Phantasies and Alternate Dimensions (feline_phantasy) wrote,
Phantasies and Alternate Dimensions

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Advice for New Virtual World Enterprenurs

In this post, I plan to share some advice for the budding virtual world entrepreneur. It is by no means an authoritative post. It is based on my experience, and on what others have told me.

  1. Study your market before beginning. Take time to figure out what you enjoy the most, then study your target market to see what others are doing. You will do far better if you use your own imagination and come up with something fresh and new. Pick something fun, rather than something you "think" will sell, or it'll just become another job.

  2. Don't strive to be an "Ansche Chung". Ansche had a few things going for her, some of which will never appear again. One, she had real-life seed money. Two, Linden Labs gave her deep discounts for owning so many sims. Three, she started her land baron business at just the right time, when land in Second Life was in high demand, so she could pretty much charge whatever she wanted.

    If you use her, or one of the other "success stories" as your goal, you will likely be disappointed. I'm not saying that you couldn't develop and run a very thriving business; I'm saying that setting your expectations too high, especially at a time when the real-world economy is depressed, will set you up for failure and make this just another job.

    Each of those people were inventors or came into a market niche at just the right time. Each of their situations was unique, to them and their talents.

    Now if you're really, REALLY inventive and imaginative, maybe you can come up with something new. Goodness knows it's been done and will continue to be done. Or perhaps you can find a way to take something old and routine and spice it up in a way nobody thought of. Now THAT would bring you success.

    Don't forget to have fun doing it though, or it just becomes another job (unless that's your "thing", of course).

  3. Get to "know" your market. Learn the grid. How do people find out about new things? What is the best way to get your name out there? On some grids, it'll cost you money to do that, so study your options and spend your money wisely. On other grids, it might be as simple as socializing. Even hard-working enterpreneurs have to take a break now and then. What better way than engaging in your favorite group activities? People are more likely to buy from you if they feel they know you.

    Other ways may be: Posting in forums, renting ad boards.

    A friend of mine (was that you, Ayla?) told me that, depending on your product line, you should have X number of satellite stores in addition to your mainstore. If people aren't reading the ads or the forums or socialization isn't the best way to spread your name, satellite stores in plazas where well-known names rent already will certainly help. It's well worth the cash. Try to pick a place that seems to cater to your general line of products (clothing, accessories, fantasy items, etc.). It's easy to get lost in some of these huge "everything goes" megamalls.

  4. Pricing. This goes in hand with "know your market". Pay attention to what prices similar items are going for, especially at the popular outlets. If you price too far above what the market in general will bear, people will likely not buy from you. Even if you have a Super Extra Special Product and you've filled a niche - if you price it too high, people will find a way to go without it. It's no different than real life. Most grids are chock-full of talented people, so if you persist, someone else may make a cheaper version of your product.

    If you price too low other merchants may look at you sideways, and think you're trying to undermine them. While you might think this isn't a bad thing, it can be a VERY bad thing - if you get the reputation for undermining your fellow merchants. Word does get around.

    Try to find a good fit between what you think you deserve for your effort, and what the market will bear. If you're brand-spanking new and are trying to make a name for yourself, it's ok to pitch a little lower than the market norm.

    There have been scores of discussions bouncing between the idea of "getting a fair return" and "what the market will bear". Here again, observation and a little bit of homework can benefit you in the end. It is my belief that it's impossible to get a "living wage" out of a virtual product, at least at this time. Besides, if you sell lots and lots of your items, you can accomplish that. Expecting too much for a single item will always get you in trouble.

  5. Protecting your Intellectual Property Rights. I have found that refusing to get paranoid helps a lot on this subject. Face it - people ARE going to copybot, and they may copy your products. People ARE going to break your terms of service and resell the items as their own. At this time your only constructive recourse is to file a DMCA Takedown Notice with the service provider behind the grid.

    If you put more restrictions on your product than the generally accepted norm, people will go elsewhere. If your terms of service are extremely restrictive or require a sizeable outlay of cash to expand, people will go elsewhere.

    Take a little time to research copyright on Google (or your own favorite search engine). Read both official documents, and blogs and articles. Get a 'feel' for what is both ethical AND worthwhile.

    Copyright mores will also be different between classes of products. For instance - most clothing and accessories are always no-transfer so it's natural to have a part in your terms of service stating that copying by illegal means is prohibited. Building materials - textures, sculpts, and other items - usually come with full permissions so they can be included in builds sold to others. You will want to decide on your restrictions of use - for instance, you don't want consumers to resell these items, exactly as they were purchased. You may or may not feel comfortable with allowing your materials to be taken to another grid (though in this day and age of fast-growing Opensim grids, it's more acceptable to allow this than it is to charge extra for it or forbid it).

    Keep in mind that the thieves can and will steal your stuff no matter what restrictions you put in your TOS. The idea is not to punish your innocent consumers with too many "regulations". Again, if they feel you're too restrictive, they'll shop elsewhere.


Always talk to people. Take the time to check out the market. Don't second-guess, do your homework.

And above all, have fun!
Tags: advice, inworldz, marketing, merchants, products, second life, virtual worlds

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