Christmas night for many will be spent dozing in front of the TV with one hand in a box of Celebrations and no plans to do anything taxing for the new few days. And after the busiest time of year for the dancers of Diamond Dolls, they will have earned this time off more than most.

Months ago, on a night out in Aberdeen, I met Lisa. Lisa (not her real name) and I were the same age and began chatting and buying each other drinks, swapping stories about what we liked and didn't like about our jobs, our love lives and our career aspirations - the usual 2am repertoire. Thing was, Lisa was working when we met, because she was a dancer at one of Aberdeen's lap dancing clubs.

Interested in her job I asked for Lisa's contact details, as, I explained, I was keen to do a feature about her line of work coming from an angle where instead of postulating about a dancer's assumed traumatic past or exploitative boss I heard directly from her about what it's like to work at a club. Keen to share her thoughts on the matter, she gave me her number. 

Three months later, I called Lisa. She didn't answer, so I texted her with the outline of this feature. But I never heard back. I tried another contact who I knew to either be currently dancing for a club in Edinburgh or who had recently hung up her heels. But she wasn't interested either. Yet I still thought it important to explore a job that superficially seems so incongruous with the nostalgic notions we associate with Christmas, and find out how a dancer might be working this time of year, though I appreciated that some would be unwilling to talk because of preconceptions others held about their work. So I called a friend working as a promoter for some of the biggest clubs and bars in Scotland - one of which was Glasgow lap dancing institution Diamond Dolls.

I called him because I knew that Diamond Dolls is no stranger to publicity. It was the setting for an episode of the Channel 4 series Strippers which aired earlier this year, where dancers Kim and Laefena were profiled at work and an unlikely hero was found in Shelley, the club's mother figure. In the programme it became apparent that the turnover of dancers at the club was relatively fast. I figured this to be the place to find someone willing to talk about the life of a lap dancer working over the Christmas season.

The night I visited, I was told, would be similar to how the club would be in terms of head-count during the run up to Christmas. Scotland had beaten Ireland at football previously that day and accents in the club seemed to be a mixture of those from home and away. As I looked around the club's floors and asked the necessary questions I became furnished with the kind of nuggets of insight interesting to a nosy journalist: each dancer carries a small plastic make-up bag with them which must be transparent and which contains cosmetics, perfume, and anything else she needs but no phone - mobiles are banned from the floor.

Dancers are encouraged to request champagne when asked by guests if they'd like a drink with it being the most costly beverage on the menu... but they take a cut from any bottles bought for them. Anything the dancers make from each dance must be split equally with their employers and it is forbidden for dancers to take phone numbers from clients. To guests of the club it is a night out, but it is also a workplace with clear divisions between business and pleasure. 

Throughout December, as office parties spill out on to Sauchiehall Street, up to 40 dancers per night will work at Diamond Dolls. All on a self-employed basis (meaning they can pick and choose which clubs they dance in), each dancer is free to work as few or as many shifts as she wishes in the run-up to Christmas, but as the three 'Black Fridays' throughout December are by far the busiest in the club's year, chances are high that Diamond Dolls will be populated by dancers looking to make extra cash.

Some of the dancers are from Europe - Spain, France, Germany and Romania - and will finish up to return to their families around the 21st of the month. After the intense workload of the first three weeks in December (including football days - the club is busiest after key matches), Diamond Dolls will shut because what it offers is different to a nightclub or bar, the kind of venues more commonly found open around this time. As January begins, so will the next year of trading, hiring, and dancing at the club.

"In terms of getting in new girls, the interview process is two-fold," Steven MacDonald, the club's owner, explained. The first part to see the actual dancing - the stock dance that each girl will perform when paid by a guest. The second part is role-play, so we test out each dancer to see how her communication skills are and how she engages."

"Never judge a book by its cover," MacDonald said as he showed me around the club - the downstairs level with seats turned towards the poles crammed full of men laughing and chatting to dancers and upstairs where others exchanged money for tokens to secure dances. If MacDonald or indeed anyone else detected elements of the ridiculous about my presence there that I certainly felt as the only other female in the club (Doc Marten boots among plastic platform heels) then he was too polite to say.

"The most important part of the job is that the girls are charming and engaging - if I could bottle those two things and give it to all beautiful girls, I would.

"As it stands, I can't. Of course, if a girl walks in looking stunning she's in pole position for a job, so to speak. But it's about more than just looks. From as far back as Egyptian times the idea of beauty has been admired - beauty has always been there, but you've got to have something more, as well."

In some ways, my experience of the club transcended not only my own expectations of what I would find but also all notions of how men and women interact together generally. When at the bar on the second floor I watched a guest and a dancer walk up the stairs and her hold the door open for him allowing him through, the guest making no attempt at courtesy, chivalry, or whatever you want to call it.

Watching and rolling his eyes, the club's promoter made his way over and took the door from the dancer. "Should be the other way round, pal," he said light-heartedly, addressing the man. "You should be holding the door open for her, not the other way round."

As with any late-night venue, security is a staple of Diamond Dolls and doormen watch proceedings slightly removed from the main event. When a man tripped on the stairs and was too drunk to get back up, his belly falling out of his t-shirt, the tiny, beautiful dancers he was with clucked round him and tried to scoop him up, before security stepped in and escorted him out. Drunk people in clubs are nothing new, and they were dealt with by the club's staff in the appropriate way, but the incident served as a faintly amusing reminder that this is a place where ordinary social rules seem not to apply.

Natasha is 23 and had been dancing at Diamond Dolls for two-and-a-half years. She asked if she could be anonymous in the feature and I agreed, saying we could give her a pseudonym. We ran through a few false names together - Sinead, Lyndsey, Brogan - but we agreed that none were quite right for her. "Let's just go with Natasha," she concluded. "It's fine."

Natasha caught my attention because she was wearing more clothes than the other dancers on the ground floor who were dressed in tiny lingerie: she had on a sheer baby doll outfit and stockings and I was keen, in MacDonald's words, to avoid judging a book by its cover - in other words to avoid perpetuating my own preconceptions on what a lap-dancer 'should' look like.

We talked about our accents, both of which have elements of Skenglish that seemed to sound stronger when talking to each other, and how it felt to live in a different country to the one we were born in. Natasha had stayed in London previously, studying at college before returning to her native Glasgow. Her current day job in telesales didn't afford enough hours around the business management degree she's working towards now, so she picked up work at the club to supplement her income.

"It's quite simple when I'm at work," she said. "If someone is nice to me then I'm nice back. The feeling's got to be mutual and then we chat from there.

"I'm constrained by the idea of a student lifestyle and this job suits my patterns. With Christmas approaching it's been even better with extra money coming in.

"If I didn't like it, I wouldn't work here - I'm studying and I live at home, so there's nothing forcing me to. I can pick my own hours and work as and when I want for anywhere I want.

"I like my job for a variety of different reasons and I'm able to make my own mind up about whether I should be here or not.

"The freedom and flexibility is appealing - I work for myself.

"That, for me, is what it's all about."

Diamond Dolls is located at 39 Mitchell Street, Glasgow.