My cousin, Steve Metze, asked me how one could make money selling virtual things. Well, the entire Second Life economy is a lot like the US economy, only it’s based on the Linden (L$), which is their version of the dollar. Now, if it was just play money I wouldn’t be excited about it in the least. But it’s immediately transferable into US dollars, which gives it real world value. Second Life has a dynamic market that dictates the value of the L$ based on how much money is in the system and being exchanged at any given time. Honestly, it’s very complex and there are economists who would have a lot of fun mulling the whole thing over. It’s really a little beyond me, but I’m just learning. The important thing to note is that you can sell your L$ for US$ at any time.
To answer my cousin’s question, there are an almost infinite number of ways to earn money in Second Life. Some people create and sell things, some people perform duties and earn it, and some people just simply ask for it or give it away. From a designer/artist/creative perspective, it’s really cool because you can create just about anything and people will buy it in L$. Then you take your money and do whatever you want with it, including selling them for US$.
For example, a couple days ago I created several virtual framed prints out of pictures that I either made in Photoshop or snapped with my camera. I put them on display and yesterday a guy came through and bought two of them. He can now take them and put them in his virtual home, or a virtual art museum, or take them out and just look at them, or just throw it on the virtual ground…whatever he wants. They’re his prints, so I don’t care what he does with them. For me, the money I made paid for my rent and then some.
You could, for example, create a theater for people to watch a film you created. Charge an entrance fee (just like a real theater), and the user can sit in your theater and watch the movie. Charge L$20 for each person who wants to watch it, and they can watch it at their leisure, and you don’t have to do anything but set it up. The money is earned whether or not you’re there to receive it, and it starts to build up. And eventually, you just sell your L$ for US$. (It’s also important to note that they can’t download your films because they’re streaming through Second Life, not streaming to their hard drive like watching it in a web browser.)