Although there are many potential new insights to be gained through advancing research on the clients of male sex workers, significant social, ethical and methodological challenges to accessing this population exist. This research project case explores our attempts to recruit a population that does not typically form a cohesive or coherent ‘community’ and often avoids self-identifying to mitigate the stigma attached to buying sex. We used an arms-length recruitment campaign that focussed on directing potential participants to our study website, which could in turn lead them to participate in an anonymous telephone interview. Barriers to reaching male sex-work clients, however, demanded the evolution of our recruitment strategy. New technologies are part of the solution to accessing a hard-to-reach population, but they only work if researchers engage responsively. We also show how we conducted an in-depth interview with a client and discuss the value of using secondary data.