Virtual Breadwinner

Confessions of a Second Life land baron

this blog has moved

hey guys

thanks for reading my scribbles

my wife has advised me to move my blog to our Segarra Estates website where she thinks it will reach a wider audience and allow me to blog more on SL topics in general and less on land-dealer topics in particular

having said that, please join me on my new blog

“Lizard’s SLithers” which you can find here

http://www.segarraestates.com/blog

see you there!

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

the book is on the way

Hey everyone Happy New Year!

Thank you for your patience in waiting for my book, I promise it will be worth the wait.  We are in the final editing stages now and should see the light of day within a few weeks.

Also, chances are I will be creating a new blog in the coming weeks.

It will have an expanded focus to include more information about Second Life in general, and some of the more interesting things going on in my Estate.

If there is anything in particular you would enjoy reading about please let me know.

In the meantime I have created a mailing list for updates and helpful tips about the Second Life land business.

You can subscribe below if you like.

Thanks!

Lizard



 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

The #1 Question to Ask Your New Customers

Hey everyone its Lizard here. I hope you had an awesome weekend.

When you market your Second Life land business it can be a bit overwhelming.  There are dozens if not hundreds of ways to do your marketing.  There are countless paid advertising options competing for your dollars.  Social networking websites abound.  Banner ads, Ad Boards, Forum Ads, PPC Ads, Marketplace Ads.

How do you decide where to spend your time, money, and focus?  How do you know what’s working well, what’s kind of working, and what’s not working at all?  Ask your customers!

Every time you get a new customer, ask them:

How did you find out about us?

Ask, then listen for the answer.  Most customers will give you a vague answer like: “I did a search” or “I saw you on the forums.”  That gives you a teeny bit of information, but it still doesn’t tell you what you need to know.

Be chatty with your customers and draw them out a bit.  Don’t be afraid to ask follow up questions:

“I did a search.”

“Ok great, you did a search.  You mean you searched for land in Second Life, or you did a web search online?”

“I did a Google search and you were on the first page so I checked out your website.”

“Great, I’m glad that you were able to find us on Google.  Do you remember what you searched for exactly? Like, Buy Second Life Land, or Rent Second Life Land?”

“I searched for rent Second Life land.”

Now you know that whatever you did to get on the first page of Google is working, and brought in a new customer.

However they found you, make note of it and track your results.

Over the course of a few weeks you will notice a distinct pattern.  You will discover that a handful of things you are doing are what’s bringing you most of your business.

Keep doing those, but don’t be scared to experiment with new marketing methods.  You never know what will be the spark that brings in 5, 10, 20 new customers, until you try it!

Have fun, and good luck.

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

the elephants in the room

Hi everyone, its Lizard Howl here.  I’m finishing up the 3rd draft of my book How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron and should have it on the market very soon.

One of the pitfalls of writing about Second Life is that things are constantly changing.  I’ll do my best to keep the book as up-to-date as possible before it goes to press, and I will also blog about any significant changes in the land market.

On that note, there has been a lot speculation recently about what I call the elephants in the room.  Specifically, a couple of the largest Estate Owners have been renting out sims for well below cost.  By cost, I’m referring to the current Linden Lab price of $295 USD per month for a full sim, and $125 USD per month for a homestead region.

As an established (or growing) Estate it can be difficult, if not impossible, to compete with cut rate prices.  If all or part of your business is renting out  sims you could be in real trouble.  What’s an Estate owner to do?

Well, the first thing you need to do, if you haven’t done it already, is shift your focus out of full regions!  Create parceled sims, themed sims, zoned sims: buy by the pie and sell by the slice!

If you need to bring in $295 per month just to break even, and the elephants are flooding the market with sims at $275, you’re not going to be renting out a bunch of full sims.  Period.

Concentrate on your strengths.  Customers love the personal touch, smaller parcels, and great service.  Give them what they love!

If you are brand new to the Second Life land game these lower prices offer an opportunity.  You can rent a sim for below cost, re-rent it for cost, and still make a profit!

The downside is this: when you sublease sims you take on additional risks.  If something happens to the Estate Owner, or you have a falling out with them for whatever reason, you could lose your entire business.  You have to consider the risks, weigh them out, and make your choices.

At the end of the day, there are only a handful of things an Estate Owner can do that an Estate Manager can’t.  They can buy and sell transfer sims, upload and download RAWs, and get faster response from Linden Lab for service concerns.  That’s about it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not encouraging anyone to sublease sims from the cut-rate Estates, but business is business.

For me, at this point in my business, subleasing sims doesn’t make any sense.  Does it make sense to you, at this point in your business?  Consider the question carefully, and decide what makes the most sense for you, your customers, and your business.

If you are willing to give up the control of being an Estate Owner, subleasing sims can be very profitable.  If you decide to do it, grow slowly and carefully.  Identify an Estate with a good reputation, and start by renting a single sim.  See how quickly they respond if you need help.  See if their tier systems are reliable and dependable.  After a few weeks, if everything is going well, go ahead and expand.

If you don’t want to take on the additional risk, concentrate on your strengths as an Estate Owner.  Develop a niche and focus on it.  Above all else, take very good care of your core customers.

The elephants ain’t leaving the room folks.

Ride them if you can, or stay out of their way so you don’t get stomped!

Have fun, and good luck!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Dividing The Pie

I treasure my free time.

Which means in order to run my Second Life land business I need to know three things:

1. What needs to be done.

2. How it needs to be done.

3. Who needs to do it.

There are a million details that go into running an Estate.

If you’re not organized it can quickly become overwhelming.

Once you reach the point where you are running around like a chicken with your head cut off (and that shouldn’t take long), you’ll realize you need to get  help.

The easiest way to get help is to hire an Estate Manager.  Most Estate Owners tend to treat their managers like a Mini-Me.  They do everything you do, just on a smaller scale.

That’s not a bad way to divide the pie, but as you grow you will run into the same problems.  Instead of just you running around like a headless chicken, you and your Estate Managers will be running in circles.

While it can be entertaining (in a sadistic kind of way) to run around in circles with your Estate Managers, its not very productive.

It took several years and several burnt out Estate Managers before I hit on a system that divides up the pie in a way that makes sense.

I took a look at all the various duties and responsibilities that go into running an Estate, and divided them into 7 areas of responsibility.

Each can be handled by one person, or one person can handle multiple areas.

No one needs to run like a headless chicken.

For example, in my own Estate I currently have one person responsible for Customer Service and Marketing.  Another is responsible for Sim Maintenance.  A third is responsible for Tier Collecting and Sales Prep.

None of us are overwhelmed, and everything gets done when it needs to get done.

As we grow I can divide the duties further, and have as many as 7 staff positions – one for each area of responsibility.

There are many ways to divide the pie, but I find this works best for me.

Have fun, and good luck!

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Enforce Your Covenant

Hey everyone its Friday and time for another blog post.  I’ve been writing about Covenants for my book and I thought I’d share a few thoughts.

Namely this one: If you have a Covenant, enforce it!

And this one: If you aren’t going to enforce your Covenant, don’t have one!

For your Second Life land business to prosper, you need to train your customers, which means you need to be consistent in enforcing your rules and regulations.  I don’t care if your Covenant is strict, lax, or somewhere in-between, if you don’t enforce it, it is worthless.  In fact, I’ll go a step further and say having a Covenant you don’t enforce is worse than not having a Covenant at all.

Don’t be scared of your customers.  You need them, and they need you too.  It’s easy when times are tight, vacancies are high, and the dreaded “summer slump” is near, to relax the rules.  You might be scared of losing a customer by asking them to follow your rules, or to (heaven forbid) pay tier on time.

What you need to realize is if you have a Covenant and don’t enforce it, you risk losing all your customers, not just one.

Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you have a sim with a residential Covenant, and a customer opens a new club in your sim.  Your first thought may be to “let it slide.” After all, one club won’t hurt anything right?  And if you tell them clubs aren’t allowed, you might lose that customer!

But here’s what will happen otherwise.  Let’s say you look the other way and ignore the club.  You might keep the club owner on your sim, but what are the other tenants going to do?  You guessed it.  They’re going to clear out.

Then what are you left with?  One club on an otherwise empty sim, that’s what!  That’s not good for you, its not good for the customers who moved out, and it’s really not good for the club owner either because that’s a sim you will have to clear, sell, or abandon.  Everyone loses.

Keep your Covenant enforceable.  Use language that is clear, to the point, and easy to understand. Then, enforce your Covenant!

Have fun, and good luck.

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Time Freedom 2

It’s been awhile since I wrote on the topic of Time Freedom but the events of the last few weeks have reminded me just how precious Time Freedom really is.

In the early days of my Second Life land business I worked my ass off.  I didn’t know what to do, how to do it, when to do it, where to do it, or why to do it, so I ended up working pretty much all day every day.  That’s how it goes sometimes when you are in business for yourself, you have to work your ass off.  If you are scared of working hard don’t become a Second Life land baron, go do something else instead.

The payoff, however, is so worth it.  Here it is nearly 5 years later, and I have a business that spits out cash every month and requires very little direct involvement on my part.  Some days I’m in Second Life for an hour, some days several hours, some days not at all.  I would never claim to have *everything* about the business figured out, but I’ve learned a few things.

I’ve learned what needs to be done, when it needs to be done, how it needs to be done, and perhaps most important, which of those things need to be done by me, and which I can delegate.  I’ve developed good systems, have a great team of people helping me, and an awesome group of loyal customers.

Read my blog, read my book when it comes out, and you’ll discover exactly how I did it.  The point of this blog post isn’t to plug my book, but to tell you what can happen with your Second Life land business if you do things the right way.

You’ll be able, over time, to free yourself up from the day to day details of the business.  The secret? Yes, there is work that needs to be done, but you don’t have to do it all yourself!  Structure your business the right way and you can scale from spending 12 hours a day on your business, to spending 12 hours a week on your business.  Your business won’t suffer from this process, in fact it will get better.

The last month was a rough one for us.  My wife’s grandmother died, which meant not only did we spend time AFK to visit with her family, but it also meant that while we have been home, we’ve been distracted from the business.

You see, Time Freedom doesn’t only mean that you can go golfing or gardening when you want to.  It also means that your business spits out cash in times of crises, when you aren’t working not because you don’t want to, but because you can’t.

Thanks to all my loyal customers, Estate Managers, my wife of course, and to those of you who take the time to read my blog.

Starting, building, and maintaining your Second Life land business takes time, money, energy, patience, and determination, but the payoff – Time Freedom – is priceless!

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Need referrals? Bribe your customers!

Have you been getting referrals from your customers?

You need to.

To swim with the big fish you need to get to the point where 80% of your business comes from existing customers through repeat business and referral business.

A great way to get your customers to refer their friends is to bribe them. That sounds easy, right?  That’s because it is easy!

Your customer referral program should be your #1 source of business.

Keep it simple and direct.  Offer your customers a small reward if they send you new business.  Anything in the range of 500L to 2000L per referral should be plenty.  Send out group notices, put it on your website, let your customers know that you pay for referrals.

The only catch to this is – you do have to pay your referrals.

 

You could advertise something crazy like 10,000L per referral but if you never pay anyone you won’t generate referrals.

Keep it affordable, and pay your referrals every time.

One note of caution here.  Make it clear that you are paying only for referrals that result in a sale.  It makes no sense for you to waste your time or your Sales Team’s time showing land to referrals who never buy, and then you still lose money to the referral fees.

Take care of your people, and they will take care of you!

How powerful is this marketing method?

I just filled an entire sim overnight!

I sent out a group notice telling everyone about my 1000L Bounty Hunter Program.  When I checked in the next morning we had filled an entire sim, all from referrals!

Here’s what happened.

One of our customers told his Second Life granddaughter about our Estate,  and she bought a 1/2 sim.  Another of our customers told his friend about us, and he bought a 1/4 sim.

My Customer Service Specialist told this new 1/4 sim customer about our referral program during the Welcoming Process.  The new customer turned around and told one of his friend, who bought a 1/4 sim herself!

Read through that again incase the power of this is escaping you.

We got three new customers, and filled an entire sim overnight, strictly through customer referrals.  

This is my #1 Marketing Method for a reason: its powerful, and it works.

Lizard

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Our #1 Rule of Business

Hi everyone.

If you are going to earn a living as a Second Life land baron you need to collect tier.

Tier is the lifeblood of your business.

Its your biggest expense, and your only opportunity for profit.

Collect tier early and often and you can thrive.

Fail to collect it and you will perish.

Does that sound harsh?

Tough.

Business is business.

And our number one rule of business is simply this:

Pay to stay, no pay no stay.

Write it down, post it next to your monitor, live by it.

Have fun, and good luck!

Lizard

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

The Price Is Right! Or is it?

The Price Is Right! Or is it?

One of the essential skills you need when you are buying or selling sims is knowing when The Price Is Right.

Its not as easy as you may think.

The retail price for sims is set by Linden Labs.

The wholesale price for sims is set by Estate Owners.

The hidden price for sims is set in secret.

In every case, The Price Is Right when both buyer and seller agree on a transaction that gets completed in a timely manner.

Do you need a sim right now, this instant?

Are you willing to pay $1,000 USD for it?

In that case, buy from Linden Labs.  They will sell you as many sims as you like for $1,000 each.

If the math makes sense to you, go for it!  The Price Is Right!

Do you need a sim within a few days?

Are you willing to pay 50% of the retail price?

In that case, buy on the wholesale market.

The wholesale market is made up of other Estate Owners who are willing to sell you their sims at a discount.  There are groups in world, and Forum listings online, where you can find willing sellers.

When you both agree on a price, congratulations!  The Price Is Right!

Do you need a sim for the lowest possible price?

Are you willing to wait for the right deal?

Then you need to tap into the hidden market for sims.

Tapping into the hidden market takes more effort on your part, but it can be worth it.  With a bit of luck you will be able to buy sims at a 60 – 80% discount!

How do you do it?

Simple.  Place ads, and let the sellers come to you.

There are many situations when an Estate Owner wants to sell a sim quickly and quietly, without advertising that they are selling their sim.  If they already know you are willing and able to buy sims quickly, they will contact you.  When their need to sell matches your willingness to buy, congratulations!

You got a killer deal and The Price Is Right!

When I’m buying or selling sims I work the low end of the scale.  I sell for cheap and buy for cheap and I do it quietly, quickly, and easily.  I’ll pay a little more or take a little less to get a ticket done today instead of tomorrow.

I could try to sell for $25 more, or buy for $25 less, but time is valuable.

I’m willing to give up the extra $25 in exchange for a fast ticket.

While you are still chasing deals and passing messages back and forth, I’ve already completed my ticket and moved on with my day.

Typically it takes me 30 minutes from start to finish.

If it takes any longer then I’ve done something wrong: I’m asking too much, or offering too little.

In that case, the Price Isn’t Right!

Good luck!

Lizard


 

 

 

-----------------------------------------------------------------------
Lizard Howl is the author of an upcoming work
Virtual Breadwinner: How to Make Money Online as a Second Life Land Baron
Click here to subscribe to my newsletter, thanks!
-----------------------------------------------------------------------

Copyright © 2012 Virtual Breadwinner - All Rights Reserved.