How OnlyFans top earner Bryce Adams makes millions selling a sex fantasy
SOMEWHERE IN FLORIDA — In the mornings, the workers of Bryce Adams’s OnlyFans empire buzz in through a camera-wired security gate, roll up the winding driveway that cost $120,000 to pave and park outside Adams’s $2.5 million home-office-studio complex. A large American flag waves from a pole above their office door. So does a banner depicting Adams, in tight shorts, from behind.
On OnlyFans, subscribers pay for monthly access to feeds of creators’ videos — many of them sex videos, known as “collabs” — as well as pay-to-watch clips the “fans” can buy a la carte. And as one of the platform’s most popular creators, Adams runs her business like a machine.
Inside, a storyboard designer opens the day’s publishing plans for not just OnlyFans but all of their customer feeder sites — Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube. Editors start splicing video into short looping clips, optimized for virality. Collabs are sent to paying fans.
Brian Adam, Bryce’s longtime boyfriend (who, like Bryce, uses a stage name for privacy), stops at each employee’s desk to review the day’s assignments, vetoing any posts or captions that seem “cringe” or “off brand.” In an office loft, four young women start texting with Adams’s paid subscribers, who talk about sex and their personal lives in conversations that often exceed a thousand messages a day.
This being a sex business, their workdays are filled with what others might see as debauchery, but which they see as just work: Two (or three) people will slip into a bedroom next to the kitchen or the gym with a cameraman, or just their cellphones, to record a collab or start live-streaming themselves exercising in the nude.
Then they’ll head back to their desks to resume chatting or drive to the beach to make TikToks. After a few days, the video editors will upload the files to the OnlyFans servers with names like “Bryce & Holly Shower” or “Sex on a Jungle Trail,” retailing for $25 a scene.
Adams’s employees call their headquarters in central Florida “the farm.” Bought last year with OnlyFans money, the 10 acres of pastureland once held a grove of pecan trees.
Its only cash crop now is attention, and Adams’s business out-earns most American farms. The company brings in roughly $10 million annually in revenue, and many of her two dozen workers get paid more than the average farmer; her total corporate payroll exceeds $1 million a year.
“People don’t understand the scale of the opportunity. I mean, really: You can make your own world,” said Adams, 30, as she walked the grounds in jean shorts and a tank top. “This is our business. This is our life.”
In the American creator economy, no platform is quite as direct or effective as OnlyFans. Since launching in 2016, the subscription site known primarily for its explicit videos has become one of the most methodical, cash-rich and least known layers of the online-influencer industry, touching every social platform and, for some creators, unlocking a once-unimaginable level of wealth.
More than 3 million creators now post around the world on OnlyFans, which has 230 million subscribing “fans” — a global audience two-thirds the size of the United States itself, a company filing in August said.
And with help from a pandemic that isolated people at home, fans’ total payouts to creators soared last year to $5.5 billion — more than every online influencer in the United States earned from advertisers that year, according to an analysis into the creator economy this spring by Goldman Sachs Research.
If OnlyFans’s creator earnings were taken as a whole, the company would rank around No. 90 on Forbes’s list of the biggest private companies in America by revenue, ahead of Twitter (now called X), Neiman Marcus Group, New Balance, Hard Rock International and Hallmark Cards.
On the surface, OnlyFans is a simple business: Fans (mostly men) pay to scroll through feeds of photos and videos (mostly of women), with a few perks offered at additional cost, like direct chats with the creator or custom-made videos by fan request. Most, though not all, of its content is risqué, or “spicy,” and company executives joke that they are often misconstrued as “sexy Facebook.”
But as OnlyFans’s pool of influencers has grown, it has also professionalized. Many creators now operate like independent media companies, with support staffs, growth strategies and promotional budgets, and work to apply the cold quantification and data analytics of online marketing to the creation of a fantasy life.
The subscription site has often been laughed off as a tabloid punchline, a bawdy corner of the internet where young, underpaid women (teachers, nurses, cops) sell nude photos, get found out and lose their jobs.
But OnlyFans increasingly has become the model for how a new generation of online creators gets paid. Influencers popular on mainstream sites use it to capitalize on the audiences they’ve spent years building. And OnlyFans creators have turned going viral on the big social networks into a marketing strategy, using Facebook, Twitter and TikTok as sales funnels for getting new viewers to subscribe.
America’s social media giants for years have held up online virality as the ultimate goal, doling out measurements of followers, reactions and hearts with an unspoken promise: that internet love can translate into sponsorships and endorsement deals. But OnlyFans represents the creator economy at its most blatantly transactional — a place where viewers pay upfront for creators’ labor, and intimacy is just another unit of content to monetize.
The fast ascent of OnlyFans further spotlights how the internet has helped foster a new style of modern gig work that creators see as safe, remote and self-directed, said Pani Farvid, an associate professor and the director of the SexTech Lab at the New School, a New York-based university, who has made interviews with digital sex workers a major topic of her research.
Creators’ nonchalance about the digital sex trade has fueled a broader debate about whether the site’s promotion of feminist autonomy is a facade: just a new class of techno-capitalism, selling the same patriarchal dream. And even some OnlyFans veterans have urged aspiring creators to understand what they’re getting into: pressures to perform for a global audience; an internet that never forgets. “There is simply no room for naivety,” one said in a guide posted to Reddit’s r/CreatorsAdvice.
Farvid acknowledges that the job can be financially precarious and mentally taxing, demanding not just the technical labor of recording, editing, managing and marketing but also the physical and emotional labor of adopting a persona to keep clients feeling special and eager to spend.
But many creators, she added, still find it uniquely alluring — a rational choice in an often-irrational environment for gender, work and power. “Why would I spend my day doing dirty, degrading, minimum-wage labor when I can do something that brings more money in and that I have a lot more control over?” she recounted some telling her. “Does an accountant always enjoy their work? No. All work has pleasure and pain, and a lot of it is boring and annoying. Does that mean they’re being exploited?”
The attraction of financial freedom and the challenge of standing out have led many OnlyFans creators to run themselves like tech start-ups. Adams’s operation is registered in state business records as a limited liability company and offers quarterly employee performance reviews and catered lunch. It also runs with factory-like efficiency, thanks largely to a system designed in-house to track millions of data points on customers and content and ensure every video is rigorously planned and optimized.
The strategy is working: Adams and her employees, who spoke with The Washington Post on the condition that their real names and location be concealed and stage names be used to reduce the risk of harassment, have ascended to OnlyFans’s highest echelon of earners, which the platform calls its “top 0.01 percent.”
Since sending her first photo in 2021, Adams’s OnlyFans accounts have earned $16.5 million in sales, more than 1.4 million fans and more than 11 million “likes.” She now makes about $30,000 a day — more than most American small businesses — from subscriptions, video sales, messages and tips, half of which is pure profit.
Adams’s team sees its business as one of harmless, destigmatized gratification, in which both sides get what they want. The buyers are swiped over in dating apps, widowed, divorced or bored, eager to pay for the illusion of intimacy with an otherwise unattainable match. And the sellers see themselves as not all that different from the influencers they watched growing up on YouTube, charging for parts of their lives they’d otherwise share for free.
“This is normal for my generation, you know?” said Avery Leigh, the 20-year-old head of Adams’s advertising team, who made $150,000 in two months from her work with Adams and her own OnlyFans account. “I can go on TikTok right now and see ten girls wearing the bare minimum of clothing just to get people to join their page. Why not go the extra step to make money off it?”
‘Cry in a Ferrari’
When Tim Stokely, a London-based operator of live-cam sex sites, founded OnlyFans with his brother in 2016, he framed it as a simple way to monetize the creators who were becoming the world’s new celebrities — the same online influencers, just with a payment button. In 2019, Stokely told Wired magazine that his site was like “a bolt-on to your existing social media,” in the same way “Uber is a bolt-on to your car.”
Since then, OnlyFans’s popularity has skyrocketed. In financial filings in the United Kingdom, where its owner, Fenix International Limited, is based, the company said its sales grew from $238 million in 2019 to more than $5.5 billion last year. Its international army of creators has also grown from 348,000 in 2019 to more than 3 million today — a tenfold increase. (And its leadership has made a fortune: The company paid its owner, the Ukrainian American venture capitalist Leonid Radvinsky, $338 million in dividends last year.)
The United States is OnlyFans’s biggest market, accounting for a large portion of its creator base and 70 percent of its annual revenue. The site has fans in 187 countries, the filings show, and a company executive said recently that it is targeting major “growth regions” in Latin America, Europe and Australia. (The Mexican diver Diego Balleza said he is using his $15-a-month account to save up for next year’s Paris Olympics.)
Before OnlyFans, pornography on the internet had been largely a top-down enterprise, with agents, producers, studios and other middlemen hoarding the profits of performers’ work. OnlyFans democratized that business model, letting the workers run the show: recording their own content, deciding their prices, selling it however they’d like and reaping the full reward.
The platform bans real-world prostitution, as well as extreme or illegal content, and requires everyone who shows up on camera to verify they’re 18 or older by sending in a video selfie showing them holding a government-issued ID. Beyond that, OnlyFans operates as a neutral marketplace, with no ads, trending topics or recommendation algorithms, placing few limitations on what creators can sell but also making it necessary for them to market themselves or fade away.
Many OnlyFans creators don’t offer anything explicit, and the site has pushed to spotlight its stable of chefs, comedians and mountain bikers on a streaming channel, OFTV. But erotic content on the platform is inescapable; even some outwardly conventional creators shed their clothes behind the paywall. The company plugs itself as the only social network that is “openly inclusive of all creator genres.”
OnlyFans creators are categorized as independent contractors of the platform, which offers basic tools for content publishing and customer acquisition and keeps 20 percent of creators’ revenue. OnlyFans sends 1099 forms to the IRS and all U.S. creators who earn more than $600 a year to confirm they are paying taxes on all income. (Adams said her business paid roughly $1.3 million in taxes last year.)
Enticed by the promise of wealth, an influx of new creators has begun paying for OnlyFans mentors and coaching programs that teach marketing strategies and techniques of the trade. For those overwhelmed by the logistics, agencies and account managers offer to handle administrative tasks, write captions and manage social accounts in exchange for a cut of the proceeds.
On Reddit’s r/onlyfansadvice, an unofficial “educational space” with more than 300,000 members, creators share tips on how to secure a bank loan with OnlyFans income, handle fan disputes or cope with dramatic swings in pay. “I took one week off social media and have never recovered,” one creator there recently said.
Like most platforms, OnlyFans suffers from a problem of incredible pay inequality, with the bulk of the profits concentrated in the bank accounts of the lucky few. In 2020, the independent researcher Tom Hollands scraped the website’s payment data and concluded that the top 1 percent of accounts made 33 percent of the money, and that most accounts took home less than $145 a month. (OnlyFans declined to provide its own analysis, and Hollands said the company has since made it harder to access this data or conduct new research.)
For those who do make it, however, the rewards can be life-changing. When the OnlyFans creator Elle Brooke was pushed during a TV interview in June to explain how a future child of hers might feel about her work, her response — “They can cry in a Ferrari” — became an OnlyFans rallying cry. Stella Sol, a dominatrix, tweeted, “It’s always so funny how mad people get at beautiful Women happily winning the game of life.”
Bryce and Brian first met 13 years ago in high school, in a class on career development, and the two were an instant match: driven, competitive, a little obsessive. He played baseball for eight hours a day, and she attended every practice and game, sitting in the bleachers with a logbook to record every ball and strike.
Adams had spent her teen years selling her old clothes on eBay and became thrilled by making imaginary money become real. So after she dropped out of college, the couple devoted themselves to a small internet business, buying baseball bats and gloves from local mom-and-pop shops and reselling them online. They hired their friends, and the company expanded until it became self-sustaining, and they got bored.
One Sunday night in January 2021, as the couple halfheartedly watched a movie on the couch, Adams created an OnlyFans account with a fake name and posted a photo of her butt. The couple had an open relationship; it was, she said, kind of a joke. Then a guy who found her account messaged her, and they started texting, and he asked for more. She had no clue how to price the photos, but the guy just kept paying. After two hours and five photos, she had made $62.
Her boyfriend saw a major business opportunity. Other creators’ OnlyFans accounts looked underproduced, he recalled, and the market of paying schmoes seemed limitless. “There is a huge demand, and the vendors’ ability to meet that demand is awful,” he said. “It’s like taking candy from babies.”
For Adams, the experience was also energizing. She could snap a selfie in two seconds and some stranger would give her cash. She felt wanted, maybe even a bit powerful. A few nights later, her boyfriend walked into the bathroom around 3 a.m. and Adams was sitting next to the bathtub, sexting.
“She was like, ‘I made $400 so far,’” he said. “And I was like, ‘That’s actually really cool.’ Then I peed and went back to bed.”
They began studying OnlyFans like a puzzle, tracking what fans wanted, what they’d pay to get it and what to say to keep them hooked. They started logging a collection of data, from video sell-through rates to subscriber conversions. And they conducted what they called “micro-tests” on everything in hopes of gaining maximum engagement: the most lucrative seductive poses, the perfectly sized video-title length.
Every week, they competed with themselves to beat last week’s revenue, gradually pushing the boundaries in hopes of standing out in a porn-filled internet. They moved from selling individual photos to “picture packs” to full videos. They started recording in new places, involving each other and bringing on new partners. And their fan count continued to grow.
Watching their partner have sex with someone else sometimes sparked what they called “classic little jealousy issues,” which Adams said they resolved with “more communication, more growing up.” The money was just too good. And over time, they adopted a self-affirming ideology that framed everything as just business. Things that were tough to do but got easier with practice, like shooting a sex scene, they called, in gym terms, “reps.” Things one may not want to do at first, but require some mental work to approach, became “self-limiting beliefs.”
As Adams’s popularity exploded, so, too, did the workload for her and Brian, who became her “chief executive”; each worked about 90 hours a week. There was always a new sext to respond to, a new piece of social content to publish, a new collab to record. In the evenings, the couple would take long walks, strategizing about content, how to “take Bryce up a level.” Afterward, they’d pick up Starbucks to have caffeine through the night.
They started hiring workers through friends and family, and what was once just Adams became a team effort, in which everyone was expected to workshop caption and video ideas. The group evaluated content under what Brian, who is 31, called a “triangulation method” that factored their comfort level with a piece of content alongside its engagement potential and “brand match.” Bryce the person gave way to Bryce the brand, a commercialized persona drafted by committee and refined for maximum marketability.
“One of the things we do communicate is: ‘Hey, this is your dream girlfriend. She’s down to go to all your baseball games, you know?’ The fans like that,” he said. The “Bryce” character that Adams presents to her fans, “We’ve all always looked at it as if it’s an amalgam of all of us here. It’s not actually her.”
‘What the hell are we looking at?’
The sprawling main house on “the farm,” which they bought with a mortgage last year, is still mostly unfurnished, largely due to their all-consuming schedules. There is a guest room with tripods and ring lights for shooting sex scenes and an office where Adams chats with her “VIPs,” who pay $30 a month. One unused room has been claimed by their cats.
The house is sprinkled with mementos of the couple growing up and falling in love in Florida, including thousands of chunks of sea glass they’d gathered over hours-long walks on the sand. They also own 15 guns, including a .22-caliber long rifle and a pink pistol they keep in the mudroom and take on late-night walks; wild hogs are common here and legal to hunt year-round.
Adams’s mom, a former substitute teacher, comes over twice a week to tidy up the house and fix up the flower beds for $25 an hour. Last Father’s Day, Adams told her parents and younger sister, a doctor who just had her first child, that the “new business in the content space” she’d told them about was actually OnlyFans. She’d intended to tell them at breakfast but got too nervous, then called them all later that day.
Her sister was supportive but didn’t say much, she said. Her parents, who had expected she would grow up to be an architect, nevertheless encouraged her to do whatever makes her happy.
“The world has changed so much … but she’s an adult. She has to do what makes her wheels move, what she finds fulfilling,” Adams’s mom said. “When you’re a parent, you want to support your child. And that’s what I do.”
The heart of the company is in the backyard, a cavernous office and gym space they built in a barn once used for storing boats. Most of their employees work in this building, including their video editors, social media managers, chatters and advertising staff; an accountant and a few others work remotely.
The team is trained in the basic software of the modern office: Slack for workplace communication, Google Docs for spreadsheets, Trello for managing team projects. Every Monday at 4:15 p.m., Bryce and Brian lead a company meeting where they review all of the content, captions and publishing plans for the week on a big-screen TV. At lunchtime, an assistant brings everyone Chick-fil-A.
The farm is wired with a server closet, two parallel internet connections, a whole-house generator and a battery backup to ensure they’re never offline. They hired an IT guy who moved from Missouri with his wife, an OnlyFans creator herself.
One of the operation’s most subtly critical components is a piece of software known as “the Tool,” which they developed and maintain in-house. The Tool scrapes and compiles every “like” and view on all of Adams’s social network accounts, every OnlyFans “fan action” and transaction, and every text, sext and chat message — more than 20 million lines of text so far.
It houses reams of customer data and a library of preset messages that Adams and her chatters can send to fans, helping to automate their reactions and flirtations — “an 80 percent template for a personalized response,” she said.
And it’s linked to a searchable database, in which hundreds of sex scenes are described in detail — by price, total sales, participants and general theme — and given a unique “stock keeping unit,” or SKU, much like the scannable codes on a grocery store shelf. If a fan says they like a certain sexual scenario, a team member can instantly surface any relevant scenes for an easy upsell. “Classic inventory chain,” Adams said.
The systemized database is especially handy for the young women of Adams’s chat team, known as the “girlfriends,” who work at a bench of laptops in the gym’s upper loft. The Tool helped “supercharge her messaging, which ended up, like, 3X-ing her output,” Brian said, meaning it tripled.
For efficiency, the chatters use keyboard shortcuts to quickly send common phrases (“I want to know the real you”) and a feature that displays, across a fan’s profile picture, how much he has paid in tips. On a recent day, one girlfriend was talking with “Ryan” (lifetime tip value: $321.60) about a trip he took to Texas while “Kev” ($46.40) was saying he’d travel “any distance” to find his “right person.” One of their longest-paying subscribers has given $10,000 over the years, Adams said.
Keeping men talking is especially important because the chat window is where Adams’s team sends out their mass-message sales promotions, and the girlfriends never really know what to expect. One girlfriend said she’s had as many as four different sexting sessions going at once.
“There’s not 10 minutes that go by that we’re not like: ‘What the hell are we looking at right now?’” said Zoey Hill, a chatter on the team. “But for the most part, it’s kind of just like you’re having a regular conversation with someone until they’re like, ‘Hey, I’m horny.’ And then you give them what they want.”
Adams employs a small team that helps her pay other OnlyFans creators to give away codes fans can use for free short-term trials. The team tracks redemption rates and promotional effectiveness in a voluminous spreadsheet, looking for guys who double up on discount codes, known as “stackers,” as well as bad bets and outright fraud.
After sending other creators’ agents their money over PayPal, Adams’s ad workers send suggestions over the messaging app Telegram on how Bryce should be marketed, depending on the clientele. OnlyFans models whose fans tend to prefer the “girlfriend experience,” for instance, are told to talk up her authenticity: “Bryce is a real, fit girl who wants to get to know you”; “If you’re looking for real, deep and personal connections ….” Creators with a more hardcore fan base, meanwhile, are told to cut to the chase: “300+ sex tapes & counting”; “Bryce doesn’t say no, she’s the most wild, authentic girl you will ever find.”
Avery Leigh, who runs advertising, was working as a server at a local pizza place, saving up for college in hopes of becoming an obstetrician, when a high school friend told her last year that Adams was hiring chatters. Leigh was later promoted to the ads team and, though she’d never touched a spreadsheet before, she now spends 40 hours a week coordinating with agents and managing an ad budget of more than $900,000 a year.
The $18 an hour she makes on the ad team, however, is increasingly dwarfed by the money Leigh makes from her personal OnlyFans account, where she sells sex scenes with her boyfriend for $10 a month. Leigh made $92,000 in gross sales in July, thanks largely to revenue from new fans who found her through Adams or the bikini videos Leigh posts to her 170,000-follower TikTok account. Adams takes 20 percent.
“This is a real job. You dedicate your time to it every single day. You’re always learning, you’re always doing new things,” she said. “I’d never thought I’d be good at business, but learning all these business tactics really empowers you. I have my own LLC; I don’t know any other 20-year-old right now that has their own LLC.”
‘Cult of you’
By most measures, the Bryce Adams content machine is running at extreme efficiency.
The team is meeting all traffic goals, per their internal dashboard, which showed that through the day on a recent Thursday they’d gained 2,221,835 video plays, 19,707 landing-page clicks, 6,372 new OnlyFans subscribers and 9,024 new social-network followers. And to keep in shape, Adams and her boyfriend are abiding by a rigorous daily diet and workout plan: They eat the same Chick-fil-A salad at every lunch, track every calorie and pay a gym assistant to record data on every rep and weight of their exercise.
But the OnlyFans business is competitive, and it does not always feel to the couple like they’ve done enough. Their new personal challenge, they said, is to go viral on the other platforms as often as possible, largely through jokey TikTok clips and bikini videos that don’t give away too much.
In a podcast last year on OnlyFans sales strategies — titled “How to Get More Simps,” using the internet slang for someone who does too much for someone they like — the host told creators this sales-funnel technique was key to helping build the “cult of you”: “Someone’s fascination will become infatuation, which will make you a lot of money.”
Adams’s company has worked to reverse engineer the often-inscrutable art of virality, and Brian now estimates Adams makes about $5,000 in revenue for every million short-form video views she gets on TikTok. Her team has begun ranking each platform by the amount of money they expect they can get from each viewer there, a metric they call “fan lifetime value.” (Subscribers who click through to her from Facebook tend to spend the most, the data show. Facebook declined to comment.)
The younger workers said they see the couple as mentors, and the two are constantly reminding them that the job of a creator is not a “lottery ticket” and requires a persistent grind. Whenever one complains about their lack of engagement, Brian said he responds, “When’s the last time you posted 60 different videos, 60 days in a row, on your Instagram Reels?”
But some have taken to it quite naturally. Rayna Rose, 19, was working last year at a hair salon, sweeping floors for $12 an hour, when an old high school classmate who worked with Adams asked whether she wanted to try OnlyFans and make $500 a video.
Rose started making videos and working as a chatter for $18 an hour but recently renegotiated her contract with Adams to focus more on her personal OnlyFans account, where she has nearly 30,000 fans, many of whom pay $10 a month.
One recent evening this summer, Adams was in the farm’s gym when her boyfriend told her he was headed to their guest room to record a collab with Rose, who was wearing a blue bikini top and braided pigtails.
“Go have fun,” Adams told them as they walked away. “Make good content.” The 15-minute video has so far sold more than 1,400 copies and accounted for more than $30,000 in sales.
The women in Adams’s business voice some uncertainty over how long this all can continue. They’ve seen how other creators have struggled and know that, on the internet, nothing lasts: audiences shrink, bodies change, people burn out and move on.
Adams said there may come a time when she wants to spend fewer hours on the work but that she has no plans to change anytime soon. “For as long as OnlyFans is around, Bryce Adams will be there,” she said. “But there may be some point where I have a family and that becomes more of a primary focus than my pages, at least for a little while.”
She and the others worry, too, about how friends and family might react, even though they feel they’ve done nothing worthy of being judged. Rose said she has lost friends due to her “lifestyle,” with one messaging her recently, “Can you imagine how successful you would be if you studied regularly and spent your time wisely?”
The message stung but, in Rose’s eyes, they didn’t understand her at all. She feels, for the first time, like she has a sense of purpose: She wants to be a full-time influencer. She expects to clear $200,000 in earnings this year and is now planning to move out of her parents’ house.
“I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. And now I know,” she said. “I want to be big. I want to be, like, mainstream.”
About this story
Reporting by Drew Harwell. Photos by Sydney Walsh. Video by Whitney Leaming.
Design and development by Emma Kumer. Design editing by Chloe Meister. Photo editing by Monique Woo. Video editing by Julia Wall. Video producing by Jessica Koscielniak.
Editing by Mark Seibel and Wendy Galietta. Additional editing by Wayne Lockwood and Gaby Morera Di Núbila. Additional support by Megan Bridgman, Kyley Schultz, Brandon Carter and Jordan Melendrez.