How much should you pay for a gridmaster?

We all know that qualified tech staffers cost money. But how much money, exactly?

It’s not like you can look up the going rate for an OpenSim grid administrator … or can you?

A grid admin is a lot like the webmasters we used to have back in the early days of the Web, before everyone either outsourced it, or stopped using the word “webmaster” because it sounded too much like “dungeon master” from Dungeons and Dragons.

The job requirements are a bit more complex — in addition to managing a web server you also have to manage a grid server. The databases are larger. And the traffic streams are more bandwidth intensive. Plus, although you can cache individual pieces of content, you can’t cache an entire region or grid, like you can with websites. That means that you can’t use CloudFlare or similar services to deliver your content faster around the world and minimize the impact of denial-of-service attacks or traffic spikes.

On the flip side, the administrators running grids often have very little experience doing so — not through any fault of their own, but just because the technology is so new.

So, I’m going to look at Salary.com data for web administrators and assume that the increased complexity of the grid administration job is cancelled out by the less related work experience, on average, on the part of the administrators themselves.

Salaries for Web administrators. (Image courtesy Salary.com.)

Salaries for Web administrators. (Image courtesy Salary.com.)

The result is a salary of about $70,000 per year in the United States, ranging from $50,000 on the low end to $90,000 on the high.

Expect smaller companies to pay a little less, larger companies to pay a little more.

If your salary offer is significantly outside this range, however, then there are likely to be significant problems with your employee, in one way or another.

Hourly rates

If your expected annual salary is $70,000 and you do occasional hourly work, then your hourly rate should be $105 per hour.

You get it by multiplying your salary by three, then dividing by 2,000 — the number of hours in a year.

Why multiply by three? Because you have to count in administrative overhead, marketing time, and taxes and benefits. When you work on salary, your employers have a separate department for accounting and bookkeeping, and yet another department for sales and marketing, plus they pay a share of your taxes and benefits. When you work by the hour, you have to take care of all of that on your own, either by hiring assistant who you pay for yourself, or by spending time that you could have otherwise been using to do paying client work.

If you work on long-term contracts, with a miniminal amount of time you have to spend on administrative overhead and marketing your services, ten multiply by two, giving an hourly rate of $70.

Working for barter

Trading services for, say, hosting, might seem appealing because you don’t have to pay taxes on your income. Nope. You still have to pay taxes whether you get paid in cold hard cash, or in Bitcoin, in chickens, or in server space.

Barter has significant disadvantages, however, mostly at the conclusion of a project.

Say you did a lot of work for someone, setting up their grid. They now have the results of your work. They promise you server space, and, as long as you were working, they kept that promise. But now your work is gone — and, as a general rule, so is your server space, or your virtual land. And there’s not much you can do. At least, if you were working for money, you’d still have your money, and you can always rent your server space elsewhere.

Similarly, if you are a customer, and your administrator is working for barter, then you might feel in a position of powerlessness when it comes to dictating the work requirements — after all, you’re not “really” paying them.

When is a discount warranted?

Sometimes, though, it’s possible to find a grid administrator willing to work for free, or for a very low price, or for barter.

When it’s for a good cause. Many professionals will happily volunteer their services or take a cut in salary for a non-profit they believe in. Some will even set aside a certain amount of time each month that they will work for free for charities.

When the vendor shares in the company’s potential success. Paying suppliers partly or entirely with equity is a long-established startup tradition. For companies that are set up as single proprietorships — the very-most basic level of possible corporate structure in the U.S. — this means that the supplier would be coming on board as a minority partner, and would then share in all company profits and losses. Some of the difficulties involved include valuing the company appropriately.

When it’s the grid administrator’s first job. A customer takes a big risk when they hire someone new to the field, and a discount will compensate them for that risk.

When the customer agrees to serve as a testimonial. This is especially true of consultants just launching their businesses, or rolling out new services. If a customer agrees to serve as a reference to future clients, to provide a testimonial for marketing materials, or to speak to the media about the services they received it gives the consultant a significant marketing boost.

maria@hypergridbusiness.com'

Maria Korolov

Maria Korolov is editor and publisher of Hypergrid Business. She has been a journalist for more than twenty years and has worked for the Chicago Tribune, Reuters, and Computerworld and has reported from over a dozen countries, including Russia and China.

  • Frank Corsi

    I have to only wonder if any grid owner is paying such high wages.
    I do agree the tech staff should get paid well, but can the community justify such high wages.

    • Merrie Schonbach

      I do a fair bit of consultation and promotion works for grids and I only ask $200.00 a month, I’ve not yet had a client been able to offer me that, it would certainly be nice as I’m on Disability and it’s hard to make ends meet. *smiles*

      • Yes I would love to see you get that, at least. Perhaps the timing is not right, yet. I am on disability also but have just decided to make ends meet with that, but it certainly is not easy to do and no backup for emergencies at all.

        Hugs Merrie-))

        • Merrie Schonbach

          Thank you Minethere, I did not know you were disabled, *Big hugs*

          • Well, only this year did I sometimes mention it in public…but some knew in private. I am a very private person in reality so I only mention it when it seems appropriate.

            Anywho, good luck…do you have a website mentioning your skills and pay desires?

  • For an open grid charging $10 per month per connected sim that means the grid must have 700+ paying sims connected just to pay for the single admin.

    • Frank Corsi

      At $10 per hr, I feel is great pay for an opensim based grid tech person. But not every grid company has the funding capital behind them to last until the company sales grow. Many of the grids now are not even real companies. We will never look to barter, as we do not want to hire any technical staff who has their own grid, or wants to have land in a grid. We find it much better to just pay a fair wage, and get the job done. We do not want our tech staff running grids for clients on the side or doing development work on any other grid. Conflict of interest.

      • AviWorlds

        FRANK, the best scenario is to start something with a TECH or TECHS and an INVESTOR as partners. SALARY will not work here unless your grid is doing a miracle and is pushing more than 100 grand per year. Marias article here is only going to create CONFLICTS now between the CTOS that will ready this here and now will want more money being that the money he or she wants doesnt exist coming from any opensim grid.

        • I have to agree here with Alex. If you’re paying $10 an hour — which is minimum wage level in the U.S. — you can hire… well, you can hire my daughter. She’s a math and physics student, knows Python, knows her way around Linux (has contributed to my Linux reviews for Network World) and has set up OpenSim mini-grids a few times. If she doesn’t know something, she can figure it out.

          $10 an hour is roughly the ballpark of her work-study jobs.

          And, as I recall, many, many websites in the early days of the Internet did just that — hired teenagers and college students to be their webmasters because they couldn’t afford real staff.

          But then, you have to deal with the fact that you’ve got a teenager running your critical infrastructure. Which may or may not be something you’re comfortable with.

          • Frank Corsi

            I would never hire a teenager! Not to mention under age work related issues. But I know you didnt mean for me to hire your teenage daughter, it was just a snap haha comment.. Has no meaning to anyone..

            How many grid owners even pay tech staff $10 hr. ? That is aprox $400 to $500 usd per week. How many grids are even earning $400 per week total?

            Equity is great option, if the grid is a real company with real corporate structure and stock issued. Other than that most times tech’s take equity in a dream that ends up a total loss. I cant count how many times ive lost out on so called equity deals in the past.

          • Michael Sietz

            Equity in a zero or no profit grid is nothing. Although we don’t own any grids DWG charges $75 for our platform tech’s and for our webmasters….Believe it or not…we get it. The business model that has a zero sum profit and pays nothing but titles is a failure. Secondlife vendors do that because they don’t know any better. I put in at least 70 hours a week and there is no way I would work for a piece of nothing again. It’s not a business if your best hope is to break even….that’s a charity

          • If I was a developer, and an OpenSim startup asked me to work for equity, I might consider it — if the following conditions were met:

            * The company was on a solid legal basis — correctly registered, paying its taxes, EIN number, separate bank account, solid TOS for customers, etc…. A company that cheats on its taxes is going to cheat me, too.

            * A scalable business model. If the company has plans to be the next PayPal, or the next Google, or the next Dreamhost or the next Amazon, then the risk would be worth it. That means that the company has to have a plan for heavy automation, so that customers can grow at a faster rate than staff. A company that’s in the service business, where staff has to increase proportionately to revenues, still poses a high risk — but offers a much lower potential reward. With a service company, I would expect to be on salary as soon as the company can afford it. With a highly scalable company, I would expect a longer ramp-up period as it builds up its technology without a lot of revenues coming in at the start.

            * A squeaky-clean history of business dealings on the part of all the other partners. Making business mistakes is okay — hopefully, they’ll have learned from them. But a history of problems with other partners, not paying suppliers, even the appearance of impropriety, and I’d walk away.

            * A vision of growth. Many OpenSim startups are actually not designed for growth. They are designed to be niche lifestyle businesses that will, if everything goes just right, allow the founder to quit his or her day job. Given the low odds of success of any individual project, I want to see better goals than that.

          • It is actually a very complex environment to grow, because there are so many factors you don’t control in the current environment:

            The core opens software does not have any roadmap, but more or less develops at a whim and what developers are interested in and who might be available and capable to chip in. While the original goalpost of becoming an alternative to Linden Lab’s offering to a large extent has been met in terms to content compatibility, it lacks the solid foundation for scaling that is required to grow to any size – at least unless you put a sizable amount of effort into adding / rewriting the software.

            Viewer development is mainly dictated by SecondLife compatibility, and while some viewers are better than other for opensim users, I think we can say that the core focus of all TPV developers are SecondLife compatibility and functionality. To a certain extent LL has turned up the pace on adding functionality that has yet to be matched by opensim.

            Content is scarce, and quality content is even more scarce. Mainly because of a fundamental lack of trust with the content developers who actually have compatible content out there,and to a lesser extent an audience who have till now had little motivation for spending as often the key attraction has been “free” content and resources.

            Combine this with the fact that the bulk of consumers are in the process of moving to mobile / portable devices that for now is a poor match with the resource requirements of the renderer and the dynamic nature of the content.

            So in a way you need to be a jack of all trades and work on multiple fronts with limited resources to move a startup to anything sizable. Sure – pure hosters have a space to fill (and by that I mean anyone renting, selling land, sim hosting, asset hosting and related services.) but also they will bump into the other factors mentioned above.

            To significantly grow the reach of opensim, a concerted effort is needed by many to move the entire space forward in lockstep.

          • Right now, I’m looking at Kitely Market as one example of a potentially scalable platform — very low touch, very automated, and they’re already planning to expand it to High Fidelity and other new platforms that come along. I’m not saying that their success is guaranteed, but it looks like a good bet for investment.

            I’d love to see multi-grid payments and search but so far haven’t seen anything that looks like it could be viable.

            I think Kitely *could* be a scalable hosting platform if they offered private mini-grids instead of putting everyone on one large grid, but even as they have it set up right now, they’re pretty low-touch and highly automated.

            Zetamex, Dreamland, and CloudServe all have potential, too, theoretically at least. As a journalist, I don’t get the same access to books and management as a potential investor or partner would.

          • There is absolutely good people out there doing a tremendous amount of work and succeeding, but the entire space needs a more concerted effort and a tech roadmap to be able to move forward faster and more consistently. + The content issue needs to be cracked as consumers are getting more and more used to (very) high quality content and are less motivated to develop themselves.

          • lmpierce

            You have nicely summarized relevant core issues on the technology/platform side of the equation. And on the consumer side, as you note, there is a shift towards currently less powerful mobile over increasingly less popular desktop systems.

            I would add that another challenge of virtual worlds is the ‘time’ factor. Doing most things in virtual worlds is more time consuming than using other technologies. Therefore, the appeal is often experientially based, rather than efficiency based. This puts virtual worlds at a disadvantage for many classes of use. The experience in virtual worlds needs to be so compelling that even if it takes longer to use, it’s worth it. And I don’t see that happening on an mass scale across large segments of any population, but rather here and there in niche markets.

            Or put another way, even if every person on the planet had a quad-core gaming desktop with 100Mbps bandwidth and an Oculus Rift, running OpenSim with HG, and a free library of everything from TurboSquid converted to Collada, my view is that it’s not realistic whatsoever to imagine a sea change from the 2D Web to a 3D metaverse. The demand will not be there because the technology does not serve the needs and wants of the masses as they wish for those needs and wants to be fulfilled.

          • At least not in the short to medium time space.

          • lmpierce

            Yes, talk about technology usually merits the qualification of being most reliable only in the immediate to near term. The ‘time’ issue however will not go away, so any success or failure of an interactive technology paradigm will inevitably include a time-related factor.

            The emergence of Web-based marketplaces for 3D goods itself reveals an intrinsic liability of virtual world environments for a major activity, namely making purchases (aka, “shopping”). Even in the physical world, millions of people are turning to the Web rather than running all over town, and the most significant reason is to save time (followed by selection choices, getting the best price, and so on).

            Time is, in fact, the most valuable quality of life that we spend.

          • What we saw this year for the Christmas shopping in my country was a growth in online spending because of speed and selection, and to a lesser extent price. But there was also a big upswing for “authenticity” in much more old fashioned Christmas markets where the combined experience was more important than the tech factor. I think, perhaps, this is were virtual worlds can fill a niche, and even a lucrative one in combination with the appeal for builders that obviously is out there. – Virtual tourism of sorts.

            What is needed is to (significantly) lower the barrier for people to step into the virtual world when they want to without too much fiddling around with avatar looks, attachment points, AOs and what have you. The retention rate for new signups in SL is appallingly low simply because the barrier for participation after account creation is way too high.

            While the marketplaces for 3D goods are convenient for merchants, and possible to implement because they can mostly use well tested solutions, they are a liability to in-world participation. I’d like to see the convenience of a marketplace being integrated into the viewer search functionality so you never have to leave the viewer and break the immersive environment to do your purchases. The exception here is, perhaps, for content creators as they need many components outside the VW for their creation process.

          • lmpierce

            The suggestion for virtual tourism is tantalizing, but I would guess a ways off. Travel shows do something like this, and the visual aspects are very authentic, although not interactive. If a virtual world environment could be as realistic as a Hollywood blockbuster, I could see a market in virtual tours. Although I don’t see virtual tours replacing physical world excursions, travel is still expensive for most of the world and I can see a market for high-quality low-cost alternatives.

            I think part of the problem is the whole idea of ‘virtual’. People want real experiences, even if the way they get to them is mediated. Movies do this, but would be handicapped if they were called ‘virtual life shows’. So in part, I think ‘virtual worlds’, while sounding perfectly fine to me, has the taint of being artificial. I mean, in your example, you point out that people are showing an interest in authenticity and old-fashioned Christmas markets – this is the complete opposite desire of seeking artificially created substitutes.

            There is reason to think that simplifying access to virtual worlds would help because in general this is true across the board with technologies. Still, if something takes a lot of time and the result is no more fulfilling than the faster alternative, the rejection of virtual worlds for time-consuming activities in a more integrated viewer will simply make the issue that much more obvious.

            My emphasis on niche markets mirrors what I see in the use of something like simulators. For the masses, we can teach driving from books (for laws) and actual cars, so expensive time-consuming simulators really haven’t taken off. (I was a California state-licensed driving instructor, so I am drawing on personal experience for this assertion.) However, commercial pilots, train operators, and the like are trained in expensive advanced simulators because the costs and risks of training in real vehicles is extreme. Therefore, I would say that simulators are critically important and successful, but only in niche markets.

            Recently another online game announced it’s going to close down. The analysis presented pointed out that while World of Warcraft is a huge ongoing success, the marketplace for such games is essentially saturated, due primarily to the fact that they take a long time to play and there is only just so large a market of people with the time to play.

            Likewise, people learn soon enough that virtual worlds are time-consuming. So, unless they can use them for more prosaic tasks, they remain an extravagance. Since most basic tasks that are best handled by computers are already handled well or better than they could be in a virtual world, it’s much harder to believe they could somehow still take off with the masses by simply adding a better peripheral (i.e. Oculus Rift) or a bigger marketplace of mesh objects.

            Personally, I’d have more optimism for virtual worlds if there were sociological changes in the world. For example, if a four-day workweek suddenly became commonplace in the U.S., that would give people a lot of time to spend other ways, and I think that would do as much, or more, to stimulate enthusiasm for virtual worlds among potential users as the technological enhancements that are often debated.

          • I doubt there is an audience for virtual tourism for current sites as it is very hard, as you say, to recreate and match other types of presentations including physical presence. Recreation of historical sites was more what I was thinking of.

            Virtual is a very technical and un-sexy word that only a fraction of people will understand, so I think we should shed it as often as possible. In my native language we don’t even have a proper word for it, and I think that is the case for many languages.

            A few years back I ran a role-play in SecondLife that had around 2000 participants over a period of 19 months, of which many participated up to 60 days which where the max limit. Others just for a 24 hour period. We took particular care to a) properly survey the participants upfront so we and they knew what to expect and b) kept it as realistic as possible in the setting. Many came with elaborate stories they wanted to play out and that needed to be staged carefully. I even created a system in a modified open source CMR to follow them up from day to day and hand over and coordinate activities with other staff.

            The biggest challenge was staff. The nature of the RP and with a global audience it had to be running 24/7 and with the participants paying for the experience, they did of course expect something to happen most of the time. I think I spent most of my time managing staff which peaked at around 45 and developing support systems for them to be able to keep the RP going. It was a lot of fun, it was a heck of a lot of work on all parties, and barely financed the cost of the sim.

            – Would I be able to recreate it in opensim? Maybe … lacking some key animations and scripts developed by others, but maybe.

            What I think, however, is that immersive narrated experiences like that – experiences that has the duration of a game, could be developed to both be profitable and even very attractive for broad audiences. You could even weave in mobile participation for it to be even more exciting.

      • Samantha Atkins

        That is barely over minimum wage. Do not expect someone very competent for such a price. Better than nothing yes but it ain’t going to pay that person’s rent. Why would you not hire someone that has experience running their own grid? Conflict of interest? Why couldn’t a very good person or small company do this for many different grids? I think that would make them much more competent and give them a richer portfolio.

        Personally I think that the grid services will eventually be a standard commodity that almost all grids plug into and that only a few really good players will provide these multi-grid grid services. There is not much reason every grid needs to run its own separately imho.

    • Adam Time

      Well this tells me you saturated your self in order to hire a highly qualified staff. But on the other hand if you feel your services are as good as Secondlife then hey. Good for you and great for your customers.
      I guess it comes down to who is handling the data bases and servers. Or are you just pushing a lot of band and requiring you customers to do all the inworld work. Such as back ups and handle many of the admin stuff that should be handle by the host do to security reasons.
      Look at Aviworlds as people try to sign into the new Reloaded they are just giving out passwords to a insecure sight. Prove me wrong. Who is the Host allowing this.

      • AviWorlds

        Adam I m going to say here that I have nothing to do with the AVIWORLDS2.com, AVIWORLDS RELOADED etc. These two domains are owned by MIKE HART and I am not in anyway shape or form affiliated with that GRID.
        AviWorlds is currently closed now and we will be back in january, 2015.

    • Yes. Or you hire someone part-time as you need them, or you outsource the whole thing to a hosting company.

      It’s the same with websites. Hypergrid Business, for example, cannot afford a full-time webmaster. If I can’t do something myself, I hire a company to come in and do it for me. Luckily, we use off-the-shelf software, themes and plugins, so our costs are pretty low. If we needed a whole lot of custom development — such as, for example, for a virtual ads network or a gates network or something else heavy duty like that, that was beyond my technical skills, I’d either have to learn those skills myself, or I’d have to bring on a partner who’d share in any potential future success — and risk wasting the time if it turns out that it goes nowhere.

      • There are lots of (potential) hosting companies that can take on the technical running of the sims and databases including backup and restore, but I am less convinced you find very many which are up to the task of managing the details of opensim, tuning and performance optimization, software upgrades and patching.

    • Samantha Atkins

      Sure, so either charge more for month or only have this person on a spot basis instead of always on staff. A good person in this position would be quite bored monitoring a small grid as their 40 hr/week or so job.

  • This amount is kind of a laugh in today’s world because unless you are a large corporation like SecondLife (revenues of $45-100 million per year) no one in their right mind is going to pay $70k for something that a 12 year old can do for free after school. And the difference with bartering is that most people, in their right mind, are not going to even pretend that the barter they receive in trade even exists (and neither will the company). I think most people understand that if you stop doing “free” work for the company that you lose the perks associated with it (people in their right mind, again, that is). I doubt you will ever see an OS grid paying $7,000 a year to someone much less $70,000 (that’s like 389 regions on Tangle, for example) just to pay one person (forget servers, etc).

    • First, there’s a lot of grids out there run by actual large corporations. And they pay IN THE SIX FIGURES for vendors to set up these projects for them — and so a $70,000 salary is certainly doable for an in-house project.

      Check out Julie LeMoine’s talk about how she sells immersive virtual world projects to Fortune 500 companies: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XH45JVisSR0

      As VR picks up steam, expect more and more companies to start experimenting with it for marketing, training, on-boarding, meetings and collaboration, rapid prototyping — especially in manufacture, construction, design, architecture and similar industries.

      The grids we’re most familiar with — small private grids, run more like hobby projects — no, they’re not going to hire a $70,000-a-year CTO. A $70,000-a-year CTO might set one up for fun. But, more likely, they will hire a part-time CTO for a few hours just to do the initial setup.

      Or, even more likely, get a hosting company to do it, or learn to do it themselves.

      My goal in this article is to get people to understand that these jobs are difficult, and cost money. If you get an experienced IT guy who knows his way around networks and servers, you should expect to pay him — or her — what they’re worth. And if you can’t do that, make up the difference with equity, or using them part-time only when you really need them, or use a hosting or consulting company.

      • Frank Corsi

        How many grids on this website’s grid list pay tech staff, and what is the rate they pay. Now thats going to give us a realistic rate that tech staff get paid for operating an opensim grid.

      • Frank Corsi

        Julie LeMoine and 3D ICC does not even use Opensimulator software.

        • No, their Terf system was developed on the basis of Open Qwaq. The other big enterprise focused company in this space is Protosphere. Both of them offer a platform extremely similar to OpenSim — standalone viewer, avatars — with a layer of enterprise integration features such as support for Active Directory, Single Sign-On, SharePoint, and unified messaging.

          I know of OpenSim vendors who sell to high-end corporate clients as well though, so far, not many willing to go on the record with projects — though i think this is changing as virtual reality is gaining mainstream acceptance and business credibility.

          I pointed out Julie’s talk because she specifically speaks about what it is about virtual worlds that appeals to corporate clients, and who in the company actually makes the purchase decision. Which reminds me that I’ve been meaning to write up a story based on her talk ever since she gave it. I’ll add it to my calendar.

          • Frank Corsi

            I know of a company that has been doing virtual world development with Cisco and Equifax for many years now. Remember you reported on it before.

          • Yes, people tend to be hush hush on money making projects in all this. I once was hired to terraform 9 regions [prior to varregions so blending each to another was, and still is in regular regions, somewhat difficult].

            I never asked what it was for and was only told it was for a client. I got paid 150 USD and a 25 dollar tip for this and could imagine from that he got a nice tidy sum for the completed project.

    • Michael Sietz

      You are right in that the current market would not generally support such a salary. But, let’s take a broader look at the issues. Grids have for sometime chosen to compete with the free mentality that came with OSGrid. The people at OSGrid no matter how dedicated, were supporting a huge number of end users based on their donations. By the very nature of entities that are based on donated money or work, they are always low budget. I say shame on you people that were angry that back ups were not created. Here is the headline folks “OSGrid Died”, you lost everything you worked for. On a positive note, it didn’t cost you anything. Or did it? How many thousands of hours building and importing and developing were lost? Let’s move on. Low cost regions- Often the grids that are unstable in end user experience and unstable in company structure. Back biting, Also “main office” fights. Here today, gone tomorrow…only to rise again. You get what you pay for. A super discount, bargain basement, $10 region. Great for the end user while it lasts but, the likelihood of building and creating the perfect “home” that lasts is limited at best. If all the cash I had was only $100 I would not go looking for a car to get me to work and back. I would likely be stranded or lose my job because the damn thing would only start when it wanted to. If you want to get somewhere on a reliable basis, a $100 car or a $10 regions are not the way to go. If you want stability, security and longevity, pay for it. Do not make people work hard for a zero net. Or, demand that grid owners and grid hosting compete on the same level as a charity and get what you have been getting since you left SL.

    • Samantha Atkins

      A 12 year old will not set up a internet based software system that has reasonable backups, monitoring, scalability and monitoring for free after school. That is simply absurd. I would sort of agree for relatively small grids or ones that are not being set up to grow based on their technical offerings. But that is not the spot than needs professionalism to start with. To see why a good dev ops person is essential to large grids one only needs to point at the osgrid multi-month disaster.

  • I wouldn’t do this kind of work on a salary unless there are significant perqs, a combination of real value and virtual…especially seeing what you say is what they can expect. It isn’t really all that much.

    The value in being self-employed is immense due to how the income taxing structures are…depreciation, reductions of taxable income for any and all expenses are just two items. [computers, percent of home used for business, vehicle use…etc]

    One can easily reduce the actual income that is taxed to a much lower percentage of what was actually paid, and enjoyed.

    Then there is the occasional “under the table” paid money to consider, and discuss. [things for which cash is paid, usually]

    In any case I would definitely make sure I see what perqs I could get and use those in the negotiation of pay.

    Many ppl sell themselves short.

    • Adam Time

      Wonderful article. Few of my friends do this the are called support. starting wages for linux support on this is $42,000.00 a year. So for a gridmaster this seems to be inline with what I see in the industry.
      Great article.

      • AviWorlds

        It is not INLINE. What are you people thinking? SHOW ME A GRID THAT MAKES EVEN 10000 dollars per YEAR? I closed HYPERGRID TRAVEL in AvIWorlds and I was bashed, criticised and more! I did it so I could start making some return profits and I was even called names…
        No one in opensim industry can pay that…You are all out of your minds! LOL….

        • Talla Adam

          You’re only talking about a single grid, Alex. A hosting company handles many grids, or should be if they want to be profitable. Then they will need experienced CTO’s and pay a decent wage to get the right people. A company will charge $25 to $40 and more to run the back end robust, database, etc and still more as the service demand increases.

          • AviWorlds

            Yes Talla. I agree. If the company is making money YES! Big YES! Pay the CTO.
            The problem with HG is that the store owners in that particular grid will not make much. This will not insentivate the creator. A grid to make money needs a lively economy within its borders like SL did.
            I say this becuase anyone can put a region online. ANYONE!
            So why would I PAY for a region in a grid if I can put my region in my pc and have it HG enabled?
            The only good reason would be if a particular grid packs enough economical power within its border for the user to see having a grid there and pay for it VIABLE.

        • Samantha Atkins

          Irrelevant. You are not going to get people to take your needs day job seriously without day job pay or the equivalent on any sort of sustainable basis.

  • Paul E. Emery

    Great article. We need more discussion of the money side of our nifty but small industry.

  • AviWorlds

    Maria you must be kidding me righ? How in the WORLD a grid that MOST of you say here has to be FREE and HYPEGRID ENABLED will be able to pay 60 to 70 thousand DOLLARS per year for a CTO?
    Pleas let me know because I want to know so I can do that.

    NOW lets go into reality…. MOST opensim grids are SANDBOXES.. No people! No money! No nothing!
    So the best solution is to HAVE a PARTNER that knows the CTO job and an INVESTOR. These two would each have a function. One works hard to pay for all servers and costs. The other keeps it alive in running.

    These numbers above do not corresponds to the reality of OPENSIM grids which are all selling CHEAP and most a FREE!

    • I agree with you. The best thing for a startup to do is bring in a CTO as an investor. Either that or OUTSOURCE the hosting and the entire tech infrastructure to a hosting company. (I just updated the story, adding “get paid with equity” to the list.)

  • AviWorlds

    Maria; your article will create problems.
    CTOs all over are now going to ask to be paid and OPENSIM grids do not have that kind of money!

    So now the CTO will make 70000 per year? What about the grids owner? ZERO and move to the streets so he can pay the CTO?
    This article is out of reality!

    • Samantha Atkins

      You get better quality on a sustained basis from exchange of value (pay) than from love alone in almost all cases. That a project is not profitable and unlikely to ever be so means it is as best a hobby and not a business.

  • lmpierce

    Salary information is based on surveys of positions that exist and have created a market presence for themselves. That market presence is based on demand. A comparable position in terms of work performed has $0 value if there is no demand. Therefore, we cannot say what a position as grid administrator will pay. And in a free market, there is no “should”.

    It’s more likely that those who can work without pay or for little pay will be the ones who enter the field first and develop the most expertise. Then, someday, if their work can be compensated to the level of similar fields, such as Web administration, those outside the field may be attracted to develop the necessary skills to replace those who entered the field early.

  • I forgot one other option — payment with equity — that I just added to the story.

  • hack13

    This is one of the reasons I been working on developing newer technologies for OpenSimulator to help mitigate against these types of attacks. It is a new technology, so therefore thinking outside of the box is a requirement. It is one of the biggest luxuries of hiring a company like CloudServe, Dreamland Metaverse, Zetamex, etc.. to host your back-end.

    I know that each company invests in different solutions, that allow it to become more affordable. Zetamex has gone the route of a mix of cloud and dedicated to provide an affordable and reliable service. Which we will be posting a bit more information on it towards the new year. In terms of what I pay my staff, well lets just say we all wouldn’t be doing it if we didn’t like doing it.

    • you mean i could of made $70k a year from you if i didn’t enjoy the work? kidding.
      I do agree with you hack13, i refused to let you pay me because i was having fun working for you and it break my heart that it had to end but all good things must come to an end.

  • AviWorlds

    Here Maria ,….I hope you are HAPPY now and this is only going to be the beginning. You have opened up a can of worms with this article.

    HERE is JOSH BOAM asking me now for 250 dollars per week salary because of your ARTICLE here.

    Joshboam8:57 AM (2 minutes ago)

    to me

    250 a week and I’m all yours. You require a full time gridmaster and from what Maria says I should be getting 70 k a year so who’s the one being taken advantage.

    Sent from my iPad

    Joshboam8:58 AM (0 minutes ago)

    to me

    250 usd week you can do it 🙂

    Sent from my iPad

    • So… $250 a week is too much for you to pay for a CTO? That’s… $12,000 a year.

      Josh — Are you serious? Is this your rate? Hell, I’ve got a bunch of a projects that I’ve been meaning to do but are just beyond my technical abilities… I’m assuming, at this rate, that you either live in Inner Mongolia or are 14 years old… but I can deal with that! You’ve had Skyline Grid up and running, and then AviWorlds (which is a job and a half) and then AviWorlds and CloudServe had a fight over you…

      Actually, if i were you, I’d set up a consulting shop and start charging by the hour. Charging by the week is just an opportunity for people to waste your time. Yes, you’d have to do a bit more marketing — but then, the move to ally with AviWorlds was brilliiant. Now everybody knows your name!

      Here’s my five-step plan for you (or for any techie looking to get into the OpenSim consulting business):

      1. Set up a website that clearly lists your services. (Do NOT use the world “solution”. Just tell customers, in plain English, what you can do for them.)

      2. Get a beta customer. Do that stuff that you do for this customer at a discount IN EXCHANGE FOR being a reference customer. Do not give the discount otherwise. This is CRITICAL to getting a business going.

      3. Do a case study of this customer. Film them over Skype explaining what their needs were, and how you met those needs, and what you were like to work with. Then hire a writer to do a longer case study report, a matching press release, and a how-to article. (I’ve got some freelance writers I can recommend who know OpenSim and work cheap.) Put the customers’s face and a nice quote excerpt front and center on your website, put up the video in an easy-to-find location, post the case study, add the press release to your “media” page and send it out to free press release submission services (email me for a list), and send the how-to article to me to publish under your name, bio, and company link in Hypergrid Business.

      4. Pick a long-term marketing strategy and stick to it consistently. For example, Tangle Grid has put itself on the map with its regular Expo schedule. Virtual Highway and 3rd Rock send out regular announcements through social media about upcoming music events. Consultants can do the same. Here are some ideas:
      * Volunteer for a big-name non-profit (or two) in a way that lets you get public credit for your work. It’s a win-win-win for everyone: the non-profit gets your work, you get publicity for your company, and your customers can not only find you more easily but can see more examples of your work and what you’re like to work with. For example, you can donate code to OpenSim, help with the next OSCC, donate tech support for school districts using OpenSim, organize charity fundraisers, help open grids improve their management panels, etc… etc… — just pick something you believe in and can get behind, so you don’t get burned out.

      * Write — or have written — how-to articles specifically answering questions your customers are likely to ask. When potential customers Google those questions, your articles will come right up, and they’ll call you since you’re the obvious expect. Again, contact me if you need some freelancers to do the actual writing for you while you provide the basic info.
      * Answer people’s questions. Set up alerts on Quora, LinkedIn, Ask, and Google, subscribe to all the OpenSim mailing lists and groups, and when people ask questions, answer them and invite people to email you if they need more help. Then if it takes a few minutes or less, help them. If the help takes up too much time that you can’t afford to spend, refer them to other resources. (Such as the IRC channels.)
      * Buy ads. There are now several media outlets covering OpenSim — and virtual reality in general. Buy ads directly, or through AdSense. Be aware that it takes about six months for the ads to actually start kicking in — a person has to see an ad on average seven times before they feel familiar enough with the company that they’ll make a purchase. So figure out how much you want to spend, where you can get the biggest bang for your buck (i.e., where your potential customers are most likely to see and notice your ad) and then divide the spending up over six month. Make the buy up front — you can usually get a discount if you buy a long-term ad. Then, over the six months, experiment with different ad styles, colors, and call-to-action lines to see what works best for your company and your customers.
      * Make announcements. Package up smaller pieces of your work and sell it as kits people can download, or as content on the Kitely Market, and put out announcements each time you do so, as press releases to Hypergrid Business and other media, and as posts on all the social media. Or hold training events or “ask me any question and I’ll help you” office hours, Also put out announcements whenever you get a new referenceable customer.

      5. Assign a certain number of weekly hours to your marketing, or set aside a marketing budget (if you’re hiring someone to do it, or if your marketing strategy is running ads). Then stick to it. Otherwise, you’re likely to get into the feast-or-famine trap of freelancers and consultants. You get so busy with work, that you stop doing marketing. Then the work ends, and you have no work to do. You panic, start scrounging around for work, market like crazy because you now have all this free time on your hands and you’re hungry, and take the first things that come along — no matter how little it pays, and how much work is involved. And now you’re too busy to market again! Instead, do a regular amount of marketing every week. This allows you to pick and choose projects, so you can pick ones with great customers, or that can be showcase projects, or that pay particularly well. If you’re getting more customers than you can handle, raise your rates. And keep raising your rates until they’re high enough that you can hire assistants to help you with the more routine parts of your job, thus helping create jobs for the community.

      • AviWorlds

        Wow Maria…thats not it.
        An opensim grid that makes no profits cannot pay that much.
        And you are forgeting the fact that Mr.Josh Boam here is not trustworthy and very unstable.
        But go right ahead and tell people about him. Put your name in line.
        Im just about done with all the kinds that will go on the side that is wrong just because they dont like me.
        You all can be a great family!

        • If an OpenSim grid makes no profits and can’t afford to hire a real CTO, here are their options:

          * Bring on a CTO as a business partner. They still won’t make any money, but if their efforts help the grid become a commercial success, they’ll get to benefit from that success. Yes, this is a gamble. For a techie, it’s like playing the lottery. Most tickets will lose, but some will get spectacularly successful. It’s like the early days of the Web. And even losing tickets provide experience to list on a resume, and networking contacts.

          * Scale back your wish list and hire a hosting company to provide a standard, off-the-shelf infrastructure for your grid. If you get more money, use it to pay for consulting services for custom features.

          * Make your a grid a non-profit and bring on volunteers from your community to serve in place of staff.

          * Crowdsource. Set up a forum system or discussion board or meeting place where residents can gather to ask each other for help, and step in to answer just the hardest questions that nobody else can help with. Mentor and greeter systems can also work, even for commercial grids.

      • AviWorlds

        Josh Boam came to me to help Aviworlds up again. Then in the middle of the way he tutned on me and now he is illegally holding the data base my community registeted on.
        I will make sure everyone knows Josh Boam is not trustworthy and that what he is currently doing is unethical,immoral and diahonest.
        And you Maria are supporting what he and Mike Hart are doing.

  • Seth Nygard

    There are two sides to these kinds of situations, and it is unfair to try and judge all grids the same when it comes to technical support. It is not an easy apples to apples kind of comparison since many grids running OpenSim are small and have no profit motivation behind them, while others have a significant profit motivation. I don’t care how big your company is, if your goal is to make a profit then the costs of running your technical support for those grids should be factored into the business plan, and at rates that are representative of the work being done.

    Technical support for a grid is not as simple or straight forward as many think. OpenSim as a platform is still in it’s infancy in many regards, and does not scale particularly well. There are differences in how it behaves when running in Windows vs Linux vs Mac, and the default configuration is certainly only a very minimal starting point. It is certainly possible to get OpenSim up and running with little effort. However to turn that into a grid that runs smoothly and performs well requires a lot more effort and knowledge.

    If you look around you will see various prices for hosting, and in most of these cases you do get what you pay for, The lower cost regions will generally have poorer performance and experience more issues than the higher cost ones. This is one area where you do tend to get what you pay for. I know many people that have tried the various U$8-15 regions and have yet to find one that provides anywhere close to the user experience they wanted, or even expected.

    As we all consider the costs for support it is always good to look at things from both perspectives. How would a hosting provider react if a new customer came to them and said they wanted a region for free because that is how it is done elsewhere in OpenSim? That is in essence what they are saying to their technical support people when they don’t want to pay for support because that is how it is done in OpenSim. I know for a fact that several of the hosting providers have a very hard time finding technical support, and and even harder time keeping them.

    The simple fact is that OpenSim is becoming more commercialized, and as such will see changes in what these “norms” are.

    • Tommy Rock

      Great Article, Seth; We are fortunate in that our 8$ FLP regions do not fit into this category: “I know many people that have tried the various U$8-15 regions and have yet to find one that provides anywhere close to the user experience they wanted, or even expected.”, as we have sold many since the deployment of our First Land Program, and have YET to have one paid FLP region relinquished to this date (meaning there MUST be a high satisfaction rate). If a new resi came up to me and asked for such (a free region), I would recommend that they get SoaS, and have a go at it, being SoaS is still free (MINUS your inet costs) as the air we breathe. Unfortunately, nothing is free in life; everything has a cost associated with such, no matter HOW infinitesimal. 🙂

  • Rene

    Whether for profit or not for profit, there is food to be placed on the table, mouths to feed. Good will only goes so far. Unfortunately, too many NPOs think they can fish the volunteer stream, hopping from one volunteer to the next to get maintenance and development jobs done. That works for a while, but soon a couple of things happen: the NPO gets a reputation for exploiting volunteers, or, an opportunistic volunteer decides to gain far more benefit than the NPO ever expected. Pay people their worth, avoid these problems.

  • Merrie Schonbach
  • Hello Maria,

    I have been involved with OpenSim since December of 2007.
    Obviously most know me from 3rd Rock Grid, but many may not know that I do private work for other grids through Digital Worlds Group, LLC.
    I do not “Kiss and Tell”, but many grids have a bit of my work in them! 🙂

    Many grid owners/region owners do not have the financial ability to pay a full time person to take care of much of their needs.

    The way we have always worked is we estimate the time it will take me to perform a specific task for the grid and we charge $65/hr. based on that estimation.
    We require a 50% payment up front before we begin and we expect the remaining to be paid upon completion of the task we were hired to perform.

    Our group does custom OpenSim modules, Custom Grid Content, Custom PHP, MySQL Backups, MySQL Tuning, Implement Automated Backups via OARS and DB backups, Setup offsite Storage, Find and Correct issues, We can provide custom Windows based tools/utilities to perform much of the required OpenSim tasks, Server Management, and we can provide advice. We can also in some cases, depending on the needs, develop custom Unity, and IPAD/Android Apps, Region and Grid Hosting, Database Hosting, and Website Hosting.

    Obviously, it is very hard to find someone with the number of years of experience I have in building custom solutions, automating common tasks, and who can speak about past experiences as to what has worked and what hasn’t and why. It’s even harder to find someone who is willing to help another grid for an affordable rate.

    I have provided much advice for free to many, but for me to perform the work will cost them a fee as we all have to eat, but at our rates, once they pay us so we can eat, they’ll still have enough leftover for them to eat as well.

    DWG (Digital Worlds Group, LLC) is made up of a team of 5 people. Each person is very strong in a specific area.
    For example, I’m terrible at creating content in world, but we have people who can make custom meshes, custom animations, textures, etc.
    I couldn’t make an IPAD app without taking the time to learn how, but we have a team member who can.

    We can do anything you need for an OpenSim Grid, region, or website.

    This wasn’t meant to be a plug for Digital Worlds Group, LLC, but it has sorta turned out that way.
    – Affordable Rates
    – 7+ Years OpenSim Experience
    – 35+ years Programming Experience
    – Windows Apps
    – IPAD Apps
    – Android Apps
    – PHP, MySQL, HTML, WordPress, Javascript
    – Custom in world content.

    If you need something for your grid… look us up: http://www.digitalworldsgroup.com
    or email me at: [email protected]

  • Samantha Atkins

    One should look for a dev ops person with good automation skills to run/tune any web based system that is expected to scale and have reasonable backups and dependability. A web server guru may or may not have the requisite skillset to reasonably bulletproof a grid.

  • Samantha Atkins

    If I had developed the opensim chops to set up and tune and automate grids well then I would charge flat project rates rather than hourly. If my skills are good enough then I would be able to knock out a particular technical project quite quickly as long as nothing too innovative was needed that I hadn’t put in my kit before.