Over the past few weeks, controversy has been swirling around OnlyFans, a subscription-only content platform that allows sex workers to have more control over and earn money from explicit photos, videos, and live services.
After the former Disney star Bella Thorne and the social-media influencer Caroline Calloway joined the platform and quickly racked up millions of dollars, many in the sex-work industry decried their presence on the site as a form of digital gentrification. Critics said the celebrities’ foray onto OnlyFans was drawing attention and money away from sex workers.
The criticism reflects a key reality: Finding success as a sex worker on OnlyFans takes a tremendous amount of ingenuity and entrepreneurial thrift.
Adult creators work full time to create and market content valuable enough to generate subscriptions, and they often employ an array of different skill sets to do so. Beyond making material unique enough to beat out a world of free porn, creators also have to juggle social media, marketing, finances, networking, video editing, copywriting, and a host of other entrepreneurial challenges.
Aella, a sex worker and OnlyFans creator in San Francisco, is an example of the diversity in background, brand, and content that OnlyFans creators embody.
The OnlyFans creator was raised in rural Idaho by professional evangelical fundamentalist Christians. After she lost her faith and moved away, she held a variety of jobs before turning to porn and sex work.
Following a surge since the start the pandemic, Aella now has more than 3,200 subscribers, a user base that positions her to make in the range of $100,000 a month, according to numbers reviewed by Business Insider. Her impressive numbers place her among the top 0.04% of creators in terms of monthly revenue generated.
While that “sounds high,” she told Business Insider, “it’s an insecure income right now, and I don’t know how long it’ll last.” She also puts aside 50% of it for taxes, including self-employment tax, she said.
She has two accounts on OnlyFans, a free version and a premium one, and she posts regularly on Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, Snapchat, and Twitch. She also runs a Telegram account on which she shares business strategy and software hacks with other female sex workers.
In addition to her work on OnlyFans, Aella is a prominent writer, and she blogs routinely about her sex life, men, and philosophy. She has also written about her heavy use of LSD, the semiotics of gender pronouns, and going braless in Saudi Arabia.
She also plays accordion; is the cocreator of Askhole, a more explicit rendition of Cards Against Humanity; and dabbles in Burner philosophy, a Burning Man worldview. She said she hoped to turn her house into a meditation center once the pandemic subsides.
Aella joined OnlyFans in 2017, but she has been creating content full time only since April, when enough users joined the platform to make it financially viable for her.
“I signed up three years ago, but it wasn’t very profitable at the time. Nobody really used it, so I dropped off,” Aella said. “I was escorting before this, and OnlyFans very quickly started making me more money than escorting did.”
Aella spoke with Business Insider about what a normal day looks like for an OnlyFans content creator in the platform’s top 0.04%.
The first thing I do every morning is wake up, sit in bed, and check my OnlyFans to see how much I earned overnight. I also check Reddit to see how well my posts performed — I have them scheduled to post early in the morning because that’s the best time to post on Reddit.
I have a spreadsheet that helps me coordinate, but I use Later for Reddit to schedule more than 200 posts that will post automatically over the next three months. I’ll post on r/RealGirls and other subreddits.
I also run a Telegram group that currently has 83 other OnlyFans girls in it, where we exchange tips and tricks. We share graphs and spreadsheets with each other to see how we’ve been operating, and I’ve shared some calculators that I’ve built that do things like predict your income based on how many subscriptions you’re getting per day.
I make coffee and film a short video called “The Naked Morning Coffee Chat,” where I’m either topless or naked and talk to the camera about my thoughts or rant about something that’s been on my mind.
I post this a few times a week, and it’s to try and connect better with my subscribers — this is no makeup, hair messy, very relaxed.
After my coffee I have some personal time where I’ll watch YouTube videos, respond to people, maybe eat something, and check my Twitter.
I start putting on my makeup in the early afternoon and get ready to shoot content, which takes up the majority of my afternoon.
This process is very lazy, very relaxed. I take a lot of breaks and usually change outfits a handful of times.
Every day I have a personal goal of getting two really good photos and one GIF that I can post online as advertisements on Twitter and Reddit. In between that, I film a bunch of content for my OnlyFans.
For everything outside of OnlyFans, content under 30 seconds performs much better. For my OnlyFans, I will post longer stripteases or videos that are more explicit.
Two days a week I’ll film a porno, which means I go to PornHub, sort by “solo girl content,” and look at what’s been popular recently. Then I essentially pick one and replicate that.
If it’s Saturday, instead of filming a porno, I’ll livestream myself playing Askhole with my viewers.
I try to film in natural light, so I finish when the sun sets. After I’m done shooting content, I’ll start editing everything on OpenShot. I’ll edit the porno into two versions: a 30-second video that I post on OnlyFans as a preview, and then a longer version that I’ll direct-message out to my OnlyFans subscribers that night or the next morning.
Once a week I’ll set aside two hours to research new platforms to consider posting on. For example, a lot of escort sites have gone online-only because of COVID, so I make it clear that I’m not escorting, but I advertise on a couple of those. There’s also BDSMLR, which is the alternative to Tumblr because Tumblr banned nudity.
I’ve even posted on some conservative websites, but that hasn’t turned out very well.
Lights out. I usually double-check my Reddit schedule, queue up all the content I filmed that day, and schedule my Twitter posts before I go to sleep.