It's time to publish another response to the many, many e-mails I get asking, "How do I become a professional dominatrix?"
Eager petitioners, first understand that to really do your question justice, I'd have to write a whole book. (Which I may do.) This is just the 50-cent answer.
The first step--one a lot of would-be professionals seem inclined to skip--is as follows: Learn about BDSM by doing it without being paid. You can't reasonably expect your potential clients to school you on their dime. But in the real-time fetish community, there are experienced submissives who'd be happy to help break in a new dominant. Other dominants are frequently generous about teaching their skills to those who ask politely. I also suggest doing some scenes as a submissive-- it's an invaluable learning experience.
It will take practice and time--months, maybe years--before you're skilled enough to (ethically) charge money. In the meantime, start collecting your equipment: the small stuff, like floggers, paddles, and restraints, and the dungeon furniture, like a spanking bench, a St. Andrew's cross, and a bondage table. Before opening for business, consult a local attorney about how to stay out of legal trouble. And while you are, of course, reading up on BDSM, also read a book called Turning Pro: A Guide to Sex Work for the Ambitious and the Intrigued by Magdalene Meretrix, which discusses how sex workers advertise, screen clients, and orchestrate their sessions.
This is how I became what I am. But when I give this advice, the response is often, "But that'll take too long. I want to start working tomorrow. Can't I just be your apprentice and have you teach me everything?" I hate to break it to you, ladies, but like many things in BDSM, on-the-job training programs happen more in fantasy than reality. There are large "houses" of pro doms in cities like L.A. and New York, but I'm told that even for experienced mistresses, competition for those berths is ferocious. For a single mistress in a smaller city, the cost/benefit analysis of having a raw assistant always comes out in the red.
I know working slowly toward a goal isn't as sexy as being an overnight sensation. Hey, if you want a career with all the staying power of Britney Spears' marriage, by all means, skip the foundation. But take it from me--a successful mistress builds her business with the same care that she builds her scenes.