OnlyFans: From adult content to a multibillion-dollar creator-based empire

OnlyFans numbers are huge: 85m+ users, 1m+ creators, $2B in 2020 revenue.


December 11, 2020

When it comes to the creator economy, Patreon is the name that comes to mind. Between 2013 and 2019, the platform paid out $1B+ to creators of all stripes.

But an unlikely competitor is blowing it out of the water: OnlyFans.

According to a recent Bloomberg profile, the site — which allows people to charge fans for access to videos, photos, and personalized communications — is on pace to dish out $2B this year.

Never heard of OnlyFans?

The platform’s traditional power users are attractive females selling the “opposite of G-rated” photos to (usually) male buyers.

Today, its biggest accounts are from the world of Instagram influencers like Jem Wolfie and Andrea Vasile.

But adult performers and sex workers — who are unable to meet clients in person — have taken to the platform as a way to earn a living during the pandemic.

OnlyFans founder Tim Stokely is a serial entrepreneur

He founded a successive series of startups throughout the 2010s, prior to the launch of OnlyFans in 2016:

  • GlamWorship, which facilitated transactions for a sexual fetish known as “financial domination” (which may also have been a phrase used in Amazon’s pre-IPO prospectus)
  • Custom4U lets customers order personalized videos
  • 121with was a marketplace where tradespeople (e.g., plumbers) could sell their expertise

Stokely tells Bloomberg that these ventures gave him key insights into the creator-fan relationship.

Mainstream celebrities are taking notice

Musicians like Cardi B and The Weeknd have used OnlyFans as a promotional platform. Actress Bella Thorne pulled in a single-day record of $1m when she joined the platform.

While sex workers expressed concern that the likes of Thorne will “gentrify” the platform and take away a much-needed income stream, OnlyFans’ growth outside of adult content looks inevitable.

Already with 85m+ users and 1m+ creators, OnlyFans is adding 500k users a day and — with a 20% take on the $2B in sales — will bring home $400m in 2020.

If Patreon is already worth $1.2B+, the sky’s the limit for OnlyFans.

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