What’s It Really Like to Make a Living on OnlyFans?

Four LGBTQ performers give us an intimate look at their work.

If you’re a queer person with a social media account, then you’ve probably noticed a recent uptick in people you follow advertising their “OnlyFans Link In Bio” to signal their move into the rapidly growing DIY porn industry. Others drop the line jokingly as a nod to their desire for money, fame, or some mixture of the two. The current rise of adult subscription sites like OnlyFans and JustForFans can be attributed to a few variables. Of course, the ongoing pandemic has forced more people to consider sex work as a viable means of survival.

There’s also the attention celebrities have brought to these platforms after attempting to launch their own DIY porn empires. Familiar faces like Tyler Posey, Aaron Carter, and Cardi B. have all stripped off for thousands of followers on their OnlyFans accounts. Even People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive, Michael B. Jordan, recently told Jimmy Kimmel he has a plan to launch an OnlyFans account, with all the money he earns going toward opening a school for student barbers.

As many smaller OnlyFans performers have said, rich and famous celebrities cashing in on the taboo around the platform can distract from lesser-known creators and feel tokenizing. For better or worse (we’re looking at you, Bella Thorne), the public scrutiny around celebs using platforms like OnlyFans has brought more mainstream attention to the industry than ever before. But as a growing number of LGBTQ people consider digital sex work as a means to support themselves, we have to have a conversation about how digital sex workers aren’t just sexually explicit attention seekers. Like many Americans, they’re small-business owners working daily to grow and maintain their brands.

To get a better sense of the labor and investment they put into their business models, NewNowNext spoke with four queer performers at different stages of their OnlyFans careers. Find those interviews below.

  1. Courtesy of Charlie Forde

    Charlie is a queer porn performer, pole dancer, and digital sex worker from Australia.

    How did you get started in sex work?

    I just ran out of money! I think that’s 90% of people’s story who go into sex work. It’s born out of a financial need. I actually started escorting, which is a more legal alternative here in Australia — porn is very much a legal gray area. I remember beating myself to death to find companies to work with. One day I just woke up and I thought, Why am I so worried about trying to get other companies to get other companies to help me create what I want to create? So I started making my own content.

    How have you marketed yourself, and has that marketing plan evolved over time?

    I’ve always tried to target both genders because I’m queer. I want women to like me as much as men like me. When you look at the market, there’s two different sides and it’s so hard to walk the line. What men really want [in adult content] is very much physical. Men aren’t worried about how high quality a production is, or even the storyline. But when you look at the female audience for porn — and more and more women are purchasing porn — you see women are much more psychological. For them it’s all about the connection, the emotion, the story. So finding a way to intersect those is really fucking hard!

    Is there ever tension between the kind of content you enjoy making and the content that sells well on your channels?

    I’m a firm believer no one should dictate what you do with your body. Whatever you feel comfortable doing, that’s your thing, and you should have total free rein to choose what you do in the realm of adult work. For some people, they don’t want to show their body or face, so they just offer voice calls or private videos. There’s ways to make everyone comfortable. I genuinely love my job, so when you love it, you don’t mind going to work!

    Can you tell me a little more about what you invest monthly, in terms of time and money?

    I think I’m putting in more money than most people in Australia at the moment. I shoot weekly with a professional videographer. I have a social media team that helps me with my accounts. I try to use lingerie out of my wardrobe, but you run out of shit eventually so you have to buy stuff! [Laughs] By the time I include everything, it’s probably $3,500 to $4,000 a month. That’s just the monetary cost, that’s not even the hours that go into the hour maintaining these sites or drumming up interest. There’s so much work that goes into it.

    What advice do you give to people who are hoping to start their own subscription site?

    It does have to be treated like a full-time job. Treat it like a business. You can’t just post an occasional selfie and expect it to be okay. I see a lot of people say that the market is so oversaturated right now. But you can run off a saturated market, you just have to be savvy about it.

  2. Florian Hetz/Courtesy of Biscuit

    Biscuit is a DJ, nightlife producer, and queer sex worker from New York.

    How did you get started in sex work?

    I discovered it when I was hanging out with some friends and they were talking about it so I made one. At first I was really hesitant and lazy with it. I just let it sit there for a while. After about six months, I started to see it more on Instagram and Twitter — people saying “look at this guy’s OnlyFans, look at that guy’s OnlyFans.” So then I started taking it more seriously when it was a real thing.

    How have you marketed yourself, and has that marketing plan evolved over time?

    I would put out posts once a week or so. I would always put out more content on Twitter because they’re more friendly with X-rated content. If you’re just starting out and you don’t have a big social media following, cross-promotion is a good thing. … [Now], I ask my followers what they want to see. That’s why there’s only like five pictures of my ass on my OnlyFans. [Laughs]

    There’s a long history of Black sex workers being tokenized for their race. Do you feel like that’s still an issue with OnlyFans creators producing their own content?

    It’s easier to negotiate boundaries online than it is with in-person sex work. I’ve had people DM me saying they want to treat me like a slave. And that was like, “Umm. No.” I just didn’t respond. But a lot of porn websites do play into the thug, interracial, BBC categories. For me, it makes me feel awkward. I just don’t do it, but a lot of performers feel like they have to for marketing.

    What advice do you give to people who are hoping to start their own subscription site?

    They should be careful and communicate clearly. Think about your niche: Are you a bottom or a top? Are you wearing leather or latex? Try to play into that, because you can get into that single market and capitalize on that.

  3. Courtesy of Xavier Blanco

    Xavier is a sex worker, go-go boy, and former makeup/beauty executive from New York.

    How did you get started in sex work?

    I was going through a divorce and I hated my job. I was unhappy. I was like, “What do I wanna do?” I always wanted to do porn. I wanted to be Pam Anderson and Jenna Jameson. But I wasn’t getting callbacks from the big production companies. I wanted to make money and enjoy it, so that’s how I stepped into the world of OnlyFans.

    How have you marketed yourself, and has that marketing plan evolved over time?

    The people logging onto OnlyFans aren’t looking for a Sephora sale. They’re looking to log on and get off. I wanted my page to be like Sam Morris — I love his aesthetic. I started doing more shoutouts for shoutouts. I started doing more research there. Seeing what worked and what didn’t. … I also interact a lot with my subscribers. A lot of them followed me from Instagram, so they’ve seen my divorce and my body transformation. I give them a piece of myself, and I think that’s really dictated my true following.

    Can you tell me a little more about what you invest monthly, in terms of time and money?

    It’s funny because to be an entrepreneur, you have to take risks. You have to invest money into your business to make more money. I’m at an interesting point in my life right now with OnlyFans and my life. Whether it be renting a hotel room, or doing a differently monthly scene, or taking a trip to LA or Chicago. In terms of time, typically when I wake up in the morning I check all my DMs. That takes about two hours, just checking everything. I’d say I spend about 25 hours a week total — making content, figuring out angles for shooting, doing research.

    What advice do you give to people who are hoping to start their own subscription site?

    If someone’s going into OnlyFans, the first thing I ask them is, “Are you just going into this for the money?” And if they say yes, I tell them don’t do it. It’s going to change your life, and sometimes it’s not for the better. Is sex work become normalized more? Yeah, but we’re still a decade away from people taking you fully seriously. I’d tell people it’s a lot of work, it’s a lot of research, it’s a lot of ego-stroking, because a lot of collaborators aren’t always easy to work [with]. On top of that, your mom might be disappointed in you, and that’s a whole other aspect. When I first started, my friend told me get a therapist first. Because doing sex work, a lot of emotional things hit you.

  4. Haus of Black Photography/Courtesy of Nicky Monet

    Nicky is a drag artist, trans activist, burlesque performer, and sex worker from Los Angeles.

    How did you get started in sex work?

    I model for a company called Daddy Couture, they do queer apparel like shirts and jockstraps. One of the owners, Rebecca More, really took me under her wing. She really taught me the tricks of the trade when it comes to subscription sites. It took me a while to figure out how to use the website itself, because in my opinion, it’s not always user-friendly. When I started I thought it would be like my drag persona, who is very sex-positive and in-your-face. But this was a horse of a different color. It’s like a competitive race, being on subscription sites. It’s nothing like the performing I’m used to.

    How have you marketed yourself, and has that marketing plan evolved over time?

    In terms of what I’m producing, [my] audience definitely dictates what they like and don’t like. I think I’m still finding the niche, ya know? Who likes what. I think my demographic either wants pure Nicky — just me in my bed in the morning — or the showgirl Nicky doing full striptease. I think it’s important to always evolve. I collab with men and women, trans and cis.

    What’s been your experience on OnlyFans as a trans woman?

    I think it’s important that I own my trans identity in my work. I don’t try to hide it, it’s one of the reasons my followers like what I do. When I’m online I get to do whatever I want. I’m the boss. If you want to know what I’m most comfortable with — it’s that dominatrix energy. I love being a mistress. Back in the day, all the trans women in my community, especially the Black trans women, had to do escorting to survive. We had to do things blackmarket because there was no safe option. But with OnlyFans, I don’t have to be worried about a trick if a cop is gonna pull up behind me, or [if] the guy is gonna snap and stab me, which has happened to a lot of my girlfriends. OnlyFans lets me be in control now. I don’t have to live in fear.

    Can you tell me a little more about what you invest monthly, in terms of time and money?

    Here’s the deal: In order to be successful on subscription sites, it really is important that you’re posting regularly. Every day, if possible. You want your subscribers coming back. It’s important you invest the time into building up the brand. In terms of money? I don’t think you have to invest much, honestly. I’m sure there’s resources in your house… use what you have! When it comes to tech, I do suggest getting a good camera. I did upgrade my phone for that reason, the quality of the content is important.

    What advice do you give to people who are hoping to start their own subscription site?

    Especially at first, make sure you’re engaging with people. A subscriber can see naked people fucking anywhere on the internet for free, but there’s only one you! Remember, you’re not just selling sex; you’re selling yourself, your brand. Make it special. Because you’re special.

Topher Cusumano is a full-time writer and part-time teen witch from Brooklyn. His work has been seen in SplitSider, Point in Case, Hornet Stories, and Marriott Traveler, and more.
@tophcus