OnlyFans is a popular platform that permits fans to pay to see content from their favourite performers. Anyone can use the site, from models to personal trainers to chefs But it's most widely used for adult and explicit content.
The OnlyFans site was a Covid phenomenon, as many faced income cuts and had to find other sources of cash. The site grew from 7.5 million users in November 2020 to 85 million in March 2021. It boasts nearly 2 million creators worldwide, who are receiving over $2bn annually in commission and subscription fees.
Many OnlyFans creators, mostly women, claim it's a tool of empowerment and the final step in destigmatising sex work. While we hear about success stories, the reality is that many struggle to make any real money on the platform and live in fear of being ‘found out’.
OnlyFans is growing in popularity
Out of financial desperation, many young people are shifting their content creation from Instagram or Twitter to OnlyFans. It’s seen by many as an alternative way to make extra cash in times when it’s harder to find other jobs or sources of income.
Research about the impact of Covid on students’ finances, and how this is linked to mental health, found that 4% of the 1,000 students surveyed have started an OnlyFans account due to their financial situation being affected by the pandemic, with many more considering it.
The risks of using OnlyFans
It’s not a get-rich-quick scheme
OnlyFans is not a get-rich-quick scheme. Yes, it’s true that Bella Thorne made over $1 million in her first 24 hours on the platform. But that’s because the top 1% of accounts make 33% of all the money earned on the platform. Thorne, for context, has 25 million Instagram and nearly 7 million Twitter followers, so she already had a huge, ready-made audience.
The average earnings per creator are in fact $180 per month, with the top 10% of OnlyFans accounts taking home 73% of the money.
To have a chance of making moneys, a lot of work has to be done to build an audience. Creators report that even when they put in a lot of work, this doesn’t always translate to adequate financial compensation. Plus, there is pressure to keep producing to keep “fans” loyal and engaged.
Digital evidence, long-term risks
OnlyFans can seem less dangerous than other options. In fact, one student commented:
While OnlyFans is certainly more secure than in-person sex work, there are nonetheless risks of digital sex work in our digital age. Many who are posting photos and videos of an explicit nature may encounter difficulty in securing a professional job in the future: these photos and videos will be on the Internet forever.
Some OnlyFans creators have been a target of “doxxing”:
In more extreme examples, some OnlyFans creators have also been stalked and received death and rape threats on social media.
When using OnlyFans, you're an independent contractor.
What does that mean? That if or when things go wrong, you are on your own. There is no legal body or regulation to help or protect you.
This may change as the Government puts forward ambitious plans for a new system of accountability and oversight for tech companies. But for now, it’s unregulated.
Do your research and understand the risks before you decide to use OnlyFans. See if there are other ways you can make money that are safer and more reliable.
If you’re at uni and are having financial difficulties, please make sure to contact your university’s student support services.