Happy New Year and Merry 2011! If you want dry stats and boring economic outlooks please click HERE. For my Ambergrisish POV on something that’s been puzzling me for AGES: continue reading ;)
Now please keep in mind that all of this is taking in consideration that the world-wide recession (depression? economic down-turn?) has indeed hit Second Life and seems to be rather entrenched, despite upturns and good news from many areas in RL. Many (including myself) have consequently lowered their prices accordingly. SL lagged (pun intended!) a bit behind RL in seeing the bad news, so I expect it to lag a bit with the good news too.
But I digress. What has been puzzling me, for years actually – well before the RL recession hit – has been the pricing of clothing in the Fashion Industry here in in SL. When something puzzles me – especially something in my perview, I tend to worry at it, do research and ponder on it, until I come up with my Ideas and Theories on WHY such a thing is the way it is.
I have traveled around at fashion shows, events, shops and stores, boutiques and malls and SL online shopping venues and found this puzzling trend to be pretty wide spread: People selling perfectly well made, beautiful designs for IMO practically nothing. (Under 100L)
And the other thing I noted were the denominations were interesting as well. For example: 49L, 78L, 23L, 87L and so on. Also, these were also from primarily newer designers (avatars) on the grid. Nothing wrong with that in itself, we were ALL once new also at one point.
Here is some basic background information that might help you to understand why I was puzzled. Those who like myself have been designing since 2005 and thereabouts will find this familiar:
Pricing is always one of the hardest things to do, no matter what content you create. The tendency when guessing or starting out, is to price (too) low. (I know I did, until my Mentor straightened me out). Whether by lack of confidence in your product, ignorance of pricing trends in your niche, or whatever it is, new designers, and content creators in general tend to price lower rather than higher.
However, there was always an understanding of the value of the Linden Dollar when learning and being taught how to price. The bare bones bonehead way I was taught was 50L per clothing piece and go from there. It would cost you 10L per piece to upload and if you were using prims and needed a matching texture – an additional 10L for that.
For a Top, Skirt, Underwear, Texture (for prims skirt) to make a simple dress would cost you: 40L in updload fees – never mind what value you set on your own labor – RL time and effort spend creating the design.
Based on the basic method of pricing you would sell that dress at 150L or 200L – if you wished to count the prim skirt as an additional piece. Clothing designers in RL make clothing to create a profit. Even those SL designers who are “playing around” like to make money, otherwise they would be making clothing exclusively for the Freebies market and not bother with pricing in the first place.
So I wondered (puzzled) as I saw pricing that wouldn’t even get the designer any money back on the upload fees, much less getting paid for their time and talents. It also costs money to have a store, whether you rent a vendor spot in a mall, rent land, pay tier and own land, and even to list your items in the SL Market place.
So what was going on here?
The conclusion that I’ve come to is that somewhere along the line from my newbie designer days to these past couple of years or so, there has been a gap in the knowlege being given out to aspiring designers. I was lucky enough to have mentors and people that helped me, I was also lucky enough that even if I hadn’t had that, there was information readily available in the Second Life website forums, and other areas of the site itself.
There was also a strong base of New Resident Helper groups, schools, establishments and even “official” SL Mentors and Helpers. In comparison, right now its a complete wasteland and has been for a very long time. As recently as a couple months ago, when I was asked by a friend to help her learn how to design, I went on a hunt, starting at the SL website – to get her some basic information before we got started.
Gone: The forums and their helpful links from prominent designers. I had to dig and dig and DIG to find the archived posts
Gone: The downloads for the basic clothing templates from Linden Lab. Again I dug and dug and DUG and finally found where they were hidden.
If my friend had not had the guts to ask me for help (after searching the site herself mind you) where on earth does someone go to get started designing? I guess I took it for granted that those things readily available when I started would always be there. Not So. Not So.
So here is the Pricing Puzzle unravelled: With lack of help across the board, and going along with that, either confusion or ignorance of what the value of the Linden Dollar is, people are left on their own to guess and just muddle along. Near as I can tell, very many are pricing as if the Linden Dollar was a RL Dollar 1:1.
The thinking might go something like this:
That fabulously made summer dress you sweated over and uploaded to SL would probably retail in Macy’s for $79.00. So you price it at 79L.
However the reality is actually:
Right now, according to the LindeX Echange: 1 Linden = $0.01
And it would cost you $0.30 in fees to buy it.
(To actually sell a design at $79.00 you would have to price it at nearly 20,000L) eeeeeeeee!
Dear Darling Designers: Please stop giving away your goods, and underpricing your talents. I’m not advocating for ignoring the economic climate (RL and SL) or going on a wild over-pricing rampage either. I’m just asking that you get the knowlege you need, have confidence in your creations price accordingly.
Interestingly, I have been told over and over again in the years since I started in 2005 – from my Mentors, to friends and customers even – that I should price my designs higher. I made a choice in the beginning to always have my creations available to the average SL Resident. My designs are from 150L – 650L (not including sales, sets, specials etc), and I always have a Gift Bag and other goodies available as Freebies at my Store(s).
So you CAN still have fair pricing, and make a profit too, and have happy customers. Just don’t undersell yourself. Understand the value of the Linden Dollar as it pertains to your particular currency. Find out what your overhead is – rent, tier, uploads etc – and factor that in as well.
Education is priceless. And in SL its also FREE: Seek out places like University of Caledon Oxbridge, New Citizens Inc and others and take classes on SL economics, business, retail – heck, anything you want really, that you think will give you the information you need :)
Please pass this article along, and I hope it has been helpful! I just got sad and puzzled to see such lovely work being under-priced and devalued everywhere I looked. It is truly a different world now in Second Life, and if I can help a newer designer in any small way – then I will have done a little bit towards Paying it Forward.
Buy/Sell Lindens HERE on ELDEX ~ USD, EUR, GBP, CHF
Know the Value of the Linden Dollar