The coronavirus has caused so many people across the world to lose their income as businesses shut down over social distancing requirements and fears of worsening the pandemic. But while workers who had to physically report to non-essential jobs in order to earn money were the first to suffer from this new economic reality, people who were already working from home are starting to feel the effects as well.
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An influencer in Australia recently described her situation in an emotional TikTok video, claiming that as people are forced to tighten their belts, her subscriber count on OnlyFans has dropped dramatically enough that she can no longer pay her bills.
“I really didn’t want to talk about it, because it’s so humiliating and stuff, but everyone on TV is always talking about how everyone’s lost their jobs and people can’t pay for anything anymore,” a crying Billie Beever tells her viewers. “I’m losing subscribers on OnlyFans. That’s my main source of income. I can’t pay my rent anymore.”
OnlyFans is a service that allows people to upload content behind a paywall, which can then be accessed by subscribers. It’s popular among adult content creators, and more and more sex workers have been turning to OnlyFans as a source of income during the current health crisis.
“I can’t work. And even if I was to go back to work, what am I supposed to do, go work at a strip club?” Beever asks. “They’re all closed down as well. They’re all closed. All the strip clubs are closed. You can’t even be close to someone because of social distancing.
“I have nothing else going for me. I have no other talent. I’ve got nothing else. I can’t dance, I can’t sing, I can’t do anything. I don’t understand what I’m supposed to do. I just want everything to go back to normal so people can keep subscribing,” she adds.
Performers and artists of all sorts have turned to a subscriber-based model more and more over the last few years as the popularity of sites like OnlyFans and Patreon encouraged a direct financial relationship between creator and consumer. While some use it as supplementary income, there are many who have been able to turn it into a primary or even sole source of income—but one that is constantly at the mercy of subscriber count. And with the current crisis, people who are seeing a decrease in subscribers from these sites aren’t as easily able to go out and find new jobs to replace any lost income from a loss of subscribers.
“It was instantly a great way to bring in an income for myself and it is now my main source of income,” Beever, who is a stay-at-home mother, told the Daily Mail. “I do still perform strip shows and dancing, but during this isolation period that isn’t an option.”
But while so many people are acutely familiar what it’s like to suddenly lose income during this time, not everyone is sympathetic with Beever’s plight, or that of other influencers or subscriber-reliant content creators who now find themselves struggling to make ends meet.
“I’m sorry but being an ‘influencer’ is not a career,” one Twitter user wrote.
“You should’ve gone to school, got a degree or something but you didn’t, hence you must face consequences & be responsible for those poor decisions you’d made,” another wrote.
Others were quick to point out that work is work, and COVID-19 is having far-reaching negative effects on people of all professions.
"A loss of income and not being able to do your job is distressing for anyone," Eliza Berlage tweeted. "Leave moral judgement out of it."
Beever briefly archived her TikTok video after receiving a slew of negative comments from people who she said were slut-shaming her for making her money from adult content. Though the video has since been reinstated, comments remain turned off.
“I really want more people to understand and be aware that we do more than just taking a photo and uploading it,” she told the Daily Mail. “We have to find clients, marketing, advertising, we have to edit photos to meet certain criteria. We have to continuously have content, we have to strain our bodies just like a labourer does, and people have the audacity to say that sex work isn’t a real job? It's completely mind-blowing.”