She starts her work day in a typical fashion: putting her blonde hair in a top knot and sitting cross-legged on her windowsill, eyeshadow palette in hand. Using the natural light from her window to lean over, she looks into a small mirror and begins painting her eyelids. “Cool makeup looks, that’s like, my thing,” Audrey, 23, says. “I love doing makeup.”
But she doesn’t have a typical job. Audrey works as an OnlyFans creator, which consists of staging her own weekly pornographic photo shoots with different makeup aesthetics. You can find Audrey utilizing any corner of her apartment to set up her camera as she ponders her makeup look. Although it takes the longest, it is her greatest source of inspiration for content creation, which falls under two categories: makeup-free girl next door, or a sexy, edgy look.
Audrey then combs through her wigs and outfits to find the one that feels right — for a simpler shoot she dons fun socks and panties, while other times, she wears lingerie sets complemented by a backdrop of colorful lighting. She sets up her essential ring light, and naturally, takes as many photos as possible. The final step is the most fun, or the most tedious, depending on who you ask: selecting the ten best photos to upload for the week: “Most of the time that it takes for OnlyFans is purely setting up and getting ready to take a picture,” she says.
These photos are part of Audrey’s $14.99 a month subscription, where users can see photo sets consisting of five photos in different angles and positions that flaunt her figure. Fans with auto renew get exclusive behind the scenes content, and those that tip, get a short 30 second video of her saying thank you. For specialized content, fans can request custom videos or pictures through her DM’s, where the pricing depends on the length of the video and whether Audrey will need to purchase additional props or outfits. Content that fans request or that they receive for tipping is sent privately and will never be shared on Audrey’s Only Fans main feed.
Audrey is talkative, confident and bubbly — she’s the type of person you would want as a friend, and she’s not ashamed of her work. Audrey’s interest in sex work was influenced by a close friend who moved to Los Angeles and became successful in the adult entertainment industry. Audrey began by selling content privately on Instagram, but her friend encouraged her to grow her platform and become a creator on OnlyFans so she could charge a monthly subscription for her content.
She started her OnlyFans account in February 2020, which was “ironic timing” with the outbreak of coronavirus the following month and the increasing popularity of the platform. OnlyFans, a content subscription service that has become synonymous with sex work, was launched in 2016 by Timothy Stokely, who created BDSM and fetish site GlamWorship a few years prior. Stokely aimed to create a space for entertainers to securely monetize their content after learning about the prevalence of “under-the-table” sex work content on other social platforms. There are currently more than 1 million content creators on OnlyFans, and the platform has grown by over 500 percent in 2020, with the global pandemic playing a major role in this rapid growth.
“I think of Only Fans as being like a creative outlet, so there’s times where you’re really, really, really into creating content and you have so many good ideas,” Audrey says. “And then there’s some times that’s like, ‘I don’t really know what I want to do.’”
Audrey talks about Only Fans like any other “normal” job, describing the time commitment and weekly tasks, but she also has additional sources of income to sustain herself financially. Audrey works at Foodery, a craft beer shop in Philadelphia, and has a sugar daddy, who she met a year before starting her account. She devotes her three streams of income to different expenses, with OnlyFans paying for her bills, rent, and car payments. Although it’s not much, she’s proud of how she’s been able to use sex work to support herself.
While the top 10 percent of creators make 73 percent of the revenue, the average account on OnlyFans makes $180 per month. OnlyFans is a subscription-based model that can range from $4.99 to $49.99 each month, with the platform retaining a 20 percent fee. OnlyFans allows for tipping and pay-per-view content, and creators can ask followers to pay for individual content items as well.
Audrey notes that OnlyFans is not easy or a “get rich quick” job as many people perceive it to be. Creators need to already have a large following or commit themselves to create quality, frequent content. Her first month she made $250, and now she makes between $600 and $1500 a month. “It takes so much time and work to finally get to the point where you’re making good money,” Audrey says. “It takes as much work if not more than any other job to be successful. There is 100 percent a direct correlation between how much work you put in and how much you’re making.”
Audrey primarily markets her OnlyFans through Twitter because she finds it to be the most accepting platform for sex work. She posts sneak peek photos as well as teaser clips for pay-per-view videos on Twitter to gain and maintain subscribers. Her current business model is to post photos every other day, as well as sending short clips to loyal fans to show her appreciation. She also creates long videos that her boyfriend is sometimes featured in that can range from 10 to 20 minutes, and posts 30-second previews on Twitter. Audrey charges $5 to $20 for her pay-per-view videos that are sent to all her fans, but it’s optional to purchase in addition to her monthly subscription price.
“I’m always trying to think of better ways to promote myself and better ways to market myself,” Audrey says. “I try to make good content that people will like and people will share.”
Audrey has also found Twitter to be a space for creators to network and interact, making “online friends” who repost her photos; she does the same for them. Audrey receives the largest influx of subscribers when bigger influencers repost or shout out her content. “Generally, most people are pretty supportive of other creators and are trying to help other creators succeed,” Audrey says. “There’s that really close sense of community.”
Some of her friends have been inspired to join the platform, and her boyfriend assists her in creating content at times. Audrey has not shared with her parents that she works on OnlyFans because she grew up in a conservative environment. Somewhat inevitably as a content creator, she has faced online criticism from strangers, primarily men, who send her unpleasant messages in her direct messages.
“They don’t like that women are monopolizing and making money off of something that they were sexualized for,” Audrey says. “There’s a lot of aggression towards women who are taking their body into their own hands and are actually making money off of it.”
She is passionate when speaking about capitalizing on sex work as empowering, and she’s nonchalant as she recalls negative experiences. Audrey usually ignores hateful messages because “It’s whatever, it’s hate, they’re gonna be mad,” but she admits that when she first started her account, hearing negative comments about her body was difficult. “It would make me second guess myself and make me think ‘I don’t really like the way that my body looks in this picture,’ or ‘Is this person calling me fat.’”
Nonetheless, Audrey says joining the platform has transformed her self-confidence because as a creator, she is posting her body on the internet for strangers to admire or scrutinize.“It’s a very vulnerable thing. You learn to accept more of your ‘flaws’ and become more body positive,” she says. “There are many people who will be negative to you for seemingly no reason and through OnlyFans, I’ve learned to care less about random people’s opinions of what I look like on the internet and worry more about my own self-image.”
She chuckles as she recalls a recent criticism she received on having a breast augmentation. She was lying in bed post-surgery and posted on her Instagram story, “Just got my boobs done, watching iCarly,” and a man responded by asking her what size she made her breasts. “I told him, and then he was like, ‘Oh, that’s a shame. I really liked your small boobs. That’s sad.’ And it’s like, ‘OK, I didn’t do this for you. What do you mean?’” Audrey says, pointing out that contrary to what some may think, sex workers, like other women, don’t alter their bodies for others but for themselves.
Audrey doesn’t plan to stay in sex work long-term and is still deciding what to do in the future, whether that be returning to college or making a career out of her love for makeup artistry, but in the meantime, she plans to grow her account as much as possible. Why? Must be the money. “I want to make as much money as I can,” she says, “and save as much money as I can, invest as much money as I can while I’m young and while I have the luxury of being able to do that.”
Photos by Colleen Claggett