Now repeat after me “I am not in a race” exhale and do it again ” I am not in a race”. Now close your eyes and say it slowly out loud “I am not in a race”. I would honestly love to know you are saying it another twenty times if I had my way, but hopefully those first few are enough to have gotten your attention.
Every few months or so I have my little rants, they aren’t scheduled and rarely are they about anything too crazy…more often than not it is because I have been a witness to events that drive me to want to scream out at you all, this is one of those times.
It is the new year, and if you look back at 2010 what do you actually remember of it? to me it was a whirlwind, a blur of events and schedules that no one could rationally keep to. I am not actually even talking as a blogger, I am actually trying to communicate these feelings to you the designers out there.
Never in all of the years I have been in Second Life have I ever seen so many stores closing down. Yes there have been the fun closing down sales with the same people opening back up a week or so later. But that is not what I mean, I mean actual closing down of stores, one after the other.
When I started Second Life there was so much press about the fact that people were able to give up their RL jobs to create here and keep themselves afloat financially, and it was wonderful, a new frontier so to speak. Then over the years it got a little harder to actually maintain that kind of income from a business here, and many have hobby stores etc, those that they do because they love to create, but it isn’t their only form of income etc.
Regardless of how your business provides for you financially, it is from the sidelines looking in – I say sidelines because I have a lot of day to day dealings with designers from all over – that it’s becoming an amazing challenge to stay afloat and again I am not talking money.
All I hear these days is ” I have to get four items ready for this, this and these two events ” or ” I don’t have time to do that, because I have to do this this and this” or worse ” OMG I can’t participate in those because I put mysellf down for these and I don’t have time”.
How many of you say those same things, week in and week out, or feel completely overwhelmed by the so called expectations of your customers?
Now you see that is the interesting thing there, it isn’t the customers that are doing this to you, it is some sense of having to feel involved or you will be left behind that is overwhelming you, dictating your business strategy and the way you provide for your stores. With the constant having to come up with items for events, hunts, and the whatever, you are sucking up all the real design juice you have flowing within you.
I have seen stores be in every event, participate in every single hunt and whatever, and yet not release an item in their store for months, MONTHS! and you can pretend that isn’t happening, but look at how fast the weeks are piling up, to make items for two events, can take many upwards of two weeks, then the events happen and by the time you are ready to sit down and create again, the release doesn’t happen for another 3 or so, and then worse case scenario someone asks you to be in something else, or you remember it’s your week in something your on a rotation for. For about 2 months straight last year it felt like every second day was Friday – no offence to any events on that day, but for me friday is about the only day of the week that actually registers.
I sit there and I look at people that don’t participate, and I see them release ‘Collections” and people come from all over to see them, to see what amazing work these designers have spent their time on creating for a release. But it isn’t just that they don’t participate, because sometimes even those stores are involved in things, I just mean, it used to be that we would wait anxiously for our favourite hair stores to release an item and click TP and cry as it declined and try and try again.
I once had a conversation with a designer who told me that if they didn’t participate that they wouldn’t have any sales at all, because when they release new items no one buys them. Well see that to me is because their fans already had their hit. A lot of Second Life shopping is based on the catch. If you look at a normal shopping day, we buy more than we can wear, every single time. In the old days I would be known to buy so many hairstyles in one day, that I would have to swap them every two hours. I used to ache for new hair, omg it was physical pain in my chest, needing it, you know how I talk about my hat cravings, well hair was insanely worse, and we had so few hair creators back then.
But the hair creators, the clothing creators, the ones we did buy from, they had time, they dictated their schedule, they spent the hours upon hours designing a collection or even just a few pieces to release into the wild, and people still came, if they did their marketing and so forth well.
People also often argue that the hunts, events and so on bring them customers, that is true, to a degree, but if I see a girl in denim jeans down under her bum cheeks and a strip of dental floss for a bra – again don’t take offence I have a hundred pairs of those jeans, and I am looking for that bra :P – if that girl is in a store with a completely different style of clothing etc, they are not your target, sure they may come back one day, but when it comes to Second Life fashion, they are not your customer YET.
Again I am not bashing events, it would be stupid to do so, and the people that run them do an incredible job. But I am looking at the designers, who are ignoring their own customers, their own groups, and focusing on ones that come from elsewhere, they don’t communicate with their own fans anymore..and those are the ones that want to know your doing more, releasing lots and can bring a gaggle of friends to your store to shop, but often is the case they want you to just create for them to buy, they don’t need to search for it, or have it marked down, they just want to honestly see it released and buy it then or come back another day they can afford to, but could possibly tell a few friends about it at the time too.
I am also not saying shower them with gifts , ok maybe a few lol we all love presents, but let those people know it is because you appreciate their business. I remember people used to do things with their subscribos that if they reached however many, they would give a gift, that was fun, that meant they had definite new people that had interest in them, because regardless of free, if you aren’t into what they sell, free isn’t such a big deal.
I just want you all to slow down, not push yourselves so hard that when it isn’t working you blame yourself…that is not even acceptable. I want you to sit back and look at other ways to promote your business, smaller things, things that will showcase you and your talents. Hold events at your store, make sure you open a blog for your own store, surprises me still how many don’t do that, and don’t even dare say you don’t have time to do that, because it is only one more tab open on your computer and when you send your notices in world, you can copy and paste onto your blog.
work out your finances and look at your XML’s and see and compare, see what it is that is actually doing it for you. I used to run an event every sunday at my old work, many actually still remember that, as it comes up in convo often. One item was 1L the other was 100L, but never were these items new enough to run at a loss, and the event was only a few hours, and was also just a change of price on the vendors themselves with clues in the notecards they had to work it out. Something simple like “Billy —— is not my lover ” and of course they would all rush to the jeans section.
But the best part about those days was that everyone was there same time, and so was I, yelling and helping and laughing with the customers. Of course some would find out they already had the items, but no one was ever rude about it, because they had fun for however long they were there. Now I was able to see the info of those sales, and I was able to see that many that bought the 1L and 100L items also bought many other things, and many new names would come up, because when the notice would go out, the members of the group would be with friends and drag them along etc.
This went on for a few months but then I noticed that sales of the older items were declining through the week, because they were waiting until sunday, so the event stopped. It was never meant to damage business, and didn’t for a very long time, so after that I found a new way. But it was always the stores own people, who brought more people, and would wear their items, and be seen by other people.
That is where your time needs to go, I know many designers are shy as hell, but usually have friends that aren’t, do an event and ask your friends to be your vocals in chat, make some quirky party gifts and have a blast dancing to cheesey 80’s music, and do it during the time you just released something new.
So many residents are just as shy as you, that is why they shop, they do so to mingle without commiting, they get involved in hunts and stalk lucky chairs and so on, because it gives them a chance to be around other people, and maybe stumble into a conversation. There are hundreds if not thousands of SL residents who met that way, and became great friends.
I know I am rambling all over the place as usual, but it scares me to see people pushed so much to get to the finishing line of a race that doesn’t exist. I think that it spreads them so thin that they can’t find what it is they loved about SL and creating in the first place. Step back and look at the stats and if running the marathon works for you, then so be it, but if you find yourself just a frazzled mess who is overwhelmed by it all, STOP and find why you started in the first place.