Inside the new digital side

Most days, Nikki Fuego finishes her daily task in just a few hours, clearing out customer service issues for an exercise equipment startup before settling in on her actual job – designing horned bodysuits and geometric Flashes helmets that cannot be worn or touched.

Fuego is one of a growing group of people turning to the metaverse for extra income, turning the hobby on the sometimes lucrative side in a range of virtual spaces that proponents see as the future of the Internet.

Betting that the Metaverse will soon become the main place where people shop, work and play, businesses and investors have poured money into building out its digital and physical infrastructure—which ranges from virtual reality headsets to video- Game-like environment. roblox And decentralized, As gamers, advertisers with tech victories and deep pockets flock to the metaverse, aspiring solopreneurs have followed suit.

Nikki Fuego, a producer who sells "wearable" In the Metaverse.
Nikki Fuego says she makes more by selling digital apparel in the metaverse than she does in customer service for a startup.Courtesy of Nikki Fuego

“I wake up every single day and remember that I make money out of it,” said Fuego, a 29-year-old artist in Kansas City, Missouri.

For more than 40 hours a week, Fuego sits in front of her computer with the design software Blender. She uses the program to manipulate points on a mesh graphic, sculpting original items donned by avatars, animated characters that people run through virtual locations. Her own, which she uses in Decentraland, wears a slender red and black bodysuit, a black visor and red hair parted into horns.

It can take anywhere from several hours to a month to complete a piece in Fuego’s digital apparel collection. They have sold between two and 175 mana, the Decentraland currency which is roughly equivalent to one US dollar. Over the past eight months, Fuego says he’s made about $40,000 selling his digital goods — more than four times his monthly day-job income.

“I never would have thought I would make money from creating digital items that don’t exist and paying my bills,” Fuego said. “It’s literally an artist’s dream, and I’m living it.”

Boasting collectively with Roblox, Fortnite and Minecraft millions of usersThere is a growing demand for avatar accessory designers, game developers, consultants and influencers to help accelerate the market for digital goods in the metaverse. While its virtual worlds are ideally navigated in 3D using a VR headset, many are still largely nascent and often emulate browser-based video gaming. Today, anyone with a computer and an Internet connection can explore Roblox, Sandbox or Decentraland as a digital avatar and buy goods on their respective marketplaces with each associated cryptocurrencies.

“People often think, ‘What’s new in the Metaverse?’ And it’s creating really interesting things that people will actually do when they get to the metaverse,” said Jeremy Belenson, founding director of Stanford University’s Virtual Human Interaction Lab. “Sometimes it’s engineering, where you get to build software and hardware. To do. Sometimes this is due to mere pretense and having character in one type of event. ,

Avatar accessories, also called “skins,” can be anything from a pair of piercing elf ears to a floating rainbow-colored flame aura. Or you can simply dress up your avatar from head to toe in Prada and Balenciaga.

And thanks to creators like CK Bubbles, avatars can decorate their nails too. The 36-year-old New Yorker, who uses the pronoun they/their, began designing physical nail art from his home in 2020 after losing his job at the height of the pandemic. But after seeing musician Grimes perform at Decentraland in March, CK Bubbles thought they’d try to nail the metaverse.

CK Bubbles, a 36-year-old creative director in New York who creates digital nail art for avatars at the Metaverse.
After losing his job early in the pandemic, CK Bubbles began creating nail art for real people, and then brought digital versions of his designs to the Metaverse.Courtesy of CK Bubbles

He snapped some photos of real-world nail sets he’d already created and sent them to a digital designer known as Mana Daiquiri. In a collection the two developed together for LGBTQ pride, the virtual nails are adorned with lollipops and bows. Another set shimmering in purple opals and shimmering gems. With no promotions, CK Bubbles said they sold about 30 nail sets for 10 mana each, which cost about $300.

CK Bubbles’ primary income comes from his work as a creative director in advertising, but he states that the Avatar nail-art side hustle is more of a hobby. ,[The metaverse] It has really exploded in ways I didn’t expect, to the extent that this would be my full-time business,” he said.

An avatar in the Metaverse wears CK Bubbles' nail art designs.
One avatar wears CK Bubbles’ nail art in the Metaverse.Courtesy of CK Bubbles and Mana Daquiri

Major brands are also eyeing the growth potential of the Metaverse. Already, the market is projected to reach $783.3 billion by 2024, an increase of 63% from 2020. according for Bloomberg Intelligence. Within the past year, brands ranging from Snapple and Gucci to JPMorgan Chase have invested millions of dollars to raise virtual lands in the metaverse, where they can roll out games and sell exclusive items. Meta Platforms CEO Mark Zuckerberg is re-orienting the tech giant around the metaverse earlier this year, hoping the virtual world will drive hundreds of billions of dollars in digital commerce within the next decade.

To get there, companies are spending heavily on developers who can create rich experiences in the virtual space and on influencers who can attract people. As a result, most metaverse marketing smacks, but it can still mean money in the pockets of tech-savvy side-hustlers.

Meta is testing new bonus programs for creators Its Metaverse Platform, called Horizons World, which rewards them for the time users spend in their world. Sandbox’s Creators Fund pays people anywhere between $2 and $60 for original artwork that the company can sell in its marketplace. Roblox told investors in November last year that nearly 1,000 developers had raised more than $30,000 in the past 12 months.

Serena Ellis, a 31-year-old former real-estate agent in The Villages, Florida, sees the metaverse as a necessary break in her budding singing career. After experimenting with crypto and streaming it on Twitch, she decided to host her first event in 2020 in Decentraland, performing some of her synth-pop songs. Only a few showed up, but she said she seemed interested enough to keep going.

Serena Ellis performing at the launch of luxury lipstick brand Walde Beauty on January 27.
Serena Ellis presents at the virtual launch of lipstick brand Walde Beauty in Decentraland on January 27.Courtesy of Serena Ellis

Over the past two years, her Metaverse activities have expanded, partly thanks to brand partnerships. In January, she performed at the virtual launch of indie lipstick brand Walde Beauty and created a limited-edition Crystal Quartz lipstick vessel and Non-Fungible Token (NFT) Art Pieces for the company. She also performed during Metaverse Fashion Week for the non-profit Crypto Chicks, which educates women in blockchain, cryptocurrency and other emerging technologies.

Alice now estimates that she earns the equivalent of $2,500 per month in crypto from her Metaverse gigs and collaborations. She’s made well shy of $4,000 to $10,000 a month as a real-estate agent before leaving the field a year ago, and she says she’s since been tapping her savings to help cover expenses. Still working. Alice says she doesn’t cash her cryptocurrency income and has few bills to pay, adding that she saves on rent while living with her mom – who doesn’t understand what she does. does.

Serena Ellis, a 31-year-old former real-estate agent with a budding singing career in the metaverse.
Serena Ellis, a former real-estate agent, has spent the past year working on her Metaverse music career.Courtesy of Daryl Leva/Serena Ellis

“I know it’s really risky,” Ellis said. “But I really, really believe in what I’m doing.”

Nikki Fuego said she sees a way to quit her customer service job and take on her Metaverse projects full-time. She recently ventured into “wearables” for virtual cars in a Decentraland game she helped create, in which gamers can buy an avatar that transforms into a shiny vehicle similar to their character’s design. She said she has already sold hundreds of pieces for as little as $175.

“People see the metaverse as a fake, or like this fantasy or escaped reality,” Fuego said, “when I think it’s really embracing and embracing our reality that we Basically people.

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