Book excerpt: 'The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life'

With the right approach and commitment to a plan, entrepreneurs can find plenty of opportunity for profitable businesses in the virtual world. Images: Turning a profit in 'Second Life'

Editor's note: The following is an excerpt from The Entrepreneur's Guide to Second Life: Making Money in the Metaverse, written by CNET reporter Daniel Terdiman and just published by Wiley. The text below combines information from the book's introduction and a chapter on fashion.

When I've talked to people deeply involved in the Second Life community in recent months, especially those who are out speaking in public about it, they tell me that one of the first things that everybody asks them is, "How do I make money in Second Life?"

One person, who runs one of the most famous companies building big projects in Second Life for outside clients, told me that after giving a talk at a conference in Germany, he was besieged by a flood of attendees asking that question, and he ended up spending more than an hour responding.

So the goal of this book was to provide the answer to the question, and to anyone who wants to know, not just those who have the opportunity to ask it personally of someone in the know. If you read this book, my hope is that you will come away knowing (a) that you can make money in Second Life, (b) what opportunities exist for those who want to do so, (c) what you have to do to avail yourself of those opportunities, and (d) what the roadblocks are to potential success.

There are a few things you should know, though, before you set out on your grand Second Life entrepreneurial adventure.

First, despite some breathless press reports that suggest that making money in Second Life is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel, that really isn't true, and it would be irresponsible of me to suggest it was. The reality is that conceiving of and running a Second Life business is, in many ways, very much like doing so with any kind of business. Those who do well are the ones who come up with a plan, commit to it, put in the time required, and are willing to be flexible as conditions demand.

But for those who do those things, success can follow, whether your goal is to make enough money to pay for your Second Life fashion needs or to live on. There are people at every point along that spectrum, and it's vital that you understand that the ones at the more lucrative end of that scale are the ones who have put the most into their businesses, and who have treated them with the most respect.

The Second Life community, while an ever-evolving and multifaceted population, universally demands that you take them seriously, and that you offer something new and interesting. Otherwise, why should they patronize your shop? There is another one just around the way.

The point here is just to make sure you understand that you can't simply show up and expect the dollars to roll in. It takes work, and a lot of it. But if you are willing to put in that work, the rewards are there for the taking.

I hope this book will make it easier for you to find your niche, and to make the kind of money you'd like to be making in Second Life. Here's what you'll find:

The first three chapters focus on the concept and history of a virtual world economy like that of Second Life, as well as on Second Life business and marketing basics. Included are sample business plans for the most popular segments of the economy.

Chapters 4 through 9 cover the basics of, respectively, the fashion industry; the real estate industry; building and construction; the adult-oriented industry; gadgets and toys; and interactive opportunities. Each chapter gives an overview of the specific business segment, as well as a section on required skills and some marketing advice.

Chapter 10 discusses Teen Second Life, the version of the virtual world for those aged 13 through 17, and covers much of the same ground as the previous chapters.

And Chapter 11 looks at the future of business in Second Life, including interviews with key figures in the community, and a look at how new technologies will shape the future.

There are also three appendices covering additional reading, a sampling of prices of Second Life goods and a survey of how much you can expect to make in each segment of business in the virtual world.

Second Life is an exciting and vibrant place that is growing quickly and energetically. And it is a land of unending opportunity. I hope that after reading this book you will be ready to embark on your quest to leverage this virtual world to your financial advantage, all while having a great time. Good luck.

Fashion: The biggest business of all
If there's one common experience that just about everyone in Second Life has shared, it's customizing the appearance of our avatars. It's no wonder--the stock avatars, skins, and clothes we get when we sign up are, to be nice about it, boring. Useful, sure, because we have to have something when we go in-world for the first few times, but remember: the defaults tend to make people assume you're a newbie.

The nice thing about Second Life is that we can do just about anything we want and express ourselves any way we want. It's so easy, and relatively cheap, to change our avatar's looks, that each element of that look becomes a significant expression of individuality. And customers are clearly having a lot of fun with the Second Life fashion industry offerings, which are well priced for a little guilt-free retail therapy.

Whether for male or female avatars, furry or Goth, hugely tall or amazingly tiny, there's fashion for just about every taste, budget, and desire. But as with nearly everything else in Second Life, this is an industry created by the community, not by Linden Lab. All that haute couture--ball gowns straight from the court of French kings, shoes that Manolo Blahnik would envy, delicately freckled skins for redheads, and so much more--was created because the Second Life community wants to look sharp and is willing to pay good Lindens to do so.

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