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My secret life as a phone sex operator

Tess* was finding it hard to get some extra money to pay the bills, until she discovered her voice could do it all.

Tess Mitchell*, 45, NSW

Watching my son kick the footy around the yard with his mates, I felt a twinge of guilt. He really needs new shoes, I thought, looking at the tattered pair on his feet.

And he could do with some new clothes. And what am I going to do about Christmas?

It was October 2008 and having been widowed for many years, I was trying to raise two kids on a single income. Lately I'd really been feeling the pinch.

I already had a full-time office job Monday to Friday, but it looked as though I'd have to take a weekend job as well.

How can I work from home, but not lose any of my time with the kids?
I pondered.

I could do tele sales, I thought, picturing myself on the phone. But that wasn't really me. I hated pushing things on to people.

Something on the internet maybe? I mused. But I knew that wouldn't work either, because I'm not the best with computers. There must be something I can do.

Then an idea came to me. I could do those late-night calls, I thought, remembering the ads on TV. I'd always been told I had a sexy phone voice and boyfriends had even joked about doing sexy calls. I had never seriously considered it. Until now. Could I honestly do that? I wondered, having a bit of a giggle.

I decided to look into it.

While searching the net, trying to find out how to become an operator, my sister Judy*, 50, rang. 'What are you up to?' she asked.

Mulling it over, I decided to tell her. Hopefully she would think it was funny too. 'I'm trying to find out how to become a phone-sex operator,' I said.

Silence followed. 'Are you serious?' she asked.

'Yes,' I replied, realising I was.

'Well there's a lady who lives near us who does it,' Judy said.

Shocked, I couldn't believe my luck. 'Could you pass on my number to her?' I asked.

'If you want,' Judy sighed.

She was pretending to be prudish, but by her tone I knew she didn't mind. A day or two later a call came through on my mobile while I was at work. Judy's neighbour had passed my number to her boss Kylie and she was keen to test me out.

'We're going to throw you in the deep end,' she said 'Are you ready for a trial call now?'

Gasping, I was immediately nervous. 'Sure,' I said, trying to sound breezy and confident. Scurrying through the office, I found a quiet room.

Before I began the call, I was given a briefing on all the rules.

'By law you're not allowed to initiate any of the naughty talk,' Kylie told me. 'You have to wait for your customer to do it.'

Concentrating, I scribbled down all the words I needed to listen for. And then the call began. 'Hi,' I purred in my most alluring voice. 'What's your name?' Only a few minutes into the conversation I realised I was doing okay. The acting was much easier than I'd thought it would be. And it was actually quite fun feeling so in control.

At the end of the call Kylie came back on the line and told me I'd done well.

'How many shifts can you do a week?' she asked.

'Maybe three,' I said. 'But they have to be late-night shifts, when my kids are in bed.'

'That's fine,' she replied. 'All you'll need to do is log onto our system through your computer. When a call comes in it'll be automatically re-directed to your home phone so none of the callers will have your number.'

'That sounds easy,' I said.

'You'll make an average of $300 in a weekend,' she went on. 'The money varies depending on how long you keep the caller talking.'

Hanging up, I felt a wave of relief. Three hundred dollars a weekend would make a huge difference for me and the kids. This new job was going to be a lifesaver.

Hurrying back to work, I was bursting to share my news.

'Beth*,' I whispered across the desk to my colleague. 'We have to go for lunch.'

Half an hour later, I spilled the beans. 'You're going to do what?' Beth, 55, squealed.

'I'm going to be a phone-sex operator,' I grinned.

'I could never do that,' she said, eyes wide open.

'Of course you could,' I smiled. 'It's just lots of improvisation.'

After registering as a business and buying a few props which Kylie told me were necessities, I was ready for my first shift.

Sitting in my pyjamas in front of the computer, I logged on and nervously scanned the list of characters Kylie had sent me.

When a customer rang, the computer would tell me which woman I had to play.

I could be Monique, 30, a busty blonde; Holly, 18, a shy brunette or Wendy, 45, a naughty red-headed housewife.

My first shift went quickly and I found I had lots of time between calls for jobs around the house. I got the clothes ironed, painted my nails and packed the kids' lunches.

Only a few nights into the job, I ran into my first problem.

Giggling and sighing in character, I suddenly realised my dog had got into the lounge room. Confused by my strange noises he went crazy barking.

Screaming with shock I jumped back into my room laughing. 'Sorry,' I giggled hoping I hadn't ruined the mood.

As the months passed, I collected quite a following of regulars. Many of the men who rang were lonely and just wanted some company.

While I enjoyed the non-sexual phone calls the most, they also broke my heart. Customers would open up to me. It was at these times I felt especially guilty about lying to them. 'I'm not really sexy Brigette and I'm not wearing a nurse's uniform,' I wanted to scream. 'I'm Tess and I'm doing the ironing!'

I knew it was my job to play a character, but it was hard pretending to be someone else when these men were being so honest. After nine months working as a phone-sex operator, I couldn't take it anymore.

What had started out as a confidence kick was making me feel like a fake. I'd started getting so bored during calls that I would find myself focusing more on a game of solitaire than the call.

And, more importantly, I'd saved over $12,000 for my family.

It's time to quit, I decided after buying my son those footy boots and treating myself too.

Today, a month since leaving the business, I don't regret it. While I might have hung up my phone-sex operator job, the stability it gave me has meant I no longer have any hang ups about how to pay the bills!

*Name has been changed.

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