Okay, I know some of you will think I’m nuts, but I have started a business in the virtual world called Second Life.
For the uninitiated, Second Life is a 3-dimensional computer environment (I do not call it a game and most people using the service do not either). You can create an avatar to represent yourself “in-world” (the term that refers to being in Second Life). You can move your avatar around different islands that “residents” (the people inhabiting/using Second Life) build.
I’ve been using the service since March of this year. My initial thought was this would be an interesting new skill to add to my repertoire of online expertise for my Internet consulting business. But within a month, I began to see greater possibilities, particularly from a marketing andentrepreneurial standpoint.
My avatar - Cybergrrl Oh - is becoming a regular little entrepreneur. Of course, she is just an extension of me, and the work “she” does in Second Life is really an extension of my own work. At first, I augmented my freelance writing by taking a job as a business reporter with SLNN.com - Second Life News Network - a 24/7 AP-style news Web site. I get paid - yes - but in Linden, the currency exchanged on Second Life.
While my Second Life account is connected to my PayPal account and the Linden that I make can be exchanged into US dollars for a small fee, the reality at the moment is that the exchange rate is terrible. So basically, I get paid approximately $10 per article versus about 100 times that much in real life.
If the pay is so terrible, why do I do it? I consider it a loss leader - a marketing effort that will not make me any significant money but is working to build the Cybergrrl Oh brand and connecting me with representatives from major corporations, all of whom are experimenting with doing business in Second Life. Marketing, networking - both essential parts of business.
Just last week, I opened up my virtual world and real world tee shirt shop. My virtual world tee shirt shop is really more of a cart located on the boardwalk on a beautiful island called Elysian Isle where I am also the writer-in-residence and community developer (another one of my in-world paying gigs - about $100/month).
My real world tee shirt shop is located on Cafe Press - Second Life Swag. My theory is that people who buy an SL slogan tee for their avatar would probably also love one in real life for themselves. I’ll let you know how my theory pans out!
The other part of my tee shirt business is custom shirts. I get paid approximately $8 for each virtual tshirt I customize for people. In my first day of business, I received an order totaling over $100 US.
So what is my investment so far in the business besides my time? $500 to pay my sister to help me set everything up. So technically I haven’t turned a profit yet, but I’ve only been in business less than a week!
Curious how to set up a business in Second Life? Here are some starter tips:
1. Get familiar with Second Life. It took me about a month of exploring to figure out how to get around from island to island, how to find things, and just how to move my avatar without bumping into people or walls. Get over the learning curve first to avoid frustration when trying to do business in-world.
2. Look for ways to leverage what you do well in real life. While some people are starting businesses in-world that are completely different from what they’ve ever done - like a checkout clerk designing clothing and quitting his job to work on his virtual designs full-time - if you don’t have a knack for design, don’t add to your learning curve.
3. Offer something that you think residents of Second Life will need. Although you are thinking about a business in a virtual world, there are real people behind each avatar. You can certainly think of offering something “fantasy,” but consider practical products or services as well.
4. Work for someone else. I learned a lot very quickly once I began working for the island manager on Elysian Isle. I found out the best channels for marketing, formed “groups” which are topic-specific networks of avatars/people, and started to build things in-world. If you want to dive right into starting a business, find a mentor who is doing business in-world and can be on hand with advice.
Have questions? Post them here! Are you already doing business in Second Life? Tell us about it!