Entrepreneurship in the Adult Entertainment Industry: Insights from OnlyFans Content Creators

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We are looking for OnlyFans content creators who would be willing to participate in a 30–45-minute interview. Your participation will remain anonymous, and data will be safely handled in line with our University Data Protection & Ethics guidelines. Compensation can be negotiated. 

Project background

The online viewership of adult content witnessed an unprecedented rise during the COVID-19 pandemic due to self-quarantine and social distancing measures. Since most countries and regions are still recovering from the Coronavirus impact, this trend is anticipated to continue in the upcoming years and signals a favourable development for the adult entertainment industry market as well as growing demand for the online adult content creators in particular.

At the same time, the distribution of adult content is facilitated by numerous new digital platforms. These platforms are easy to use, provide a safety layer for the content creators, and further gained in popularity due to the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting increase in time spent online. 

One of the digital platforms that has recently attracted a lot of media attention, both owing to the controversy of its nature and the remarkable growth of popularity, is OnlyFans, where people from various kinds of employment backgrounds claimed to have found a secure source of income. According to an analysis by Statista (2021), the net revenue of the platform reached 1.2 billion dollars by the end of the first quarter of the year 2021 and is expected to double by 2022. While such platforms and their adult content have been associated with the notions of stigma and taboo, a great majority of news reports highlights a series of benefits that content creators have found in their new employment (not just monetary, but also stemming from a sense of liberation and autonomy).

The COVID-19 pandemic and the consequent lockdown measures have severely hit the global economy. While certain workers have been safeguarded by job retention schemes and other kinds of financial aids, others have faced disruptions in their current employment. 

Some individuals whose jobs suffered from the effect of the pandemic recurred to alternative forms of self-employment to make a living and overcome their financial difficulties. Literature defines this as a necessity entrepreneurship - a form of business venturing that does not arise from the attractiveness of entrepreneurship as a process but rather out of need due to a lack of employment alternatives (Dencker et al, 2021). 

Our research project has the aim to examine the various motives of content creators to join the OnlyFans platform and to become entrepreneurs (ranging from pursuing entrepreneurial ambition to seeking necessity entrepreneurship). Moreover, we aim to gather insights into the inner workings of the industry and will examine how digital adult content entrepreneurs grow their businesses and market their content.

Research overview

Unfortunately, just as the adult entertainment industry has been marginalized in society, so too has it been neglected in the entrepreneurship research literature. Similarly, the theoretical understanding of necessity entrepreneurship seen as less glamorous and attractive form of business, remains sorely limited.   

Therefore, our research looks at the ways in which the creation of adult content* via digital platforms is gaining popularity amongst people who become entrepreneurs by choice or necessity. Specifically, we explore the following research questions:

  1. What are the motivations and aspirations of entrepreneurship in the adult entertainment industry despite its stigmatised nature?
  2. What are the key entrepreneurial competencies and skills enabling nascent entrepreneurs to venture into digital adult content creation and paid dissemination?
  3. What are the dynamics that play a role in the development and growth of this form of entrepreneurship (temporary vs long-term orientated business, competition vs coopetition practices etc.)?  

By incorporating insights from adult industry entrepreneurs of OnlyFans platform, coupled with reviews of relevant academic and industry literature, the research will generate implications for prospective and active entrepreneurs, shed light on the complexities of starting and growing businesses in controversial industries, as well as provide promising directions for entrepreneurship researchers and policy makers.

* This project has received full approval by a University of Leeds Research Ethics Committee and the research will be based on interviewing content creators without the need of accessing their materials.


If you are interested in hearing more about the project or would like to collaborate, please get in touch with Dr Vita Kadile.                                            

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