The Professionalisation of OnlyFans
Over the past 3 decades, Chris Hunt’s “real career” has been in fashion. In that time, he’s worked both as an agent and as a photographer / film director. Then came OnlyFans. In early 2020, he began working with a model specialising in erotic modelling. She hadn’t yet created an OnlyFans account, but was considering it, having sold pictures and videos on other similar platforms. She asked Hunt to help her set up a profile, and to take professional photos for her subscribers.
Hunt describes how it all went very fast after that. “We were hiring models by the day for our own platform, just normal modelling jobs, photoshoots and video shoots. As we were doing that, we were being asked more and more by the models themselves, “oh can you help me with content, can you shoot something for me just for OnlyFans”, and then we were asked “Can you help us drive traffic to my OnlyFans, can you give me some advice on marketing”. Through all these conversations, we decided that it made sense to actually work with theses girls to try and help them build up their platform”.
A year later, Hunt has expended on this premise, offering his services to a handful of models, as a way to fund his own softcore model agency. His transition to an “OnlyFans marketer” is the symptom of a wider shift: the platform, originally meant for amateur, is increasingly professionalised.
Is OnlyFans about Art or Money ?
Is it a problem if OnlyFans becomes professionalised ? Wasn’t it always about the money ? As is often the case, the answer is a mix of yes and no.
“For some models, it really is just money”, Hunt tells me. “Maybe they saw their friend who was making money on it, or they were reading something about it about people making money. It’s a way for them to pay their bills without doing much different than what they were already doing on Instagram.” For these women, the pursuit of money was always the primary goal. They mind less the fact that users are increasingly desensitised and asking for more and more racy content at a cheaper price. They can use that money to hire more people to help them create more, better content. Hair, make-up, marketing, photoshoots… everything is possible, for the right price.
There are however women who saw a creative outlet in OnlyFans, and who are increasingly struggling to find a place in that space.
“For other girls it’s a creative expression, it’s another way for them to create. There are fashion models who really like fashion, but they also like doing artistic things that may involve nudity. They’re attracted to being able to show another side of themselves in a way that they can actually monetize”.
These women, who are more attracted in the artistic representation of a a woman’s body, never made much money. And today, they’re struggling to make any, finding it harder and harder to vie for publicity.
Having interviewed content creators and marketers alike, I put together some advice for women who’d like to make a little bit of money from their art, but are finding it hard to compete against the cheap hardcore content that appeals to a wider audience.
How to make some money on OnlyFans with no help
How can a content creator make money on OnlyFans with with no professional help nowadays? Of course, great content helps. Having a clean background doesn’t hurt, either. But the key differentiator, just like on every creator-focused platform, is marketing.
Indeed, OnlyFans is a strange app from a usability perspective : it doesn’t have good SEO, and it can be difficult to find specific content creators on the platform directly. When users go to OnlyFans.com, they don’t see who’s online, and don’t get to pick and choose models and celebrities similar to the ones he already follows. A model has to be found somewhere else; passive traffic from other platform thus becomes key.
“Anybody can start an OnlyFans profile, it’s easy to start”, one content creator (who preferred to remain anonymous) told me. “It’s easy to take selfies and make videos, but actually getting users to the platform is really difficult. Especially with the competition : in the last year, the competition on OnlyFans has gotten crazy. There are so many more profiles, and so many more people trying to get customers to come and pay for their content.”
The trick, according to her, is to already be big on Instagram. “If a model has a big following on Instagram, when she starts her OnlyFans, she already has a built-in audience. She can usually convert some of those users from Instagram to paying subscribers on OnlyFans.” She also laments the increasing professionalisation of the platform: “But if a girl doesn’t have that built-in audience already developed on Instagram or TikTok, you really have to start from scratch. That’s why we’ve seen over the past year, a lot of companies and people that specialise in marketing that are approaching these people on OnlyFans to try and help them with their marketing.”
As far as platforms go Instagram is indeed good, along with TikTok. Twitter is also nice because it allows explicit content, unlike many of its competitors. Snapchat, on the other hand, may seem attractive, but simply does not scale.
Reddit is however the one website that comes back again and again as the one that helps drive traffic to one’s page. Not only does it allow explicit content, it also enables users to post and browse specifically moderated subreddits that cater to specific topics or kinks. These subreddits often have large followings of their own, which can easily go well into the millions of subscribers.
That’s at least what Hélène EnMarcheNoire, who has over 140,000 reddit followers and a thriving OnlyFans profile, told me. “It’s my favourite tool for advertising, because I’m sure that content won’t be censored there. Some girls I know used to be on Instagram, but then got banned, which really impacts their livelihood. I try to post at the right time, check what trends are emerging… when it works, I know I’ll have hundreds of people looking at my profile, and thus looking at my OnlyFans to subscribe”.
There are other, more traditional ways to gain subscribers, Hunt adds. But they’re not worth it for someone without a team. “I’ve heard of other things such as SMS and email marketing, this kind of thing. It’s not really something any individual model is going to be able to do, so if I was going to talk to an individual model about her doing her own marketing, the focus is really Instagram and Reddit, with Twitter, TikTok and Snapchat a bit behind”.
At the end of the day, if you’re trying to do your own marketing yourself, you have to look at your opportunity costs. How much time do you have to spend on marketing ? If it’s limited, it’s best to focus on one or two things, and then not worry about the other things. If you really focus on one or two things you can generate a lot of traffic; if you are trying to do too much, it tends to not be as effective.
Of course, driving traffic to one’s page and posting appealing content is only half of the battle : proper marketing needs to continue once subscribers flood a profile. Promotions for new subscribers, for subscribers who let their subscription lapse, rewards for long-term fans, personalised messages to big spenders to make them aware of new content, cultivating relations on other platforms… all the while optimising the ever-important opportunity costs. This is why business is booming for Hunt : given an increasing competition, a lot of companies and people specialising in marketing are being approached by content creators to get marketing help.
OnlyFans pitfalls to avoid
What bother Hélène most of all is content leaks, against which she does not feel protected enough. She says the platform is neither proactive, nor reactive enough in that regard, and very strongly recommends watermarking all content. “I have a lot of content which leaked on other sites that are literally made to host leaked nudes, so there is no point in making demands. I’ve sent a lot of emails about that, but OnlyFans is very slow to reply to such things. It’s hard to see the impact that this has on your revenues, too. It’s what bothers me most. OnlyFans is supposed to take care of that; they have a service to do it in 3 weeks, but I’m often waiting for more than a month.” This is particularly harmful when it comes to SEO : if you type Hélène’s name and OnlyFans on Google, you might find content that has leaked, and might be less inclined to pay to access said content.
Another element worrying content creators is whether OnlyFans is a pandemic fad or not. It’s hard to say if this whole idea of getting very amateur, adult content directly from the models can work long-term. Hunt is not convinced, arguing that the industry is too cyclical for it to last. “We might see three or four years from now that users get bored with the really amateur selfie type of content directly from the girls and look at something that’s more produced and a little more beautiful”. It’s therefore important not to put all your eggs in the OF basket. Trying Twitch, for example, has been very beneficial to some users’ finances.
Finally, and more importantly, there’s the subscribers themselves, which can be… difficult, as Hélène puts it. “A year ago, users were much more respectful in general. Now, because there is so much competition, we see a lot of guys being very demanding of the girls, and driving the prices down. A year ago, a guy would be super excited to get a custom video from a model, and he was willing to pay 400$ for that video. And now a lot of users are saying oh well I only want to pay 30$ because this other girl does it for 30$ so why do you think you deserve to charge more for that. That happens a lot in pretty much every industry when there is a lot of competition. But also it’s changed the attitudes a little bit. The interactions are not as special anymore. We see users come, they’ll follow a girl for a month , then cancel their membership before the month is over. They’ll move on to another girl, checking out a lot of different girl constantly.”
She advises creating a real, long-term relationship with fewer users, rather than pursuing many that may come and go. There’s a few reason for this :
Regular users will not put pressure to do thing the content creator is uncomfortable with (it happens a lot, and it’s a slippery slope), because a relationship of trust has been created, and they’re aware of what the performer is willing or unwilling to do.
The income may be lower over the short term, but will be recurrent. It’s better to make 1,000$ every months for a year rather than 3,000$ for 2 months and then nothing for the rest of the year because users have moved on.
It will help the content creator realise what she’s good at, what her angle is, what users like about her, and use that knowledge to improve her marketing.
At the end of the day it’s not impossible to become a top earner on OnlyFans. Without a dedicated team, making a living on it not only implies working hard, but working smart. I hope the tips provided in this article will help alleviate some of the stress that comes along being a content creator.
Good luck out there.