The burgeoning business of OnlyFans consulting

Adult creators are minting money on OnlyFans — and so are the marketing specialists who help them gain traction.

Amberly Rothfield is not an easy person to get a hold of.

If you want to book a consultation with her, you’ll likely have to plan 6-10 weeks out. Her email inbox chimes with inquiries around the clock and her Twitter DMs are stacked to the brim.

Rothfield isn’t a doctor, a c-suite exec, or a member of some prototypically busy professional class.

She’s one of a growing number of entrepreneurs offering marketing, brand strategy, and financial consulting services to OnlyFans models.

In the past 18 months, OnlyFans, the 5-year-old platform where (mostly) sex workers get paid for posting photos and videos, has grown to 150m+ registered users and 1.5m+ creators.

For these creators, OnlyFans has been a boon: The platform, which takes a 20% cut of the subscription payments workers receive, now collectively pays out ~$5B to models per year.

But competition is cutthroat — and sex workers are increasingly turning to marketers like Rothfield to stand out and grow their followings.

From homeless to the queen of phone sex

Rothfield faced a bleak future before the age of 18.

After growing up in a household that she says “Stephen King would shudder at,” the teen ended up homeless and destitute in San Antonio, Texas.

Then, one day in 2005, she came across a classified ad that would change her life: a job posting for “adult voice actresses.”

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Amberly Rothfield on a call (via Amberly Rothfield)

As a phone sex operator, Rothfield earned ~$15/hour, roughly 3x the minimum wage in Texas at the time.

Rothfield was able to rent an apartment and get on her feet. But she quickly realized that the company she worked for was taking the lion’s share of her rate.

Online, she conducted her own research on the phone sex industry and came across NiteFlirt, a company that allowed independent operators to directly book their own customers, drive their own traffic, and set their own hours and prices — sort of like the gig economy for dirty talk. 

To succeed on the platform, Rothfield had to take marketing into her own hands.

“I taught myself how to do backlinks, sales funnels, email marketing, affiliate links, SEO, page rankings — all that good stuff,” she recalls.

Through painstaking experimentation with variables like thumbnails, time spent on the phone, and per-minute rates, she rose to become the site’s most popular account. 

Rothfield identified an underserved niche — female domination (“calling guys losers, cuckolding, and blackmail fantasies”) — and expanded her offerings to other adult platforms like ManyVids, Clips4Sale, and PornHub.

By 21, she was pulling in $600 to $900 per day on adult creator platforms.

As her annual income climbed to $250k+, other sex workers began to reach out to her for advice.

“I’m not the Western standard of beauty. I’m 5’2” and I’m 250 pounds,” she says. “When other models saw my success, they’d say, ‘I look like you. You don’t look like the typical person who gets to the top. How’d you do it?’”

Rothfield compiled 250 pages of all the questions she received and turned them into a free marketing ebook directed at sex workers.

Notes Rothfield took while mapping out her income stream (via Amberly Rothfield)

By the time OnlyFans launched in 2016, Rothfield had a deep understanding of how the creator economy worked in the adult space. 

During the pandemic, the platform saw explosive growth, with 200k new users and 8k new creators signing up every day.

Rothfield, and others, saw an opportunity to sell pickaxes during the gold rush.

The subtle art of OnlyFans marketing

Today, Rothfield runs her own consulting agency geared toward sex workers, many of whom are new to the space.

To date, she estimates she’s dispensed advice to 26k adult content creators — college students, single moms, retail workers, and white-collar professionals. 

There’s a misperception that online sex work is easy money. But in the vastly populated digital tundra, getting visibility is no simple task.

“A lot of people think all you have to do is make an account, show your boobs, and make a ton of money,” says Rothfield. “That’s not how this works.”

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

When Kelly*, a 22-year-old warehouse worker, joined OnlyFans last August to supplement her income, she struggled to gain traction.  

“I’d read about all these women making like $1k+ per day just posting risqué selfies,” she tells The Hustle. “They make it look easy, but there’s so much going on behind the scenes to get the subscribers.”

For Rothfield’s 1-on-1 consultations with creators like Kelly, she conducts ~3 hours of research on a creator’s existing account(s) and suggests actionable changes that can be integrated in 30 days, including:

  • SEO improvements
  • Pricing model recalibration
  • Identifying a specific niche
  • Setting up sales funnels
  • Cross-promotional strategies

The most common mistake Rothfield sees with new creators is that they haven’t properly identified their target audience.

“A lot of models say ‘I’m the girl next door!’ I say, ‘Yeah, so is everyone else,’” she says. “With the market being so oversaturated, you have to have a very specific niche.” 

She advises her clients to lean into their hobbies and be as genuine as possible. “If you love to hike, post sexy hiking photos,” she says. “If you’re the painter, have sexy painting photos.”

In a recent consultation, a model identified as a “poor college student.”

Rothfield told her to add a quippy line to her profile (“I’m digitally fucking my way out of college debt”), tweak the length and titles of her videos, and replace her profile picture to fit the theme. With a few simple changes, Rothfield says the model netted 12 subscriptions at $15/month.

OnlyFans has attracted millions of new creators in the past year (via Getty Images) 

To supplement her business, Rothfield also runs Athena Stats, an analytics firm that scrapes data from adult platforms.

She collects information on clip length, titles, thumbnails, pricing, and other variables, then uses the data to inform her consulting work.

In one instance, she found that webcam model platforms saw the most streaming traffic after 3am EST. She told one creator to try streaming during the slower daytime hours; because there was less competition, the model made 3x what she usually made.

Broader economy

Rothfield isn’t the only one moving into the OnlyFans professional services space.

Richard Lewis, a 20+-year veteran of online advertising, pivoted his business to serve OnlyFans creators in 2019.

His company, SEO Bounty, focuses on guiding creators through the complexities of promotional advertising. He also runs OnlyFans Secrets, a popular podcast where that riffs on how marketing lessons from other industries can be applied to the adult space.

“OnlyFans is the ultimate smorgasbord for the male libido,” he says. “Unless you have something nobody has seen before, or you look like a bikini model, you’re going to have to put a lot of work in to get traction.”

“It’s a daily grind — a real job,” he adds. “And figuring out how to promote and market yourself is key to success.”

Zachary Crockett / The Hustle

OnlyFans creators have no shortage of promotional options:

  • On Shoutout Express, creators can buy “shoutouts” from other creators with big followings.
  • On the gig work platform Fivver, there are more than 1k services offering OnlyFans marketing and promotional opportunities, ranging from $5 to $1k for a shout-out on social media.

Lewis himself runs a Twitter account with 139k followers — mostly male OnlyFans subscribers — and charges $20 to share a post linking to a creator’s account. He says he is currently selling ~400 posts per month.

While some platforms (Reddit, Twitter) are a bit more lax about x-rated content, Instagram and Facebook prohibit nudity

To build followings, creators often have to form their own communities.

On the encrypted messaging platform Telegram, OnlyFans models have set up hundreds of private groups, where they make deals to promote each others’ accounts — sometimes for hundreds of dollars a pop.

Constant subscriber acquisition is key because the retention rate in adult content is so low. On a monthly basis, creators might see 50% or more of their subscribers drop off.

“Guys will subscribe for a month to see you naked, then unsubscribe,” says Lewis. “So you always need to be reaching new people.”

Katherine Studley quit her full-time job to launch a financial services firm for OnlyFans creators (via Katherine Studley)

Gaining and retaining a following is only one piece of the puzzle. Creators also need someone to turn to once they start minting money. 

Katherine Studley brands herself as The Only Consultant on Instagram and TikTok.

Last year, the 27-year-old tax professional quit her full-time job and launched a Virginia-based firm dedicated to helping adult creators navigate taxes and unique business challenges.

To date, she’s booked over 100 clients, mostly young women in the 18-23 age bracket.

“Last year, they were making $12k at McDonald’s; now they’re making anywhere from $20k to $300k on OnlyFans,” she says. “They’re just totally lost with financial literacy and filing taxes as independent contractors. They’ve never heard of 1099 forms or deductibles.”

Many clients come to Studley because they feel stigmatized by more traditional services like H&R Block.

Studley has studied the industry and helped adult creators get some pretty creative tax write-offs, including:

  • Tattoos 
  • Manicures
  • Workout supplements and gym memberships 
  • Lingerie and costumes
  • Sex toys

On her Instagram page, she shares advice on topics like how to report gifts from sugar daddies and photo sales through Venmo.

Forging ahead through controversy

Consultants in this space are betting on something of an uncertain future.

While OnlyFans mostly hosts adult content, it’s also home to all kinds of safe-for-work posts from chefs, musicians, and fitness instructors, as well as celebrities like musician Cardi B and disgraced former Wall Street trader Jordan Belfort.

In August, the platform made headlines for banning certain types of sexually explicit content, only to reverse its decision days later due to backlash.

Rothfield at a speaking event in Portland, Oregon (via Amberly Rothfield)

But for Rothfield, digital sex work has been a ticket out of poverty — and she hopes the doors will stay open for others in the space.

Her income, now in the mid-6-figures, has allowed her to cover extensive medical bills for her wife, a disabled veteran. She also owns her own home and land and has been able to invest back into her growing business. 

“I’ve been able to do things my family was never able to do,” she says. “It changed my life.”

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