In 2022, if you are not online, you are obsolete. If you are online only to kill time by browsing through doctored images of good-looking people, you are obsolete. And if you are not utilising the vast take-your-pickings environment of the digital space to earn money—whether as a full-time career or on the side—you are obsolete. Find this hard to believe? Take it from these enterprising young individuals.
Neeraj Jain, a lawyer practicing in the lower courts of Delhi, began blogging six years ago when ‘bloggers’ were just beginning to be taken seriously. Burnt out with the never-ending demands of work, he shared food and travel reviews on a free webpage as a way to relax.
Once he started receiving appreciation for his writing skills, he decided to invest in a self-owned website, activated Google ads and continued to consistently upload content on it. Four years on, Jain earns Rs 50,000-70,000 every month from this ‘side hustle’.
His website’s high ranking on Google attracts brands keen to drive traffic through his to their own websites. Jain has now started his podcast to reach a wider audience, and is exploring the various offerings of Web 3.0, to grow his repertoire further.
Priyanka Balwa, a talented young artist from Mumbai who works under the pen name Cyber Shakti, was introduced to NFTs through a digital artist community she is actively part of. She was one of the first female artists to explore the technology that ties cryptocurrency with culture and feels extremely fortunate to have got a head start. With the rising popularity of the metaverse, she was well-placed to meet the increasing demand for 3D and digital native artists.
She tasted financial success early on and wanted to pay it forward. This led her to co-found DAZE (Decentralised Art Zone), India’s first dedicated NFT (non-fungible token) Art Exhibition which took place in December 2021. It showcased NFT talent and connected the real world with NFT creators, opening doors for the latter to engage with Web 3.0 startups for fruitful collaborations.
Shavir Bansal from Bengaluru saw a tremendous opportunity in content creation and the popularity of influencer culture. As an investment banker, he possessed in-depth knowledge of finance but knew that content needed to be engaging in order to stand out. Bansal hired a personable young female actor, Manu, to be the face of his channel @bekifaayati, where he dispenses information and tips to make people ‘financially literate’.
The content simplifies potentially complex concepts through the use of funny filters, the adoption of various personalities and colloquial Hindi. A recent video shares ‘four side hustles to make people millionaires by 2030’—perhaps a long stretch for a discerning audience—but the video is raking in views and the accompanying moolah usually paid by YouTube to creators. Bansal creates content full time and in his words, “I earn well enough to sustain the salaries of Bekifaayati’s employees and reinvest money in the company on a monthly basis.”
Jain, Balwa and Bansal represent a new digi-savvy generation earning money in hitherto unimagined ways. According to the Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2022 by Influencer Marketing Hub, the influencer industry is set to grow to approximately $16.4 billion; the value of social commerce sales is estimated at $958 billion; and the creator economy market size is predicted to reach $104 billion this year. With platforms like Instagram also going the NFT route, it is clear that times are a-changing with money in tow.
Meta versus Reality
A term coined in the year 1992 in the science fiction novel Snow Crash, ‘Metaverse’ has since become synonymous with the integration of virtual and physical spaces. In 2022, it is used to describe a virtual-reality space where users interact with other users from anywhere in the world, in a computer-generated environment. Its global reach and massive scale have opened numerous avenues to earn a living from it.
A recent survey carried out by telecom equipment company Ericsson coined the term ‘Merged Reality’ referring to a state of being where it would no longer be possible to differentiate between a physical item and a digital one. Subjects of the survey predicted that the first merged reality experience would be found in gaming when more than seven in 10 respondents believed VR game worlds would look indistinguishable from physical reality by 2030.
By creating immersive environments that simulate reality to such a high degree, the possibilities are endless. Popular games like Fortnite and Roblox have already displayed that concerts and other ‘real’ economic transactions can take place virtually. And this is only set to grow further, as evident from a Statista survey where the market for in-game items in video games like clothing and merchandise was valued at close to $54 billion in 2020.
People have the opportunity to live their best possible lives through their digital twins, believes Gurugram-based Ishan Jindal, the founder of Wobb Influencer Hiring Platform. He says, “The metaverse will allow creators to interact and communicate with their fans and fellow influencers in unique ways. Food influencers can cook together; travel influencers can share experiences together; sports influencers can speak to their fan base in the crowd, and much more.”
He goes on to highlight that the widespread adoption of the metaverse will lead to more sophisticated targeted marketing, highly precise data collection, and the rise of entirely new communication trends. The father of social media, Mark Zuckerberg, too has accorded high status to the metaverse—calling it an embodied form of the internet where consumers will be in the middle of the content. With the future being virtual, everyone from influencers to brands must adopt this medium in order to survive.
“We are currently in a space where if you are just brick and mortar, you are obsolete. You have to adapt to the modern world, and businesses must ensure their presence on the metaverse. Technology is not as intimidating as it looks from the outside.
You can see five-six-year-olds playing housie on Zoom. If they can do it, then businesses must also create channels for themselves where they are present both online and offline,” explains Rajiv Talreja, a consultant business coach based in Bengaluru.
Web 3.0 for the Win
Web 3.0 refers to the decentralised internet built on technologies like blockchain as opposed to that which is centralised on servers owned by individuals or corporations. The power is, therefore, in the hands of the users. It is distinctive from Web 1.0 which is the internet as we know it, and Web 2.0 which largely refers to the internet after the advent of social networks.
Attracted to the enormous potential of this new system, Business Analyst Raghav Dudeja recently made the switch from working in a corporate firm in Mumbai to being a full-time Web 3.0 content creator and marketer.
Through in-depth research, he figured out numerous ways in which Web 3.0 allows its users to earn money. This includes creating content for publication on one’s own website; becoming ‘ambassadors’ for crypto-related projects and earning commission for promoting them; freelancing for decentralised autonomous organisations (DAO) where the lack of ownership hierarchies allow immense growth; filling surveys and answering questions on new projects; earning cashback from crypto debit cards; creating content for decentralised social media platforms like LeoFinance and Steemit, which do not function on ad revenue like Facebook and Google; helping blockchain networks remain safe and secure by being a ‘validator’; and finally, voluntarily watching ads on the popular Web 3.0 browser called Brave.
“If you’re new to Web 3.0, content creation should be the place you start. Not only will it help you monetise your work in time, but also help you build your brand in the process. As you hone your writing, editing, and video creation skills, you will become an unstoppable asset in the internet realm,” shares Dudeja.
He is echoed by Ashwin Takiar, a bitcoin investor and crypto trader based in Delhi. Takiar shares that since the main highlight of Web3.0 is blockchain and crypto, trading in it or minting one’s own cryptocurrency and tokens are the easiest ways to earn money on this medium. Creating NFTs of any digital content, including videos, memes, articles, and photographs, are other lucrative options.
“A lot has been made possible through Web 3.0. For example, one can explore combined ownership of physical properties and NFTs. One can buy land in Germany while sitting in India, simply by owning one percent of a physical property through NFTs. This means people can spend only a little and earn decent profits, which would not be possible in the physical world,” he explains.
All hail social media
The Influencer Marketing Benchmark Report 2022 highlights some interesting data. It notes that 2021 saw a marked increase in brands paying money to influencers, with 68 percent of marketers surveyed, planning to increase their influencer marketing spend in 2022. The report also notes that 50 million people around the world consider themselves content creators, which include social media influencers, bloggers, and videographers. It is this large swathe of people that are leading the way when it comes to earning money online.
Purely in terms of numbers, depending on one’s reach and style of creating, influencers earn anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 5,00,000 for a single post, with brands shelling out the money for direct access to the audience and a high level of engagement. Talreja highlights that the influencer economy is closely linked to the ‘educator’s economy’ driven by teachers, healers, coaches, and trainers, who design digital programmes and online classes; as well as a thriving post-pandemic e-commerce economy.
The former makes money by educating people on topics like health, wellness, nutrition, business, stock market investments and so forth, and the latter by creating and selling their products online. Another potential means of earning is through ‘affiliate marketing’—a method where influencers earn a commission when their unique links are used by others to buy products.
Aware of the exponential potential of social media, Bengaluru-based Razia Ali co-founded The Blend Community, a forum to discuss trends in the fields of food, fashion and fiction. Starting on Instagram in October 2020, it soon expanded to a vibrant website with a monthly reach of over 30,00,000 people. She believes that digital communities like hers are the future of business, as people meet, collaborate and explore options to mutually benefit each other.
Another platform that allows its users to earn money is Stage3. Here, urban Gen-Z and millennial small business owners sell their clothing and accessories by setting up storefronts on the app. “Digital mediums are redefining the way consumers shop online. Social media channels like YouTube and Instagram have paved the way by democratising the landscape and allowing content creators to build their niche and monetise their content,” says Delhi-based Sanchit Baweja, the co-founder of Stage3.
Nineteen-year-old Minesh Santani from Ulhasnagar, Maharashtra, launched his communication firm Socio Spy Media after the pandemic. His extensive research uncovered that almost 60 percent of content creators pursue it as a full-time career, and leading influencers earn seven/eight-figure incomes on an annual basis.
He believes that marketing experts like himself have an edge over others as they create ‘content IPs’ to attract attention for brands.
Shashank Udupa from Bengaluru is a financial expert, co-founder of Scenes by Avalon and a popular finfluencer. When asked about new-age ways of earning money online, he emphatically hails social media as the number one method. This is because of the huge demand for quality content which only a handful of Indian influencers are able to deliver. He believes that brands are willing to pay premium fees to the best in the game.
A lot goes into creating high-quality content, and this is why Delhi-based Neha Nagar, another popular finfluencer, believes social media strategists, graphic designers and video editors can also do well financially. Bansal of Bekifaayati highlights other lucrative new-age ways of making money online. These include offering freelance services on platforms like Fiverr, initiating small businesses and starting shops on Flipkart or Amazon, becoming Community Managers of communities on Reddit and similar platforms, acting as real estate brokers for properties sold on the metaverse through platforms like Decentraland, as well as being experts on YouTube and Instagram analytics.
Gaming is another popular option for earning cash—one can earn coins by watching in-game ads, or as in the case of popular live-streaming social gaming app Eloelo, through virtual ‘elo coins’ that can be encashed. Creating fantasy teams for traditional sports has been a popular option for a while but FanClash, an e-sport fantasy platform, allows one to earn by putting together their favourite gamers for e-sport tournaments. But playing games isn’t the only way. Top-level gamers earn from creating gaming content too.
Ahmedabad-based Total Gaming aka Ajju Bhai is the first Indian gamer and gaming content creator to have crossed the 30 million-follower mark on YouTube without ever revealing his face. He shares, “Generally, YouTubers generate revenue through three models—15 percent of it is through AdSense where YouTube pays creators a certain amount for showing ads on their respective channels; 5 percent comes through YouTube membership which audiences buy to watch their favourite creators; another 5 percent is from YouTube super-chats and super-thanks, a feature where audiences can ‘tip’ their favourite creator during a YouTube live stream; but the largest chunk—approximately 75 percent—is through brand sponsorships.”
All is Not Well
Now, you may be itching to earn a quick buck online yourself. However, as with anything experimental or new age, there are serious risks involved. Ahmedabad-based content creator and the founder of tea brand MBA Chaiwala Prafull Billore explains, “The options for earning money in today’s times are limitless. You can be content writers, video editors, virtual assistants, copywriters, coaches, but only if you have the skillset for these roles.” Even if one has the requisite skills, one may not have knowledge of the strategy to follow, the confidence to stand in front of a camera, or the patience to wait for growth to happen.
If one is a metaverse creator relying on the sale of NFTs, artist Cyber Shakti asserts that pricing depends on the value of the artist in the NFT community and the personal brand they are able to create. Takiar cautions against fraudulent schemes, scams in the blockchain course, and the adoption of wrongful techniques performed without research which could harm those looking to invest in NFTs.
For gamers and content creators, the challenges are different.
Ajju Bhai speaks of the immense importance of high-speed internet as well as high-end computers and software cards. He also candidly shares that it can be difficult for family members to accept these new-age career paths. Santani draws attention to the rampant plagiarism in this field and warns creators not to feel tempted to simply copy the content of others. Udupa thinks that creators shouldn’t promote or take money from brands not known to them, because that may backfire and harm one’s reputation. Nagar says that freelancers suffer initially as there is no permanent or fixed mode of earning income.
Web 3.0 also has its peculiar set of problems. Delhi-based Amogh Tiwari, the founder of Deefy.co, a platform that allows buying, renting and loaning of NFTs and digital assets, says, “Growth is a huge problem on Web 3.0. Leading Web 2.0 consumer applications achieve scale by leveraging centralised platforms like Facebook, which give them massive proprietary datasets. Web 3.0 applications, on the other hand, have no app store, do not know who their users are, and have no method to communicate with them. Hence, community building is essential for people to succeed on Web 3.0.”
Apart from these general issues, Dudeja warns of scammers on Web 3.0 who impersonate others by offering help or better returns. He also cautions against phishing websites that try to access your crypto wallet’s private key by portraying themselves as a support function of projects. He summarises it well by saying, “The best way to save yourself from these scams is research. There are no free lunches
in the world. Always ask yourself where the money is coming from.”
“Stay away from fraudulent schemes. There are many such even in the blockchain course, so only take up courses from verified and legal sources. Never blindly follow techniques shown on
a video or article. Do your own research.”
Ashwin Singh Takiar Bitcoin Investor and Crypto Trader
“If you’re a traditional business, don’t blindly follow the strategies of other businesses. Be clear about your target customer and which online channels they are available on. Another problem is dealing with ‘get-rich-quick’ schemes.”
Rajiv Talreja Business Coach
“Many times people have their content written and don’t pay the writers later. Therefore, terms and conditions should be properly laid down before working with someone new. Ask for an advance and be careful and mindful of the people you choose to work with.”
Content Creator and Founder of MBA Chaiwala
“Don’t promote or take money from brands not known to you. Blindly following money can backfire as your reputation as a content creator is on the line. Be careful.”
Financial Expert, Digital Content Creator, and Co-Founder and CFO, Scenes by Avalon
“Look out for these signs before signing up for any job:
✥ If they’re asking for some sort of investment before starting; it is most likely a scam
✥ If they’re trying to impress some sort of urgency in accepting the offer
✥ Beware of short URLs and information requested on Google forms from unknown sources.”
Shavir Bansal Founder, Bekifaayati
Some online cons to trap people
A Classic Rugpull When the ‘Squid Game’ GameFI token, inspired by the Netflix show of the same name was released, people were clamouring to buy it. The token price started at $0.07 on Day 1 and rallied up to $2,300 on the third day. However, on Day 3, the token price plummeted to zero, and the social media handles and website of this token vanished into thin air. Collectively, people lost Rs 25 crore in the project.
Hacking Accounts of Famous People Elon Musk and Joe Biden’s Twitter accounts were recently hacked and people sent out messages saying, “We are doubling your investment.”
Bots Tracking Your Activity Seeking Information If you tweet something about a popular Web 3.0 platform, you are immediately contacted on Twitter from someone impersonating the platform’s support team. The form they send you asks for your private details (seed phrase) which enables them to take away all the cryptocurrency in that wallet.
Phishing Attack Many cryptocurrency exchange platforms are duplicated with similar sounding but fake URLs to execute a phishing attack against unsuspecting users. The original website usually displays its name and one can also look for them through original social media handles.
Web 3.0 Content Creator and Marketer
Filling your pockets online
Create content for both Web 2.0 and Web 3.0 Publish informative and relevant content on a self-owned website. Once your website begins to rank on search engines, brands will pay you to direct traffic from your website to theirs.
Become an Ambassador and promote programmes on Web 3.0
Earn money to make promotional content on social media or your website to promote new crypto-related schemes and projects.
Freelance for a Decentralised Autonomous Organisation
Since there is no individual or corporate owner of these organisations, the earning potential increases greatly.
Dabble in cryptocurrency Promote new tokens and projects, learn new methods, avail cashback upon use. Try your hand at crypto-trading. The more you familiarise yourself with cryptocurrency, the more avenues you have of potentially earning from this medium.
Volunteer to watch ads on decentralised browsers like Brave
Social media and traditional browsers throw ads our way based on proprietary data collected from their algorithms. To discourage this practice, Web 3.0 browsers like Brave make ad-watching an optional activity. If you choose to watch ads, you can earn money.
Offer services that help small brands upskill, like Social Media Strategists and Graphic Designers Bespoke and specialised services are always appreciated by smaller brands, as they receive dedicated attention.
Create 3D art for use in the metaverse There is high demand for talented artists who are familiar with technology to create new visuals for the ever-growing metaverse.
Become a real estate broker on the metaverse
With Decentraland and similar portals, property is selling on the metaverse like hotcakes. By becoming a broker, you can identify lucrative properties and advise brands, businesses and individuals on where to invest.
Create content for social media to promote brands
Whether you qualify as a nano- or micro- or macro-influencer, cash in on your social media following by promoting brands who will pay you for spreading the word about their business.
Set up digital storefronts for your small business
As an MSME owner, it can be daunting to invest in brick and mortar spaces. Digital storefronts don’t require significant monetary investment, yet allow global exposure to your brand.
Create content specific to NFT, Blockchain and Cryptocurrency
As this space is growing, those who are at the forefront of disseminating information on these subjects will do well financially.
Earn On YouTube through AdSense, special features like Memberships, Super-Thanks and Super-Chats, and creating sponsored content
Once you have amassed a significant number of subscribers and viewers, you can earn through various methods.
Possess a specific skillset content writer, video editor, virtual assistant, copywriter, coach
If you are digitally proficient and have a creative bent of mind, you can learn a digital skill that is sure to help you grow professionally.
Earn by selling NFTs of
Artworks Make your artworks or creations into NFTs that can be sold to many users. As a buyer of the NFT, you are entitled to earn secondary royalties from the use of that work.
Become a Community Manager for popular communities on Reddit and similar platforms
Community pages like Reddit are very popular and are, therefore, a great way to disseminate information. By heading the community, you stand to earn money through sponsored opportunities. The easiest way to become a Community Manager is to actively participate in discussions in the group of your choice.