A business that provides escorts for customers, typically for sexual services, is known as an escort agency. Typically, the agency sets up a rendezvous between one of its escorts and the client at the latter's home (incall) or in his or her hotel room (outcall). Some companies also offer longer-term escorts, who can either stay with the client or accompany them on a vacation or business trip. The customer must negotiate any additional fees or arrangements directly with the escort for any other services that are not provided by the agency involved, such as providing sexual services (regardless of the legality of these services), even though the escort agency is compensated for this booking and dispatch service.
Since prostitution laws frequently forbid accepting payment for sex or communicating with the intention of setting up a contract for sexual services, escort agencies assert that they are sending these individuals to provide a social or conversational service rather than a sexual service. Advertising for escort services frequently carefully toes the line and steers clear of directly promoting prostitution or sexual activities. Police and political authorities are also aware of this issue, which is why they typically prefer to take action against more obvious and troublesome street prostitution in jurisdictions where prostitution is prohibited. This has drawn criticism for being hypocritical, particularly when governments tax and license escort agencies. However, there almost certainly do exist agencies that do go by these laws and do not facilitate prostitution. Some countries have used a two-pronged approach of criminalizing street prostitution but permitting or licensing prostitution in brothels or via escort agencies.
Escort agencies frequently hire people to work as escorts by publishing job postings in magazines or newspapers. To accommodate the differing preferences of clients, escort firms often maintain a list of escorts of various ages and appearances. Some companies might specialize in a particular kind of escort. There are a few male-for-female escort agencies as well as male-for-male, female-for-female, and male-for-female escort agencies. In most cases, agencies only focus on one sex. Some escort organizations offer transgender or transsexual escorts. It is very common for escorts to enter the business through referrals from friends who have been in the business. The effectiveness of ads in weeklies or specialized sites has been questioned by some operators as there are so many that they are diluted. Typically, an escort will interview with an agency.
After being hired by an agency, an escort will either supply photos or pose for a photographer. To encourage business, these images are shared with clients or put on the agency's website. Websites with photo galleries of their escorts are maintained by certain larger escort agencies. Telephone calls from clients to agencies are used to describe the kind of escorts they are looking for. The agency will then make an escort recommendation that might work for that customer. The agency contacts the escort after gathering the client's contact information. Typically, the agency sets up the appointment in order to safeguard the escort's identity and guarantee effective communication with the client. Sometimes, it may be up to the escort to contact the client directly to make arrangements for the location and time of an appointment. Generally, the escort is also expected to call the agency upon arrival at the location and upon leaving, to ensure the safety of the escort.