CLEVELAND (WJW) It is definitely an interesting choice of income in the pandemic. With millions of Americans unemployed, more and more people are turning to a social media platform that allows them to sell sometimes explicit photos of themselves.

“I initially started doing this as a way to make a little bit of side money,” said Tiffany Mick, OnlyFans creator.

But what started out as a side gig helped Mick and her family survive the pandemic.

“My husband and I actually worked at the same restaurant and we both lost our jobs,” said Mick.

Mick turned to OnlyFans, a social media platform where users sell original content to monthly subscribers. Mick will post pictures of herself weekly, sometimes nude or in lingerie. The photos are often taken by a professional photographer or her husband at home.

“He helps because it helps me and empowers me. It helps us financially, it keeps things interesting,” said Mick.

That teamwork has skyrocketed Mick to the Top 5% of OnlyFans creators with dozens of fans who pay a $14.99 subscription rate per month. She’s even made $600 in tips in one day.

Photo courtesy Tiffany Mick

“For the most part, I’ve gotten pretty positive reactions. People say ‘You’re a 25-year-old woman.   You’re married, as long as your husband is okay with it,'” said Mick.

So how does it work?

Creators can set their page to be freely accessible or paid access. They then set their monthly subscription rates from just under $5 to about $50.

On top of that, fans can tip them directly. OnlyFans then takes 20 percent of any earnings made on the website as a fee.

“At the end of the day, you are selling a product. The product is yourself. Or what you do,” said Ian Argo of Willoughby.

Argo is a professional photographer who uses the OnlyFans platform to showcase his work.

“It’s not like I’m putting myself out there. It’s the work that I do with other people. We have equal-use agreements and everything like that. I work with a lot of models who have OnlyFans themselves,”
said Argo.

For Argo, it’s an additional $600 a month on top of his regular job. He has about 40 subscribers who pay his $8.99 subscription rate.

“You can cater to someone’s request. You are fulfilling someone’s fantasy of what they want to see or experience,” said Argo.

But at what price? While content creators get paid without having to interact with clients in person, that doesn’t necessarily mean there aren’t risks.

“You do have to be really conscious of your digital footprint. When you are posting something, even if you think it’s private, it’s not,” said Dr. Amber Farris, a professor at the School of Communication at the University of Akron.

Farris is also a research specialist in social media uses and effects.

“You should never post anything you wouldn’t expect someone to grab. There is an illusion of privacy on a pay site such as what you are talking about,” said Farris.

And that’s exactly what happened to a mother in California who’s kids were expelled from school over her OnlyFans account, according to our sister station, Fox 40 in Sacramento.

“People could see consequences in terms of getting a job in the future, applying to schools in the future, even keeping a job. I think employers are actively searching social media,” said Farris.

Farris says to think of an online digital footprint as a tattoo.

“You make a choice,” said Farris.

But for creators like Argo and Mick, it’s a choice that is helping to keep their families afloat this year.

“You get to set the price and you get to set your own exceptions. It’s very much like owning your own business in that regard,” said Argo.

“It’s not for everybody. But I have fun with it. It’s like when people say if you enjoy your job, you never feel like you’re working,” said Mick.