Alexia* is 20. She says she’s recently put herself on to four separate sites, including OnlyFans. “Even if it is an extra couple hundred a month that’s a huge amount for me.
It can help pay an unexpected bill, like last month I had a bill from the council of £400 so without that I probably wouldn’t have been able to pay that.
” She says she started posting videos and pictures of herself during the first national lockdown after losing her job at a restaurant. Alexia now works an office job 9 to 5, sometimes six days a week, as well as posting content online. “
I don’t think people realize how hard work is. When you look at the screen time on my phone, it’s ridiculous.
I can work up to 17 hours a day,” she says. “I want full-time employees to be a security blanket, because even if the fans don’t do well, they’ll get a monthly salary.”
But the salaries of those nine or five now overwhelm her online income. He has thousands of followers since he started and says he earns more than £3,000 a month posting on the site. Without extra income, she says, she still lived at home with her mother.
Alexia is not alone.
Helpline calls from people who said they were doing sex work to pay their living bills rose by a third in June, according to the UK Prostitutes Association.
Laura Watson of the group said they reached out to help women of all ages establish sites like OnlyFans. “They need to make extra money to buy the price of everything that goes up,” she says.
Laura says these women also “work at their daily jobs.” OnlyFans makes money by taking 20% of all payments to people like Alexia.
The content subscription service told Newsbeat it’s paid out $8bn (£6.5bn) to more than two million creators since 2016. But Laura says becoming a “top earner” takes a lot of work.
She also says people are being pushed toward making content which shows their face, voice or an identifying feature – something which makes them “more vulnerable to stalking, abuse and threats”.
“We’ve had calls from women who are in this situation and are under threat of being outed, some women have even been tracked down and face violence as a result,” she says.
“It’s directly linked to women’s need for money because the more desperate you are, the more ready you are going to be to take these risks.”
OnlyFans told Newsbeat “creator and fan safety are a top priority” and that it had been “repeatedly praised by creators for creating a safe space for them to share digital content with their fans”.
Blake* started posting content to OnlyFans during the first block even though it didn’t work. He has since moved to another site where he can post more explicit content. “The cost of living really bothers me,” says the 23-year-old.
“I don’t do luxury products, I don’t eat meat anymore because the prices are very high. I fought for a long time.”
Blake says he earns about £1,000 a month posting content online, which is roughly what he earns in his day job. Still, he says, “it’s still quite a struggle.”
“Without it, I would probably be very depressed and depressed and still live with my mom and dad who worked at the corner store from where I work.”