Please Note: There is no guarantee that some of the opportunities mentioned would still be available by the time you read this. However, the author would make efforts to update this article as often as possible.
I thank the CryptoHite community for inviting me. This article is a compilation of my presentation. Please, do comment and share your thoughts!
If I got a dollar for every time someone asked me “how did you get into blockchain and crypto?”, I would probably have one full bitcoin. Although, often, when people notify me of their interest in blockchain and crypto, what they really want to know is how to make money from it. The most popular paths are trading and programming. Unfortunately, I am impatient and have no mental energy for monitoring volatile charts. Also, this programming ‘thing’ refused to ‘enter’ my head, LOL. So, I took the road less traveled. I currently earn crypto in the ecosystem by using my writing, research and lawyering skills. In fact, I am currently picking up new skills on the go: Project Management and Technical Writing. Today, I will be talking about how to earn crypto by working for DAOs. This path to earning in the ecosystem is less popular.
I think that’s enough for an introduction, let’s get into it. The opportunity is open to writers, researchers, programmers, designers, business developers, and just about anyone. All that is required is that you are open-minded, interested in the ecosystem, ready to learn, and of course, earn.
What is a DAO?
DAO is short for Decentralized Autonomous Organization. DAOs are internet-native organizations for managing funds and labour towards achieving a specific goal. This goal could be buying the United States constitution like the ConstitutionDAO attempted or VC investing like MetaCartel. They are decentralized because members drive the activities and their governance rather than some hierarchical executives as seen in traditional corporate entities. They are autonomous because their funds and labour can be automatically distributed in accordance with governance outcomes. They are an organization because DAOs are essentially a group of people with a specific goal leveraging the blockchain for coordination.
The 5-year-old DAO system is currently experiencing a surge in growth. At the time of writing and according to DeepDAO, DAO treasuries collectively hold $8.4B worth of assets under management (AUM) with over 1.6 million members collectively. As the focus is how to earn crypto working for DAOs, we will not delve into how they work and other details. Contributors from Gitcoin and BanklessDAO have published a comprehensive report: DAOs: The New Coordination Frontier.
Criteria for Choosing a DAO for work
Now that we have the definition out of the way, you are probably thinking, okay how do I choose a DAO for work? Please, note that these criteria are not absolute, but are meant to serve as guidance of what to look out for when hunting for a DAO to work for.
1. Recruitment Process
For most DAOs, there is no clear process for recruitment, for example, BanklessDAO. But once you join, begin contributing in some little ways, you could get rewarded with more work, scaling to full-time after a while. While a DAO like Sushi follows a recruitment guide. Depending on your preference, you need to consider this criterion when choosing.
2. Payment Mode
There are different ways to get paid when working for a DAO. Some pay a salary or give bounties, others give grants or practice revenue sharing. It is important to confirm what payment mode the DAO you are interested in adopts. If it is not a mode you like, you can ask if there are exceptions or move on to the next DAO.
3. Work Culture and Environment
What are other DAO members saying about the DAO? Are members welcoming or snobby? No amount of income is worth working in a toxic environment. You want to pick a DAO that appreciates and acknowledges your contributions.
Benefits of working in a DAO
1. Perfect Grooming Ground
In some of the DAOs I recently joined, I have been mostly handling project management and technical writing tasks. These are new skills I had been looking to build in 2022. A perfect opportunity for me to learn while still earning. The best part is how having this experience would look on my CV. Talking about CV, I just wanted to mention a tip of ensuring you have different CVs for different skills and purposes.
2. Perfect Timing
It is safe to say this is the year of the DAOs. 2021 was probably the year of NFTs. As always, when something is receiving much attention, you can also expect it to receive much funding.
3. Good Earnings
When there is much funding, there will be good remuneration. Some DAOs are exploring the idea of DBI (DAO Basic Income) where contributors are paid a base amount and then a performance bonus. In some DAOs, core contributors average $90,000 annually. This is probably on the low side when compared with protocol DAOs like Sushi where some full-time contributors earn millions annually.
4. Location Independent
DAOs basically reduce locations to nodes, taking the remote working concept a notch higher. I am yet to find a DAO that requires its members to live in a certain location. Virtually all talent needs of a DAO can be offered remotely, allowing anyone with the required skills to work from anywhere in the world.
5. Proof of Capability
In 80% of the DAOs I have worked with, contributors got POAPs for specific, completed tasks. This is a cool verifiable way to prove the capability of the skills listed on one’s CV. The more DAOs one joins, the more credibility they stack. In fact, there is someone who has worked in at least 20 DAOs!
I mentioned earlier that working in a DAO takes remote working a notch higher because locations are reduced to nodes. Working for a DAO is flexible because depending on your availability, you can go full-time, part-time or even sometime. Your choice. Ultimately, you get rewarded for your efforts. Check out this tweet from Coopahtroopa who started working part-time in DAOs in 2018 and now going full-time. DAOs often reward contributors in governance tokens or stablecoin, according to efforts.
7. A Place for YOU
Whether you are a programmer with 2 decades of experience or a zoologist, there is a place for you in a DAO. Some of the roles that one can take up in a DAO include software engineer, legal counsel, technical writer, content writer, marketer, project manager, product manager, community manager, social media manager, portfolio manager, designer, etc. But be ready to put in the work. Always look for ways to contribute, even if just attending calls and making suggestions. Coopahtroopa puts it succinctly in this tweet.
Challenges With Working with a DAO
Yes, it is not all rosy. Working in a DAO has its own challenges, some of which I highlight below.
1. Chaotic Onboarding
ALL of the DAOs I have worked with scored low on the onboarding front. For a particular DAO, the guy who was supposed to onboard me did not show up twice, no notice. In another, after I joined, I had no idea what to do or how best to contribute.
2. Discrimination Vibes
I am black, female and have nontechnical skills. These are the three fronts on which I have felt some discrimination vibes. I still recall when one DAO member was proposing I work with another DAO member on a task and this other DAO member went into a long monologue about how they were not open to taking on new mentees/interns. Yes, you guessed right, they thought I was an intern, LOL. That is just an example of the kind of discrimination I have faced. But well, so long as you know your stuff, you can prove yourself. You are still relevant even if you have no technical skills. You do not have to be a data scientist or programmer to work in a DAO.
3. Finding Work
For a supposedly decentralized organization, often things happen in silos and in DMs. Unlike a traditional centralized organization where you get your tasks and duties from your manager or supervisor, in a DAO, you have to hustle for work. At least, in your early days. As one of my DAO co-contributor puts it: “You don’t wait for work to fall into your laps”. I find this to be a challenge for people who are not aggressive or do not like putting themselves out there. This could probably be solved with an automated project management solution that allows DAOs to list tasks and their remuneration on a board, and anyone with free time and the requisite skills can pick up unclaimed tasks and get paid. The difference between this and a bounty system is that only vetted people have access to the board and once someone claims a task, it becomes unavailable. Unlike a bounty system where there is the proposal stage and then selection of the bounty winner.
4. Uncertainty with the How and What of Payments
In some DAOs, there is confusion around how one is paid and what one is paid for. Should people be paid for simply belonging to a division/workstream or should people be paid by the hour or should people be paid per task done? In one DAO, when I received payment in my wallet, I had no idea what I was being paid for. No way to know whether I was underpaid or overpaid. In solving this challenge, the automated project management solution I mentioned earlier could be helpful here.
My Top DAO Picks
I work as a contributor in some of these DAOs. This list is meant to serve as a guide so you have a few you can target as the first steps to working in a DAO. Some DAOs I am a member of are not mentioned here as I am mostly inactive there.
Smart Contract Research Forum (SCRF)
There is no reason why this shouldn’t be the very first on the list. One of my highlights in 2021 was getting to know about SCRF and contributing on the Forum. Although not exactly a DAO, it functions like one and has plans to transition into a DAO in future. SCRF provides a platform for connecting academia and industry as both conduct research on blockchain and crypto. Some of SCRF’s objectives and key results include research summaries, events, podcast, mentorship, etc. There is a Pan-African Grant program targeted at African researchers to be announced soon for the second cohort. To get started, you can visit SCRF, create an account on the Forum, read some posts and make insightful comments. On the home page, you will find a ‘New To SCRF? Start here’.
GitcoinDAO is Gitcoin’s effort at having a decentralized component to the Gitcoin LLC. To become a contributor, you need to first fill out an application form. If you are accepted, you would get an email saying you have been approved and can proceed to onboard. After you have been onboarded, you would be granted appropriate discord permissions so you can contribute to conversations and pickup or propose projects.
BanklessDAO is a decentralized community with one mission: Help the world #gobankless. Of all the DAOs I have joined, they seem the most decentralized. To become a contributor, you have to join their discord and also join a guild. Guilds are essentially specialized subgroups within the DAO comprising of people with specific skills. For instance, they have a Writer’s Guild, and a Legal Guild which I joined, but not active.
Find Your Ikigai
On your journey to earning crypto by working for DAOs, joining a DAO is half the battle. To set up for success, you need to find your Ikigai. Tracheopteryx did a great Twitter Thread explaining how this Japanese concept for finding balance, when weighing multiple options, applies to working in a DAO.
In summary, to find your Ikigai when working for a DAO, you need to answer four questions:
- What do you love doing?
- What are you best at?
- What does the DAO need?
- What will the DAO fund?
Whatever resurfaces in each answer is your Ikigai and what you should be doing!
Overall, while there were some challenges, my experience working in DAOs since 2021 is one I will always be grateful for and would never have gotten from a traditional company. Not to mention it is also financially rewarding. There are some persons who work full-time for more than one DAO and average $8,000 weekly. I may never get there myself as this is a part-time commitment on my part, but I know it is achievable by anyone willing to put in the work.
My parting words for you: get a skill, find a DAO and just DAO it!✔