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Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Dirty Virtual Business Part 2- What avatars are saying about virtual businesses in Second Life- The SLE Business Survey

Last week I wrote an article about Business in Second Life©, mainly from my perspective being involved and observing how others conduct business. I sent out a survey through the SL Enquirer Media group and listed some questions in Part one for readers. The responses were interesting.

A lot of the times I hear that time zones and availability seem to be the hardest thing to overcome when trying to build an active staff on an international platform. The other complaint is that Second Life is still a very unstable business platform due to the lag and crashing. These virtual world natural disasters like the ones described can really disrupt business and can cause people to lose faith in Second Life to help them sustain an income they can count on.

Since businesses come and go so often in this virtual world, I asked participants of the survey how many business attempts they had since being in Second Life and what seemed to be the biggest obstacles they encountered.

Charltina said, “I have always done businesses in SL since my 1st day here. I have been blessed over the years by so many inspiring and talented friends and they often were my life chain. I call them Charltina Angels. The biggest challenge for anyone is believing in their creative talents and accepting criticism from others in a constructive way.” Charltina went on to say, “Thank you SL for an amazing Journey and thank you family and friends for sharing this extraordinary experience that has so enriched my Second and First Life.

SL resident Chryblnd said, I have one "umbrella" which provides the structure for many concepts, all in the entertainment industry.” Chryblnd also factored in media and marketing by saying, “SL media is scattered egocentric and seems content to aim itself at niche markets, meaning operators have to spend vast amounts of time networking just to get promotion opportunities. In my industry, drawing the attention of the entertainment-hungry public is the key to success. It sometimes feels like I must convert them one at a time.”

She is right, using media and marketing services in SL is very important. A lot of times it is who you know that helps you get to where you need to go. Creating business relationships with the media that is available in Second Life is very beneficial. Also, creating a presence in many of the social networks available online is another way to create a following for effective promoting of products and services.

Another survey participant by the name of Kay Fairey said, “I've never really made "business attempts" as I started as an SL model and now I also do quite a lot of show production, writing and teaching. But I've never set off to create my own company. With what I do, it just doesn't pay off and the biggest obstacle is definitely the sim tiers we have to pay and level of prices residents will pay for items or services, which is way too low to make it a serious business to sustain a life".

Just as an example in RL, a fashion show can cost several thousands of USD easily whereas in SL; you are talking about 80 to 100 USD at most. And yet, I'd be spending days preparing for a show. After paying out for the models, DJ, script writer, etc., I'd be lucky if can get 10 USD out of it, which simply does not make any sense as a RL profit.”

Kay brought up a valid point and provided an example that brings me to the next question I asked in the survey: Do you think it is worth it trying to make a real living in Second Life?

Hiawatha Runningbear from West of Ireland said, sure and Press Pass Media’s Carmichael Couldon agreed, because many people have become real life millionaires in Second Life©.

Charltina shared an inspiring story that illustrated how with determination, it is worth it to try to make a real living in Second Life: “Absolutely from a hospital bed when I was near death in 2008 I made close to 60 thousand US dollars from a hospital bed and that was with me being partially then paralyzed from a stroke, on my left side. So just imagine now that I am no longer paralyzed laughs I know SL literally to be for me Second Life. Half the proceeds from my 1st day in SL until now go to help seniors and disabled persons in real life. We have helped purchase wheelchairs, walkers, groceries, laughs large print Bibles and books for the visually impaired and launched real life humanitarian groups from the proceeds from Second Life.

Although there are those, like Charltina, that see the worth, there are others like Kay Fairy who might argue that the worth is not big enough. A Kay stated, “I know some people do make livings in SL, but it's limited to a very few.  The ones who have been doing this seem to be big real estate people and a handful of creators.”

Fazio Magic replied, “It can be [worth it] if you have a product of your own that you have developed.”

A newcomer to SL, b00jum Resident also sees opportunities for making a living by saying, “It’s worth trying it if, as with any business venture, one can identify an opportunity and provide a service/product that caters to a specific need.”

Kay suggested, “The only business that can really make any sense economically would be real estate and making things to sell. With creations, you may spend a lot of time to create but once it's been created, you can sell "copies" of what you created where as in RL, there would be manufacturing costs involved. Service type work such as what I do never really makes any economic sense because I spend real time doing it which can't be copied. So for each project, I will have to spend the same amount of real time and yet the prices we get paid is still virtual world level. So I would only do it for fun.”

B00jum Resident started one business so far.  “We’re attempting to draw out world musicians in world,” he stated, “and to create a bridge between in world concerts and out world digital music purchases. Biggest obstacle so far has been the platform itself - people still don't understand Second Life/virtual realities, and it's difficult to sell it as a marketing opportunity to musicians who aren't already tech-savvy".

All those answers are valid and something to think about. For some, virtual business works and for others it doesn’t. I think some business and marketing knowledge is key in helping build any reputable business in Second Life. Otherwise, these businesses take longer to succeed or never get off the ground.

Lanai Jarrico


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