What's New: OnlyFans and the creator economy

(from the latest issue of the Indie Hackers newsletter)

OnlyFans announced that sexually explicit content will be banned:

  • The ban is set to go into effect on October 1. We explore the implications that this upcoming change may have on the creator economy.
  • The online language-learning market is expected to reach $21.2 billion by 2027. Here's how to get in on the game.
  • We've profiled many founders, and each has unique insight. Read on for 10 more lessons from 10 founders, and feel free to share your top learnings also!

Want to share something with nearly 85,000 indie hackers? Submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter. —Channing

🤫 OnlyFans and the Creator Economy


from the Indie Economy newsletter by Jay Avery

Last week, OnlyFans announced that sexually explicit content will be banned from the platform starting on October 1. As a major player in the creator economy, this decision could cause implications that reverberate.

Fans no more

The background: OnlyFans is a British platform that has become known for adult content. Its popularity has skyrocketed amid the COVID-19 pandemic, as more people turned to the creator economy to earn an income. At the end of 2019, OnlyFans had 120K creators. By the end of 2020, it had 1M.

What happened: Last Thursday, OnlyFans announced that it would ban sexually explicit content from the platform, starting October 1. A company representative explained that this decision was made to:

... comply with the requests of our banking partners and payout providers.

OnlyFans has placed the blame on credit card companies, insinuating that it will face bans on processing payments due to the explicit nature of content on the platform. Back in the spring, MasterCard announced its intent to impose stricter regulations on the companies it works with, purportedly in an effort to prevent illegal adult content on the MasterCard network. Its statement says, in part:

The evolution of our registration programs is critical to ensure that we, as well as those who connect merchants to our network, understand who we are doing business with and what can be expected of their activities.

Banks or gatekeepers? This is not the first time that banks have become involved with policing adult content on the internet. In 2020, The New York Times published an article on alleged underage and un-consenting adult performers being shown in videos on PornHub, causing Visa and MasterCard to swiftly cut ties with the platform. Unable to process payments, PornHub subsequently agreed to remove millions of videos from the platform in response.

Battle royale: The adult entertainment industry has long battled with (notoriously conservative) financial institutions, as the stigma of sex work persists. In 2014, Chase Bank embarked on an account termination spree, closing the accounts of known porn stars and sex workers, and making headlines. PayPal and Square have also frozen the accounts of adult workers, going so far as to ban some individuals from the platforms altogether.

A thin line: There seems to exist a thin line between protection and censorship. Protecting minors and punishing illegal sexual activity are both necessary. On the other side is the goal of protecting the rights of creators. If financial institutions are to continue arbitrating what is acceptable, just, and worthy, we will continue to see situations like these, where an adult entertainment industry blogger was denied a bank account for selling a corset online, and a former escort was banned from processing payments for the sale of her memoir.

A mad dash

Insult to injury: The announcement from OnlyFans brought a ton of uncertainty, in part because the platform initially declined to inform its users of the change. OnlyFans creators learned of the impending ban via media outlets, not from the company itself. In fact, creators who reached out to the company directly received messages outright denying the change:


To date, the company's only public mention of the ban has been on Twitter:


So what's banned? OnlyFans has kept the wording very vague, confusing many creators regarding what will be allowed come October. The platform claims that it will still allow nude photos and videos, and will provide more information on the new policy soon.

The backlash: Many OnlyFans creators feel a deep sense of betrayal from the platform. OnlyFans raked in $2B in 2020, much of it off of the backs of adult entertainers. Many adult content creators felt that OnlyFans was once a safe space, and they are now having it suddenly taken away. Advocacy groups agree. Cam model Mary Moody told The Verge:

When you rip a huge market share out of the adult industry, suddenly they have no way to interact with fans, no way to sell or market their content. So what happens is the privileged few are able to move and adapt, while more marginalized workers, who may have worked in riskier street-based sex work prior to OnlyFans are pushed offline and into the streets.

Mary is also a board member of Adult Industry Laborers & Artists, an advocacy group aimed at protecting the rights of those in the adult entertainment industry.

What this means for creators: The creator economy has exploded in the past year-and-a-half, but it also comes with its cons. One of the major drawbacks involves the issue of ownership. When creators' content is hosted on a platform, they must follow the terms of use of that platform. This sudden change on OnlyFans illustrates how important it is for creators to maintain ownership of their audiences.

This new ban will also have implications for other platforms, as adult content creators migrate away from OnlyFans. Many are moving to Fansly, PocketStars, and other platforms, and are offering special incentives to their audiences to follow them to the new sites.

What do you think of OnlyFans' ban and its impact on the creator economy? Please share below!

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Indie Economy for more.

📰 In the News

Photo: In the News

from the Volv newsletter by Priyanka Vazirani

📻 TikTok has launched its own radio station.

👂 Augmented reality is coming for your ears.

💲 Gen Z increasingly turns to social media for financial advice.

📈 Bitcoin has crossed $50K as PayPal offers crypto products in the UK.

👓 Facebook is moving work meetings to virtual reality.

Check out Volv for more 9-second news digests.

🧨 Exploding Topics: Online Language-Learning Platforms


from the Exploding Topics newsletter by Josh Howarth

The online language-learning market is expected to reach $21.2B by 2027. Many language-learning platforms have seen a significant rise in search interest over the past five years, creating new opportunities for founders.

Language marketplace

A shining example: Cambly is a marketplace for conversational English tutors. Unlike some of its competitors, Cambly doesn’t implement structured lessons with ongoing schedules, opting instead for casual, on-demand chatting.

Cambly also doesn’t require tutors on the platform to have a certificate or degree of any kind. They just need to be native English speakers. This ensures that there is always someone available to talk; the company promises wait times of five seconds or less.

Cambly raised a Series B for an undisclosed amount last year.

What’s next: Cambly is part of the “language edtech” meta trend. There has been a huge rise in search interest for language-learning marketplaces across the board in the past few years.

  • Preply, a marketplace for online language tutors saw a 1366% increase in search interest.

  • Lingoda, a Berlin-based online language school saw a 371% increase in search interest.

  • Perfectly Spoken teacher-led English lessons saw a 700% increase in search interest.

  • Elsa Speak, a mobile-first language learning app saw a 669% increase in search interest.

The opportunities

As the online language-learning market continues to explode, English learning leads the pack. However, this trend is steadily changing. Meticulous Research notes that:

...it is observed that overseas consumers prefer information in their own language, and it is estimated that 60% of online consumers hardly or never buy from English-only websites. Moreover, 72.4% of customers are more likely to buy products that have information available in their native language.

Founders can explore opportunities in creating e-commerce website add-ons that assist with translations in niche markets, particularly for clothing items. Google Translate is sometimes very inaccurate for product descriptions, so if you can do it better, particularly in one of the fastest-growing language markets, you could likely grow exponentially.

The pandemic has sparked an huge uptick in language-learning, and this growth is expected to increase even further over the next 12 months. Add-ons that gamify the language-learning experience would likely do well, particularly for students, many of whom have experienced interruptions in learning since the pandemic started.

Programs targeted towards K-12 schools or colleges and universities to help students with tracking progress and managing lessons could also be explored.

Finally, as the pandemic has greatly increased work-from-home, many professionals are seeking new tools. Language-related add-ons for meeting platforms, conference rooms, and other tools geared specifically towards professionals could go a long way.

Check out the full post to see this week's other three exploding topics.

And join Exploding Topics Pro to see trends 6+ months before they take off.

Are you learning a new language? Please share in the comments!

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Exploding Topics for more.

🛠 Building in Public: How Experience Changed You


by Ivan Romanovich

Creating something is a new experience that changes us and the way we work. Sharing how the experience has changed you can help you connect with others.


Discuss this story.

🎓 10 Lessons From 10 Founders


from the Listen Up! IH newsletter by Ayush Chaturvedi

Indie Hackers has profiled many founders, and each has unique insight to offer. We thought it would be helpful to compile the lessons and advice of several founders together! This is the second part of the list that we ran in the previous newsletter. And, of course, you can always listen to each full episode on the Indie Hackers Podcast for more tips and learnings.

10 founders, 10 lessons

1. Tyler King of Less Annoying CRM on unbundling:

  • Humans don't like too much choice.
  • The cycle of bundling and unbundling is constant.
  • As platforms grow and add new features, they become general purpose. This creates new opportunities for unbundling them into niche products.

There are only two ways to make money in business: One is to bundle, the other is to unbundle.

2. James Traf of Super talks going viral overnight:

  • Luck favors those who are in motion.
  • Find ways to ride a trend.
  • When you're going viral, make sure to capitalize on the virality.

You know, you don't need a business plan. You don't need a degree in software engineering. You don't need to quit your job. You need two things, I would say. One, a computer with an internet connection, and [two], some initiative.

3. Sam Parr of The Hustle on building a content machine:

  • Copywriting is the number one skill you need if you want to make money.
  • Business is like music: There are a handful of structures and best practices within them. Follow them, and you won't fail.
  • Love what you are doing.

Launch something tomorrow. Do it fast and don’t think about anything. Just do it.

4. Bram Kanstein of NoCodeMVP on providing value:

  • If you have an idea, do the smallest thing that you can to learn the fastest about it that you can.
  • Making it small doesn't mean it's less valuable!
  • Timebox it. Determine how to pursue this idea from tomorrow through the next four weeks.

I truly believe that if you deliver real value and solve someone’s problem, they don’t care how you do it.

5. Rob Fitz of The Mom Test wants you to ask the right questions:

  • Nobody wants to go through the emotional toll of telling you your idea is bad.
  • It’s your job to figure out if it’s a good idea. All they can do is tell you about their lives. That’s the only information they have access to.

Customer conversations are like skateboarding; you should be willing to fall a few times. It’s not science or math.

6. Ryan Hoover of Product Hunt believes in the power of community:

  • There will always be an opportunity to create a community around something.
  • Pick a very specific community and audience around your passions.
  • Build products within that community.

Technology is part of our culture... [use it as] a way to express yourself, the same way that music is a way to express yourself.

7. Nathan Barry of ConvertKit makes customers the heroes:

  • Build in public for a mission, not for the eyeballs.
  • Compounding takes time. Give it the years that it needs.
  • Be the guide, not the hero, in your customer's journey.

It takes way longer than you think, and it's worth it if you keep going.

8. David Perell of The Writing Guy on why you should be writing:

  • Good writers are being rewarded like never before.
  • Find your "One Big Idea" and go deep into that.
  • Use stories, analogies, and examples in your writing.

Writing on the internet is one of the most under-utilized, under-explored opportunities in the world right now!

9. Jon Yongfook of Bannerbear on how to make it work:

  • It makes more sense to price your product higher and target fewer customers.
  • API products are well suited for indie hackers.
  • Passion is a crucial success metric in a solo business.

If you want to go from 0 to $10K MRR, you should divide your time 50:50 between coding and marketing.

10. Pieter Levels of Nomad List wants you to explore the world:

  • You don't need a fancy tech stack for a profitable business.
  • There is value in curating niche information.
  • Facebook and Google serve the masses. Indie hackers can serve the niches.

Be less scared and just do more things!

Check out the Indie Hackers Podcast for all of the full episodes.

What's your top learning as a founder? Please share in the comments!

Discuss this story, or subscribe to Listen Up! IH for more.

🐦 The Tweetmaster's Pick

Cover image for Tweetmaster's Pick

by Tweetmaster Flex

I post the tweets indie hackers share the most. Here's today's pick:

🏁 Enjoy This Newsletter?

Forward it to a friend, and let them know they can subscribe here.

Also, you can submit a section for us to include in a future newsletter.

Special thanks to Jay Avery for editing this issue, to Nathalie Zwimpfer for the illustrations, and to Priyanka Vazirani, Josh Howarth, Ivan Romanovich, and Ayush Chaturvedi for contributing posts. —Channing

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