A step-by-step guide for complete beginners
If you’re reading this, buying an NFT probably sounds really intimidating — blockchain, digital wallets, minting, ARGH! But fret not, we got you!
Below is a step-by-step guide that will walk you though the process and you’ll be off to the races in no time! Now I will say this, since the tech is new the process hasn’t been fully streamlined where you can just purchase at the click of a button. All of this is still very new and innovations are happening daily. But by the time you’re done reading this and after you complete your first transaction you’ll feel like a pro! Trust me, soon your friends will be coming to you for help, it’s gonna be awesome.
Now one word of warning, because the space is new there are a lot of dubious people in the space, so throughout the process I’ll make notes where common scams and hacks occur and how best to protect yourself. But be aware, the scammers are also innovating too, so always be on the lookout for new ones. The best way to stay up to date is by conversing with fellow community members and checking the “scams alert” channel in all of your Discords.
For this walk through, I recommend just reading through it fully once, then come back and follow along on your second pass. Just take your time, and if you need help, don’t be shy about asking fellow community members for help. We are all happy to help onboard new people and make sure they have a great experience as they dip their toes into the wonderful world of NFTs!
STEP 1 — Setup your Wallet
In order to buy something you need money, and in our case, cryptocurrency. For the sake of this guide, we will only be focusing on the Ethereum blockchain. Okay, so what is Ethereum and what is a blockchain?
Ethereum (ETH) is one type of cryptocurrency. You’ve probably also heard of Bitcoin (BTC). Maybe you’ve heard of others like Solana (SOL), Dogecoin (DOGE), Shiba Inu (SHIB), or maybe you haven’t. Not a big deal either way. There are a ton of different coins out there with different pros and cons. The best way to think of it is like how we have various forms of money — the Dollar($), the Euro (€), the Pound (£), the Yen (¥), the Yuan (¥), the Ruble (₽), so on and so forth.
The blockchain is basically the network in which you can use that currency on. So Ethereum is traded on the Ethereum network. Bitcoin on the Bitcoin network etc… It’s kind of like traveling abroad, you can’t pay for your meal at a restaurant in Paris with Canadian Dollars.
Now, whenever sending money or assets like NFTs, you always want to make sure you’re sending things on the right network / to the right type of wallet. For instance, you only want to send BTC to another BTC wallet, if you send it to an ETH wallet it get lost forever. Think of it like putting a US Dollar in a British vending machine, it eats your dollar and your money is lost. Luckily today most apps and sites will check the receiving wallet and give you a warning if it’s the wrong network, but always double and triple check you have the proper addresses before sending/receiving anything.
It’s important to note that some of the cryptocurrencies you’ll read about are built on the big networks. I won’t go into the specifics as it’s not important in the now-now, but you can always do research on Layer 2 coins. But the easiest way for me to explain it is they’re kinda like spin-off TV shows, where someone had an idea like “Ooo Ethereum is great, but wouldn’t it be better if we did THIS ____” and then they did a remix on the code and launched their own coin. They’re the Fraiser of crypto. Some people like the original, Cheers, and some people like Fraiser better.
Okay, so the wallet…
Your wallet is your digital bank account. It’s where you’ll keep your cryptocurrency and your NFTs. It is vital that you keep this protected and always exercise caution when using it. For the sake of safety I recommend creating TWO wallets but I’ll get to that in a minute.
MetaMask (MM) is the wallet we’ll be using and it is super simple to set up. It works as a browser extension and there is also a mobile app (though the app isn’t the best. I recommend having the app so you can monitor your account and buy crypto or move assets, but it’s still really buggy when connecting to websites to mint NFTs so I suggest sticking with the browser extension).
You can install MetaMask from their website:
MetaMask - A crypto wallet & gateway to blockchain apps
A crypto wallet & gateway to blockchain apps
A crypto wallet & gateway to blockchain appsmetamask.io
The site should auto-detect your browser and you can install it like any other browser extension. I personally use Brave as it has a lot of great security features but it also works on Chrome, Firefox, and Edge. If you’ve never used an extension they’re little apps for your browser, things like a Pinterest button to quickly save a photo or article to your Pinterest account, or the Honey extension that automatically search for coupon codes at checkout pages. MetaMask is like your PayPal account, it’ll connect to the site where you want to buy an NFT and let you purchase things with your cryptocurrency.
When you click INSTALL it will bring you to your browser’s extension store —
Since I’m using Brave it brings me to the Chrome store. (Why you ask? Because Brave is built on top of Chrome. Similar to what I mentioned before about cryptocurrencies, Brave is the Friaser to Chrome’s Cheers!)
From there you can click ADD TO BRAVE (or Chrome etc…)
You’ll get a little pop-up to confirm, click ADD EXTENSION and…
You’ll get a little Notification that MetaMask was added to your Browser and you’ll see a cute little fox icon up in the corner (if you already have a lot of extensions installed you might need to click the puzzle piece icon and “pin” MetaMask to your toolbar).
MetaMask should automatically open up a new browser tab to get you started…
Take a moment to play with the interactive fox by moving your mouse around, trust me it’s oddly satisfying… okay, enough playing, back to work!
You’ll notice it says specifically Ethereum, this means you can use coins that are built upon the Ethereum network with this wallet.
You also noticed it says Decentralized and might be wondering what that means. That means there is no main governing body or a “central” hub. Unlike a bank which is centralized. This basically means that your assets exist on the Ethereum blockchain and nobody controls them but you. So you won’t have someone like Chase freezing your account etc… BUT what it also means is that there’s no one specific entity running it, so if you lose the keys to your wallet you can’t call Ethereum customer support for a password reset (but more on passwords in a minute).
Okay back to it, Click GET STARTED…
Since you’re starting fresh you will click CREATE WALLET.
I want to take a moment here to point out the obvious, but after you follow this tutorial and create your wallet, let’s say you have a laptop and a desktop, well when you install MetaMask on your other computer you can use IMPORT WALLET to connect your existing account to the new computer and yes you can have it on multiple computers at once (but obviously don’t connect your wallet to any public computer like at work or the public library etc…).
Next it will ask if you want to help improve MetaMask, this is entirely up to you and won’t affect the functionality of your wallet.
Then it will ask you to create a password. IMPORTANT NOTE: This is NOT the password to your wallet per se. This is the password you use to login to your specific browser, meaning you can have your wallet on different computers and create a different password. Think of this like the Screen Lock on your phone, it keeps people out but isn’t directly connected to your wallet. Still keep it private but know the next part is THE MOST IMPORTANT…
The Secret Recovery Phrase
Sometimes referred to as “Seed Phrase” or “Recovery Key” well THIS is what truly gives you access to your wallet. The key word here is SECRET! It’s like your ATM pin and I cannot stress this enough…
NEVER, EVER, EVER! SHARE YOUR SECRET RECOVERY PHRASE WITH ANYONE!!!
Anyone asking for it or claiming their tech support or helping you with your account are all dirty, dirty liars!!
Also it’s a good idea to print this out and store it where ever you keep your valuables like your passport, birth certificate, etc… You might be tempted to screenshot it and keep it on your phone or cloud but please don’t, if someone finds it, it’s like find a duffle bag full of your assets.
To add another level of security, you can get a “hard wallet” (sometimes also called a cold wallet), but I’ll explain those later.
The SECRET ROVERY PHRASE is a string of random words that are in a specific order, in this case 12 random words.
NOTE: This is not a real Secret Recovery Phrase, this has been Photoshopped for the tutorial as an example, NEVER post a picture of a REAL recovery phrase!
So after you click to reveal it will show you your phrase, again, I recommend printing out a hard copy and keeping in a safe or somewhere that it A) won’t be found and B) won’t get lost — I’m sure you’ve read storeis about people who lost their Secret Phrase for a Bitcoin wallet that they created years ago and is now worth millions but they can’t access it… DON’T BE THAT GUY! (or GIRL… but let’s be honest women are much smarter than that, it’s mostly the dudes).
Next it will ask that you confirm your Secret Recovery Phrase in the proper order. Select the right words in the right order then click CONFIRM.
AND CONGRATS YOU’RE ALL DONE!!
You can see your wallet balance as well as at the top you can click and copy your ETH wallet address, this is like your bank account #
They all start with 0x and have a string of numbers and letters.
It is IMPERATIVE that you copy these exactly, if you don’t you could be sending your assets to the wrong wallet or to a non-existent wallet in either case you won’t be getting any of it back. Again, there’s no customer support to request a reversal. All tx on the blockchain are set in stone.
Another important note: All transactions (or tx for short) are public on the blockchain, so you can see the activity of any wallet if you have the address. So wallet addresses do not necessarily need to be kept secret — that’s why you’ll see people on Twitter posting their wallet addresses for giveaways of free ETH or free NFTs.
You can close that browser tab and whenever you need to access your wallet, all you have to do is click the little fox icon up in the menu bar (again, you might need to pin it there if it’s not showing up — just click the puzzle piece icon and then the push-pin icon next to MetaMask.
Aside from not sharing your Secret Recovery phrase, I want to talk about a additional safety tips to help keep your assets secure.
#1 — Use a burner wallet
What does that mean? It basically means a disposable wallet. No this isn’t a special kind of wallet, it’s just setting up an additional wallet. So you setup TWO wallets. One is used for purchasing and one acts as your vault.
The first one, or burner, is the one you connect to website and the address you post online for free giveaways etc… Once you buy an NFT you transfer that asset to your #2 wallet, the vault. This way only wallet #1 is connecting to sites — which can potentially expose it to a harmful code to steal your assets — but if this happens, the wallet is pretty much empty. Meanwhile, wallet #2 never connect to any sites and therefore the assets it holds are much much safer. If wallet #1 ever gets compromised, you can throw it away, aka burn it, and setup a new one, wallet #1b.
You always need to be careful when connecting your wallet to new website, as they might have malicious code that gives them TOO MUCH access to your wallet. So it’s best to talk with others in the community and do some research into whether the project and its site are legit.
Now, for an added layer of security, you could (and should) make wallet #2 a hard wallet…
#2 — Hard Wallets
A hard wallet (or cold wallet) is one where your Secret Recovery Phrase never has any interaction with the internet. They look like little USB drives (pictured above) and act as a buffer between your assets and the internet. Here’s how they work:
- You create a wallet using their app, it gives you a Secret Recovery Phrase (24 words instead of 12) that is stored locally on the device — your wallet and it’s assets are still online on the blockchain, but your phrase is stored inside the device (you also keep a hard copy of the Secret Recovery Phrase with these).
- Then you also create a PIN so that only you can access the device.
- Then you connect that wallet to MetaMask and the Ledger acts as a buffer or firewall. So in order to make a purchase or send money out, you need to physically click the buttons on the device to confirm it. So let’s say your laptop gets stolen, if you’re MetaMask is logged in with a normal wallet, the thief could transfer out your assets the same way as if you left your bank account logged in. BUT with a hard wallet, they could try to send your assets to their wallet but wouldn’t be allowed to because they don’t have the device. (NOTE: they can still access your funds if they ever get your Secret Recovery Phrase, so again, don’t send that out, even when dealing with a hard wallet — the hard wallet company support will never ask for this!!!).
- Now I’m sure you’re thinking: But I lose my USB drives all the time, what if I lose my hard wallet?!! — Fear not, your assets are on the blockchain NOT the hard wallet, your Secret Recovery Phrase is what’s on the hard wallet AND you have a print out, so if you lose or destroy the hard wallet you can use your printed Secret Recovery Phrase to setup a your wallet on a new device!
There are a few different brands of hard wallets with different features for added security like:
- Entering the wrong PIN too many times sends all your assets automatically to another wallet that you’ve selected — think of it like your assets escaping through a tunnel when the big bad wolf is knocking at the door.
- Some have it where you can create a dummy PIN — so let’s say you’re a tycoon with millions of dollars in ETH and you get kidnapped. You give them the fake PIN and it only shows that you have $100 in your wallet and that’s all they can steal.
But for basic needs, the Ledger wallet (shown above) is the most popular. One word of warning:
ONLY BUY A HARD WALLET FROM THE MANUFACTURER’S OFFICAL SITE!!!
DO NOT BUY ON AMAZON OR EBAY!!!
Hackers have a scam where they buy a Ledger or other hard wallet, load it with fake software that gives them access to all of your assets!!
Also worth noting, you will NEVER be able to choose your own Secret Recovery Phrase. If something is telling you that you can, it is a SCAM!
#3 — Always disconnect from sites when you’re done
Whenever you Connect your Wallet to a website you’ll be asked to select which wallet (if you have multiple) and to “sign” which gives that website approval to connect. By signing with a site you give it access to an extent, so to tie up all loose ends, when you’re done with a site just disconnect by following the steps below — Don’t worry you can always connect again when you come back!
- Click the MetaMask icon in the browser which brings up the MM menu.
- Then click the three dots to bring up the Options drop down and select “Connected sites”
- Then you’ll see all the sites you are currently connected to and can easily delete those by clicking the little Trash can icon. You won’t lose an assets you purchased from that site, you’ll just be cutting the tie to it for now, again you can always reconnect when you come back later. It’s best practice to keep all doors to your wallet closed after walking through them.
Again, the crypto and NFT space is very new so assume everything is a scam until proven otherwise aka DYOR (Do Your Own Research) but the community is also very helpful — though again, beware of scammers and turn off your DMs and never click links a stranger sends you!
Okay, so I hope you read everything before getting started, that way you can decide if you wanted to go with a hard wallet, a two wallet system, or just start with one simple wallet.
If you do want a hard wallet, here’s a discount link for Ledger, I think it works on single items only, not the bundle:
Okay, so that should get you started, the next lesson with be How to Mint an NFT (coming soon). I’ve included a few helpful videos below as well. And don’t be shy, feel free to ask questions in our Discord, the community will be happy to help!