Interview with an Hyper-Successful Creator on OnlyFans + Patreon + Twitch + Youtube + Instagram (Millions of followers, Earning ˜$1.4 million/month)
Special Edition #5 + 1 Year Anniversary
𝕊𝕡𝕖𝕔𝕚𝕒𝕝 𝔼𝕕𝕚𝕥𝕚𝕠𝕟 #𝟝
𝟙 𝕐𝕖𝕒𝕣 𝔸𝕟𝕟𝕚𝕧𝕖𝕣𝕤𝕒𝕣𝕪 🥳
I hope you enjoy this one.
On July 20, 2020, exactly a year ago, edition #1 of this paddle steamboat was published. I barely even dare to look at it now…
A lot has happened since then, out in the world and in my life, but I’ve published 3 regular editions per week, every week, without a day off. On top of that, I’ve published a series of special editions (mostly interviews, as well as a few podcasts).
That’s around 170 editions over 52 weeks (all freely available in the archive).
I’ve got plenty more ideas for year #2, and with your support (💚 🥃), I look forward to sharing them with you:
This is not a stand-alone interview.
It's a sequel to the excellent interview conducted by Conor at InvestmentTalk. You should read it first to have context for this Q&A, and you should sub to Conor’s newsletter for more great stuff (he didn’t ask me to say that — it’s my own rec).
After reading his interview, I mentioned to Conor that I was curious about a few things and had follow-up questions, and he was nice enough to put me in touch with OF-Anon* who graciously accepted to do this.
*which is the name I'll use here to avoid writing a bunch of cumbersome sentences about how she wishes to remain anonymous.
My questions are in bold.
Q: The interview with Conor makes it pretty clear you have familiarity with stock investing, fintwit, and that whole scene.
You make Buffett and Bezos references, a Zuck reference (his Twitter quip, the clowncar in a goldmine), you talk of listening to private equity managers on finance podcasts, talk about Netflix’s reinvestment model, etc.
I'm curious about the backstory here. When did you get interested in the field? Was it a long-standing interest, or was it more pragmatic -- something you had to learn after you started having money to invest?
It was definitely pragmatic!
Part of it was learned before I became an influencer -I ran a small local biz (being a little vague for anonymity reasons). Basically it was a sort of event/party planning business but with a lot of capital assets and various other expenses. I quickly saw the awesome power of facebook/google advertising products.
In those early days (2014/2015) facebook ad rates were ridiculously low, especially in my niche. I think most mom & pop competitors were very distrustful that online advertising could produce a return. In those halcyon days I would set an ad budget of a couple hundred dollars and get a $10,000 bump in booking revenue directly attributable to those ads, same month. [Wow! -Lib]
Those experiences gave me a fairly early variant perception of facebook as a business. Their ad platform was very good and way underpriced and fairly easy to learn. I have no formalized background using it other than just tinkering. I remember a particularly comical period when you could have your ads target people who had viewed a competitor's facebook page. [Ha! -Lib]
I guess that was a long way of saying that being in business made me more curious about business in general. I just saw tons of parallels and had touchpoints with a lot of the FANG companies.
I can't remember where I saw it but there was a popular blog around 2014 that explained amazon's strategy regarding reinvesting instead of reaping profits (which also minimized taxes)... and there was a slide presentation making a similar bull case and talking about how amazon had negative working capital helping to fund growth. [I think Josh Tarasoff had a presentation on Amazon that made the rounds around that time and influenced a lot of people’s views of the company, including my own. -Lib]
I think in retrospect a lot of those things were slightly over-emphasized (pre AWS revenue reveal), but I learned a lot and adopted some of those things with regards to my own business. Almost all of my customers fully paid far upfront to reserve the date (the minimum deposit was 50%), and that allowed me to grow/buy supplies and equipment.
I was very very poor at the time (money for gas could be a struggle) so every bit counted. Additionally, reinvesting into my own business and growing it rather than just showing profit at the end of the year was something that I would have never really groked intuitively.
Neither of my parents ever did anything entrepreneurial and they worked hourly jobs, so trying to apply "big business" precepts really sped up my learning curve.
Re: the clowncar comment, I used to really dial into everything Zuckerberg was saying, hoping to glean some kind of advantage re which direction facebook was moving.
Like when he was trying really hard to push "video" my company went from mostly picture/image based content to video. All of our marketing relied on Facebook, Instagram and Google Adwords. Without really knowing what we were doing we stumbled into the idea of marketing by making content. Facebook used to really "boost" the visibility and impressions generated by each of their new initiatives or product focuses (probably still do, looking at you Reels).
And then as you said, sort of as I started having money to invest I began to get interested in those companies for investment reasons.
Even there I was lucky since I had sort of an inside view into some of the major platforms already: Google (Adwords and Youtube), Facebook (Instagram and Facebook blue), Twitter, Amazon (I was a top female streamer fairly early and heard a lot of stories about how Amazon influenced parts of the company, how they were incorporating Prime into it, etc).
Social media clout is also strange (maybe confers a bona fide celebrity like status) in that it makes people far outside your circle willing to at least engage with you. I remember talking to a very well known Chess GM about twitter stock in 2014. So I've always (through either fintwit or directly) had access to great resources to learn from!
Q: Speaking of having money to invest: I’m curious about the experience of being successful as an 'influencer' on social media, and how that must attract a lot of undesirable vampires who are all trying to feed off the money/fame.
Anything you can share about your experience with this, or maybe the experience of some people you know in the space?
haha I've had a lot of traditional Private wealth management type people cold calling or in the inbox which was bizarre when it first started happening. Kudos to them for I guess understanding on some level the kind of money people are making in the influencer space I guess?
More so to your question, one thing many influencers express dismay in is that it's hard to know who your real friends are among other influencers. You have a hard time connecting or trying to befriend people with more "clout" because you feel insecure that they might see YOU as leeching.
And you are extra wary of people smaller than you who seem to be too friendly/quick friends because they might just be using you as an inroad into your audience. So there's this isolated feeling where people who aren't your peers can't understand what you go through, and people who are your peers might be playing the game.
I've had so many instances of people trying to cancel or otherwise talk badly about me because it's expedient, then a month later ask to be on my podcast or to collab.
After I initially found success I had an in-real-life friend who kept trying to hang out with me, but only so she could be seen in pics/videos and tag me on her own social media. I'm sure there are some parallels here to legacy media celebritydom...
I don't want to make it sound all terrible though, I had to stop and think about it for the question, on a daily basis it sort of just blends into the background of reality (the thing about true friends within the industry being few and far inbetween!)
Q: I think extreme success often means an unusual skill stack.
In any field, all of the very best people are *really* good at what they do, so what makes the very very best stand out tends to be either an unusual combination of skills that few others have, or some extreme personality trait (like Michael Jordan's hyper-competitiveness).
I'm curious if you've ever thought about yourself through this lens. What helped you separate from the pack of creators/models/influencers?
I think my prior experience with social media for my business, plus just the work ethic that came with being an entrepreneur really set me apart. I know a lot influencers also work hard, but my work ethic within my niche is legendary.
Like when people don't know how to introduce me/don't have anything nice to say they just default to "hardest working ______ on (insert platform)."
I'm a real grinder, day in and day out. And I think early on I was probably one of the people who staffed up and realized how having employees really frees up time/provides a kind of leverage.
I heard/watched something that was like "it's much harder to be the best at a specific thing, than among the top 20% in two things." So combining skills to create a rare stack so to speak.
I also think that for a lot of content creators the attractiveness of having "work life balance" takes precedence over being willing to straight grind even if the money is good. Like there are a lot more investment banking associates who are willing to put in 80 hour weeks than there are aspiring influencers who are willing to do the same.
So work ethic at the extreme can be an advantage. I know some of the bigger Youtubers basically live for their next video — they can't stop talking about making videos. If one is able to put in those kinds of hours into the endeavor without creativity flagging then it's definitely an edge.
I think my stuff is more just good marketing than creativity at this point though. A lot of people have an issue with ceding control or being willing to train people to help them. Like maybe there's a 1% decrease in quality because doing it yourself is better, but freeing up that time lets you make a bigger impact somewhere else so the net effect is tremendously positive...
I'm also pretty data driven, I keep a spreadsheet (it use to be me, now an employee does this) tracking basically all the key metrics at the end of every day. Follower growth, subscription/monetization results etc. It helps me really lean into certain trends and best practices over time.
Also, I read Tested Advertising Methods, which really helped me write good copy/helped with sponsorship conversion or just enticing people to check out my Onlyfans/etc.
Q: Are you part of a community of creators that tries to optimize the business and social aspects of your job?
Years ago, I used to be pretty active in a community interested in rationality. They wrote a lot about cognitive biases, psychology, the scientific method, statistics, etc.
One of the posters there was Aella, who I’ve followed for years before I ever learned that she was a sex worker.
She became pretty successful on OnlyFans and did a series of interviews talking about the behind-the-scenes of her job, and mentioned creating private groups of creators that exchange best practices and do cross-promotion deals and such.
I’m curious if you have anything like that, any kind of support system, or you’re more of a lone wolf creator. Or maybe the question is, do you feel competitive with other OF creators, or is the vibe more cooperative
I'm definitely more of a lonewolf, I used to be more in a community back when I was a cosplayer, but the social medias I am most active on are very lonely endeavors (how ironic!).
I don't try to be a lonewolf, but where I live currently there isn't any other creator even remotely close to my scale who can relate — I've seriously thought about moving to a hub like LA or Austin, and maybe I will in time.
I'm a Twitch streamer also so the hours are brutally long (my own making tbh), and try as I might I'm not as well networked into any creator community. I have heard of Aella, and I remember looking over some of her material when I started my Onlyfans! She's clearly very smart.
I don't really have anyone I exchange best practices with, I do have a burner Onlyfans account where I subscribe to other people's Onlyfans just to get a feel for what the "market" is. If someone is trending or having a really good month I try to deconstruct/pattern match what they are doing... better copywriting, a style of photo, a shoot concept etc.
Sometimes it ends up pretty circular — where I find that they are just doing what I'm doing and also hoping to find an edge haha. I'm definitely open to being cooperative, as I don't think the competition in terms of going "heads up" with another creator makes sense.
There's probably a shade of Reed Hastings saying "our competition is sleep and video games" in there somewhere... OnlyFans has created a HUGE proliferation of variety and our biggest competition is probably free porn and not each other as creators.
I've tended to just focus on growing my social media presence/follower count outside of Only Fans, and then refined and tuned my funnel/wrote more compelling call-to-actions to get people to join. I think churn is probably too hard to prevent in this market segment, and so I focus on growing awareness/reminding people I exist lol.
I keep a record of people on Onlyfans doing interesting things and their subscriber count trend though! I have one employee who basically just tracks trends and metrics (mine and other relevant people's). I'm still looking for the magical churn reducing solution, but so far it just seems that being top of mind across Instagram, Twitter and Youtube is the best way...
Q: If we consider that how “explicit” something is is on a spectrum, from full burka to vanilla suggestive all the way to hardcore, I’m curious if there’s a consensus among OF creators on whether there’s a sweet spot on that spectrum to maximize earnings, or if the further you go the more you earn, and it’s up to every creator to decide what their comfort level is and how far they want to go.
Is it a straightforward dial that you can turn up if you want, or is there a counter-intuitive sweet spot where if you keep things more tame, you actually have a bigger addressable market and end up making more money than someone more explicit?
Or maybe it’s unknowable... Curious if you have thoughts on this.
I don't think there's a consensus — I've seen a lot of "viable" approaches.
Myself, I definitely increased the "lewdness" very gradually — I've found that it helps moderate churn to a degree. I think broadly speaking, being willing to be topless/naked is a huge factor in delivering on expectations with regards to people joining/staying.
It took me about 1.5 years to get to that point — basically slowly gaining subs while slowly making the content "more lewd." I think anyone can "dial up the lewdness level" and get more subs in the short run, but I think holding off a little helps if one's goal is to maximize the absolute amount of earnings... I think it's analogous to a Fast & Furious meme:
Each creator would make more if they were to do naked content or porn (vs say a counterfactual self that only posed in bikinis), but it's not particularly comparable across creators since the major drivers are your own "clout" or fan/follower base across social media (instagram, youtube, twitter, etc).
There is a lot of gamesmanship around it all — the highest earning girl I know didn't go about it slow and gradual — two weeks after she created and announced her Onlyfans debut she did topless photos for the first time.
The idea was to sort of 'ride' the wave of relevancy and chain together another chance for people to talk about her. And it worked amazingly well, her monthly is something like $ 2.2-2.5 million USD. [That indeed sounds like it worked for her! -Lib]
But for people who aren't in the spotlight enough to command that kind of attention I think going slow makes more sense (as looked at from the perspective of maximizing earnings).
I also know a handful of girls whose earnings on Onlyfans way surpass what you would think is possible based on their social media follower count. It's exceedingly rare but in those cases the production value and value proposition they offer on Onlyfans is just neck and shoulder above everyone else and ironically their leaked content was the best form of advertisement for them.
I think for people who want to punch above their social media weight, all the examples I know do some kind of hardcore porn on their OF.
Q: You said that OnlyFans "really gets it" when it comes to features.
I'm curious if you could go deeper on this.
What kind of features do they have that others don't do as well or don’t have at all?
I'm guessing ways to target parts of your audience for discounts or try to get past subs to come back or things like that, maybe automated ways to try to reduce churn? But I'm sure there's more to it..
A lot of creature comforts and tools for the most part. The ability to schedule posts, schedule Pay-Per-View stuff to come out at a set time. They also bump messages from subscribers to the top when they tip.
Just a lot of good monetization tools merged with an understanding of user/customer behavior.
They also let you message just the people who purchased the last video, and let you sort all your users by various different metrics (total money spent, total duration subscribed, recent activity etc). And yea as you mentioned, custom discount codes to link/give to specific people, targeted discounts to new people or former subs.
Churn is alway tough in this hyper-competitive segment, but the discounts targeting previous subs helps a lot!
They are also quick to copy general social media trends (like facebook/IG). They picked up "stories" really early, and users each have a feed they can scroll through etc.
My one potential improvement (and it would take some getting use to) would be if all Pay per view content purchased by a user could be limited or "toggled" to only be available for active subs... I think that would be incredible for reducing churn (slightly less consumer delight centered, but if clearly disclosed "these PPVs are NOT available without an active sub" I think would really dramatically improve the churn issue. Or even the ability to send videos for free that are only viewable when actively subbed etc... What I mean is, if purchased previously Pay per view content is only replayable so long as you have an active Onlyfans sub, I think that would be helpful re churn.
It's kind of like an appstore thing where your back catalog of purchased content is only useful on an apple device etc. Currently, they have to be actively subbed when they buy PPV content, but if there sub lapses later on, the PPV content is still visible/available to them. I think there should be a way to have PPV content NOT be available when they aren't subbed. That way sending someone a PPV or FREE video while subbed makes them want to stay subbed to avoid losing access to their "catalog"
Also slightly off topic, but I noticed fintwit is almost unanimously in the camp that "fleets on twitter suck." I will actually mourn the loss of fleets [Me too! I’m right there with you, I think they should’ve done more to iterate and improve it. -Lib] because mine have been putting up tremendous numbers, 100K views or so per fleet. Like maybe everyone being so skeptical of it has made it less competitive attention-wise but I'm finding it to be a tremendous product for increasing engagement to my account!
Q: If we remove the $ aspect, which of the platforms that you use would you pick if you could only keep using one (ie. you’d make exactly what you’re making now in aggregate, with the same future trajectory)? This is purely about your preference as a creator and the general vibe/culture of that platform.
Hah you're gonna get the battle worn answer.
I think it would be Instagram or Twitter.
For me those platforms get you more impressions for less effort. The lifestyle aspects of being an Instagram-only creator are much better. I like Twitch a lot but I would change my content there and just stream stuff I like instead of stuff that gets a high concurrent view count.
So I guess my answer is either IG or Twitter if I had to keep making content the way I'm making it... or Twitch if I could pivot to just doing things I loved.
Q: In one of your answers to Conor, you talk about your public market investments (sounds like a pretty great batting average there!) and investing strategy for the future.
While I find the stock-picking impressive, I find more interesting the fact that after hitting a bunch of home-runs, you're still able to detach and be rational about how you're investing your money (you mentioned dollar-cost-averaging into low cost index funds and diversifying by asset class into real estate and private equity).
The way it usually works is: people hit home-runs, then they’re hooked (huge dopamine hits, I'm a genius, this is easy, etc), they keep chasing that dragon until they make big mistakes and lose a bunch of money, and *then* if they're lucky, they pull back and start being more rational.
You skipped that whole part of the script.
To me this is at least 3 different levels of being an outlier stacked together:
1) You got to the very top of your very competitive field, 2) while in parallel doing very high alpha stock-picking, 3) and then you were well-calibrated enough to know exactly where you had an edge and where you didn’t, and took steps to maximize the likelihood of not losing your hard-earned money.
I promise there's a question here: I'm curious if you can talk about how you developed this decision-making, rationality skill.
Are you an autodidact interested in the topic, reading about finance and cognitive biases and base rates, did you have mentors, studied or work in fields that helped?
So with regards to being able to give up trying to chase investment home runs, I think I'm just very honest with myself. I'm probably a smidge above average in intellect (if that), and a lot of my success comes from having the right temperament and being in the right place at the right time. I'm not here due to being a genius lol.
The dopamine hit is nice but I was never really addicted or attracted like a lot of my peers were to day-trading or anything like that. I simply don't have the time. So I invest, and then check-in maybe once a quarter/try to keep abreast of any critical developments whilst knowing in the back of my mind that earnings beats/misses and their attributed reasons are largely noise.
Another part of it is, when the people I follow on fintwit do a deep dive on say Shopify, I have the background knowledge (and network) to know that (even as early as 2015/16) literally every influencer/merch company was using Shopify and super happy about the value proposition there. And that is very congruent with Shopify's mission to serve sellers. And so it was kind of easy to cross check some of their assumptions/form a thesis.
But a few months back when my curated fintwit feed was talking about GFL, XPEL, or QRTEA the writing was on the wall/pretty obvious that taking advantage of these opportunities would take a lot more background work for me. And I just didn't have the time — and my efforts were probably best used elsewhere rather than trying to become Onlyfans Buffett. [Ha! As awesome as that would be, to see you hold a huge annual meeting in packed arena, drinking coke and eating candy while answering questions, I agree it probably shouldn’t be a priority. -Lib]
My process for accumulated knowledge/insight was very eclectic and difficult to trace/connect the dots — I voraciously consumed audiobooks (I learn better from audio), podcasts and conversations with others.
I guess you could call the frequent conversations with smart, older people a kind of mentorship. I also don't really have any sacred cows and I'm willing to change my mind about most anything.
In fact, sometimes I purposely seek out disconfirming evidence or viewpoints just to expose myself to them/make sure I'm not existing in a bubble or echo chamber. [That right there puts you in a relatively small group of people… -Lib]
I've read the standard texts like "Thinking fast and slow" or "Influence" and even some oddballs that feel quaint like "How to Win Friends and Influence People." I'm not sure how much I actively retain though. (I'm one of those uncouth people that listens at 1.5x to 2.0x speed — I trained myself to do so by slowly increasing the listening speed over time [Same! Over the years I’ve heard thousands of extra hours of books and podcasts because of this — we can think/read faster than we speak, so makes total sense to bring audio to the speed of thought. -Lib]. I've never really set out to craft a curriculum for myself, I just sponge up what I can and hope the dots connect looking backwards.
Q: My last question is about one of your answers to Conor, where you mentioned interest in "running a charitable org that I've seeded hopefully!".
As eclectic as your interests are, I gotta know what kind of philanthropy interests you. I suspect it’s not boring!
You clearly understand capital allocation well, so I’d guess it may be in "undervalued" philanthropic areas where your dollars can have a high impact (f.ex. my own fave charity is the SENS Research Foundation, doing work on curing the diseases of aging, a blind spot for a lot of medical research that doesn't consider senescence something to even try to cure).
Oh I just looked into SENS, that's very interesting. I vaguely recall reading/watching some science fiction concept where they were able to finally stop telomeres shortening/unraveling. Yea, we're just resigned to the fact that things deteriorate with age.
Separately on the undervalued philanthropic point, I know that Bezos does some stuff around transient homelessness, which has a "high return" because it's more fixable/returns the person to society faster since they just needed to be "bridged" at a vulnerable point, like a mom with kids in tow in a domestic abuse situation where if they leave they would otherwise be homeless etc.
While my Philanthropic interests aren't boring (at least not to me) I haven't really approached it from the framework of ROI to be honest.
I love animals and I want to do a cage-free, no-kill dog rescue shelter, and separately something in Equine Rescue around unwanted horses/retired racehorses. [That’s great. I’m one of those people who can’t wait for "grown” meat to be a thing — someday! — so we can move past the whole industrial meat production industry and reduce animal-suffering on a gigantic scale. This is just a sub-section of the general “we should do everything we can to reduce unnecessary suffering”, like f.ex. with mental health research into promising psychedelics, etc. -Lib]
I think my proficiency with social media can be an asset. People are very ready to retweet/share animal related posts on social media and I think a lot of shelters are underutilizing the medium!
Thank you so much for doing this! I know my questions are too long, and you’ve obviously put a lot of thought into your answers. I really appreciate it! 💚 🥃
I just realized that I just missed on the opportunity to ask her what she’d do to get more people to become paid supporters on a newsletter without paywalls… 🤦♀️
Thanks again to friend-of-the-show and supporter (💚 🥃) Conor at InvestmentTalk!
If you enjoyed this and don’t want to miss all the special goodies that are coming next, please subscribe (and please consider supporting this project — if you get even 1 good idea from it, it’ll more than pay for itself):