As big brands, marketers and investors pour money into building virtual worlds, people are striking out on their own to earn income there.
Most days, Nikki Fuego hurries through her day job duties in just a few hours, squaring away customer service issues for an exercise equipment startup before settling down to her real work — designing horned bodysuits and glimmering geometric helmets that can’t be worn or touched.
Fuego is among the growing cohort of people turning to the metaverse for extra income, parlaying hobbies into sometimes lucrative side hustles across a series 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 environments like Roblox and Decentraland. As gamers, tech wonks and deep-pocketed advertisers have flocked to the metaverse, aspiring solopreneurs have followed.
“I am gagged every single day that I wake up and remember I make money from this,” 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 accessories to be donned by avatars, the animated characters that people steer through virtual spaces. Her own, which she uses in Decentraland, wears a skintight red and black bodysuit, a black visor and red hair that splits into horns.
A single piece in Fuego’s digital apparel collections can take anywhere from several hours to a whole a month to complete. They’ve sold for between two and 175 Mana, the Decentraland currency that’s roughly equivalent to a U.S. dollar. Over the past eight months, Fuego says she’s earned about $40,000 selling her digital wares — more than four times her monthly day-job income.
“I would have never thought that I would be making money from making digital items that don’t exist and paying my bills,” said Fuego. “That’s literally an artist’s dream, and I’m living it.”
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