The metaverse is evolving, buzzy, and still a little mysterious. The market is projected to continue growing, and by 2030 could generate a projected market volume of more than $500 billion. While it’s impossible to predict exactly what form the metaverse ultimately will take, understanding its current state, how it may evolve, and how companies profit from it can offer you a competitive edge in the new virtual world.

What is the metaverse?

The metaverse is a collective virtual shared space created by the convergence of virtual reality (VR), augmented reality (AR), and the internet. It’s a highly immersive and interactive environment, where users can interact with a computer-generated universe and each other. Think of the metaverse as an evolution of the internet, characterized by immersion, user agency, and real-time interaction.

While today’s internet facilitates the consumption of digital content organized by connections between files, the metaverse immerses users in dynamic virtual worlds that mimic the spatial and experiential logic of physical environments. Users can navigate through these virtual environments as digital avatars.

As of 2023, there are multiple metaverse platforms—Roblox, Fortnite, and The Sandbox are three popular examples—but experts emphasize that there’s only one metaverse. As a report by McKinsey puts it, “Saying there are many metaverses is like saying there are many internets. The metaverse is the envisioned end state—incorporating all digital worlds alongside the physical world, with interoperability between them all.”

The metaverse economy 

Metaverse platforms have their own economic ecosystems, where people and companies can buy and sell digital assets, services, and experiences that exist entirely within virtual environments.

Most metaverse platforms use cryptocurrencies to facilitate these transactions, enabling users to establish digital wallets for purchases. Users can then spend this virtual currency to buy land, decorate their virtual home, get a hold of the latest fashion, or even purchase tickets to virtual concerts. The unique value of these items stems from their tokenization, ensuring they’re one-of-a-kind and non-replicable.

What is tokenization (and why does it matter)?

In the metaverse, tokenization plays a crucial role in value creation. Assigning unique blockchain codes to digital assets ensures their rarity and prevents duplication. Tokenized assets are referred to as non-fungible tokens (NFTs), which represent unique digital assets.

NFTs function much like tangible assets. For example, if a company creates a limited-edition run of 50 physical handbags, each can be purchased, resold, and traded, but can’t be multiplied: Only 50 authentic handbags from the collection exist. Similarly, if the company releases 50 digital handbags as NFTs, the same parameters apply to the digital items—tokenization protects the digital asset’s value by controlling supply, regulating its exclusivity and authenticity.

How to make money in the metaverse

While the metaverse doesn’t perfectly mirror the physical world, a surprising number of real-world industries have virtual counterparts. You can earn money in the metaverse by opening a consulting firm, creating products, buying and selling investments, and engaging in virtual labor.

Here are a few ways to make money in the metaverse:

Invest in virtual real estate

One way of investing in the metaverse is to buy and sell digital real estate. Owning metaverse land isn’t exactly like owning physical land—you can’t farm it or live on it, and though most platforms have limited virtual land, they can, in theory, increase capacity if they want.

Still, investor activity suggests that digital real estate investments have value. Corporations, including Adidas and Warner Music Group, have already purchased a large portion of the land available in the metaverse platform The Sandbox. And, just as in the physical world, location matters: Oneinvestor paid $450,000 in 2021 for a plot next to Snoop Dogg’s virtual house.

Become a virtual real estate agent 

In 2023, The New York Times reported a digital real estate market value of $1.4 billion and projected it would increase by $5.37 billion by 2026. This interest in buying and selling real estate creates a business opportunity for third-party brokers. Like real-world real estate agents, metaverse brokers help buyers and sellers connect and assist in executing property transactions.

Become a metaverse marketer

With global metaverse market revenue projected to grow, marketing could become a lucrative metaverse industry. If you have expertise in digital marketing, consider becoming a metaverse marketer or even starting a metaverse marketing agency.

Since the metaverse is still in its early stages, visionary marketers have the opportunity to experiment with strategies and establish themselves as leaders in an emerging industry. As in the real world, you can develop marketing expertise to promote a variety of products, services, and experiences.

Become a metaverse influencer

As the metaverse grows, popular creators can monetize their virtual presences in the same way that today’s digital creators profit from their online activities on social media.

Because the metaverse enables new types of interaction, creators aren’t limited to social posts or blogs: You might become a metaverse DJ, fortune teller, or comedian. The goal is to connect with audiences, build a following, and monetize your authority and influence by securing paid partnerships with brands.

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Sell virtual products

Thanks to NFTs, you can sell unique virtual products like digital art, clothes, and accessories for use in metaverse spaces.

Because most metaverse platforms allow users to customize avatars, digital clothing items, and digital accessories are particularly popular options. In 2021, Gucci released a limited-edition digital-only handbag on Roblox. The bag retailed for $6 and commanded resale values of more than $4,000, which is more than many of the brand’s real-world bags.

Being an entrepreneur solely in the digital space comes with unique advantages. For example, a digital apparel creator might design and sell virtual fashion items using an exclusively virtual business model—no warehousing or manufacturing required. 

Sell physical products

You can also sell real-life products in the metaverse, displaying digital replicas of the physical items users can purchase. Ecommerce business owners can attract new customers and use 3D ecommerce tactics to boost conversions.

For example, you might buy or lease retail space in a busy shopping district to capitalize on digital foot traffic, design a virtual store, and allow potential customers to interact with digital replicas of your products and purchase the corresponding physical items. 

Become a metaverse educator

The metaverse has the potential to combine the immersive and interactive benefits of the real-world classroom with the accessibility of distance education and e-learning. If you’re an educator or have expertise in a particular area, you can charge attendees for access to metaverse classes or offer your services as a metaverse coach or tutor.

Become a metaverse architect

Virtual spaces require virtual structures, and designing distinctive and functional virtual buildings is a monetizable practice. If you have 3D modeling and programming skills, you can develop a virtual portfolio and offer your services on contract.

Rent space in the metaverse

Just as in the real world, you don’t have to sell virtual real estate holdings to earn money from them. Retailers and prospective event hosts require space to engage in money-making activities, so you can lease commercial space to metaverse store owners or even offer up your home for virtual gatherings.

Selling ad space is another viable option: If you own property in the metaverse, you can charge companies for the right to advertise on your land.

Invest in metaverse assets

You can also invest money in metaverse assets, like the metaverse index fund and metaverse tokens (or specific metaverse cryptocurrencies). The metaverse index fund (MVI) is based on 16 digital currencies and designed to track the market value of the metaverse.

Analysts warn that both can be volatile, with metaverse tokens likely to experience more volatility than the MVI on average. 

Host events

The metaverse’s emphasis on real-time interaction makes it a promising outlet for live events such as virtual concerts, festivals, and panels. It also means that there’s money to be made in organizing and hosting events.

You can sell your services as a virtual event planner or make money off of your own events by selling tickets or securing paid sponsorships.

Become a metaverse freelancer

Just like digital freelancers, metaverse freelancers are independent service providers with expertise in a particular activity. Metaverse game designers, graphic designers, programmers, speechwriters, personal assistants, and other service providers can reach new audiences and boost earning potential by developing expertise in virtual worlds.

Become a product tester

The metaverse is relatively new, which means there’s a significant need for users who can test products and experiences and provide feedback to developers. Establishing yourself as an experienced metaverse product tester can help you provide niche value in a growing market.

Offer tourism services

According to McKinsey, travel is one of the five most exciting metaverse use cases for consumers. Users can explore 3D models of physical spaces (like museums, hotels, and monuments), either as a way to decide where to go, or as a substitute for physical travel.

Working in tourism-related services in the metaverse may include being a virtual tour guide or travel agent and using your unique knowledge of digital worlds to help users access experiences and spaces that fulfill their needs.

Play games

Believe it or not, you can also earn money playing games—specifically, a subset of metaverse games referred to as “play to earn.” Play-to-earn games compensate users (typically in cryptocurrency) for activities like winning a battle or completing a mission. In order to offer cryptocurrency prizes with real value, these games may collect and sell user data, display ads, or simply use the game to promote their own native tokens.

How to make money in the metaverse FAQ

Can you make real money in the metaverse?

Yes. You can make real money in the metaverse by speculating on virtual real estate, selling products (both real and virtual), hosting virtual events, and more.

How profitable is the metaverse?

The metaverse is still relatively new, and revenues are expected to grow significantly. But growing revenue does not guarantee making a profit. To give yourself the best chance of profiting, you should follow industry best practices.

Are there risks to making money in the metaverse?

Yes. All investments carry risk—but just as in real life, you can adjust your strategy to suit your risk tolerance. For example, investing a large amount of money in a new metaverse token may be riskier than an activity like devoting time to developing your metaverse architecture portfolio.