HOW I SOLD MY FIRST NFT (AND HOW YOU CAN TOO!)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS, PART 1
HOW I SOLD MY FIRST NFT (AND HOW YOU CAN TOO!), FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS PART 1
BLOCKCHAIN, WEB3 & NFT DEVELOPER BLOG
The NFT craze is a baffling phenomenon to even the most seasoned Futurist. Cryptocurrency is dominating the news, digital art is selling for millions, and a new wave Gold Rush is officially underway. But unlike the simple, grueling process of panning for Gold – NFTs are decidedly technical, challenging, and require a fair bit of chump change just to get started.
But it is absolutely possible to learn how to make, Mint and sell your NFT on the market. I should know, I’m a sold NFT Artist myself. My first NFT sale of .1 Ethereum, no bigger than 640 x 640 pixels, eclipsed a lifetime of profits from my Etsy store.
Here’s how I made it happen, and how you too can absolutely achieve your first NFT sale (and what to do after!).
HOW I SOLD MY FIRST NFT (AND HOW YOU CAN TOO!)
FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS, PART 1
My first sold piece Crypto Ascendant – Apotheosis. Golden starships in the Caravaggio tradition. Available on Rarible.
Q: Before we begin, just who the heck are you?
A: How rude of me! My name is John Burnett, an Art Director, User Interface & User Experience Artist and international Mentor in the video game Industry for nearly 20 years. I’m also a Polymath, unevenly skilled in Art, Music, Acting, Writing, and Coding – with an emphasis on cross-pollinating those talents.
I was first introduced to NFTs working with a lovely little Blockchain company for a year in what I consider “Web3 Green Beret Training ”. Learning blockchain, crypto and NFTs – all while pioneering in these Industries was mind-bendingly difficult in the early 2021’s. But it did give me the unique perspective of the Blockchain Developer rather than your average “get rich quick” NFT schemer.
Now full disclosure, I am not Banksy’s understudy and I certainly haven’t amassed a fortune in Ethereum.
What I am saying is that I am coming from a place of some tutelage in Fine Art and WEB3. I am here as a semi-competent Blockchain Dev, not some rando, and I’m here to help.
But at the end of the day, I also want to make money off of my talent, my labor and my light. I hope we’re not so different in this regard… because this is about getting paid in a way we never could back on Old Earth.
Q: What kinds of NFTs did you first create and Mint?
A: My first instinct was to take my back-catalog of digital art and Flash projects and start carving them into NFT-friendly pieces. Later I thought better of my initial strategy and I created The New Gods of Crypto, pixel art skulls made exclusively for the Crypto Art Market.
The New Gods of Crypto collection seemed more tonally appropriate at the time (Cryptopunks and Cyberpunk 2077 were big in ‘21). I also included little Blockchain axioms into the art itself, hoping to cash in on the Culture – as it was far more insulated at the time than it is now. In fact, take this as a cautionary tale: Crypto moves so fast it may be impossible to predict trends outside of being the trend.
But in the weeks after Minting The New Gods of Crypto, I knew I needed to capture a larger Market – whatever that looked like. So I added in:
Crypto Ascendant – Golden Abstract starships made in the Renaissance Caravaggio tradition. These ships were actually the boss battles from a Flash game I was making for myself in the mid 2000’s. Got pretty far in development too before I hit a wall or moved on – can’t remember which. I couldn’t get over how gorgeous the ships looked once I rediscovered them. So I redesigned them a bit and Minted them from their decade’s long slumber.
The New Forge – Speaking of Flash, back in the 2000s, I also wrote a quick little random name generator program that helped people create amazing Fantasy names for items, locations, enemies, whatever. Back in 2018, I completely redesigned the app, leading to the highest organic traffic on my website. It made perfect sense to leverage that big traffic. So I generated Fantasy Names and inscribed them onto gorgeous fantasy-styled plaques. So technically, this one is AI-driven.
1st Worlds – Crypto Art is also very much a world of cutting-edge tech and New Media. It doesn’t get more New Media than creating art in Virtual Reality. 1st Worlds is a collection of “demi worlds” you can walk around in, made entirely in Virtual Reality on Google Tilt Brush. The NFT themselves are 4k videos, but upon purchase, buyers will find a Google Drive Link with the source .tilt file – which will allow them to walk around their artwork in virtual reality!
With this new Flight of Art, I now had digital art, 3d art, AI generated Art, pixel art and New Media so new it required VR to truly appreciate.
An excellent spread for a fledgling metaverse art empire.
An okayish foundation for a first sale.
Q: Is there any Subject or Genre you avoided?
A: Absolutely! I avoided anything aggressively derivative from a popular work, and absolutely no monkey business; no gorilla or ape Art. No deifying Crypto Influencers either, like Musk and the like.
One major part of my strategy was to avoid the clichés that would molder quickly -and remember, Crypto moves even faster than Internet Speed. Nobody is going to want the knock-off of a long-forgotten meme months from now, let alone years, let alone the deathless span of Blockchain. Whatever you are planning to craft, make it your own. You deserve to be perpetuated into the future in perfect detail.
Yggdrasil, a 3D world modeled in Virtual Reality and sold as an NFT Art animation. Available on Opensea.
Q: How did you price your first NFT pieces?
A: One of the most sage pieces of advice I was ever given salary negotiations was, “John, they’re all made up numbers.”
So I priced my earliest Minted work accordingly.
At the time (and perhaps this will be an evergreen problem), insanely low-effort artwork was raking in the Ethereum. Bear that in mind while I go on this little tangent right here-
-I’m a professional artist in the video game industry, and have been my entire professional life – so I’m used to high 5 to mid 6-figure salaries. Coupled with the fact that I was working for a Blockchain company, and therefore knew just how much stupid money cascaded on the Chain – I priced my NFT artwork high. Very high.
At least it felt that way as a relative unknown.
It didn’t help that Ethereum ballooned violently since the time I Minted my original 1st wave of NFTs. When your piece gets marked up by 250% simply by being on the shelf, you’ll have to reimagine the world of sales as a world full of self-inflating balloons. Without a vigilant eye, off that price soars, untouchably heavenward…
Not that my original pricing worked in the first place. Until I become “established”, anything less than an accessible price won’t help my popularity. So the first challenge was to discover what the hell an “accessible price” orbited around. The first order of business was to cut the original prices by nearly 75%, sometimes more until things hovered around $500 for digital and $1000 for virtual reality art; a price I felt both parties could live with.
Q: In What Marketplaces did you put your first NFTs?
A: Early 2021 NFT sales were cloaked in a logistical and creative fog of war – so I made sure to diversify my work and Mint a broad portfolio of contracts to understand the Frontier a little better.
Most of my artwork that is bespoke for the Blockchain and NFT sales is on Opensea.
My Opensea contracts are all ERC-721s, although I tried to “game” the system by making multiple editions of The New Gods of Crypto. They are individual 721s, but in their Details you can read Edition: 1 of 3, 2 of 3, 3 of 3… and so on. If none of that made a lick of sense, I’ll blog about it later, I promise!
For Crypto Ascendant, I didn’t want to hand-key every minute detail like I had to with Opensea. I also wanted to experiment with the ERC-1155 contract’s mass-production capabilities. The only marketplace at the time I knew of that could handle that was Rarible, and one sizeable gas fee later, I had 15 new NFTs: 5 Pieces with 3 Editions apiece.
Private Art Marketplaces like KnownOrigin, Foundation and SuperRare have yet to return my calls – surely a clerical error on their part.
I have had a few ideas for NFTs (and a soft-spot) for the marketplace Async. Async allows you to Mint your NFT in layers that are affected by time or even the buyer’s personal tastes. I made a painting of a flower and in the morning, noon, evening and night, the image changes. I didn’t Mint it because of gas fees and the art didn’t present well in Social Media – which meant it didn’t present well, period.
Q: How Long Did it Take You to Make Your First Sale?
A: About 8 months from the piece’s first Minting.
The “average” amount of time for a sale varies wildly and depends on a legacy of data that simply isn’t there. I do know the ability to sell increases dramatically once you make your first sale – a breaking of the seal, as it were.
Elitist as it is to say, this also opens the door for you as an “Established Artist” to talk to and about other “Established Artists”. Decentralized platform of the future or not, it still has the egos and echoes of the Old World.
At the very least, your first sale presents a natural ice-breaker with other 1st time or longtime sellers.
The New Gods of Crypto, pixel art skull NFTs with 4 frames of chunky old-school animation. Available on Opensea
Q: How much money did you make on your first sale?
A: .1 eth, which at time of sale was about $400 usd.
To give you a sense of how wildly that number accordions: if the buyer had purchased the piece two months earlier, it would’ve been $600. If I had minted it a year earlier and he had bought it shortly thereafter: about $40. If Ethereum matched Bitcoin at the same time: $4000.
We should talk about that original $400 for a moment, though.
I have a modest little patch of Etsy to myself and it’s made me less than $100 in its entire lifespan – most of those initial sales by friends and family. The idea of selling a 640×640 piece of digital art on Etsy for more than free would be spirals-on-the-wall insane.
In the world of Crypto, where pixels sell by the college education-full, a $400 sale would be an equal quantum of madness.
But in my world, $400 won’t make me rich and its loss will not make me poor. An important note to all you temporarily inconvenienced crypto-millionaires in the making.
Q: Did you do anything special to make your first sale?
A: I stayed genuine, connected to others and made myself meaningfully helpful to them. Yes, it’s an insanely unsatisfying answer to give because you could hear it anywhere (no, no, no, please don’t leave, sit back down). But clichés also have withstood the test of time, and networking is as classical as the Arts themselves.
Always remember: does your perfect buyer have an opportunity to see you? Are you available, and not as some annoying shill, but as a real person with real contributions? Are your connections coming from a shared background or a shared goals? Would you friend yourself online and have a great time lurking afterwards? Interacting? Direct messaging?
In the Social world, engaging in meaningful conversation is more important to the almighty Algorithm than hoisting jpegs every hour and liking every image you see. If you form relationships, alliances, exploratory conversations – that’s how you make a sale.
And the Great Paradox: it will take a frustrating amount of time to make that first sale and then quite suddenly, as if by accident, *poof*
Some “rando” dropping a dragon’s horde of Ethereum on your work is far from far-fetched in the Crypto world. But why not maximize your odds by also encapsulating the non-Whales as part of your strategy? Be a part of the rising wave of new artists; write, support, or try completely new ideas to elevate the NFT Art World and the people inside of it. Forget the sales for a little bit. Focus on the people.
Q: What did you do after the sale?
A: You mean besides celebrate?
No, but seriously – one of my first initiatives was to reach out to the buyer, who made himself known before the sale. That won’t always be the case, and some buyers may not really want to talk to your goofy ass (loveable though it may be).
But again, this particular buyer found me on Twitter before the sale (network!), and I made sure to thank him profusely, to which he was also very gracious. In the end, the most sage advice I’ve heard about building your brand is: look after your people.
I figure anyone who hands you money and creative self-satisfaction are close enough to kinfolk to at least write thank-you letters to.
The New Forge, AI generated Fantasy Names set to artisan plaques. Available on Opensea.
Q: Hey! I did it! I made my first NFT sale, too! What should I do now?
A: Ayyy! Congrats, Welcome to the Next Level. Immediately use that momentum to leverage yourself in a couple of ways.
Legitimacy. This is the most important one. There are thousands of NFT artists out there with wildly varying skill levels and a singular vision of getting paid. Showing that you have a sale, even one, completely solidifies you as an Artist others would buy from. So first thing’s first: change your name from NFT Artist to Sold NFT Artist.
Authority. You must have done something right, and some part of that magic might be transferable to others. Immediately share the wealth (of knowledge) you have to guide others. People will clamor to hear your personal anecdotes because the more success stories they hear, the better they can tease out their own unique strategies. Your story isn’t silly to these people – it’s a kind of sonar.
Marketability. Use your one sale to promote all your other sales. Say how much it sold for and how many are left (If it’s an ERC-1155 or the like), and if it’s a 1-of-1 piece, definitely highlight that your rarefied pieces sell. If somebody else made their first sale, don’t steal their thunder, add to their light. Celebrate, showcase their work, point out specifics that you like. Be a real person, and befriend the people who are on the rise just like you right now. Everyone contributes, and everyone benefits.
Q: What is your longterm strategy for Minting and Selling NFTs?
A: My experience as a Blockchain Dev have… insinuated to me that things are way too hot to do anything other than amass tokens and connections in the Crypto space right now.
And that’s where things get tricky. As a WEB3 developer, I have to walk perilously close to the conmen and the grifters – because they look identical to the dreamers and the startups in this space. Sometimes a failed enterprise can easily be mistaken for a long con, too – and if they’re very slick, vice versa.
I’m playing it safe-ish. No crypto currency is taken out unless some comes in, and only 10% of the take can be used on Gas and the like. This steers me clear of most of the NFT cons – the insidious spoofs that don’t require your financial support – well, those I’ll have to stay vigilant about. But here’s a friendly bit of advice: never install anything from github on your computer at a Crypto outsider’s behest.
So my long term strategy is amass Crypto, don’t spend it. Stay safe. Stay helpful.
Q: So now that you’ve sold your first NFT, what’s next?
A: More sales, you goof!
Specifically, more sales strategies.
The collections I have are fine, as is, they just require Marketing. Each one of the pre-existing collections has one Whale edition, as the Crypto space is filled almost exclusively with them. But on the whole, my first wave of NFTs is meant to generate popularity, not necessarily profits. So prices will stay low (you have to relist your Art to raise prices!) and when inventory gets sufficiently low, I’ll make a next Season or funnel collectors into the Whale editions.
For the Back Catalog, I’d still like to diversify my Art Portfolio and not put all my eggs in any one Marketplace’s basket. The problem is Marketplaces that were once up and coming have faded into obscurity within a year. So while it was tempting to be a new Art Gallery’s marquee poster child, I probably wouldn’t have been it for long. Rarible’s gas fees are too high to justify without making massive collections, and my back catalog (without popularity) will be mostly 1 of 1’s. So… to be discussed.
And for future creations, I love making art in VR, specifically 3D worlds in Google Tilt Brush and acrylics in Vermillion. I’ll likely start making new pieces in bleeding-edge mediums to keep myself relevant, topical and pioneering.
And as for the dim and distant future well… who know what we’ll draw tomorrow?
VIEW MY OTHER NFT ARTWORK
THE NFT ARTWORK OF JOHN BURNETT
Peruse the NFT Artwork of John “The Wingless” Burnett, one of Chicago’s best-selling NFT artists. Enjoy the gorgeous craftsmanship of a 20 year video game developer, Art Director and Art Mentor.