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The crypto world moves fast, and there are many different branches of the blockchain industry to explore, each with their own nuances and attractions. One of the most intriguing technologies to come to mainstream attention recently is non-fungible tokens, or NFTs: unique or limited-edition, indivisible assets. These have become popular as a means of trading digital art, and art projects still remain at the forefront of the NFT space. However, NFTs can be used for many other use cases, including trading rare physical assets, provenance tracking, representing items in games, and identity management.
As such they have become one of the key technologies of the metaverse: the immersive, blockchain-powered online worlds that are beginning to form the user experience for the next generation of web services.
A career working with NFTs therefore offers exciting opportunities to shape the future of the internet and the software billions of people will use. It’s also cross-cutting: NFTs have many different applications, some of which are only just being explored, and some that have not even been imagined yet. But what are the skills you’ll need to be useful in this sub-sector of the blockchain industry? And how exactly do you go about finding opportunities in the NFT space, whether that means trading and investing in them, working as a developer, or joining a gaming or metaverse company that uses NFTs in its software?
Why Should I Pursue A Career In Crypto?
The crypto space is still in its relative infancy. It’s been less than 14 years since Bitcoin launched, and barely a decade since crypto rose to any degree of prominence. For comparison, when the internet was the same age, we were still logging into email using cumbersome command line prompts, and surfing gaudy Geocities pages.
At the same time, blockchain is old enough to have proven it’s going to be around for the long haul. We’ve had a few bear markets, but crypto has come back stronger each time. What’s more, investment has steadily increased, and the technologies and interfaces are being honed and refined all the time. At this point, there is simply too much interest in blockchain for it to disappear, or be regulated out of existence.
In short, this point in time is a sweet spot for the industry. It’s a high-growth area and there are still many opportunities, but the risk that blockchain as a movement will fail is lower than it has ever been. There is momentum. All of this means there are many reasons to consider a career in the crypto and blockchain industry – and in NFTs more specifically.
- You’ll be working at the cutting edge of technology, helping to build the platforms and applications that will become a part of the Web3 landscape – and in the process, you might find yourself responsible for launching the metaverse’s equivalent of the next Google or Facebook.
- You’ll be playing your part in a social movement that democratises access to web services, opening them to anyone who has an internet connection and removing the barriers and downsides (including lack of privacy and data harvesting) that are a feature of Web2.
- Rates of pay are typically significantly higher than in similar roles in other tech jobs – and that’s assuming you don’t end up helping run the next unicorn.
There are also many different areas of the blockchain world you can get involved with. Just as conventional software development is tremendously varied, so is the crypto space. You might end up working on the smart contracts that power a decentralised financial protocol that handles hundreds of millions of dollars of value, or you might contribute to the graphics for a new metaverse platform. You could be researching and defining the tokenomics for an online economy, or marketing the latest blockchain game.
In an increasing number of blockchain projects, you might well become involved in the NFT sector, which touches a wide range of other areas and has almost countless applications.
NFT Developer Salaries
Just like any other blockchain projects, developers are vital in the NFT space. While the very simplest NFT projects might manage without a developer, using off-the-peg tools, their functionality will be limited. Anything more extensive or imaginative will need at least one good developer, and possibly several, working on different areas of the project. Two common ones are smart contract devs, and frontend or website devs.
- Smart contract developers write and update the code that governs how NFTs operate. On Ethereum and several other major blockchain platforms, this requires having a strong understanding of Solidity. Developers are needed to customise the standard smart contracts that are used to create NFTs, providing specific features like whitelisting (hard-coding who can mint NFTs) and including additional functionality such as royalties payments to a project treasury – and much more. Salaries can vary wildly depending on your level of experience and the nature of the project, but a decent Solidity developer can easily expect to earn $100,000 per year. If you’re just starting out, it might be half that; if you’re at the top end of the industry, you could be looking at closer to twice that, with token options on top. The decentralised and global nature of the industry means that remote work is the norm, and so your salary should not be location dependent (unless you’re going into the office for a physical company).
- Website developers create the sites that enable users to interface with the blockchain application and use their NFTs. Again, this varies enormously depending on the nature of the project. At one end of the scale, the site may simply be a static page that provides basic marketing information about a project. However, it’s likely it will allow users to interact with their NFTs in different ways – updating their characteristics and metadata, trading them, and using them to access certain services. At the most complex level, the NFTs will be built into a far-reaching metaverse or game world, and will provide all kinds of different functionality. At the lower end, you could be looking at a salary of $50,000. At the top end? $100,000 or $150,000 or even more is not unusual.
What NFT Jobs Are Out There?
Developers are critical for the NFT industry and are understandably in high demand, hence the impressive remuneration packages available. However, there are plenty of other jobs in the NFT space, including some you might not have realised even existed.
- Artists and graphic designers. Artwork plays a huge role in the world of NFTs which, after all, rose to popularity as a way of owning and trading digital art. Today, there are a large number of art-focused NFT projects, in styles of all kinds. Pixel art, anime, cartoon, 3D, and more conventional styles. While some incorporate additional functionality, with staking, games and other utility, in many cases it’s the art that carries the project, giving regular people a chance to own something special. And, of course, graphic designers are central to the metaverse sector, which offers immersive and user-friendly interfaces, custom avatars, and rich visual experiences.
- Marketing and communications. Just like any other company, NFT projects need marketing to get eyes on them. If you have experience in marketing and communications from another business – particularly an online tech business – then you’ll find there are some transferable skills. (For example, social media marketing plays a big part of crypto marketing, since there’s so much activity on Twitter and other platforms.) However, there are also some quirks and specific marketing strategies that are unique to the space, and you’ll need to be familiar with these too.
- Lore writers. The artwork might be where many NFT projects start, but an increasing number of projects are offering much more. The NFTs are often the avatars and pass keys to a wider metaverse experience, in which users interact with each other, with games, and with other services. Frequently, these take the form of themed worlds with a detailed backstory, or ‘lore’, as it’s known. And where there’s lore, there needs to be a lore writer. In short, if you’re a creative writer, you might find work creating a narrative for the entire NFT project – whether that’s something like football played on Mars, family-friendly characters with a conservation message, or a futuristic sci-fi universe set light years away after the destruction of Earth.
- Discord moderators. NFT and metaverse projects are by their nature collaborative and community-centric. These communities – often numbering many thousands or even tens of thousands of users – typically come together on Discords, where they can discuss and trade the NFTs, talk about other projects in the space, and generally hang out and chat about life. Of course, these interactions sometimes get off track, or occasionally turn unpleasant, or people have questions and concerns – which is where community managers and moderators step in. It sounds easy, but it can require thick skin and infinite patience, and a particular temperament to make people feel welcome but ensure discussions stay civil.
- Collab managers. No NFT project exists in a vacuum. One of the forms of marketing specific to the space is collaborations with other NFT communities that are gearing up for their mint. Collab managers are responsible for business development – in this instance, establishing partnerships that give their communities white list status (the right to mint) with other projects. This can be extremely valuable, as white lists (‘WLs’) can be incredibly sought-after and competitive to be included on. A good collab manager can help drive demand for their community’s NFTs by providing value in the form of WLs for popular projects.
- Alpha Callers. Trading has always been a big part of the crypto sector, ever since the first bitcoin exchanges opened in 2010. Market analysts – with varying degrees of skill and credibility – have also carved out a niche by giving advice for what and when to buy and sell. Alpha Callers do this for the NFT space, telling their communities about interesting or promising projects, and suggesting good entry and exit points. Like collab managers, the information and opportunities they provide can help drive significant value to their communities and the NFTs they are built around.
- Bot and tools developers. The Discords that give a home to NFT communities typically offer a wide range of additional functionality beyond messaging, provided by bots and other integrations. These might include price feeds and notifications of NFT sales on OpenSea or other marketplaces, the ability to tip crypto, mini-games, verification for holder-only channels, even trials of generative art software to enable users to try creating images for themselves. These bots can also be customised or, if a developer has the time and skill, they can create unique new functionality to serve the community.
Skills You Might Need For A Career In NFTs
With the above in mind, there is a broad range of skills that can help you land a job in the NFT space, including:
- Graphic design, in a wide range of different styles and using many different tools.
- Marketing and communications.
- Content creation, from white papers, blogs and social media posts to creative lore writing.
- Community management.
- Foreign languages, to cater to large communities in specific countries.
- Soft skills may also be helpful, since you’ll be working remotely over the internet and across cultures and time zones – all of which makes misunderstandings and personality clashes a common pitfall.
Why Are NFTs So Popular?
NFTs and the idea of the metaverse have grabbed mainstream attention – including retail users, big brands, and investors and institutions – in a way that can seem bewilderingly intense. But there are several good reasons why the attraction is so strong.
Firstly, rare items have always been considered collectible, including buttons, coins, baseball cards, books, records, toys, sports memorabilia and ephemera. NFTs are the evolution of this, offering a way to cryptographically prove ownership of something unusual and limited edition.
Secondly, it gives users a chance to own a piece of a project, giving them a sense of inclusion and even a say in how the initiative is run.
Thirdly, the artwork itself may be highly attractive; most people do not have the contacts or opportunity to invest in physical art, but NFTs democratise this previously exclusive market.
Fourthly, NFTs are a new form of digital asset, and there are opportunities to build wealth and profit from investing in strong projects.
Lastly, there is the prestige involved in being the owner of a celebrated run of NFTs – CryptoPunks and Bored Apes being two of the most obvious examples of artwork status symbols. Holders typically use their NFTs as avatars and PFPs across social media, particularly in Discords and on Twitter.
How To Make Money With NFTs
Just like in the wider crypto world, there is a lot of money to be made with NFTs – although there’s plenty of risk, too.
Since this article focuses on a career in the NFT space, it makes sense to start there. If you’re able to find work with a good project, you should not only be paid in ETH or USDC, but also receive one or more NFTs to help incentivise you to build value and share in any upside. This is especially the case if you get in at the ground floor. In the early days, it’s possible that the project will not have any funding, or will be running on a shoestring, so – like a start-up – there’s a risk/reward calculus to make.
If you’re looking to make money from rising NFT prices, that’s a different prospect. It’s also highly risky. Like crypto more generally, NFTs can be volatile. However, their limited supply means liquidity can be poor, and when interest dries up there may simply not be buyers at any price. This is where Alpha Callers and Collab Managers come into their own, helping communities find solid projects and organising white listing.
Bear in mind that, in a flat market, trading is a zero-sum game: one person’s gains are balanced by another’s losses (minus transaction fees and royalties, which typically total around 7.5%). In a bear market, you’re swimming against the tide even before you factor that in, and the dollar value of your NFTs could be falling even if their ETH price is stable.
You might alternatively explore metaverse tokens, like SAND, MANA, APE, and so on, since these are linked to the success of a wider ecosystem, not just a single NFT series. There are also projects like EnjinCoin (ENJ), which provides tools for the NFT and metaverse sector as a whole.
OpenSea, Rarible, And NFT Marketplaces
If you’re minting NFTs, then this will typically take place from the project’s website at a specified time. There will likely be a separate whitelist of pre-approved participants, followed by a public mint, where – assuming any tokens are left after the whitelist mint – anyone can mint. You’ll find all the details for these in project Discords and on their Twitter feeds.
If you’re looking to pick up NFTs on the secondary market, then two of the most popular marketplaces are OpenSea and Rarible. OpenSea is a great option for beginners. It’s been around the longest, and supports multiple currencies, though ETH is most often used. OpenSea has become the default marketplace for many NFT projects.
Rarible, by contrast, is much newer. It’s a decentralised platform, governed by the community (unlike OpenSea, which uses the blockchain for trustless sales but which is run by a centralised group), powered by the RARI token.
Both OpenSea and Rarible are multi-chain, and both have the same fees of 2.5%. OpenSea has a mobile app, which Rarible does not; other than that, the main thing going for OpenSea is its relative size and network effect.
How To Find NFT Jobs
NFTs are an exciting and trending technology, so there’s no shortage of jobs if you’re looking to change careers – or move sideways into NFTs and metaverse applications from an existing career in the crypto world. There are several places and ways you can get started:
- Conventional jobs sites like LinkedIn. Simply search for NFT or metaverse jobs in your area or remotely, and see what comes up.
- Check out the NFT section of LaborX or other crypto freelancer sites.
- Get stuck into a few NFT Discords, get to know the communities and project founders, and see if there is anything that fits your skill set – there’s a good chance that if you’re motivated and have relevant experience, there will be opportunities for you. Feel free to be proactive and suggest ways you can help. It’s also great networking, so if you don’t find work in one Discord, there’s a good chance you’ll gain some solid leads to other projects.
NFTs are an exciting branch of blockchain technology, and one we’re only starting to scratch the surface of as we explore the benefits they have to offer for Web3 applications of all kinds. It’s likely that in five years, a large percentage of apps will incorporate NFTs in some form – as digital art, rare physical assets, in-game items, metaverse assets, identity tokens, keys that unlock subscriptions and services, and much more.
We’re only at the beginning of the NFT movement, and the number of opportunities across the space is growing fast. If you’re interested in a career in the blockchain space and have relevant skills, NFTs are a great place to start out.