By Digital Presenter and Producer Mojo Abidi
“In lockdown I felt like I had very little to do, I had gone from working full time hours to doing nothing.
“I wanted something that was going to be creative, fun and could help me make some money,” says Ivy.
She was furloughed because of coronavirus and joined thousands of people in posting explicit content on OnlyFans.
The 30-year-old from London had been working in retail management - what she calls her ‘vanilla job’.
“I had been wanting to do something like OnlyFans for quite a while but felt like I didn’t have the time, until lockdown.”
She set up an account on the subscription-based social media platform in April and now spends 10-15 hours a week producing content, marketing and interacting with clients.
OnlyFans creators earn money from users who pay a monthly fee to subscribe to their page, giving them access to photos, videos and live streams. The British firm takes 20% commission.
The site is popular for adult work but also hosts fitness experts, vloggers and musicians.
It has seen a huge surge in popularity during the pandemic with many people laid off and forced to stay at home.
OnlyFans had a 75% increase in the number of members joining during the months of March and April.
The platform now has over 80 million total users.
A spokesperson for OnlyFans says: “We are currently seeing around 200,000 new users join the platform every 24 hours, and we’re welcoming anywhere between seven and ten thousand new creators everyday.”
Another UK platform, AdmireMe, saw an increase of 25% on its usual sign-ups after lockdown started.
“I really enjoy the creative side to OnlyFans,” says Ivy.
“I get to practice my make-up skills and learn more about lighting and photo editing.
“I’ve always loved to take selfies and OnlyFans has given me a really great reason to get better at that.”
Amy (not her real name), from Windsor, was watching a movie with her boyfriend when she joked about selling naked pictures online.
“He was like, ‘why not?’. I wasn’t expecting him to react like that, and I signed up the same night.
“I had so much spare time in lockdown and I was trying to save up to buy a house.”
The 25-year-old says she made £900 during her first month on AdmireMe in March, and now earns between £1,300 to £2,000 per month.
“I still work full-time, I’m a financial advisor by day. But eventually I’d like to earn enough money to not have to work full-time,’ she says.
Amy has now put an offer on a house with her partner, which has been accepted.
“He’s so supportive, he’s been amazing. My friends say they wish their boyfriends would let them sign up.”
Laura (again, not her real name) ran into financial difficulties in July when she was reduced to part-time hours and her car broke down.
The 25-year-old from Leeds set up an OnlyFans account on a friend's recommendation.
She says she has made more than £2,300 selling nude photos and videos to her subscribers, who pay £8 per month.
Laura says she’s a lot more confident since joining the site and has paid off any debts, but her experience hasn’t all been positive.
“Nearly every girl I’ve spoken to has been scammed at some point, including me. Someone will buy extra content but then report it, saying it’s not what they asked for.
“OnlyFans usually sides with the customer and will refund them, so they end up getting the content for free.”
Laura has also been victim to trolling and says privacy is a big concern as it can be difficult to hide your identity online. Her family are unaware she is on the site.
Photos and videos can be recorded and shared, or used to “out” creators to their friends, family or employers.
While OnlyFans and AdmireMe creators are not considered to be sex workers, the English Collective of Prostitutes is an organisation which campaigns for the rights of those who do internet-based adult work, alongside its work campaigning on behalf of sex workers.
A spokesperson for the ECP told ITV News these platforms need to do more to highlight the risks to new users.
“For some people, these sites have been the only way they can make money in lockdown.
“They need to go further in helping users when they face harassment, scamming, trolling or privacy breaches.”
Despite these concerns, the organisation predicts that online sex work will continue to grow as the UK heads into a recession.
The platforms are also being made popular by celebrities and influencers.
Megan Barton-Hanson, who found fame on Love Island, is one of the site’s top earners, reportedly bringing home £800,000 a month.
She claims to have used the money to help buy her a three-bedroom house in London.
And global superstar Beyoncé has rapped about the rise of OnlyFans in her hit song Savage Remix with Megan Thee Stallion.
OnlyFans says they “review cases of disputed charges, fraud and chargebacks and reverse transactions on a case by case basis.
“We have multiple systems in place to monitor for illegal activity on the site and take appropriate action immediately.
“We encourage all of our creators to use their best judgement and to comply with the law.”
Despite the latest national lockdown coming to an end, Ivy, Amy and Laura all want to continue their work on OnlyFans.
But they warn anyone thinking of signing up to properly research the site and its risks.