Shyli wants to sell hair extensions and Erika used to be an engineer, but for now, they have one thing in common – they work full time as erotic influencers on subscriber site OnlyFans.

The two are among a number of women on the marketplace which allows well-known individuals, among others, to monetise their social media following. However, the site’s main attraction remains pornography, giving adult performers the chance to upload their own material and chat with fans and strangers.

The social-media-like platform works by allowing fans to subscribe to a content creator for a monthly fee, with OnlyFans taking a 20 per cent commission.

According to financial results announced this month, business is booming for OnlyFans and their 2.16 million fellow creators, who between them earned €3.86 billion last year.

Shyli Rose, who prefers to keep her real name secret, says she makes a “ton of money” on the platform, where she shares pornographic videos of herself and “new content every day”.

She claims to be among the top one per cent of earners. Her 1,038 fans subscribe to her account for a fee of between €7-€20 per month. Her nationality, she believes, is part of her success.

“I think Maltese men do love watching other Maltese girls, rather than some American pornstar on the internet who they know nothing about,” she said. While the 23-year-old does not plan on working on the platform long term – she has set up an online site selling wigs and hair extensions – she would only give it up if a relationship got in the way.

I think Maltese men do love watching other Maltese girls- Shyli Rose

“I plan on stopping OnlyFans if I got engaged to someone,” the Maltese ‘creator’ said. Shyli puts in a lot of time chatting with her subscribers describing them as “pretty close internet buddies”. Some even confide in her “when they had a super bad day”.

Chatting to Erika Helin is a privilege only her paid subscribers enjoy. On her free account, a tip is required before a chat box is opened.

Erika Helin says she earns more on OnlyFans than she did as an engineer.Erika Helin says she earns more on OnlyFans than she did as an engineer.

The Finnish model started her OnlyFans account at 26, when she moved to Malta. Many of her subscribers are from her native Finland, but followers from Malta come in second. 

She started the account after quitting her job as an engineer. “I didn’t know how it will be, or if I would need to get another job on the side but I never needed to,” she said. “I’m now making more money than my job as an engineer.”

Her followers can subscribe to a free account that includes pictures of her in bikini and lingerie. Her exclusive account, costing €25 a month, includes more intimate photos that include semi-nudity. “I can also send extra material by direct message, and it costs extra,” she said.

Besides the base subscription rate, creators can post extra exclusive content behind further paywalls and individualised content can also be sent via direct message for an extra cost.

Italian Malta-based model Silvia Mameli prioritises her relationship with fans on the platform. “The goal is to keep them subscribing every month,” she said.

Silvia Mameli says erotic influencers on OnlyFans have to overcome criticism.Silvia Mameli says erotic influencers on OnlyFans have to overcome criticism.

She charges a basic monthly subscription fee of €12 but some photos and videos are behind further paywalls. These include content that can include full nudity or photos and videos on demand, she said. On the rare occasion that she does it, Mameli also charges €100 for a 30-minute live video chat.

She started her OnlyFans account in January after resigning from her previous job, and now earns more than €2,000 a month.

“Some of my (Instagram) followers had asked me in the past if I would open it, so since I’m not a person who has problems to show my body, I wanted to try,” she said. Her move from sharing images on mainstream social media platform Instagram to more provocative content on OnlyFans may have been lucrative but it hasn’t been without its problems.

While one attraction for users is that they can talk directly to creators, that personalised experience can have its drawbacks. “Undoubtedly the difficult part is showing your body. You have to be aware that you will receive a lot of criticism,” she said.

Another OnlyFans influencer said that many people mistakenly believe that she’s a sex worker. “The hardest thing is being judged by family and friends and that men think that because you have an OnlyFans account, you’re a cheap whore and that you will accept all their advances,” she said.

Victims of romance scams

Sexologist Matthew Bartolo warned there are also drawbacks for users.

“Some subscribe to paid accounts out of wanting company more than for sexual gratification,” and feel that they ‘know’ the content creator, adding to a feeling of connection. Creators can sometimes take advantage of this.

“Clients of our clinic had money problems and were victims of romance scams,” the Sex Clinic Malta director said.

He said the site is popular in Malta, partly because of the ability for users to see someone from the island.

“The fact that you might know the person or know someone who knows the person or that they’re talked about at work can be a strong reason someone would pay for a subscription,” he said.

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