By Reuben Bramanathan, Blockchains, cryptocurrency & law. Helping crypto teams solve hard problems. Previously product & legal@coinbase
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For the vast majority of people, the only reliable way to make money is to sell time. Usually, this involves employment, but the cryptoeconomy has the potential to revolutionize the ways we convert our time into money.
Bounties, grants and personal tokens, together with the rise of remote work, are starting to break down the boundaries of traditional work. Personal tokens will enable internet-native individual business: the free flow of value for your services and value of your services.
Issuing a personal token that is redeemable for your services can be effective if your work involves creating anything digital: code, content, design, or advice. If you produce a product, you can tokenize the product instead of your time, like Unisocks.
So, in this sense, a personal token is:
- fungible, with a capped supply
- able to be bought and sold by anyone via decentralized exchange
- redeemable for one hour of your time (or one unit of your output)
What are the benefits of creating a personal token?
- Dynamic market pricing for your services. How much is your time actually worth? You probably have some idea of what you think it’s worth, or what other people charge. But a personal token lets the market continuously decide how much clients are willing to pay for your services, giving you a clear, real-time data point about your business.
- Value arbitrage. As we all know, the time spent doing something does not always equal the value created. Put another way, the value of your time to one client could be very different than the value to another client. The market can help you allocate your time to the most valuable use.
- Direct incentive to deliver value. If you’re great at what you do, and your clients appreciate the value you add, the market should price your tokens at a premium. The market provides information to clients about the quality and value of your services (and vice versa). Of course, if you’re a true professional, you don’t need any extra motivation to do a good job for your clients, but a personal token enables you to realize the increased value of your time directly, via your token’s price.
- Early access to capital. Maybe you really want to quit your job and work for yourself instead, but you need some capital to make ends meet while you get up and running. Issuing a personal token for your services can both test the market and fund your startup costs. Note that this is not equity or debt financing, it’s a presale of services. This is an important distinction between personal tokens and ICOs.
- Global client base. Crypto enables global payments for global services. Who knows how many people you will discover that you can help, and get paid for helping. You can get access to global markets without using freelancer platforms or other intermediaries. The emergence of DAOs and other on-chain organizations that need your services could also drive demand for your tokenized time.
- Enabling ISAs. We are already seeing experiments by people tokenizing their future earnings: a tokenized Income Share Agreement. In addition to high profile stars like Spencer Dinwiddie, ISAs can be used by ordinary people who need to pay for any up-front expense. You could even issue multiple tokens that are redeemable for the different types of value you create — time, product, or publicity — together with an ISA token for your investors. Smart contracts could automatically pass a share of the income from your value creation tokens directly to holders of your ISA token: a potential solution to the enforceability problem for ISAs.
Risks and challenges
At the end of the day, a token holder is relying on your promise to provide services when they redeem your token. There’s no easy way for them to enforce this promise if you refuse to provide the services.
A personal token involves making a commitment to provide your services as long as the criteria are met (e.g. it’s a type of work that you can do, and doesn’t involve anything illegal). You can commit to this in a Terms of Service. In any case, it won’t be great for your personal brand if you refuse to honor redemptions of your token. Over time, we could also see on-chain solutions like Aragon Court help with disputes and enforceability.
In substance, tokenized time is a prepayment for services, not an investment. The token is immediately functional because it is redeemable for your services. This should mean it’s less likely to be regulated as a security or other financial product. Of course, there’s a lot more nuance involved in any securities law analysis, so you should do your own research, and get legal advice on this point.
I’m tokenizing my time
- How to tokenize yourself by @Abv_Avg_Joe
- dApp Boi a pioneer of personal tokens
- Terms of Service free for anyone to use
- Zora — coming soon
You can read Part 2 of this series on personal tokens here
Nothing in this post is legal, investment or tax advice. You should do your own research before launching, trading or using a personal token.