Today, a guest post from an Australian business owner in Second Life, Seshat Czeret. One of her major goals is to run a sustainable business in SL – one which she can continue to run, and which sustains itself financially. Anyone looking to run a small business in SL for pleasure, rather than for mega bucks, should check out what Seshat has to say about building and running a business.
I’m Seshat Czeret, and I run a business in Second Life. It’s a small business, just me handling it, but it’s bringing in the Lindenbucks.
It started almost by accident. I was in SL to help my friend Tateru Nino with her columns, doing some of the groundwork. I ran into a role-playing environment that I thought I’d enjoy, and made myself a couple of things to help myself with that. Some clothing, and a curtsey animation. Friends suggested I put them up for sale, and Tateru offered me a bit of space at her shop. So I did. And they sold.
Another friend asked if I’d make her an outfit, which I did, which also sold. More friends asked for variations on that outfit, and before I knew it, I had a small – very small – business I was running.
I rented a storefront, and that’s the point where I decided I’d better treat this as a real business. I’m running Ubuntu Linux on a laptop on my computer desk, so I started entering my transactions into GnuCash.
At first, I wasn’t earning enough from sales to pay the rent on the store. I entered NCI’s Show and Tell and Newbie Blitz Builds, and the winnings I made from those covered the shortfall.
As I expanded my range of products, sales improved. Eventually, I covered my rent with sales alone. I expanded into other sims, as recommended to me by my customers. Each such recommendation brought me business – when I’ve let my customers lead me to other customers, it’s always succeeded. Places I tried to find on my own have usually failed.
Another friend gave me space in her store in exchange for a copy of everything I made, which enabled me to have a major storefront. That brought another increase in sales. We recently moved to a larger plot of land: I own the parcel my store is on, though the building extends across four parcels & contains multiple stores. And I pay my own tier, now, as well.
So I now have a major store, and several smaller stores across several different parts of Second Life. The smaller stores are usually in places associated with a roleplay sim, and hold products appropriate for that role-play. It’s convenient for the customers, to have the most appropriate products for them right there.
Despite that, two core products still pay most of my tier – the curtseys, and the courtly bows I created to complement them. Whenever they’re appropriate to a store, I make sure they’re there, and prominently placed.
I started very small, and I’ve grown conservatively. I’m still a very small Second Life business – I haven’t yet earned enough money to be worth changing into atomic-world currency. But by growing the business conservatively, I haven’t acquired obligations I can’t fulfil. I can still run the business by myself, and I can afford my tier.
I’ve learned not to be shy of upload fees. I often see advice for SL businesses saying not to put the price on a product sign, because if you change it you need to upload again. I disagree. Making the price visible lets my customers browse with confidence, knowing they won’t be suffering ‘sticker shock’ when they find the things they actually want to buy. One extra sale covers the upload fees!
I’ve learned to keep close track of the business. Keeping track lets me know when a product line is selling well, and when it might need to be changed in some way. It lets me know which of the smaller stores is doing a good trade in landmarks to the main store, which in sales, and which in both. And it tells me which products my customers like, so I know which ones I should probably do more of.
But for all of that business-y stuff, I do bear in mind that even my most expensive product wouldn’t pay for a cappucino. So most of all, I make products that are fun to make. It’s nice to dream about the possibility of making a living doing this, but the realistic point of view is that it might never do more than pay for itself. So I may as well have fun.