Patience to Grow by Ferre Howlett

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Joining Second Life® in August 2007, several friends were making money. I joined because they were here. I first worked in security and hosting. I also rented out some small shops from land that I shared with a friend. So I had income to invest; I made about 10kL$ a week, at that time. Then I discovered the stock market at the end of the year.

The first company that I bought shares of, Verballis Translation, kinda had died because the previous owner didn’t have time to run two companies. Although I had three years of investment experience, it was a major jump for me to take it over in 2011. Later on I found out that it was founded by another Belgian!

I don’t have real life professional experience that helps—I’m actually an all around construction worker, specializing in electricity, but I used to do flea markets. Working in SL is a big contrast, especially when I took over VBL. I had to learn basic accounting, since we are required to post a quarterly financials report. And I still am learning.

There are a few reasons why I started Surf4sl, the newest of my businesses. Advertising in SL is not cheap to start, and I am a member of a similar real life website. Its good for business owners, but also for everyone involved with SL, because we basically show you what you can do within this virtual community.  It is a networking business. I also want to give SLer’s a chance to earn some lindens on the side. So the website came online late 2012 in beta phase, and went official early March 2013. We had our first anniversary.

Some clients from Verballis have joined Surf4ls and even some shareholders. Several of my staff from VBL are also members.

All three of my ventures are growing. Surf4ls takes a lot of my time, but since a few years ago, I don’t have a real life job anymore, due to injuries. SL has become a part of my real life income. I spend about ten to twelve hours a day on it. And I’m always on the look out for expansion. Surf4ls has the potential to eventually grow the largest. It can reach my real life goals. Since I cannot work in the construction business anymore, I don’t have to leave my home to go to work. And, there is no boss telling me what to do.

I’m not only an entrepreneur, but also an investor. The investment part is still the biggest part of my business, my base. But I’m sure that Surf4ls will become bigger then VSIF and VBL combined. My goal is to become bigger than ADS advertising.

Patience is one of my strongest skills. It is particularly valuable in a place like SL where things move fast.

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I am thinking to expand into other virtual worlds, since we already do allow links from them, like Entropia or Marketglory. Also, my intention is to have several ways of advertising to offer our clients. At some point we will have in-world adboards. But I think this new way of advertising, and making some lindens at the same time, is the best to get it started. And it is wise to offer the same clients more.

I do keep thinking of new or extra revenue streams. When possible, I will leverage it.

I look for extra staff members, but its not easy to find the right people. The hardest part is finding really good scripters. Just because they script in SL doesn’t mean they know php and all that stuff. Not everyone can work with both, and those who do have either have enough work, or are expensive.

I have so many ideas to be added, but sadly, I’m not a scripter.

Translation is not an easy business. I have enough translators, but finding work for them is a marketing challenge. Fortunately, we do have a good returning customer base. Again, staff for such a position is not easy to find in SL.

The business advertising idea I had back in 2009, but it took till 2012 to get this project online and connected with SL. VBL was an opportunity which I could jump into. Same with VSIF in 2012. But with advertising, again it was hard to find the right scripter. I’ve talked to maybe thirty to fifty scripters before I found my first one, and then he decided he had no time anymore. So I had to find another one, who in the meantime, hasn’t got time any- more as well. But that was easier because it was Redux Dengaku. He re-appeared in-world to save his company, so he could use all the work he could get. We could help each other. But now, he is overloaded with work, so its an issue again. This all takes huge patience!!!

The greatest reward is that, despite staff problems, the company running and growing. And I will find another good scripter again.

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One of my first friends is still a partner in the game. But the one that invited me left a few years ago to live with his SL, and later, real life girlfriend. They eventually married, and still are. That does happen sometimes, but so does heart break. Maybe it is balanced between. Yet, I do think it easier to hurt someone in SL than in real life, because of anonimity. Fortunately, it is easier to mute them. Some people wear masks. If they get in trouble, they just create another avatar and start over!

But, in a way, it is a source of pride to have a rezz date of 2007, because it seems that a lot of the successful business owners are from around that year, like Skip Oceanlane of Capital Exchange, to name one.

Scammers are a big reason businesses fail in SL. Scammers can do it more easily due to the anonymity. People hate to be scammed. Most will loose faith and leave.

To invest wisely in SL, research the companies as much as you can. I spend a few hours a day catching up on the forums and other relevant places. Investors that do not know anything about the companies, and just care about the numbers, usually end up selling with a loss. I have seen a few hard years, but like I said, patience is very important, and, for me, it paid off. And, I was one of the lucky few that bet on the right exchange from the beginning.

If you’re willing to learn as I did, you can do things you don’t normally do in real life. I can’t even start a real life business because I don’t have the degree or diploma for it. But in SL I run three businesses with success. And I have a substantial side income from affiliate programs. Income diversity matters—don’t bet on one horse.

Have patience and always be honest and straight forward. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver and take care of your customers.

—Ferre Howlett, Verballis Translation and Surf4ls.com

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