Cristiano gave me the idea to write a post about going into business for yourself in SL a long time ago, but as I hit a new stage in my SL-related career, I thought I'd take the time now and look back on what it took to get here, and offer what paltry advice I can to residents who may be considering the move themselves.
What I won't cover in this piece is the uniquely-SL creation of your own inworld business of content for sale to all - the clothing, furniture, prefabs, knick-knacks, and scripted gadgets that we all comb the classifieds for. Mostly because I never did that type of business successfully myself. There's a whole other set of personal rules to follow - mainly consistantly producing product and updating your stores - that I never managed to get the hang of.
Write about what you know, as they say, and what I know the most about is project development and content creation on a client-by-client basis, for a specific project goal. I started out as freaked-out and noobish as anyone else on the grid, totally intimidated by the "big names" that had been around much longer than I. But, as fate would have it, my talents and my goals coincided with the arena of utilizing SL for project development, and with added time and practice and a damn good business partner, it paid off.
First off: it sounds great when you're in the heady stages of SL addiction to make SL your RL workplace. And, frankly, it has its perks. But just like any other job, you have to take into consideration what is going to be a good fit for you personally, both what you can handle and where your talents lie. Just because something sounds like a dream job doesn't necessarily make it the perfect job for you. And working in SL is just that - work. If you don't want the shine to wear off your "SL as rapturous enjoyment" or "SL as awesome place to hang out with my friends", you may want to reconsider if you want the grid to be the place you HAVE to log into as opposed to the place you WANT to log into. If SL is your job, then you're still working, just in a different location. You have to enjoy the work you do.
If you can stomach that, your next step is identifying your talents. Mine are texture work, first and foremost. I can build, but not near the level of a lot of SL talents out there. I have 7 years of working in Photoshop professionally that I could apply to learning the ins and outs of texture application in SL - and there's quite a bit to learn to get good at it. But the real bonus skill that worked in my favor was that I also had over three years as project manager and lead developer at my last RL job - essentially, I was head of my department, which meant I handled everything, from selling clients to developing project timelines to interpreting what the client wanted to creating the product itself to final delivery and followup customer service. I can't stress the importance of those skills enough. If you're interested in project development, you're on the front lines repping your business to people that expect professionalism and results.
Mad bonus points: find the best talent inworld you can find and work with them, hopefully get them to join your team as well. No one person can do everything. I was lucky enough to have Makaio cross my path, and our goals coincided. Everything I can't do, he can do in spades. We complement each other very well, and together we were able to offer a wide variety of services, to the point where naming ourselves a "project development team" wasn't so out of the question.
The next steps are the hardest: don't be afraid to devote the time and energy a startup business requires to succeed. Unless you can function on 4 hours of sleep a night and ignore everything else going on in your life, working a regular full time job and starting up a new one at the same time is almost impossible. I need a full 8 hours, but my living situation allowed me a few months leeway where I could quit my job and devote all my time to making my SL business succeed. Of course, I wanted to get from Point A to Point B as fast as possible too - your requirements may vary.
Coming soon: Part 2, or I have a business, now how do I *get* business?