Would You Snuggle with Strangers for $40/Hour? That’s What This Woman Does
There are plenty of cool titles worth bragging about in this world, but I found one that can’t be rivaled.
Meet Samantha Varnerin -- the “Top Snuggler of Massachusetts.”
Varnerin, 26, has been a professional snuggler for almost a year. She’s made a substantial name for herself and some good side income -- sometimes over $1,000 a month.
What Exactly Does a Professional Cuddler Do?
Hold onto your hats. In fact, hold onto all of your clothes because this is not one of those jobs -- all clothes stay on.
Varnerin compares her side gig to massage therapy. Rather than working out the kinks in clients’ backs, she’s helping to improve clients’ moods through snuggling. (Think: oxytocin)
In fact, she once had a client ask her why he was so relaxed while cuddling with her versus his girlfriend.
Varnerin has an answer: “My theory is, you know, when you're with a girlfriend you're thinking, ‘Oh, does my breath smell? Does she think I'm weird if I hold her a different way? Are we going to do anything other than cuddle? Am I supposed to kiss her?’”
With a professional snuggler, clients can turn their mind off.
“It's just cuddling, and that's the extent of it,” she says.
How Does a Professional Cuddler Find Clients?
Varnerin works through an agency, which she’d rather not name. She has an online profile explaining who she is and her interests -- a bit like a dating profile. She also adds more details, like her love for anime and dance.
Varnerin then sends potential clients a short questionnaire to determine if the client is the right fit.
“Sometimes I get somebody who’s like, ‘I want a massage and to cuddle,’” Varnerin says. “I’m not a massage therapist. I don’t want to be responsible in case I break your back.”
Once she finds a fair fit, the two set up a meeting place and time.
Clients range in gender and age. Varnerin doesn’t discriminate. She says the best, most all-encompassing way to describe her typical client is lonely.
After each session, she sees clients’ moods improve. And her clients aren’t the only ones who feel the effects -- Varnerin says she also feels happier and more whole after a session.
How to Stay Safe as a Professional Cuddler
A session can take place in a client’s apartment, home or hotel room. Varnerin even has some clients come to her apartment.
This, she says, forces her to take care of herself and keep her room clean -- a major job perk, in her opinion.
But before you gasp (I did), the snuggling agency she’s with has a strict safety policy.
Each time Varnerin goes into a session, she texts her supervisor where she is and how long the session will last. If the supervisor doesn’t hear from Varnerin when the session ends, he contacts the local police.
She’s sure to disclose this policy with her clients before a session begins.
“I am a young woman, so when I first started I was like, ‘How do I do this and not run into weird people that might try harming me?’” Varnerin says. “I found out quickly after doing the screening and everything that it's really not that much of a problem, but if it is I have that security there.”
Disclaimer disclosed, the session begins.
An Inside Look at a Professional Cuddling Session
Varnerin usually starts each session with a brief chat -- just to get to know her client.
“Other people will come, and they just say, ‘I just had a long day; can I just lay down, and we can cuddle?’ And that's fine with me, too,” Varnerin says.
When I imagine snuggling, I picture that classic spooning position. But, nope -- there’s a whole world of positions out there…
During training, Varnerin received “The Cuddle Sutra,” a book with 50 illustrated cuddling positions. So sometimes she gets creative.
One of her favorite ways to cuddle is to rest her back against a wall or headboard with the client’s head resting in her lap. Varnerin then runs her fingers through the client’s hair.
Some people talk during sessions. Varnerin says one of her clients, who was only a little younger than her dad, had been through a situation similar to one her family had experienced. The conversation was eye-opening for Varnerin, and she called her dad after to talk.
(Speaking of which, Varnerin told her parents about her side gig right before I wrote this article. They had a slew of questions, but ultimately they seemed OK with her decision, Varnerin reports.)
Talking isn’t required during the sessions, though, and Varnerin realizes she can’t solve everyone’s problems.
“People are going to have problems that are not necessarily solvable through cuddling, but you're not expected to solve them,” she says. “You're supposed to simply be there for them -- like a friend.”
Some people take a different route and fall asleep during sessions. Before settling into a session, Varnerin sets an alarm (not the foghorn one) on her phone to notify clients when their time is over. This usually avoids any awkward poking and prodding.
At the end of a session, Varnerin will ask how a client is feeling. She lets them know whether they can extend the time or if she has another client coming soon.
“Usually, they’re out of the door in five minutes,” she says.
How Much Money Does a Professional Cuddler Make?
Clients pay $80 an hour and Varnerin takes home $40 of that.
However, sessions typically run about one-and-a-half hours. She also works on tips, which aren’t required, but usually range from $20 to $60.
Sometimes she has overnight sessions, but the hourly rate is lower due to the time extension.
And this isn’t Varnerin’s full-time job.
She works as a construction project engineer, but lately makes room to work about three to five hours a week as a snuggler. Sometimes she’ll work up to 10 hours a week.
“It was interesting watching my clientele grow to the point where it's like, ‘Oh, I can pay rent effortlessly with snuggling money,’” she says.
She uses her rent as a benchmark, but she says she might use her extra money toward travel or tackling her student debt.
One month she made over $1,000 -- just snuggling.
In the next few months, Varnerin plans to branch out and start her own professional snuggling agency, Snuggle With Sam. Details are in the works.
How to Begin Your Professional Cuddling Side Job
Varnerin doesn’t recommend you do what she did.
She heard about the unusual job on a blog and followed up with a Google search. However, Varnerin encourages anyone who’s interested in this industry to do plenty of research before contacting an agency.
And to please use an agency. Remember those safety protocols? They’re in place for a reason.
Your Turn: Would you become a professional snuggler to earn a side income?
Carson Kohler (@CarsonKohler) is a junior writer at The Penny Hoarder. After recently completing graduate school, she focuses on saving money — and surviving the move back in with her parents.