The idea that OnlyFans is a get-rich-quick fast pass has worked its way into becoming common knowledge. The only problem? It’s not true. Men joking about women “living life on easy mode” and women joking about dropping out of school to sell their nudes online are both wrong. Most people make more money working at McDonald’s than they would on OnlyFans.
But wait, what about the women talking up their $350,000 monthly paychecks? Well, they represent a tiny percentage of content creators on OnlyFans, and most of them were already famous to begin with. Others get their pay pyramid scheme style, by getting $50,000 payouts for recruiting additional C-list celebs. Tara Lynn, who recently went viral explaining how she grew her OnlyFans income, already had hundreds of thousands of followers on multiple platforms before she started digital sex work. Taking naked photos wasn’t the hard part, growing a massive following was. The question is: How are women still buying these misleading sales pitches?
The Math Isn’t Making Sense
Making about $2,500 a month on OnlyFans puts you in the top 1% of OnlyFans creators. That might sound like a lot, but it adds up to about $15 an hour, and that’s all pre-tax. In other words, you could make the same amount working at Chipotle (and OnlyFans doesn’t even have guac). And again: This is the top 1%. It’s more likely that a college football player makes it to the NFL than it is for an OnlyFans worker to make as much as a Chipotle worker. OnlyFans as a platform has more than one million registered content creators. So what do most of them earn? On average, only $180 a month. And since famous creators like Tara Lynn are pulling up that average, most creators are making a lot less than that.
It’s more likely that a college football player makes it to the NFL than for an OnlyFans worker to make $15 an hour.
One hundred eighty dollars is a pretty rude wake-up call of a paycheck. But wait, isn’t that still decent money for a side gig? Not really, because you should be prepared for it to become your full-time job. There are two reasons for this. First, OnlyFans content isn’t passive income, and content creators need to be constantly putting out new material in order to not lose subscribers. "I would never advise someone doing it if they only wanted to do it like two days a week or something,” one creator recommends. "It's not a part-time thing in your mind.” Many creators also have their content pirated and posted on other websites, meaning they have to produce even more to keep the stream going (and have no real control over who sees it). Secondly, it’s not a harmless side gig, and women who think they’re flying under the radar get fired again and again and again.
The Gamble of a Lifetime
Money aside, selling your nudes is selling yourself short. Having your career rely on your body is one thing if it’s work you can pivot from, and even then, you should have a backup plan. Making a full-time career out of something like professional ballet or gymnastics will mean a pretty early retirement, but at least it won’t prevent you from subsequent careers.
Sex work, meanwhile, even in the rare case that it does become a well-paying gig, has a similarly short horizon without the same kind of future. Sex work can immediately disqualify you for jobs that involve working with children or for the government in many capacities, and the odds of future coworkers finding out are high, which can often lead to at-will firing even from jobs that don’t have explicit upfront background checks.
It’s not just about “slut shaming,” either. Sex work is inherently traumatizing for all of the lives it touches. OnlyFans and platforms like it have become havens for things like sex trafficking and child exploitation, and can have serious long-lasting consequences for creators, who often end up sexually harassed, stalked, and abused. “You can’t just post photos and videos of yourself and expect to rake in the money. You will be expected to constantly interact,” one former creator explains. “You will be sexually harassed – more intensely than you can probably imagine. You will be pressured to perform acts you probably never knew existed by people who are caught deep in the throes of intense sexual addiction – people you would never even want to spend one second with outside of the context of OnlyFans. You will get called names and be vilely criticized. It’s not just harassment, it’s abuse.”
“You will be sexually harassed – more intensely than you can probably imagine.”
The costs of sex work extend to other parts of your personal life, too. Some OnlyFans creators say they’re confused by men who compliment them but refuse to be romantic, even long after they’ve left their sex work side gigs. “I just found out that apparently the reason why men can’t date me. ... They say like I’m the ideal woman, they talk me up, but they say, ‘I can’t be with you because of your history and your past,'” Billie Beever laughed in a TikTok video. “We all have a past, and we all have a history. The only difference is, I f*cking filmed mine! Mine’s on camera. Does that make me not dateable?”
Many creators say they struggle to even approach the dating world in a healthy way. “The damage continued to escalate over time. I became a compilation of other people’s fantasies eventually, completely lost touch with who I truly was. Each night, I gave a piece of myself away until there was nothing left to give,” one recalled. “Your capacity for intimacy and ability to have healthy relationships will likely be profoundly impacted. It is hard not to believe that someone would value you for who you are as a person and not what you can do for them sexually.”
Women are throwing their careers, love lives, and morals away for pennies. While influencers with already massive followings might be making bank, they’re convincing average girls to put photos of their bodies online forever just to keep the scam going. If you’re in a financial rough spot, know that OnlyFans isn’t going to get you out of it. In the long run, it’ll probably only make things much, much worse.
Article updated 4/10/2023: Correction made to change "Making $6,000 a month on OnlyFans puts you in the top 1% of OnlyFans creators" to "Making about $2,500 a month on OnlyFans puts you in the top 1% of OnlyFans creators."
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