in so many ways, like:
- Feeling around to get to know their erogenous zones
- Trying a variety of toys for sensations that their hands alone can’t provide
- Doing pelvic floor exercises and vaginal weightlifting.
- Mindfulness meditation and intentional breathwork
And that’s what I did, building a smorgasbord of ways to experience to pleasure myself. Unfortunately, some sensations I enjoyed were unconventional and polarizing, like cervix massage and cervical orgasms. I wanted to challenge assumptions and expand people’s scope of understanding about sexuality, beyond intercourse that centers cis men’s preferences.
Clitorides and penises are a lot more alike than they are different!
When my sex toy review blog started, I was an undergrad for biology and art, working part-time as a model. Unfortunately, modeling paid me better than many of the starter jobs in my field would have. While I enjoyed lab work, I didn’t see myself proceeding with it for the next 40 years.
Between that and mental illness, I wanted to build a fully-remote business that: 1. allowed me flexible hours, and 2. was meaningful to me.
Tell us about the first rendition of your website.
I started with a free WordPress.com blog and a $14 domain name — a minimal investment for a college student taking 18-credit semesters. In the beginning, my blog was the kind of long-term content that came from the heart but didn’t fit on my personal social media.
If you take on too many projects for too little compensation, you get resentful. If people aren’t saying “no” to your rates at least half of the time, the prices aren’t high enough to filter out the BS.
Some examples of my early blog posts in 2014 and 2015 include:
- Raising awareness of sex toy material safety
- A rant about the semantics of the G-spot
- Refuting the idea that vibrators can be “addicting”
I’m no longer as combative as I was back then; my writing has been refined since then. It was a hobby and a way of building community — nothing more, until 2017.
Describe the process of launching the current version of your website.
After nearly a year-long hiatus and a traumatic experience, I decided to dust off my old platform. Writing would give me a place to log the good things in my life and process the bad, I decided. But I also wanted to take it more seriously.
Nearing the end of my undergrad, I understood the value of investing in education, so I bought a $325 course specifically about sex blogging. Yes, it’s expensive, but it saved me so much time because I wasn’t purely learning by trial and error. I also decided to go the self-hosting route, which set me back about $120.
Self-hosting also allowed me to customize the look and feel of my website the way I wanted. (More on that later.) Buying the WordPress theme that I actually liked was about $280 for a lifetime license.
I didn’t make any new graphics specifically for my blog — instead, I repurposed the paintings I had done for my art classes. Here’s the version of my banner I used in 2017:
Since launch, what has worked to attract and retain customers?
When your work is risqué, you have to get creative with promoting it.
Services like Facebook Ads probably won’t be a feasible option unless you tone down your message. Facebook groups and Twitter blog sharing threads may take down or hide your links to stay family-friendly.
So what can you do as an NSFW blogger?
- Write reviews for shops that cross-promote their writers
- Host giveaways — even something small like a $25 gift card can attract followers
- Collaborate with content creators that already have a platform
- Post graphics that come from the heart and are shareable
How are you doing today, and what does the future look like?
I recently passed 11,000 followers on Instagramand am making about $2,000 a month from this part-time digital business. Considering that we’re in a pandemic, and I don’t spend any money on advertising, that’s not too shabby. :)
My profits come from affiliate commissions (about 60%), sponsored posts(25%), and banner ads (15%). I’m hoping to do more video content in the future, like online workshops and Q&A sessions, and sell some artwork. My audience seems to have enjoyed my lube-positive, “If you can’t make your own WAP, store-bought is fine” design.
It’s starting to sink in that 11,000+ people looking at my work is a huge responsibility. Moving forward, I’d like to make my space more inclusive and lift other marginalized content creators.
Through starting the business, have you learned anything particularly helpful or advantageous?
One thing I had to learn was how to set work boundaries. To optimally create content, you have to give yourself space to take breaks, play, and be bored.
What’s more, saying no to things you’re “meh” about opens up your schedule to opportunities you’re wholeheartedly excited about. As the demand for your work increases, you have to get comfortable with:
- Demanding higher rates for yourself
- People ghosting you during negotiations
- Cutting off people who don’t appreciate your labor
If you take on too many projects for too little compensation, you get resentful; I learned that the hard way. If people aren’t saying “no” to your rates at least half of the time, the prices aren’t high enough to filter out the BS.
Know your worth, set your rates high, and learn to say “no” before you burn out.
What platform/tools do you use for your business?
Every NSFW content creator should at least consider self-hosting.
Usually, I’d tell beginner bloggers to go with the cheapest (or free) option — WordPress.com is fine if you’re starting — but it helps to invest in versatility and self-hosting. A self-owned WordPress.org blog means getting to use a broader range of customizable themes and plugins.
I use Dreampress by Dreamhostfor my hosting and server needs. They’re among the oldest web hosts, their customer support is fantastic, and they offer a wide range of hosting services.
Plus, Dreamhost is adult content-friendly, so unless you’re doing something wildly illegal or hateful, you don’t have to worry about being shut down. Tumblr infamously banned adult content; Facebook’s community guidelines are restricting; OnlyFans is starting to censor, and so on. With a self-hosted blog, though, you’re not at the mercy of the platform.
What have been the most influential books, podcasts, or other resources?
I consider Epiphora my blogger senpai. As of 2020, she’s been blogging for 12 years now. Her brand is brutal honesty — the salty and spicy perspective of someone tired of the BS marketing ploys we repeatedly see in the sex toy industry.
People can feel so much shame, fear of inadequacy, and fear of missing out on sexuality. The last thing we need is another manufacturer promising a tighter vagina or the orgasm to end all orgasms.
She’s snarky in her writing, but she’s a sweetheart as a person and looks out for others. I commend Epiphora for everything she’s done for the community.
Advice for other entrepreneurs who want to get started or are just starting?
Focus on building relationships and community.
If you’re an affiliate marketer, you’ll more than likely experience a wide range of ways shop staff treats you. Some care more about you than others and are willing to go the extra mile for you. Others just want a quick fix.
And that’s okay for a short-term cash injection. However, building rapport and trust with a shop over time mean opportunities for more prominent collaborations, more high-end products to review, more fun gigs, and most importantly, more ways to give back to your readers.
When you work in a field that’s heavily stigmatized, most readers won’t be super vocal about ways that you’ve helped them or changed their lives.
Just remember that, for every person who sends you fan mail or leaves positive comments, ten other people think the same thing but may not want to “out” themselves as very sexual beings.
Are you looking to hire for certain positions right now?
I’m currently taking pitches for paid guest posts on my blog to expand the narrative of what sexuality looks like.
My platform can introduce readers to up-and-coming voices and different perspectives, so I’m especially looking for trans, gender non-conforming, asexual, disabled, mentally ill, polyamorous, sex worker, or otherwise marginalized writers.
I can only write from a cis woman’s stance, but not everything on my blog has to center on my experiences.
Posts should be at least 600 words, but payment will depend on how long each post is, of course.
Where can we go to learn more?
- My sex toy review blog: supersmashcache.com
- I’ve compiled a list of essential readings for new readers — it’s updated a few times a year
- Instagram: @supersmashcache
- Twitter: @supersmashcache
- Spectrum Journal writer channel
If you have any questions or comments, drop a comment below!
Hey! 👋 I'm Pat Walls, the founder of Starter Story.
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