Lisa Tooley had heard the stories of women making a lot of money online.
The 44-year-old Nebraska mother of three saw a post on Pinterest in which a man had published photos of a Quonset hut and new Ford F-150. Money from his wife’s OnlyFans account bought those, he bragged, which convinced Tooley to look into it.
Her interest was driven more by desperation than anything else, Tooley told Cowboy State Daily by phone last week.
Tooley lives in Gering, a town of about 8,000 in the panhandle of Nebraska that has been hit hard by economic devastation. She had worked in the marketing department at Cabela’s before it was bought out by Bass Pro Shop in 2017. Despite Bass Pro Shop promising to keep existing employees, she was laid off after the purchase.
After that, she bought two liquor stores. But the buyout of Cabela’s meant many other people were laid off from the town’s biggest employer as well and they began to leave town to find jobs elsewhere. Then the coronavirus pandemic hit, further reducing business.
Trying to keep her staff paid during the economic downturn forced her to cash in some of her children’s savings, which was a low point for her. She knew she needed to do something different, so she sold the businesses.
Meanwhile, the family of six – including her boyfriend Brant and his 10-year-old son – survived on Brant’s salary at a local utility company.
After looking into OnlyFans further and communicating with a content creator in California, Tooley thought she might be able to make some money by posting photos of herself to the site and ran the idea past Brant.
He was all in, she said. In fact, he thought it was a great idea.
Big Money to be Made
OnlyFans has been around since 2016, the brainchild of British entrepreneur Tim Stokely. His vision was to launch a site where creators could monetize their content free of advertisers, according to information on the site.
Unlike other social media networks like Instagram, YouTube and Facebook, which forbid explicit content and nudity, OnlyFans allows it. Users pay a monthly subscription fee of between $4.99 and $49.99 to get access to a creator’s page. Creators can also earn tips and income from paid messages.
OnlyFans boasts having the strongest engagement statistics on social media. To date, the site has paid out over $3 billion to creators and has more than 100 million registered users and more than 1 million creators worldwide.
The company takes 20% of every subscription and on average, content creators make around $180 per month, although earnings can near $100,000, according to quora.com.
Although OnlyFans does track the number of its users and their geographic locations, the company declined to say how many creators live in Wyoming and how much money they make per year.
“The brand does not release or share this type of data,” Taylor Osumi, vice president of Autumn Communications, said in an email.
Creators can do anything on their sites, from offering health tips and posing partially or fully nude to performing sex acts, although strict rules forbid anyone under the age of 18 from posting or accessing the site. The company also has policies forbidding human trafficking and modern slavery.
According to OnlyFans policies, creators are forbidden from showing or promoting items and actions including firearms, drugs, suicide or self-harm, necrophilia, bestiality, revenge porn, sex trafficking or prostitution. Adherence to the rules is monitored by a third-party oversight provider.
The company has twice banned pornography on its site, in 2019 and 2021, due to pressure from the banking industry, but in each case, the ban was rescinded a short time later.
Tooley does not post sexually explicit content or full nudes. She refers to her posts as “spicier” content where she models lingerie and does the occasional topless shot.
Mostly, she said, it’s flirtatious stuff with an emphasis on “being real” and sharing snippets of her life such as going to the gym and her children’s ball games.
Earning A Great Living
Tooley started her page in March 2021 and said it was slow going at first. On average, she was making around $200 to $300 a month, but then she started doing research into how to grow her fan base.
She reached out to a successful content creator in California who suggested she use other social media platforms to draw people to her page. Because OnlyFans does no advertising, content creators are left to do this on their own.
At some point she said she was contacted by a man who described himself as an “agent,” but decided not to work with him because he seemed “scammy” and wanted to make her took “trashy.” One bit of advice she did take, however, was to get on TikTok with a video.
It was that TikTok video that changed everything for her. In the video, she appeared in a tank top, explaining the number one reason that MILFs, an acronym for hot moms, “do it better” is because they offer cookies in bed.
It absolutely blew up, Tooley said, garnering nearly 2 million views and drawing 80,000 subscribers to her site at a monthly charge of $12.99.
After this video, Tooley was making thousands of dollars every month and now wants to grow that figure to upwards of $100,000.
Keeping it Real
The success she has enjoyed and money she’s been able to make have astounded both Tooley and her partner.
“It’s totally insane,” she said.
Her fans are mostly men from the United States, though she does have “a good handful” of female fans as well as several men living outside the country, predominantly in Australia, Turkey and Wales.
The key was branding herself in a way that made her real to her viewers she said.
She doesn’t pile on the makeup but instead comes across like a “Midwest Mom,” which is the creator name she uses for her page. Her subscribers seem to like her down-to-earth looks and approach and she said that some of her most popular videos were of her saying good morning to her fans as she headed off to the gym in her workout clothes and no makeup.
“They want to see a real person, not a made-up doll with filters,” she said.
The key is to post frequently and always remember that the job is to be an entertainer who doesn’t have to look perfect, she said. Mostly, she’s been amazed at the number of people who seem genuinely lonely and who pay extra just to talk to her on the phone about real life while asking her questions about herself.
Right now, she admitted she’s “pretty lazy” when it comes to posting and growing her page and estimates she only puts in about an hour a day, which she plans to amp up in the fall when her kids go back to school.
Not all people have been complimentary to Tooley, both online and in person. Online, some people have commented on her social media posts that she’s too old and they’d never pay to see her.
Other moms in Tooley’s small town have waged a smear campaign, accusing her of being a terrible mother, though nobody has said so directly to her face. Instead, there are a lot of whispers and finger pointing, she said.
“A lot of these women are jealous,” Tooley said, noting that she puts in a lot of time at the gym and works hard to keep up her appearance.
Some have also gone after her on social media to campaign for the removal of her videos from TikTok and to besmirch her, she said.
As for her mothering skills, Tooley argued that this job allows her more time to be with her children and support their interests, such as traveling with her 10-year-old twins for their baseball games.
Her children know about her OnlyFans page and joke about how their friends call her a “hot mom.”
Her children are totally fine with it, she said, and reiterated that not only does it allow her to provide for her family but also allows her to spend more time with them and be a better mom. This is why she’s doing it, she said. It allows her to devote herself more to her children while also helping the family pay their bills.
For her, it’s also helped her work through her own body image issues and insecurities, she said.
Posing for online photographs was awkward for Tooley at first, but she found it eventually empowering when she realized that she didn’t have to be perfect. In fact, the less perfect she is, the more her fans seem to respond to that realness.
She’s not selfish or conceited as her critics attest, but said she’s actually a really humble person who goes out of her way to help neighbors.
She urged those who choose to become content creators to really think it over first to decide if it’s the right thing for them, because once images begin appearing, they remain online forever.
“There is no turning back,” she said. “Once it’s out there, it’s there for life.”
At the same time, she’s happy with her decision and plans to do it for another two to five years, when she might be able to retire, assuming her brand continues to grow.
In the meantime, she said she’s not getting bogged down by the haters because they are a minority and more people in her hometown of Gering and elsewhere have been incredibly supportive.
“Worldwide people are not judging me,” she said. “It’s the 10% (judging me) who are the loudest.”