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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Business in Second Life : Do's and Don’ts in Virtual Business - Orchids Zenovka Reporting…


Be it real life or Second Life, the trick behind success in business is having a business, and then, more business. The word “Business” has come to mean “enterprise” or “trade”. 

Second Life© (SL) is a great platform for a variety of business ventures. Like it may be portrayed by those that never explored what Second Life has to offer, it is not a simple MMORPGs (massively multiplayer online role playing games), but a different kettle of fish because there is no goal to be obtained. It’s a “user-created” “virtual life”.


You can trade real estate, design clothing, jewelry and accessories, manage events, create avatar shapes and skins, photography, be a breedable pet manufacturer, a graphic artist, a scripter, own a club and so much more. What drives entrepreneurship in SL is that you can retain the copyright for your in-world creations. 
When you create amazing work and want to share it with other, you can with a bit of compensation for your efforts. All you need to have is an establishment where your work can be made available. People also have to know that you have a product that is worth their while.  Once you have your creations, establishment and marketing plan in place, your business in second life should takes off. 
The dream of “Making a Living Virtually” is very much possible with a little elbow grease and a few business tactics to get the word around. Take a look at a light-hearted yet honest round-up of 30(one for each day of your month) Do’s and Don’ts in the realm of business with emphasis on Second Life virtual business that will get you on your way to success.



1.     Know about second life

Do:   Know what SL is and what it isn’t.  This is a “virtual” world with its own advantages and limits. Know the difference in the terms “in-world” and “marketplace”. Decide where you want to be. You have to understand it first to “work with the system.”
Jobs to be done in SL are different from RL. You cannot really open a fish and chips stand and hope to profit immensely. You can do completely “in-world” jobs (dancer, model, security, landowner, broker, host, and game master) or a RL+SL combo mix  like DJing, performing, designing, texture making, scripting, animating, law practice, teaching, journalism and many more.

Don’t: Go by hearsay. It isn’t full of “weirdoes” obsessed with sex. Neither is it the place to leave your child unmonitored. This is a “user-created” world and you will encounter “situations”. Consider them as your dark alleys in the streets of any city. Avoid them. Enjoy the rest of SL. I could not have written an article if there were no wonderful prospects in SL.

2.     Educate yourself

Do:  Read, read, read… everything and anything about business. No knowledge is wasted. You might not use that idea today, but it might apply someday down the road. Use the You Tube tutorials. Start with the free full permission templates eg. Chips midnight templates put out by generous creators. Gimp is a free alternative to Photoshop. Search the marketplace and you will find your treasure trove.

Don’t: “Wing” things because you have done business in RL. SL is virtual business like no other and has its own ways. Don't get complicated or invest in costly programs at first.  As with any other business, there are few overnight successes.


3.     Interact, interact, interact
Do:  Talk to people. Talk to friends. Talk in SL groups. Many will have pros that have been in business for years willing to share their experiences. Understand the culture of SL .Communicate with other creators and sellers. Find people whose work complements your own.  Communication leads to additional business. Many successful business ventures are there between partners who have never met face-to-face.
Don't: Become a hermit. You may succeed enough to leave your RL job, but working virtually does not mean you don’t leave your apartment. Get outside, get some fresh air, and meet a friend for coffee. Who knows where and when bright ideas pop up?

4.     Love it          

Do — Love what you want to do. Develop your own “niche”. At first, there will be thousands of ideas floating around. Let them marinate. Use practicality sometimes however. You may be extremely passionate about hair but still don’t have the skills; on the other hand, superb at making shoes; go for the shoes! There isn’t anything stopping you from expanding once you lay down your foundation. Always create what you would wear or use.

Don’t —Worry that everyone else seems to be doing the same thing as you are. They're not.  You can and will develop your own “thing” like no other.


5.     Professionalism

Do:  Put on your virtual clothes every day.  Dress with respect. If you want this to be a serious business, treat it like a business, not a hobby. There is no cement in this store, but it takes time and work to build a virtual business. 
Don't:  Devalue. If you do not value it, no one else will. 




6.     In-world store/ Marketplace
Do:  Make your store a place you would spend all day. Make it clearly navigable with signs, good layout, low lag, easy to find. Put information at the front entrance.  Hire professional skilled 3-D builders if you don’t know building. Hire photographers if that isn’t your forte. This will give you reciprocal business because they want their work highlighted too and will spread the word.

Don’t:  Avoid asking for help every step of the way. Know your business and have a plan. Also,  a very important key note, Do not keep a marketplace store without links to the in-world store and vice versa. You want customers to be able to find your location.


7.      Real Life
Do: Yes, we all live full, busy, happening lives. Out of the blue, something will crop up causing us to miss a deadline. Contact your staff and customers and give your explanation. Make it an exception, not the norm.
Don’t: Don’t make excuses. You don’t save face and risk losing your customers. The keyword here is professionalism.



8.     Branding

Do: “Lexicon” the naming agency, says: “A brand name is more than a word. It is the beginning of a conversation.”   Know clearly what you want to convey.  Write down words that you want associated with what you do. If you’re opening an art gallery and want people to feel inspired, you may not want to be naming it “Trash Hangout”.  Rate your words favorite to least favorite and make up brand names with each of them. Visualize them on your store sign. Let them marinate. One or several will stand out. Choose the one that inspires you.
Don’t: Choose words which are common, copyrighted, and similar to a major brand or something that doesn’t make you feel happy. You are special. Don’t choose overnight. You will be remembered by that brand name;  good or bad.

9.     Availability
Do: Set your time, personal or professional hours. Be there when you have to be there. Keep on track and complete work in time. Create your own schedules and keep it visible in your workplace. Respect your own timings and your customers will do the same. At closing time, stop working (rare exception for the inevitable deadlines). Take time to smell the roses. Eat regularly and exercise every day.
Don't: Don’t procrastinate. Do not make working past closing hours the norm. Working 24/7 is a surefire way to burn out.

10.                        Arrogant Behavior

Do: This is often overlooked but arrogance is the quickest and the most effective way down.  Believe in your own work and the surest way is to feel satisfied enough is to wear or use it.  Until you believe in it, you cannot convince others. Listen to constructive criticism. Never undervalue your efforts and don’t ask for validation from everyone. 

Don’t:  Get arrogant. “KA” is a good blogger and the store owner of “LC”, who became rude and derisive because I did not know she had an in-world store as she has been working 3 years on SL. The problem -- the marketplace link has no link to the in-world store. Don’t make this mistake.
It is humility and intelligence to remember sellers defer to buyers like seekers defer to the sought-after. When you have made your mark, people will automatically know you. If someone does not know you, that is your problem. It just makes you look desperate and you needlessly lose customers.


11.                        Marketing

Do: Make it the core component to your business, not an afterthought.
Advertise in “appropriate” groups, or place an ad in your local paper “The SL Enquirer” ;-). Ask friends to spread the word.
Develop an easily navigable Website/ Blog that on first glance conveys that you are a professional. Prominently place the services you sell and why you are the best. Mention your experience. If you don’t have experience, be honest. Customers value honesty and will give you the experience.
Create Your Own Group; announce new work, promote and inform special offers. Moderate it yourself or have a professional moderator. Be clear on the limits for group chat and content you allow.
Request your customers for Referrals and Testimonials discreetly. It makes them feel valued. Ask for feedback. The best advertising comes from previous customers. Best of all, it's free. Viral advertising has done wonders for The SL Enquirer.

Don't: Forget about the website/group. Don’t spam other store groups or groups not meant for advertising.  Don’t be naggy for referrals from customers; they may not come back to you. If a customer likes your product they will refer you whether you ask them to or not. Do not let pride stop you from requesting your customers.




12.            Hiring

Do:  Sales Employees who are self-motivated and keep deadlines and come into the job knowing how to work their email and adept at digital social interactions. Find out their comfort zones before hiring.
Security for club owners and places with focus of “social interaction”.
Models highlight your creations- clothes, jewelry etc. This may not be possible initially but as you expand, spend a buck extra for professionalism and extend your reputation.       

Don’t:   Expect a traditional office worker. It is solitary work for a virtual employee and needs good emotional capacity. They may face difficult situations from “faceless” customers and have to be able to work around them. Support them.
Do not argue with your workers. If you have to let someone go, let them go. There is very little reason to have the last word and a waste of productive time. Expend that adrenaline in something creative instead.
Do not belittle employees in open chat. A group chat I came across had a store owner complaining about her models. It affected some who said they “lost faith” in a store whose owner wasn’t able to get along with her workers. You may have meant it in a humorous manner but behind the keyboard, your expressions can’t be seen. Let your steam out to friends or take a break from SL by logging out and think about things more clearly. Once you have cooled down and got your thoughts in order, come back and handle the situation calm and discreetly.


13.                        Exhibit

Do:  Place strategic quality pictures of work maintaining a constant format. Photograph your work in situations you originally intended for its use. Give adequate “demos”.

Don’t: Extensively use Photoshop to alter photographs that they no longer look like the original. Try not charging for demos.

14.                        Commitment
Do: Give 100% and more. If running short of a deadline or unsure of your customer’s expectations, tell them immediately. Be upfront what you can and cannot provide. Hire help or partner up to help with overflow. You’ll be a lot more likely to finish your “wing glowy” attachments if you have a partner who checks up on you with: “I have to get that costume down to the fantasy fair—when will you be finishing the attachments?”
Don't: Over commit yourself. Mistakes will more likely happen. Missing deadlines or producing inferior work is another surefire way to lose customers and ruin your reputation.


15.                        Losses

Do:  SL loses items. You lose items. I lose items. Accept it. Make copies.

Don’t: Waste time worrying about losses in Second Life. In RL, a fire could happen. Someone could rob you. The losses in RL can be more serious and  devastating. At least in SL you can quickly recover, just keep creating.


16.                        Customer is king/queen until…

Do:  Have customer service. Provide them links where they can contact you. Attend requests no matter you have to give positive or negative answers. Or have a specific person meant for this. But be clear on your priorities and services. But an extra hair sent to someone is not going to plunge you into poverty.
Don’t: Neglect requests. Lose sleep over someone who “doesn’t understand what you create” and your “unreasonable prices”. Remember, you are having sales because people are buying.  Don’t change what you do for somebody who says they would buy your work only if you could make that teeny-weeny modification. There’s the “custom work” with special price for that.  Stay true to yourself.

17.                        Mistakes

Do:  Collect facts. Give an explanation. Collect more facts. Send the extra hair.  Get up and get away from your computer if it makes you boil. Calm down, come back and address more facts.

Don’t: React in abrupt manner. Pass the buck.  Making excuses reflects more poorly on your reputation than admitting the mistake would have on your competence. If you blame your employee, you are not a leader. If you blame your partner, you are a whiner. When you receive feedback, in your IM box or while dancing, resist the urge to defend yourself. Try see what you can learn from it, instead.

18.                        Remind the community

Do: Organize events, Promotions, Hunts. They are fun to do and generate footfalls. New stores get discovered and old stores re-visited. It is a chance to advertise you.

Don’t:  Keep low quality stuff in hunts and freebies. Hunts are meant to showcase your items. If you keep low quality, that is what people will come to expect from you.

19.                        Give back to the community

Do:  Help the Newbie -- step out of your way to help out someone less experienced. Spot a newbie? He’s a potential future customer. Become a mentor for the heck of it. It gives an untold satisfaction. Give freebies.


Don’t: Expect them to be grateful and obliged to you. Remember the times you were helped by unknown people. Have you gone to their stores and bought all their stuff? Do you even know who they were?

20.                        Time differences

Do:  SL shops are open 24/7 ; the entire world takes part. Nobody expects you to answer right away—nor should you expect others to. SL allows for a flexible schedule, but it requires to you be flexible too. Learn patience, even if it doesn’t come naturally.

Don’t: Barrage with repeated IM’s. It is insensitive to expect someone to wake up at 3AM their time and answer your IM.

21.                        Culture differences

Do:  Keep your beliefs at home. A tattoo acceptable to one is not to another. One man’s meat is another man’s poison. Either way there is nothing to be offended about. You are doing business, not having a discussion on “liberantism”.
A personal opinion- I feel having “payment only” sims is discriminatory. People without payment info on file can still buy things if you work in SL.

Don’t:  Discriminate on beliefs or tattoos. Let them pick up what they came for and leave. Don’t argue trying to prove your point. Don’t refuse to sell.  Be pleasant and direct the conversation to the sale items. If you are hell bent on hashing out the issue give them the appropriate time, place and group. Remember it’s your business time, not theirs’.

22.                        Update
Do: Keep learning. Learning new skills keeps from boredom and makes you more valuable.
Don't: Become complacent. Doing the same tasks leads to boredom, loss of enthusiasm and mistakes

23.                        Innovate

Do: Sell work that is your own.  The more you create your own textures and sculpties, the more will be your brand value.

Don’t:  Don’t be stagnant or afraid to try new ideas. Get out of your comfort zone at times. Success lies ahead when you conquer your fears.

24.                        Compete
Do: Research the market and price your work accordingly.
Don't: Overprice or underprice; don’t mistake that if you charge the lowest, you’ll get the most work. You’ll end up working invaluable hours for peanuts. Your work should and will speak for itself.

25.                        Follow up
Do: Follow up as much as you can with a brief note or IM asking if your work was satisfactory and gives you a chance to see if more opportunities are available.
Don't:  Assume the customer will always buy only your stuff or think of you for their next project. Regular contact will keep you fresh in their minds. Don't be buggy.

26.                        CopyBot

Do: Understand when someone is infringing on you and report it. Recognize CopyBot being done to others and report it.

Don’t: CopyBot. Someone else is thinking of doing it to your stuff too.


27.                        Grief

Do:  Report and then forget the immature person who griefed your store. Get stronger security. This is SL. Only the IP account and MAC address can be banned. You can’t put anyone in jail. They will tire of griefing when they realize you rise more with each fall.

Don’t: Grief back. You may get reported, banned and lose all your work. Worse, if none of that happens (you are too smart to get caught), you lose peace of mind and heart and get bad Karma.

28.                        Persist
Do: Finally, you’re a success! Be proud. Finally, it failed! Be proud.  In real life there are very few who build a business and succeed at the first shot. There are fewer in Second Life who succeeds at the first shot. Give it time. If it doesn’t work the first time, try again. Know when to change. Adapt. Try to find what clicks and then once your brand is built, you can make things you “personally believe” should be part of SL.
Don’t: Get discouraged. Don’t buy items en masse in the beginning or till you find a good price. Start low, go slow. Test the waters with a few items. Work towards your passion.

29.                         Leaving       
Do:  RL calls and you decide to close shop. Inform on your blog/webpage/groups/your friends/other store owners (they will be happy that their competition is leaving... show some loveJ). Complete the projects you have started.

Don’t: Disappear without anyone knowing. Leave projects hanging. You want people to remember you fondly not curse you once you leave. When Waka &Yuki left their SL store for RL reasons they put their entire hair out for free for limited time as a thank you gesture which speaks a lot about their character without words. (yeah the avi is from fantasy fair.. tremendous lag at the store ) With 3-d immersive tech on its way, who knows when you might come back? The second round will be more successful since you already have a reliable brand image.




30.    Enjoy yourself
Do: Have fun. Enjoy!! There’s no greater feeling than the first sale or the first article published (as was for me) or finishing your first big project. If you are happy, it will be reflected in your work. Your positivity will make customers want to be part of your team. If it becomes a drag of a job, you will burn out. 

Don't: Forget that you are working from the comfort of home. Don't neglect family, loved ones, friends, pets and that stray dog / cat/ human creature who comes every evening hoping you’d show some love. When the shop’s closed down for the day, this is what you have been working for.



And that was my light-hearted yet honest round-up of 30 (one for each day of your month. Do’s and Don’ts for your RL and SL business. I hope you find more peace in RL with a few of these thoughts too.  Keep some, delete some and tell me if I missed any…..
Reactions:

1 comments:

  1. You are very talented indeed. Thank you for the information.

    ReplyDelete

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