Thursday, August 19, 2010

How to Make Money in Second Life

Money, Money Everywhere & Not A Linden To Drink
There are a lot of sites out there that try to give you the lowdown on how to make money in Second Life. That is, how to get Lindens, the virtual currency used there. Most of the tips you will read are aimed at new users (noobs, newbies) and include things like camping and picking money trees. Rarely, if ever,  will you find a site that provides advice on how to actually make any real money beyond the maybe 50L a day you can make camping and picking. Working for tips as a dancer or host is hardly any better at somewhere between 300L and 1000L per day (that's like $1 - $4 per day, U.S.). Let's do a quick overview of the various money making activities a Second Life resident might engage in. The actual tips are at the end.

Camping & Picking Money Trees
New residents find themselves with a generic avatar, few clothes, no dances, no animation overrider, stiff hair, few accessories, and zero Lindens with which to purchase any of these. A common way to bootstrap up as a newbie is to camp and pick money trees. Camping is becoming more and more difficult to find as Sims mature - you basically get paid a small amount for registering with a camper board and being there for some length of time. Money trees are exactly what they sound like - trees with money in the branches. Young avatars can locate money trees and pick the bills from the branches. These activities can earn you enough to at least get started purchasing low priced items plus you get to explore looking for money trees or looking around the Sim where you are camped. It's kind of a neat way to start and I got a feeling of satisfaction having bootstrapped from nothing and finding cheap affordable fairly nice clothing, hair, animations, and skin. But you will never make anything appreciable camping and picking plus once you are over 30 days old the money trees are no longer available.

Dancing, Hosting, & Escorts
Clubs are all over SL, closing and opening frequently. If you've improved your avatar looks sufficiently and have an engaging personality or know how to "emote" then it is not difficult to find a job in a club either as a dancer or host. These jobs, as do most every job in SL, have no salary and you work for some percentage of your tips - usually around 80%. Escorts can make even more in tips if you are willing to provide those services. All of these activities can make enough per week to sustain a rental and buy higher end clothing, skin, etc. Escorts who are willing/able to provide voice and cam services can make significant hourly tips but once you are doing this you may as well be working in an RL webcam service making 10 times as much. Working as a dancer in a club can be a lot of fun. Pick a club where you enjoy hanging out with clientele whose company you do not find abhorrent. Club jobs make a subsistence level of Lindens in tips (if you're good at it) and afford you the opportunity to meet a lot of people, make friends, and have fun.

Slave Market
There are actually slave auctions in Second Life. You can sell yourself for a fair market bid, pocket the Lindens, and do the bidding of your new Master. This, to me, seems like desperation but I am willing to entertain the possibility that for some it might actually be enjoyable. However, I would not recommend it. If you really do want to become a slave I recommend creating an alt for this. I subscribe to the philosophy of Kurt Vonnegut Jr. expressed in the opening of his novel "Mother Night" - you are what you pretend to be. I have known more than one friend who went from dancer to slave and none of these stories have turned out well. I would say the risk far outweighs any benefit and the benefit is meager unless slavery is your pleasure.

Virtual Real Estate Speculation & Event Planning
There are many ways to make money in Second Life. The primary big-time earners buy, develop, lease, and sell virtual real estate. This takes a significant investment and considerable effort but can potentially produce an excellent profit. Another highly profitable venture can be event planning but here we are not talking about the kinds of events most of you are familiar with (live music events, art gallery openings, rez day parties, weddings, ...). The money is in event planning and coordination for the Big Boys like IBM, Carnegie Mellon, University of Texas, etc.

DJ Premo Pop & I'm A Genius Skin Designer
For the overwhelming majority of us - those that do not have $50,000 laying around to invest in virtual real estate speculation and those of us who are not super-connected with Big Boy event planning - it's really very difficult to earn any appreciable amount of Lindens inworld. Perhaps you could become a really good DJ at a very popular club or design high-end skins but again, not something most of us will find ourselves doing.

Shopkeeper, Resell Vendor, Xstreet Products
One accessible route to money in Second Life is the sale of products. It really only takes a little time to learn how to create products in Second Life and the only limits are those of your imagination and SL scripting/building tools. Alternatively, you can simply resell other people's products for a hefty commission. Unfortunately, it seems most residents do not purchase what I have thus far created and the vendor reseller market has been over-saturated. Add to that the weekly cost of maintaining a storefront and you have a formula for Linden loss rather than profit.

I will say that the only SL activity that has created a steady profitable revenue stream for me personally is my Xstreet product sales. This requires some effort setting up but very little maintenance overhead and zero cost. Even though Xstreet sales may seem slow to zilch even one product selling infrequently can create a profitable revenue stream. Creating content is intrinsically worthwhile - you are contributing to both the evolution of Second Life and your own skills. It seems to me that content creation is the activity of choice in Second Life. However, unless you are creating high-end content like ultra beautiful skins, luxury vehicles, particle generators, battle huds, etc. then your revenue expectations are likely to be little more than that of a good dancer. Content creation, for me, is an end in itself and not a road to riches.

Photographic & Publishing Services, The Arts
Many residents with photo editing skills, desktop publishing backgrounds, or experience in the arts attempt to leverage these skills in Second Life. Competition in SL photography is fierce. It seems everyone thinks they are a photographer and the ease with which snapshots can be taken creates a fairly low barrier of entry. I managed to make about as much as a photographer as I made dancing but had to work a lot more at it. Turns out that photo editing skills in real life that pay upwards of $60 per hour make as little as 500L for a week's work in SL. Clients will contract for services then simply lose interest or not pay. I get a lot of kicks out of doing couples photo shoots, spending a few days editing the photos then by the time I return to the client with her beautiful partner photo spread they have broken up and she doesn't want the photos.

Publishing is even harder since most publications are distributed freely and the call for portfolios, catalogs, brochures, and other publications is thin. Generally publishing services can be considered an augmentation of a photography studio and not a source of revenue in and of itself but rather a way to offer your clients a full set of services. One way to utilize publishing expertise is in the creation of stand-alone books for sale on Xstreet which can potentially provide a long-term source of revenue.

Artists abound in Second Life and there is a wealth of fine art produced inworld. However, of all the activities reviewed here, being a Second Life artist probably provides the least revenue/worth ratio. It seems SL residents just do not support the arts to the extent that a valid business model can develop out of the arts. If you run a gallery don't count on making money.

The Tip
So, here is the tip. Don't try to make money in Second Life! Basically, it's a feudal economy with a few very rich land barons and a mass of peasants working for a percentage of tips at various menial jobs designed to draw traffic to a Sim in order to rank higher in search results in order to create traffic for the malls which generate revenue for the land barons.

The Real Tip
Here is the real tip - the best way to get Lindens in Second Life is to purchase them with money you earn in Real Life! I can spend 15 minutes finding loose change around my house and buy more Lindens with that than I could earn in Second Life in a day's work. The exchange rate is usually somewhere around 275-285 Lindens for $1 U.S. so maybe 2800 Lindens for $10 or approximately one hour's work at a San Francisco minimum wage job.

Second Life Premium Account
If you do end up deciding to purchase Lindens then you may want to consider the Premium Annual Second Life account. This is $72 per year and comes with a one-time first-time signup bonus, a 300L per week stipend, 512 sq meters tier free, a free Linden Home, and premium Support. That's about $56 per year of Lindens with a premium account. So, you are really paying about $16 per year for the other benefits. If you plan on owning or renting land and putting up a house this makes a premium account an excellent deal especially if you can manage to live on 512 sq meters since then you avoid all monthly tier fees.

No comments:

Post a Comment