How to Make Money for Porn, Beyond OnlyFans

How to Make Money for Porn, Beyond OnlyFans
Illustration: Benjamin Currie
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If you didn’t know about OnlyFans before the pandemic, you almost certainly do now. The online platform, which lets creators charge a fee for access to photos and videos and allows nudity and sexual content, has seen an explosion in use — and notoriety — over the past year. A spokesperson for the site confirmed to Lifehacker that in December 2019, there were 120,000 creators and 17 million users. Now, there are over 1 million creators making content for over 100 million users.

Obviously, there’s content to be created and money to be made, but OnlyFans isn’t the only way to make money making porn online. If you’re over 18 and looking to do online sex work, we found creators and experts to tell you where to start.

Be prepared to be seen by someone you know

OnlyFans has 100 million registered users, and it’s just one site of many. While some other platforms offer the opportunity to block your content from certain locations, there’s no guarantee of privacy. If you’re serious about getting into this line of work, accept that you may not be able to keep it secret and might encounter real-life hostility. Last year, for instance, a frontline worker in New York City was outed by the New York Post for her OnlyFans account, and earlier this year a woman with an OnlyFans said her three kids were expelled from their Catholic school after another parent alerted the administration to her page. If your family, friends, or employer wouldn’t be supportive of your online work, keep that top of mind.

“My biggest piece of advice, and people don’t want to hear this, is to not do it if you have any reservations about people in your life knowing you are a sex worker,” said Jessie Sage, a Pittsburgh-based sex worker and writer who founded Peepshow Magazine, where she’s written extensively about online sex work during the pandemic. “Entering into sex work has profound impacts on your life. Some are great but some can be really awful, depending on how well you are supported by family/friends. People lose their straight jobs when they are outed as sex workers, mothers have lost custody of their children, and all sex workers face really intense stigma that you have to learn to navigate.”

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Decide what you’re comfortable with

If you want to bare it all, there are plenty of platforms to do it on your own terms — and there are also plenty for baring less.

“There’s basically an option for anything, from selling feet pictures on anonymous blogs to selling used panties and shoes to doing live cam shows,” said Soleil, a 28-year-old with eight years of experience in the industry. “Google any type of idea you may have and I promise there’s a market and a website for it.”

A creator who performs under the name Victoria Vitriol told Lifehacker that there are pros and cons to using platforms that come with a built-in community but take a percentage of creators’ profits.

“The benefits of using those platforms are, to me, limited interactions with fans and a convenient way to just put up a preview and get sales from there,” she said. “The downside for most of them are the cuts they take.”

If you don’t want to sell pictures, videos, or personal items, you can sell your words. Remember old-school phone sex hotlines? Those still exist, but there are more modern versions, too. Platforms like NiteFlirt and SextPanther allow you to get paid for responding to messages.

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Don’t expect a financial windfall right away

While Soleil championed the freedom her work gives her to choose her own schedule, create content from home, and share her art with people she wouldn’t otherwise get to interact with, she also noted that the gig isn’t an easy one. You have to advertise yourself, invest in your various aesthetics, get to know clients, and stay on task.

“There is good money in it if you are dedicated and hard-working,” she said.

Sage added that all the media hype around OnlyFans has painted online sex work as an extremely lucrative business, but, “spoiler alert: most people aren’t making a killing.”

“People who were working in the online sex industry prior to COVID, myself included, have noticed an oversaturation as both in-person sex workers and civilians have flooded to these platforms,” she said. “In my estimation, in the beginning of the pandemic there was also a lot more business because customers were bored and home and lonely, but as the pandemic wore on, folks became more depressed, and many lost jobs. This isn’t as robust as it was a year ago (which is not to say that there isn’t business, just to say that there is more competition and people are pretty worn out of all forms of online entertainment, even sexual entertainment).”

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What industry vets recommend

Victoria suggested using social media to sell photos and videos to clients directly — to avoid paying a cut to a hosting platform — but still maintaining a presence on multiple sites.

“Platforms like OnlyFans and Manyvids are also great places to expand your own following like that to eventually lead into direct sales,” she said.

Soleil agreed, but urged caution, as some payment processing companies aren’t willing to facilitate adult transactions.

“I use CashApp for direct payments, but you have to be super careful using CashApp, Venmo, PayPal, etc., because they’re super not sex worker-friendly and will take your money and ban your account with no warning if they find you suspicious. I rarely do direct sales now as a result; I would only ever do that for a more personal client, to be honest,” she said.

Sage broke down her recommendations by category:

“I do a lot of one-on-one camming and phone sex and in my experience, the best place to do that is NiteFlirt. But I also work on SextPanther and Verified Call. If you want to sell clips, there are many platforms for that: Manyvids, AP Clips, iWantClips, Clips4Sale.

I have gotten the most traffic, and therefore the most sales, on Manyvids. If you are looking to cam, there are many platforms for that: Chaturbate, MyFreeCams, Cam4, Streammate. MyFreeCams only allows women to cam and so that is only good if you are a woman who intends to only cam with other women. Chaturbate is the most diverse, in my estimation. Streammate and Cam4 have a different model and private paid shows as opposed to large group shows. And for the subscription services, there are OnlyFans, Fancentro, AVN Stars, and a few others.”

Finally, don’t forget to relax and have fun. “I also, for the most part, find the work to be interesting and the interactions with regular clients to be rewarding,” Sage said.

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