A 24-year-old artist who started selling NFTs less than a year ago is now making six figures—here’s how she did it
A New York artist who creates abstract acrylic portraits and interactive installations has made six figures selling her NFTs, and she started doing it only a year ago.
ArinaBB is among a class of creators who are taking their artistic talents to the digital space by minting and selling non-fungible tokens on digital marketplaces. Her sales were confirmed by Fortune. Other artists, including Mad Dog Jones, Pak, and Beeple, have made millions doing the same.
Originally from Russia, ArinaBB, 24, who declined to give her legal name, says she moved to Shanghai and found her footing in the art world about seven years ago, establishing a collector base and a substantial number of followers on Chinese social media. She discovered NFTs when she moved to New York in November 2018 and realized that she could sell her work without going through a gallery.
“Definitely as an artist, and if you’re a brand owner, you have to jump into that. And at least start learning, like, this is the bare minimum that you have to do, because this technology is not going anywhere,” ArinaBB told Fortune.
Here’s how she did it:
First, educate yourself
“In the NFT space, I had to start from scratch, from zero,” she said.
When ArinaBB first started making digital NFTs, she joined conversations on Twitter Spaces, an audio part of the social media platform in which users can listen to different people have live conversations. The NFT community tends to congregate there and share what they know, she said. Eventually getting to speak in a community conversation hosted by a well-known NFT creator can score you a temporary flurry of new buyers, according to ArinaBB. She found her network there.
The market is new, and it’s also unpredictable.
“It’s super hard to make a living off art at first,” she says. “With NFTs, not every month [is] going to be great…because some months you’re going to make so much and then the next one is nothing.”
Create the NFT
An NFT can literally be a JPEG. Or an MP3. Or any digital file that you can upload to an online marketplace. You can take a high-quality photo of your physical painting and sell it, or you can make a digital animation. ArinaBB uses the graphics app Procreate to design some of her NFTs, like her collection of digital drawings, La La LandZzz. She also learned to use the 3D modeling software Cinema 4D to design others, including her animated piece Under the sun #Rebirth, an animation of a doll-like figure, which sold for 1.888 ETH, the equivalent of about $7,600, on Foundation, a marketplace backed by Ethereum.
ArinaBB says she often uses the words “minting” and “uploading” interchangeably. Essentially, to “mint” an NFT is to “publish” it on the blockchain, which stores all crypto transactions.
ArinaBB uses the marketplace OpenSea to create and sell her NFTs. When a seller starts an account, OpenSea asks for two one-time fees, called “gas” fees. Many NFTs are created on the Ethereum blockchain, the cryptocurrency ArianaBB uses.
You’ll upload a file to a marketplace, add a description and any “unlockable content” that you’d like to gift the buyer after their purchase that is paired with the digital token, such as an exclusive message or a ticket to your in-person concert. Then press a button, and your NFT is minted.
Price is entirely up to the artist (or whoever is making and selling the NFT), and ArinaBB tries to provide a range in price for her works of art.
For example, she’ll price an NFT at .22 Ethereum (ETH) or more than $800 USD, but if the NFT is paired with a physical painting, she’ll price it at 2 ETH minimum, which is the equivalent of about $8,000, like her piece Time, a portrait of a woman next to a clock, which is currently listed at 6.9 ETH, or around $27,650.88.
NFTs, whose values are tied to cryptocurrency, are constantly changing value along with the value of that cryptocurrency. You can lower the price on your NFT, but if you want to raise the price instead because the value of ETH went down, you’ll have to delete it and remint it, she said.
ArinaBB says that the sheer quantity of NFTs she’s produced—around 150—has been critical to her ability to make money. How much you can charge is also a matter of building a brand as an artist within a new arena, and that takes time.
“The artist whose artwork is selling for 15, 20 ETH has been there for three years…[and] put so much work into this,” she said.
As a word of advice to aspiring NFT artists, ArinaBB says that building a career in the space can take a while. But time is on your side.
“It’s going to be so normal that we’re not even going to say it’s NFT. This is just art.”
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