What It’s Like To Quit Your Job To Do Crypto Full Time

I Quit My Job To Do Crypto Full Time

What’s it like to jack yourself into the decentralized future when you have rent due now?

Crypto is very silly. As a guest on Saturday Night Live, Elon Musk repeatedly joked about Dogecoin, a cryptocurrency itself created as a joke—and one now worth tens of billions of dollars. This summer, the NBA star Steph Curry spent six figures on a randomly generated drawing of an ape. There are countless memes and seemingly just as many scams. 

For a certain cohort of tech workers and creatives, though, crypto is also very serious. To them, it suggests a rosier future of the Internet. If web2 is the Internet now, controlled by a few big platforms, they’re trying to build a decentralized web3. To get there, many are following their passion in a particularly banal way: They’ve made crypto their day job.


“Everyone is quitting their 9 to 5 job in web2 so that they can work 24/7 in web3,” as a recent popular tweet put it. Is that… a good thing? To learn more, VICE talked with five people working full-time in crypto—a former head of sales, a longtime Uber product designer, an ex-music manager, and an artist dabbling in NFT—plus someone who just left the field. What’s it like to jack yourself into the decentralized future when you have rent due now?

Lily, 24

NFTs have been especially hot this year. They use the blockchain to track who owns unique editions of files, media, or data: It could be a dazzling piece of video art, a crudely drawn rock, or anything, really. Powering that system of artists, buyers, and resellers are web platforms like Zora, a “decentralized marketplace protocol” that’s sort of like Sotheby’s, eBay, and a private art gallery all in one. That’s where Lily works, as a product designer. 

The company reached out to her in a cold email. She had been at Uber for three years, doing a mix of product design and engineering, and jumped at the job offer even though it was a pay cut. “I was bored and kind of waiting for a change,” she said. “I think it just felt more authentic to who I was and who I am currently.” Even if working for a crypto startup was risky, she didn’t feel like she had much job security to begin with—Uber had laid off a sizable part of her department over the years—and she almost wishes she’d left sooner. “Your 20s are about fuck around and find out,” she said.


“I almost feel like I’m a rat on cocaine working in this space because there’s so much happening.”

While her actual day-to-day job is similar to her work at Uber, her coworkers share far more enthusiasm about their industry. “Everyone implicitly believes in what we are doing, especially from a standpoint of empowering people on the internet to be able to capture the value that they’ve given to platforms,” she said. She loves seeing artists get compensated for their work, particularly when NFT prices are high; a few months back, she onboarded a 3D artist in India to the platform who recently made $200,000 selling his work as NFTs. “Just knowing how little illustrators get paid in the tech industry, especially if you don’t live in America, that is so awesome to see,” she said. 

Crypto's speed and intensity can be tough to keep up with, though, and she admitted her work-life balance is definitely worse. “I almost feel like I’m a rat on cocaine working in this space because there’s so much happening,” she said, noting that many people in the industry seem to think about crypto while they sleep. There are other downsides: Especially in the early days, she heard stories about crypto culture that didn’t feel inclusive toward women and people of color. And she’s concerned about the environmental costs associated with the technology. 


While she’s surrounded by enthusiasts at work, many in her immediate circle are still out of the loop. On her recommendation, her parents bought some Ether—the second-largest cryptocurrency, which powers the network behind most NFTs—but she generally struggles to explain it. “As a child of immigrants, there’s a language barrier,” Lily said. “I don’t know what the term is for ‘distributed and permissionless ledger’ in Vietnamese, so I haven’t really had those conversations with a lot of the older people in my family.”

broken computer crytpo job

Illustration by AnimationSeries2000​

Raihan, 32

Friends with Benefits, or FWB, is an arts-and-culture focused crypto community known as a DAO, short for “decentralized autonomous organization.” Essentially, it’s a private club with its own cryptocurrency, $FWB—you have to own at least 75 tokens in order to join. There’s a private Discord community, members-only parties around the globe, and, most recently launched, an editorial platform. You can sell your tokens if you decide to leave, though, potentially for great profit: If you had joined FWB in early July, it would have cost just $550. Today? Those same tokens are worth over $9,000. 

This summer, Raihan quit his full-time e-commerce job at a big kitchen electrics company to work on FWB. While the staff at FWB largely avoids job titles, Raihan focuses on community and culture, ”managing expectations, schedules, and budgets,” he said. So far he’s taken about ⅔ of his pay in $FWB and ⅓ in $USDC, a cryptocurrency whose value tracks the US Dollar. FWB doesn’t provide health insurance, but he actually gets that from another crypto project he’s involved in that isn’t public yet. 


Raihan is also currently finishing an MBA program at the University of Southern California, and he said that fellow students from traditional consultancies or traditional tech companies often ask him how to switch. “There’s a shared sense of ownership and possibility [in crypto], whereas with a legacy company you know who the CEO is and who the CFO is and you constantly have to go upwards,” he said. For some, the chance to redefine good management and collaboration is part of the appeal: “It’s really up to web3 folks to be good stewards of the working culture, the participatory culture.” 

Beyond his business background, Raihan has experience in fragrance design, artist management, and consulting for record labels, and he said his belief in web3 is rooted in artist empowerment, especially those in the Global South. “I realized this was very much a viable lane for artists to escape the existing rights and management ecosystem to build something of their own,” he said. He notes that he doesn’t see himself as working full-time in crypto, but rather using crypto as a tool to improve other industries, like music, art, and writing. “If you think about crypto as an ecosystem, [the question becomes] how do we imbue whatever you’re already doing with this technology?”

Clayton, 36

Clayton didn’t go to college: He started his career in San Francisco writing for Thrasher before working as a publicist, co-founding a record label, and managing artists. Through it all, he became disillusioned with the music industry. “A lot of the systems and processes that you have to go through to be in music at a major-label level are kind of at odds with the things that I hold to believe,” he said. “It became very evident that music was thought of as a commodity in a lot of those buildings and it was one that needed to be brokered and maximized in terms of its returns.” Most of his friends still work in that world—but he’s optimistic his work in crypto might lead to something better.

“Crypto is probably the only thing in the world that gives me hope, honestly, I’m being dead serious.”


Clayton now works at Audius, a decentralized music streaming service. In some ways it’s like Spotify, except they reward artists who contribute to the platform in $AUDIO tokens, which grant them ownership of the platform and the ability to vote on future decisions about its direction. Clayton is Head of Partnerships, onboarding musicians and strategizing with label people and artist managers. He said a big part of that work is just explaining the technology—and often, re-explaining it. “I tell people that I’m building a new music industry that is fairer for the people that create value within it,” he said. “[Artists] should eventually be able to dictate how music is consumed and distributed.” 

Clayton estimates that he works for about a third of the salary he’d get if he had doubled down in the traditional music industry. In exchange, though, he gets to feel like he’s building a brighter future for a field that, for many, seems increasingly bleak. “Crypto is probably the only thing in the world that gives me hope, honestly, I’m being dead serious,” he said. “There’s never been a better tool in my lifetime to be able to change things at a systemic level in a very dramatic and extremely profound way.”

Danny, 21

So what’s it actually like for artists? Danny is one who’s found extraordinary success with NFTs. While the amount he gets from second-hand sales isn’t public, people have spent the equivalent of nearly $75 million total on his project, Creature World NFT, a series of 10,000 unique characters. He didn’t quit his day job for crypto, he incorporated crypto into it: The NFT is part of a long-term project of his called “The Creature World,” which spans across multiple mediums. He said his team of artistic collaborators estimated that, if he were to have painted all 10,000 manually, it would have taken him 106 years, whereas the NFTs took just a few months to complete. 


Crypto tends to attract young people: Clayton mentioned a large decentralized project that recently hired a 14-year-old. Danny’s first experience with it was when he was 12. When he graduated from high school, he moved to New York City to pursue art and found early success. When he heard about NFTs, he reached out to a collector. “I was like, ‘I’m not asking you for anything, I’m not trying to sell you anything, I want to understand why you buy NFTs,’” he said. “I didn’t actually get to ask that question because he was telling me all about the artwork that he loves.”

Most of all, Danny said, he’s excited to try out new forms of creativity. After the first NFT drop, he released an experiment called Creature Playground where he sent a piece of a puzzle to everyone who owned a Creature. “I was like, ‘Make groups and put these puzzle pieces together. If you don’t put them together, you won’t make it to the next step,’” he said. “We were able to bring people together that have this artwork because we can actually see who has it. All of these things are new tools to build new creative structures, and the creative structures that we work with and work in really contribute to what product we are actually sharing.” 

Chris*, 26

There’s so much optimism in this space that it can be hard to tell what’s merely wishful thinking. So VICE also talked to Chris, a software engineer who asked to not be identified by real name. He went in the opposite direction as the other people interviewed: After working in web3 for two years, he left for a more traditional tech job at the beginning of 2021. 

Why are so many other people getting into crypto now? Chris attributed the interest to a few things. A general skepticism of corporate power has fueled enthusiasm for decentralized technologies, and record-high prices in Bitcoin and Ethereum seem to have lessened the risk. “You’re seeing a lot of people who wanted to take the jump [a few years ago] but needed to know that the floor was pretty high,” he said. “And now they’re taking that jump.”

At his web3 startup job, Chris was paid a salary that totaled around $220,000, with about half of it in tokens. He said price fluctuations made him nervous, but he held onto the tokens to minimize his capital gains tax and they’ve since multiplied in value. If prices then were what they are now, his salary would have been worth roughly $1 million.

The startup he worked for was flush with money, and as a result, most engineers had lots of latitude in what they worked on, but he felt the company had little direction. “I respect the people who are just like, ‘I think this is interesting and cool,’ ‘I think I can make some money,’ and ‘I think it seems fun’ because the creative ethos is totally still there,“ he said. “[But] I think people who think that the stuff that’s happening right now in crypto is making the financial system more accessible are just deluding themselves.” Chris also sees the current hype as a bubble: “There will definitely be a correction. I think this is just unsustainable, and you’ll have a lot of people who are just like, ‘This is nonsense, I’m not down to just gamble on JPEGs anymore.” 

A day before this story was published, the price of Bitcoin hit an all-time high. But Chris wasn’t the only person already considering a big market pull-back. For others, the utopian aspirations—and the community that comes with that—are exactly what they love most about crypto, regardless of the actual price or promise of the technology. “Whether Ethereum is at $90,000 or at $9, I think that [my interest] would still be the same,” Lily said at one point. “I’m in the space because I’m curious about all of these things, and I’d rather be curious and put my time and effort into a future I think is better, not necessarily a future I think is locked in to happen.”