The Downtime Guide To: Making An NFT

The Downtime Guide To: Making An NFT

Corban Goble

It's not too late to dive in!

If you’ve been following the State of the Internet in 2021, you’ve probably heard something about NFTs.

NFTs—an abbreviation for “non fungible token”—have become the latest and hottest asset in an American economic landscape saturated with new investment opportunities. The artist Beeple (among others) proved that a rare NFT has immense value in the traditional setting of a Sotheby’s art auction. The NBA is basically printing money on its NFT venture with Dapper Labs, NBA Topshot. More and more artists are finding novel ways to incorporate NFTs into their success.

We are very much off to the races when it comes to the NFT, and yes, the craze is very much connected to the crypto boom of the past two years. Even though Bitcoin is becoming mainstream, longterm holders haven’t been able to actually spend their stack—until now. You haven’t missed the moment, because this is the moment.

So, ere’s the big question: how does one make an NFT? Where do you even start? And how do you create something unique that might have open market value?

The technical process of making an NFT is actually... pretty easy. But there’s some groundwork to be done before we get there.

Though building an NFT might not technically count as a celebration of chilling, it sure qualifies as a valid use of downtime. If anything, making your own NFT is a good way to better understand just what the hell is going on in the space. We’ve put a guide together containing the major pillars of NFT building and selling, from picking the right kind of crypto wallet to design, marketing ideas and other general guidelines.

It’s the Wild West out there, and there are still plenty of opportunities to move the needle with NFTs. Why not saddle up for a closer look?

Get a crypto wallet/crypto trading situation set up

If you’ve already trading crypto and have a wallet set up, you’re good to go on to the next phase of this guide. I can’t speak to every wallet situation in existence, because more options come out every day, but if you’ve been doing this a minute, I can say with near certainty that your setup will be embraced on the major NFT marketplaces.

If you’re not trading crypto, though, I’d recommend downloading a Chrome extension called MetaMask. While having a Coinbase wallet comes with some brand recognition and mainstream acceptance, I find MetaMask to be a more straightforward and intuitive setup. To sell an NFT, you’ve gotta have some skin in the game, and MetaMask makes things pretty transparent, user-friendly and easy to set up.

As a millennial/non-digital native, the rhythm of this language took some getting used to, and the best way to learn it quickly is to expose yourself to it as much as possible. Thanks to the proliferation of Bitcoin and block-chain related materials in the past few years, this is a fairly low lift.

If you’re diving in for the first time, MetaMask has a bank of resources to make things a little more clear. Coinbase—as well as many of the other coin trading platforms—also have plenty of resources, including robust FAQs and dozens of helpful YouTube tutorials. I’ve found the reference site Coindesk to be useful, as well, when researching general categories and looking for logical, straightforward explainers.

Diving into something new is hard, even when money isn’t involved. Immerse yourself in information until you feel comfortable moving forward with your NFT experience.

Figure out which marketplace you want to sell on

When it comes to trading and creating on the blockchain, there are dozens of different networks; naturally, this aspect of NFT making lends itself to multiple NFT exchanges. The two most commonly used marketplaces are OpenSea and Rarible, both of which run on the ETH network and are fairly frictionless to navigate if you’ve got either the MetaMask setup outlined above or Coinbase’s wallet.

When it comes to trading marketplaces, I tend to lean toward hubs with big libraries and trading volume. Transitions require Ether (ETH) to process, so ideally you have around $100 worth of ETH just to make sure everything processes how you’d like it to. (Here’s a good explainer of how the ETH transaction process happens). Once you’ve got a little ETH—or whatever token your network-of-choice prefers—things get a lot more intuitive, and if you’re trading tokens on something like Coinbase, you can always convert that ETH back to cash.

The blockchain network requires ETH to process a transaction, so in order to keep those process fees low, look to trade on weekends or times when the marketplace is less active. The cost associated with processing depends on demand, so the more you can find low-activity pockets, the easier this will be on your wallet.

Once you’ve done some digging, you’ll probably have a gut feel for what setup is best for you and your NFT goals. Are you hoping to learn, or hoping to earn? What should your price point be?

It should be clearly stated that choosing one marketplace does not preclude you from listing an item on another. Experiment and see what’s working best for you.

Pay attention to the details

In order to make your digital asset a rare, authenticated 1/1 item, connecting it to the blockchain is a must in the current digital landscape. But for creators, there’s definitely some upside into selling your artwork as an NFT.

Both OpenSea and Rarible allow you to create a NFT on their platforms, where you can also design your own royalty structure—of the many distinct experiences the NFT phenomenon is bring to the table, this is one that I find most intriguing, because royalty structure (or lack thereof) has historically benefitted collectors and speculators at the expense of creators. If someone buys your NFT and sells it at a huge markup, you will reap a portion of the proceeds, based on how you structure your royalties. I think, for a creator, that’s promising.

OpenSea makes this process pretty frictionless, but I would encourage any would-be NFT maker to give this step of the proceedings some deeper thought. Their cap for secondary sales royalty fees is 10%, so if that’s a factor in which platform you choose to sell on, it might be worth shopping around and spinning the tires on what approach works best.

Actually making your NFT

So, back to the creation of your NFT. The popular online explainers—many of which are quite good, read them if you’re still getting a handle on things!—skimp on advising the creative process of your NFT, opting for more technical walkthroughs about how the blockchain, the marketplace and the asset connect. For these zones of commerce, that makes sense—a quality library of NFTs is certainly a priority, but so is getting as many active sellers and traders on the platform as possible. Dispensing advice on the creative process is a whole other arena.

I’ll give it a shot, though!

An NFT can be virtually any kind of digital asset. Coindesk ranks these eight categories as the most popular: artwork, virtual items within video games (think skins in Fortnite or cosmetic items in Roblox), music, collectibles, tokenized real-world assets (real estate, cars, bags), virtual land and video footage. If your asset is something that can live online, that it’s probably a good candidate for an NFT. So far, we’ve seen musicians like Kings of Leon embrace the NFT as a release strategy in the super-saturated music space, which could turn out to be a lucrative strategy as well as an effective marketing gimmick.

Right now, the NFT landscape is crowded with opportunists, artists and designers who saw Beeple pull out millions quickly, and everyone wants a chance at that kind of windfall. While would-be millionaires have crowded the space, most offerings I’ve seen that aren’t all that interesting; even though people are increasingly savvy when it comes to collectible digital assets, some of these products are hard to get excited about.

So, when it comes to your NFT, think about something that resonates with you. If you were to start an NFT collection, what kind of assets would you gravitate toward?

A photograph? An illustration? An animation you made? If you can get excited about it, someone else will, too. From where I’m sitting, the NFT marketplaces are filled with cool, but not necessarily special, digital assets. NBA Topshot’s presentation is slick, but it doesn’t blow me away.

What can you make that breaks through the noise? An NFT is an opportunity for expression.

A necessary disclaimer about scarcity

Like most commodities, the name of the game when it comes to NFTs is scarcity. As opposed to traditional art—which requires professional authenticators to track back through a painting’s transaction chain—NFTs are serially numbered and their ownership history is very easy to track. (On my Topshot profile, it’s incredibly easy to access a specific card’s history).

The reason I’m even bringing up scarcity is that it’s the reason you’re seeing such stratospheric prices for certain NFTs. Scarcity is a factor when it comes to any commodity, but here it feels particularly pronounced. A NFT like Beeple’s artwork has a qualitative element to it, like all art, but the reason it sold for millions was because of the quantitative element—more won’t be produced, and a work’s provenance will never be in question as long as the network’s ledger is still active.

Explore and have fun

In the modern digital realm, “find customers where they want to be found” has become a marketing mantra.

But I like to think this tension applies when it comes to searching for inspiration, and that NFT makers should search where they like to search. This could open up numerous destinations, depending on who you are. Do you love a good Reddit thread? Start there. Are Twitch personalities you like engaging with NFTs? Start there. Are you having fun on Discord playing games and chatting about gaming adjacent topics? Find your online community and work from that reference point.

The NFT landscape is still forming, and it’s not too late to get in. Like other blockchain-associated actions, it can be an absolute roller-coaster ride, but with some attention and experience you’ll have mastered the flow in no time. NFTs are a cool, visual way to explore a surging cultural phenomenon. They're going to be around for a while. If you're curious about how this all plays out, there's no better time to get started.

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