Inside CentroU: The online business school transforming sex workers into entrepreneurs26/09/2020
- A new online university is educating sex workers about how to make it in the porn industry.
- CentroU is a free online business school that teaches adult performers everything ranging from branding and marketing, home production, accounting, and navigating censorship.
- The coronavirus pandemic has changed the porn industry, with subscription-based platforms like OnlyFans and FanCentro have seen a significant jump in their "model sign-ups."
- Insider spoke to some students and teachers from CentroU, who have said that the courses have had a significant impact on their careers.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
The porn industry is having a moment.
Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, traffic on porn websites has skyrocketed, adult performers are moving online, and subscription-based platforms like OnlyFans and FanCentro have seen a significant jump in their "model sign-ups."
And it's not just established sex workers that are making the transition to digital platforms. Rising unemployment rates and lockdowns caused by the pandemic have swelled the ranks of performers who want to jump on the lucrative bandwagon, easily setting up premium accounts from the comfort of their own homes.
But for people who start selling erotic content online independently, there is a lack of support or guidance. There is no rulebook on how to sell sex work online.
Enter CentroU: tailored explicitly for adult performers who are want to learn more about what it takes to build their digital brand on the internet.
The initiative, styling itself as an online university, is the brainchild of the subscription-based website FanCentro to educate people about making it in the porn industry.
CentroU is the first educational platform of its kind, offering free performer-led classes on everything ranging from branding and marketing, home production, accounting, health, and navigating censorship.
"For an industry where training has always been on-the-job, this is a major milestone," Mike Stabile of the Free Speech Coalition, a non-profit trade association of the pornography and adult entertainment industry in the US, told Insider.
"This has always been an industry where people just sort of show up on set and do what is asked of them," said Stabile. "But that doesn't happen as much anymore and now most people are running their business from home…so there's a huge demand to learn about how to make that work."
So far, almost 500 performers have already enrolled in the online classes, according to Stabile. The various courses are set for a full rollout by the end of the month.
While CentroU could be useful to preexisting "influencers" looking to elevate their online presence, it also acts as a guide for people who are just starting out.
"In recent months, many people have been coming from outside the industry. And because there's no central place where people are meeting others from inside the industry, they're not ever coming in contact with an agent or another performer," said Stabile.
"They sign up to an account, and instantly, they are online. Often they haven't thought through all the things that you might need to think through if you had to go through a more formal process. And this can be overwhelming, scary, and also risky," Stabile added.
"Having a course like this is a huge opportunity"
Saint Devera, 22, from Chicago, Illinois, was working as a bartender up until the pandemic hit.
A lover of dance and music, Devera wanted to make some money on the side and decided to make content for the gay community on FanCentro.
The 22-year-old, who had previously dabbled in making erotic content online, told Insider that when he had the opportunity to be one of the first to try out classes at CentroU, he leaped at the chance.
"When I was starting out, I was really trying to find a step-by-step process on how to set up something like this. I would desperately type into Google 'how to make it as an adult influencer' but nothing ever came up," Devera said.
"You can pay top dollar sometimes for this kind of information. So it was a no brainer. I was like if it's going to help me, then of course I'm going to educate myself," he added.
Devera said the platform has been hugely helpful in building his career. His subscriber count has more than doubled since he started, and his popularity is booming. He sees FanCentro eventually becoming his primary source of income.
"Having a course like this is a huge opportunity. I think anybody that is starting that has no prior experience in social media, no prior experience in marketing themselves, really have an opportunity to make a lot for their career," Devera added.
It's not just amateurs
While most of the course content on CentroU is tailored to build a career as an adult influencer, Tilly Toy —a popular performer on the website — says sex workers can learn skills there that are applicable anywhere.
"Aside from learning about how to use the platform, you learn about creating a brand and how to market yourself and stay within your brand. Those are all skills you can apply in other fields as well," she said.
Despite being one of the most in-demand influencers on FanCentro — she has more than 17,000 followers — Toy reported seeing an increase in her base after applying some insider secrets from the online courses.
"My income has increased and also my member retention. It's been super cool to have this tool where basically everything is accessible, " she added.
The business school couldn't have come at a better time. Subscription platforms have prospered in 2020.
OnlyFans, for example, welcomed over 140,000 content creators to the platform during the months of February and March, according to WIRED. Its popularity surged further when Beyoncé name-checked the site in May, prompting a 15 percent uptick in traffic.
"We live in a time where everyone watches porn yet no one wants to acknowledge the existence of the sex workers creating it, and that is a very difficult space to navigate," said Melrose Michaels, an adult performer who teaches some of the classes at CentroU. "Informing new influencers on how to do that will really help them succeed long term on the platform."
Michaels believes that the future of porn is changing and what has happened as a result of the pandemic is only the beginning.
"Adult influencers are often looked at as if what they're doing is somehow 'the easy way out,' but there's so much more to it than that. I work really hard at my job. We are our own service and product, we handle all the sales and accounting, we do all the marketing and advertising, we handle all the production of content, the distribution of content, I could go on forever," she said.
"I think everyone underestimates how business savvy adult creators are. But I believe in the years to come that will become very apparent to the mainstream world," Michaels added.
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