One of the most in demand businesses in Second Life is avatar customization. The extent to which users want their avatars made over varies. However, there seems to be a limited amount of people or businesses that offer this. More so, even less that offer it with great visibility, ease of access, and seamless experience. People ask me to make avatars over dozens of times on a daily basis . It’s not my area of interest and some of these services, I’d completely indulge in.
Rather than creating avatar services myself, I thought it would be fun to chat about my ideas for offering an avatar customization service. If you missed the Second Life 101 video all about, check it out.
General Business Considerations
Before diving into any business, in either world, its a good idea to:
Look into what other alternatives your customers or clients could have and make sure yours are comparative. If there is something special about your services, where the ability to inflate is appropriate consider that too. If you’re just starting with avatar customization, you really need to get pricing right. If its too low, people will naturally question quality and service. Some may overlook you all together (sounds crazy right – but its how marketing works). If its too high, you lose out on potential customers, of course. Do you have a very specific niche or following, possibly existing customer base that could warrant slightly higher prices? You need to think about all of these when determining pricing. Put thought into it!
One of the easiest ways to find customers who are looking for this type of service is to go directly to them. Whether or not you are selling a shape or a service on marketplace, its a great tool to use! Think of how many people are on MP daily, looking for ways to improve their avatar. Make sure anything you list is accurately represented by the title and keywords. But it can be a good tool to use to put potential demos that show your work, $0 listings that have information on your services, or even post the services. Having a MP shop is a great way to quickly build exposure for yourself.
Do some FREE Marketing
You’re in the business of appearance so you MUST have a social media presence. I’ve found instagram to be the most successful when creating a business such as this. Show off your work but get active. Follow the #SecondLife. Like photos, comment and get engaged. Create regular stories showing off your work. It’s also a great idea to get involved on Facebook to potentially join groups for advertising. You also have the option of making use of Second Life forums as you launch your business or respond to messages for people who are searching for what you offer. There are lots of groups in world that offer free advertising, however sometimes those groups are just filled with other advertisers. But might be worth some networking.
Do Some Paid Marketing
Find someone or somewhere with influence or traffic that includes the types of people that you could turn into clients. Not to shamelessly plug, but avatar help requests remain the most popular comment, message, DMs, emails I get constantly so I have ad space available at my landing. A month of advertising also gives you access to my Discord (430 members at the time of writing this) to advertise your services to other SL residents who are usually in the beginning stages of putting their avatars together and may be interested in your services. And of course, depending on your budget, maybe a deep dive with me on YouTube or this blog would be an option. You’ll also find lots of places around the grid that offer advertising, go out and do some research, create a budget, decide where to spend it.
Create a solid portfolio
If you are not selling shapes directly on MP, you still need somewhere to show off your work. Flickr is a great place to do this because you can also add to groups, while having more info about your business in the description. Take beautiful, clear photos of your work and show them off.
Develop Your Policies Before Making Anything for Sale
You need to think about your process, how long things should take, what clients can expect and then think about some hiccups that may happen. What happens if a client can’t figure out how to put a look together without breaking it? What happens if something in your stylecard is no longer available? What happens if something didn’t deliver? What happens if something isn’t right or takes longer than expected? Think about these things and have an answer in a policy statement that a client or customer can see PRIOR to making a purchase. Be sure they understand your policies and are comfortable before taking their money.
Create Pre-Made Avatars
Also know as shapes. If you’re just getting into the avatar customization business, shapes are a great start. You’ll need to create the shape, shop for the avatar to build a look and list the store on marketplace or in world.
- It’s usually easiest to start with a skin you like.
- Open your inventory and create a new shape
- Build a shape you like
- Build the complete avatar – hair, potential add ons (eyebrows, dimples, etc)
- Create a style card – a notecard that details where everything is from with links so your customers can easily recreate this look using your shape. Include the head and body you used to create the look. Be sure to include that information in the title and description of your product as well.
- Photograph the face and body
- Post for purchase
- High quality photos that reflect what the avatar will look like in world for a customer is highly recommended. Avoid photoshopping or editing heavily. You want it to be as WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) as possible.
- A lot of shape creators don’t tend to include demos because of theft concerns. If you are creating a demo, be sure its no mod and make something on the shape incredibly unwanted to avoid people using your demo shape – ie. huge hands or feet.
- It’s a great idea to create shapes for different heads and bodies to appeal to a diverse audience
- As you can imagine, start up costs could be expensive – purchasing different heads, bodies, skins, beauty detail
Create Custom Shapes
Similar to creating general shapes for sale, you can accept clients to create custom shapes for. You can figure out which head, body and skin tone they’re going for and a general understanding of what they want to look like.
- Be sure to get a full understanding of what your client wants – what they want to look like. If they know the head and body they’re using be sure to create shapes using that head and body. If not, recommend the best option for the look they want.
- Create a preview. Since you are dealing with a client, sometimes its best to shop around and present options for them before making any skin purchases (if you intend on buying the skin).
- Get feedback on the look and make any necessary changes.
- Create a style card that includes everything you added to create the final look.
- Deliver the shape to your client with the style card.
Avatar Customization Business Tips
- Anytime you are dealing with a client, you need to set a SLA or service level agreement basically saying exactly how long this may take you and what your communication will be if you cannot deliver within that time frame. Make this realistic. Unless, your business is built on speed, figure out how long it takes you to shop and add some additional time for cushion or the possibility you may be working with other clients. DO NOT take on more clients if it will impact your service level agreement.
- DO NOT take any money from the client if you have not communicated a SLA that the client has agreed to.
- In your service agreement, be sure to indicate the impact on the time frame if changes are requested.
- Also be sure to state clearly, after the final preview, once you and the client agree the product is finished that there will not be additional requests. If there are, they may incur a fee – be clear about what that fee is
- Overall, set your terms and communicate them in text
Shop With Me – Avatar Customization
If you’re really looking to build a consulting business that does not just create a look for someone, but allows you to work directly with the client then shopping with your client may be a great choice. This is usually requested by new avatars that may need guidance on how to change into looks, where to shop, how to operate BOM, etc.
- Have a consult with the client before the shopping trip or create a form (great idea to do both).
- Have a strong understanding of what they want to look like, their head and body. If they do not know which head/body, be prepared to create looks that can work with a couple different ones. Of course, start with your recommendation based on information you discover from the consultation.
- Shop in advance! It may be a good idea to create a couple of looks as a starting point so the shopping is concise and organized. You’ll need to find a shape, skin, etc
- Google Forms are a great free resource that you can use for clients to determine what they’re going for before meeting and potentially have an understanding of your prices. It saves time and money and you can link directly to the form on your social pages.
- You can also use a notecard in world, if you’re able to keep organized. You’ll need to have a space set up where people can pick up the notecard (or rent an ad board) and instructions on what to do with the notecard. (keep in mind, a lot of people who need these services are new to Second Life and may not understand what notecards are and how to send them)
- Walk them through how to save the final look you create together so if they mess things up or change shapes etc they do not have to contact you. They can just change back to your look. If they do need you to help them out of those situations, be sure the fees are listed and transparent. Anything you do that will require additional time or services should match an appropriate price.
Screen Share to Help with Avatar Customization
Sometimes for clients, who are inexperienced with avatar customization, some of the logistics can be hard to understand. Discord has a screen share option where you can both share your screen with each other so you can walk them through exactly what to do and you can see where they may be going wrong. Seeing their screen also helps when walking them through exactly what to click and make sure they’re not getting lost in the instructions.
You can both download Discord at https://discord.com/
Do It For Them
The final option, I’ve seen used in this business is actually doing the makeover for someone. This is incredibly risky for both you and the client. And in my opinion, an avatar is not worth the potential breach of privacy. It is against TOS to login to another avatar’s account. I strongly suggest you read them if you haven’t and have a look at the Community Standards.
Why is it risky?
Through Team Viewer, you are able to remotely control their entire computer, thus being able to control their Second Life account. The computer I use for Second Life, I only use for Second Life. So, I don’t have much secure info here but that’s not the case for everyone. I honestly wouldn’t trust anyone, except maybe my real life family, to do something so invasive. And I would be suspicious of a business that required this. It could be more damaging to your business image to even offer it.
I hope these tips helped! If you have any questions at all, be sure to leave in comments here or on the YouTube video. I’m not able to answer via DMs/emails/facebook messages/in world about business tips and it really just helps avoiding duplicate questions, etc when you message in comments!