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I first heard of non-fungible tokens when the artist Beeple sold one for $69 million.
Working in cybersecurity, I’d heard cryptocurrencies and blockchain being discussed for years. But I only recently became interested in digital assets.
Astounded at the money changing hands, I decided in March to create and sell an NFT of my own, despite being a blockchain novice at the time.
I was intrigued and wondered whether I could make money from the apparent boom.
I knew an NFT could be minted for any digital creation, whether Jack Dorsey’s first tweet or work from the British artist Damien Hirst. I also knew NFTs were digital tokens of ownership, created on a blockchain network, rather than just the artwork itself.
NFTs can be sold to buyers who perceive value and status in owning an original artwork and the corresponding code of blockchain that together make up an NFT.
Some NFTs, like CryptoPunks, are quite simplistic, suggesting buyers are drawn by speculative investments as much as by compelling artwork.
That gave me confidence I didn’t need to be trying to sell a masterpiece. I decided to mint an NFT for a photograph I’d taken while walking one morning in my native English county of Staffordshire. I often take photos of wildlife, landscapes, and sunrises while out walking near my home, but I never thought I could make any money from them.
The image I chose had won a prize in a photo competition at work, though, so I thought it might be sellable.
To mint an NFT on the ethereum blockchain, I needed a crypto wallet containing tokens known as ether.
I chose MetaMask as my wallet because of its ubiquity among the NFT community. I downloaded its app, noting the 12-word unique “seed phrase” recovery key generated during setup and keeping it secret. I created an account on the Coinbase Exchange via its app, submitting photos of my ID for online verification.
Once I’d deposited about $200 into Coinbase, I bought that equivalent in ether and sent it to my MetaMask wallet, which is done by generating a unique address that you copy and input on the exchange.
This setup process took me under an hour.
With ether in hand, I was ready to mint and list my NFT. I did so on OpenSea, which calls itself the “first and largest” marketplace.
I felt that large, reputable platforms limit the chances of getting scammed and help maximize reach to buyers.
Listing there is like selling on eBay. You upload your source file (in my case, the JPEG of my photo), add a description, and choose between setting a price or selling via auction.
OpenSea provides a QR code you must scan to link it to your crypto wallet so you can pay and be paid. It prompts regularly for digital verification throughout the minting process, confirming each step.
Creators choose a commission rate of up to 10% for future sales of their NFTs, giving them a financial benefit every time it changes hands. I opted to receive a 4% commission. If my buyer resells my NFT, I’ll get 4% of the proceeds.
This is enforced programmatically on the blockchain via a smart contract.
You also need to pay ethereum “gas” fees, which cover the computing power required to execute blockchain transactions like minting.
These are significant, thanks to NFT mania and the volume of people competing for network resources.
They also vary significantly by time of day. When I submitted my minting in the evening I was quoted gas fees the equivalent of $140. When I made the same request at 6 a.m. the following day I was quoted $94.33.
OpenSea takes 2.5% of the price of any sale, and further gas fees are incurred when accepting an offer from a buyer. Consider these when setting your price if you want to make a profit.
Remembering the NFT mania, I initially listed my NFT for 5 ether, or about $20,000. There were no takers. So consider setting a price that’s fair but realistic, especially for your first NFT.
After seven months without interest I dropped the price to 0.015 ether, deciding it was better to build credibility through selling a few pieces initially. The photo cost me nothing to create, after all.
Marketing was crucial.
Buyers in the flooded NFT marketplace have options with prices ranging from $50 to more than $1 million.
Twitter has flourishing communities of NFT enthusiasts, creators, and investors. Crypto “whales” often appear on Twitter and in Discord groups looking for NFTs to buy. Connect with these and promote yours shamelessly.
I built my Twitter following by publishing articles on Medium about NFT culture and promoting mine within them. A week after I lowered my price, an NFT influencer offered me the full amount.
Once I’d paid another gas fee of $40 in ether, the proceeds landed in my wallet and the NFT moved to the buyer’s wallet. The buyer tweeted saying my writing had been a big factor in their decision to buy.
I may mint other photographs. I’m exploring ways of minting something text-based, and I’m embarking on a project with another creator in which we bundle my text with that person’s illustrations to sell as an NFT.
Minting and selling my first NFT was a lot of effort. After all the fees, I just about broke even. But even more important, I’ve established credibility through making a sale, and I now understand the process.
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