Guide to Jobs in Second Life

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Note: This article cannot cover every job or type of job available in Second Life. As is true in real life, the variety of employment you can find is potentially vast and unknowable.

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Second Life is somewhat like an MMORPG in the sense that you need skills to get a job -- or rather, make a living in Second Life -- but, unlike MMORPGs, the skills you need are your own real life skills!

So: There are no buttons to press in dialog boxes that make you "instantly" upgrade an artificial skill that will bump your character into the world of professional services. Instead, you have to apply your own real life skills in Second Life in order to succeed. In this article, we'll try to cover a few different types of jobs.

Unskilled Jobs

Unskilled jobs are those that don't require any "outside" skill (i.e. Real-life-related) to be hired. Unsurprisingly, there aren't many around, and they don't pay very well.

Dancer

The first type of unskilled job is the night club dancer. Since club owners rely on traffic -- through a complex formula that converts the time and number of people inside their club for a period of time into a popularity rating -- it's natural for them to hire people to attract these crowds and make sure they stay there as long as possible. Dancers are one way to do that.

To become a dancer, you have three alternatives:

  • Sometimes, jobs are offered on the Employment section of the forums. You can browse the forum groups to see if someone is hiring.
  • Some clubs sometimes announce special events just to hire dancers. This has become slightly more rare in later months, so perhaps you should try one of the other ways.
  • Go to a club you like, try to get in touch with a club owner, and ask him if a job is available.

Some club owners pay a fixed salary, but expect you to be at their club for a certain amount of hours per week (including mostly all announced events at the club, to get a "full house"). Others rely on tips -- either paid directly to the dancers, or through tip boxes. Some dancers also do stripping or offer escort services.

Model

Another very glamorous unskilled job is becoming a model. Hiring is done in a similar way as with dancers, but the truth is, there are not many modelling job opportunities. There are a few modelling agencies around, and clothes designers usually contact them to organize big fashion events, just as in real life. These attract very large crowds and are certainly one of the best and more fun ways to present your clothing lines to the Second Life public.

To become a professional model, you'll have to do a serious investment in yourself. To earn a large amount of L$, you not only need a gorgeous avatar, but highly-priced items like a special skin, hair (often prim hair, which is expensive), good make-up techniques, and catwalking animations, preferably unique (thus, often you have to pay someone to create them for you). To become a famous model, expect a recurring investment in more animations. Still, the job usually pays well. And you get the glamour and fame that comes with the job.

Shop Attendant

Lately, shop attendants have become fashionable again, as a counterpoint to automated vendors. Humans always sell much better than machines, so some brands have been hiring people to do the sales for them. Sales reps have the advantage of not being tied to a specific location. An agreement is made upon sales comissions, and, if the shopowner expects you to stay at the same place for a few hours per week, they usually pay you a small salary as well.

Bouncer/Security Agent

With the recent increase of griefers inworld -- people whose source of amusement is to destroy events by disrupting them -- there has also been a rise in the market for bouncers or security agents. When someone is concentrating all of their efforts on running an event, it's always handy to have a few people around that target the griefers and make them leave the place, instead of having to deal with them as well.

In any case -- with the occasional exception of models and escorts -- unskilled jobs don't really pay well, so lets take a look at skilled jobs.

Skilled Jobs

Skilled jobs are of two types:

  • Classical skilled jobs, where you employ one of your real life skills directly towards an activity in Second Life.
  • Freelancers/business owners, where you bring in other skills that don't relate directly to Second Life, but which can be employed successfully to give you a steady income.

Builder/Modeller

The first job is building -- using Second Life's 3D modeling interface to create unique objects that you can sell. This is probably one area of Second Life that everybody has tried at least once: Sticking prims together to build new objects. There are several sorts of builders:

  • Architects, who specialize in building homes
  • Furniture designers
  • Weaponeers
  • Vehicle designers
  • Creators of miscellaneous objects (this may include artists, who use the 3D modeling tools of Second Life to create sculptures or similar artistic objects)

While everybody is able to learn the 3D modeling interface of Second Life -- and there are classes teaching both beginner and advanced levels -- the truth is, to become successful in this business, you need an aesthetic sense much more than a thorough knowledge of the tools. It's not surprising that the best architects/designers in Second Life are actually architects in real life, or graphic designers, industrial designers, 3D modelers, or even people from the motion picture special effects or videogame industries. For them, Second Life is just another tool to be learned, like a different word processor for a talented writer. As soon as they grasp the way Second Life's modeling tool works, they can easily create fantastic pieces of art that they can sell very well -- much faster than someone who has no talent but has been inworld for a year or two and really knows all the tricks of the modeling interface. Technique is not a substitute for imagination, creativity, and a well-developed aesthetic sense.

Lately, as Second Life's society complexifies, we see a specialization of builders. A talented architect probably won't design vehicles or furniture, and the reverse is also true. Some people concentrate their efforts on building tiny objects like jewelry or gadgets, and would probably do a bad job of creating a large building. If you're talented, pick up a niche in Second Life building, and focus your efforts on producing objects for that niche. Trying to compete with the well-established masters with solid reputations is very, very hard -- unless you wish to work for them instead of competing. Teams of builders work often together to meet deadlines (and also have more fun together!).

Texture Artist

Associated with builders we often see texturer artists. Due to the nature of 3D worlds, you can't really have good builds if you don't have wonderful textures, and these are much harder to do properly -- it's not a question of simply uploading a freebie texture, applying it to a building, and expecting it to work! Textures are done with external programs, like Adobe Photoshop, Paint Shop Pro, or the open-source GIMP -- you'll need to be proficient with at least one of those tools in order to create good-looking textures. Professional graphic designers or artists will have a much easier time entering the texturing market -- colleges often teach semester-long courses just on texturing. Some of the best examples in Second Life go even one step further: You create 3D models outside Second Life, apply the proper lighting to make your 3D model realistic, and grab the textures to upload them into Second Life. These kinds of builds achieve a higher level of outstanding realism.


Fashion Designer

A slightly different type of specialized texturing is clothing design. Clothes in Second Life are designed using special templates -- which you can get for free at the Second Life web site -- to which you apply your skills and creativity, again using an external tool like the ones mentioned before. Clothes are perhaps easier to do than textures, but to do them well takes a lot of time and patience. Simply grabbing a picture from a Web site and tweaking it in Photoshop expecting to make a lot of Linden Dollars won't work -- the highly-acclaimed top clothiers in Second Life do their own designs from scratch. They make L$ for being unique, and for the high quality of their finished work; it's very, very hard to do the seams properly (that is, aligning the front, back and sleeves), for example. People will pay a premium for "perfect" clothes, but next to nothing for crude attempts.

As with building, clothiers are starting to specialize on certain styles. The very big brands usually have all sorts of clothes, but smaller designers concentrate on a specific niche -- say, lingerie, vampire clothing, T-shirts, or shoes. There are thousands of clothing designers in Second Life, and it's quite hard to build your reputation quickly (but there certainly are a few that succeeded). You will also need to own several shops to advertise your products -- unlike architects, who are often hired by the hour -- and sponsor some events where you can show off your new clothes lines. There are even a very few "real world" brands designing clothes for Second Life avatars, so the competition is really increasing.

Scripter

One type of job that doesn't require any external tool is scripting. Second Life has a built-in language, called Linden Scripting Language (LSL), which is used to "program" all objects to make them react to and interact with avatars and the environment. Scripting is not hard for a professional programmer -- it's just another language to be learned, and it's relatively easy to learn and master. However, in general, you don't sell scripts directly but mostly scripted objects. This means that if you can't build, you'll have to partner up with architects or builders and split the profit from scripted objects. Experienced scripters will also be very proficient in creating scripts that reduce lag (which is not obvious for a beginning scripter). If you can make a reputation by selling a few good scripted objects, it's not unusual that you may get hired as a free-lancer on a large-scale project. Remember, a large part of Second Life's population are professional programmers in real life, so this is a field with lots of competition from professionals. As usual, creativity and imagination are the key to success!


Animator

A type of job -- which pays well and has relatively less competition -- is the animator. Animations are done in an external program, usually Poser from Curious Labs -- an expensive, semi-professional tool which Linden Lab has favored (you can use some open-source or free tools like Blender,but you probably need to tweak the final animation in Poser to import it properly into Second Life). Poser is fun to learn and relatively easy to use for simple animations. Complex, realistic animations like walking or dancing are another matter entirely -- to get good results, you need to use a very expensive technology called "motion capturing," involving complex devices, harnesses, and several video cameras. Not surprisingly, there are just a handful of good animators in Second Life, and they can almost make a real life living from the animations they do (one of the leading dance animators has over 10,000 happy customers, and each of his animations sells for L$350 -- many buy several!). This is a very specialized job and one that certainly has lots of room for new players!

Event Host

Event hosts are a type of job that has suffered from a big change in Second Life's economic model. To attract people to your place, the best way is to announce events in the Events list, where everybody inworld can see the announcements. Event hosting relies upon your own real life communications skills, your ability to entertain other people and make them have fun by attending your events, and your degree of imagination in coming up with new ideas. Events can be simple things like discussions -- no need for much preparation! -- or highly complex, like a fashion show, a boxing or chess competition, or a medieval tournament. In the latter cases, this can mean coordinating a team of builders and scripters to create lots of objects that will interact with the people attending your event. Classes are also a type of event that need some preparation, as well as some experience in teaching.

DJ

A different type of event hoster enriches a certain environment. The typical example is a DJ, who streams live music into a night club. While almost anybody with a large music collection, a tool like WinAmp, and access to a streaming server like Shoutcast is technically able to DJ, good DJs have a talent for entertaining people for a few hours by reacting to the audience's moods and being able to adjust the musical selection accordingly. Some DJs have their own clubs; others roam Second Life offering their talents.

Other similar jobs include stand-up comedians or trivia event hosters.

Freelancers & Entrepreneurs

We come now to other types of jobs that use skills not directly related to things inworld but that can be surprisingly employed to make a living.

Land Baron

The first and more obvious one is the real estate agent -- also nicknamed Land Baron by the Residents of Second Life. Land Barons buy land wholesale, either from auctions or directly, parcel it out, and announce it for resale. Sometimes they act merely as intermediaries between buyers and sellers, charging a fee. In order to make continued sales, this job requires:

  • Good taste to pick up good spots
  • An understanding of how the market works and which plots will sell well
  • The ability to establish an unblemished reputation

Some Land Barons rent land instead of selling. Renting is a good choice if you don't want to pay tier, have a Basic account, or just need a temporary piece of land for some particular reason. There are basically three types of renting:

  1. You can rent un-terraformed land free of buildings and set up your place however you want.
  2. You can rent some land with the buildings already set up for your use, like prefab houses.
  3. You can rent space in a mall, where get a very small place to set up a shop, and expect that the mall owner sets up events and advertising to attract people to the mall.

Linden Dollar Brokers

You also have people making a living by exchanging their L$ for real-world currency (USD$, Euros, etc), as covered by the Linden Dollar Exchange site. Making a profit by buying cheap and selling high is not for the faint of heart -- you're dealing with real money and need to have a very good understanding of how a stock exchange works. However, due to the stabilization in the market as of the past few years, day-trading the market is practically impossible as prices rarely fluctuate at all.

Unclassified Jobs

Other jobs are not so clearly defined. For instance, there are all sorts of people organizing companies, groups, associations, even cartels. They have skills organizing people together. There are people using their marketing or advertising skills inworld. There are even lawyers and economists! All carve their niches in their Second Lives, using all sorts of skills they have IRL, and putting them to use. Every one of us is talented in a special way. Some of us discover new talents while inworld.

The trick for having fun in Second Life, and even earning some Linden dollars while having fun, is learning about our own talents and skills, applying our imagination and creativity, and making the most of everything!

Having Fun Earning

There are other methods such as gaming networks that present an exciting way to earn linden in Second Life, without having to work a job. These can pay better than a job if you become good at them.

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