5 marketing tips for freebie designers

There are many reasons to go into the freebie business on OpenSim:

  • Create brand-name recognition for yourself as a designer in order to sell premium content
  • Create brand-name recognition in order to do custom work
  • To attract people to your grid, community, role playing group, casino, or event venue
  • To help newcomers get started in OpenSim
  • To improve the design aesthetic of the metaverse

You might wonder how I can support freebies, especially since the word “business” is right up there in the masthead.

But businesses love freebies just like everyone else does. By using freebies, companies can reduce their costs, which improves their profit margins, or they can lower prices and become more competitive. Or companies can use the money they would have spent on improving their products. Freebies often have better license terms than commercial products, as well. For example, open source software is extremely popular in enterprises because of the cost, and because it can be customized to fit corporate needs more than proprietary, locked-down alternatives.

Freebie store under construction on YFC3D grid. (Image courtesy YFC.)
Freebie store under construction on YFC3D grid. (Image courtesy YFC.)

And if you’re a designer who’s having a hard time selling products because of competition from freebies, remember that the presence of freebies has no effect on the size of the customer’s wallet. It’s just that now, instead of buying a bunch of mediocre things, the customer can get the mediocre things for free, and spend more money on classy, high-end items.

So, for example, I have no problem in wearing freebies while building and hanging out with friends. But when my avatar is in front of the camera, or giving a speech, I need nice designer mesh jackets and dresses — and I’m happy to pay for them. Also — shoes.

But not all freebies are equal.

Here are some tips for making yours stand out.

Be generous with the license terms

For many designers, hearing the word “license” reminds them of legal contracts and makes their heads hurt. They don’t want to worry about it, so they just avoid the issue altogether.

But by doing that, they’re hurting themselves, and their customers.

That’s because, if you don’t specify any license terms, then the default terms apply — that means, as a general rule, that the person who gets your content can’t distribute it, can’t take it to other grids, and can’t modify it for resale. However, individual grids may override the default license terms in their Terms of Service. For example, some grids might specify that content distributed as “full perm” is allowed to leave the grid.

As a designer, you may or may not want that to happen.

Fortunately, you can specify what your terms are — and your wishes override everything else.

My recommendation? Use the CC0 license. This is the license that Linda Kellie uses, that Ener Hax uses, and that I use for most of the free content I distribute.

Here are some reasons why:

  • While CC0 is often referred to as a “public domain” license, it does not actually put the content into public domain. The original creator can still distribute the content under other license terms in other circumstances. For example, you might sell a bundled version of your content to corporate customers under a site license.
  • Many designers prefer to use the CC-BY license because it requires that customers preserve the attribution. But now the customers have to track all the creators of everything they use. It’s a bookkeeping nightmare! Linda Kellie’s content is distributed with no credit necessary — but everybody knows her name. Be nice. Be humble. Don’t demand credit, and people will give it to you of their own free will.
  • The other popular license is CC-NC, the non-commercial license. This means that other people can’t profit off your work. Sounds good, right? Wouldn’t you hate it if someone gathered up all your freebies and went around selling them everywhere? Relax. Take a big breath.
    1. Nobody is actually taking money away from you! You still have all your money.
    2. There’s a reason you’re not selling these freebies. It’s too much of a pain, or there isn’t enough market out there for you to bother with, or you want to help people. If someone else sells your freebies, they’re not actually changing any of those reasons. It’s still too much of a pain, there still isn’t enough of a market, and if a customer wants these freebies for free, they can still get them from you.
    3. Finally, customers don’t know what “non-commercial” means. Does it mean that they can’t take them to a for-profit grid? Does it mean that they can’t use them as a base for their own builds? Does that mean that they can’t use them if they’re a for-profit company themselves?

So put your customers first, and do your brand name — and OpenSim development — a big, big favor. Let your freebies go under a CC0 license and watch them spread across the metaverse and be included in other builds.

All you have to do is put “CC0” as your license terms, maybe adding “Use for any purpose any where,” just to make it extra clear.

Use multiple distribution channels

In the past, I would have urged you to put it up on OpenSim Creations, but that site is down. A couple of folks have told me that that they’re working on alternative sites, but nobody has really come up with anything yet that looks like it could take off.

So your current options are:

  • Distribute the content on your own website in OAR, IAR or XML formats
  • Post the content on a file-sharing site and share the links
  • Distribute the content on your own region or grid
  • Take advantage of the freebie store space that some grids offer and distribute there

Use as many of these as you can — make it as easy as possible for people to find and use your content.

Promote yourself

Once you’ve found your distribution channel or channels, get the word out:

Don’t take criticism personally

Of course, it’s easy to say “don’t take it personally” — actually doing it is harder!

Here’s a three-step method that I use when people send me rude emails or call me up in the middle of the night and wake me up to yell at me about my coverage:

  1. Is there any merit to the criticism? If so, admit it, and thank the person.
    For example:
    Critic: Your writing sucks and spelled “misspell” wrong. What kind of an idiot are you?
    Me: Hey, thanks for catching that typo! I appreciate it.
  2. Ignore everything that you can’t change or that’s a matter of preference or personal opinion or is simply wrong. Engaging in a debate about it isn’t going to improve your life, or change the other guy’s opinion, so why bother? This is especially true in public venues! If you do want to correct a factual misconception, try reframing the issue so you can use step 1 above.
    For example:
    Critic: You’re a lousy builder, and you’re fat and ugly. Also, you don’t make cats, so you suck.
    You: You make a good point — I haven’t done a particularly good job letting people know about my cats, have I? You can find them here, and here, and I’ll make a note to feature them more prominently on my home page. Thanks for letting me know!
  3. If the critic repeatedly makes comments that are personal attacks without the slightest little hint of anything constructive, no matter how much you try to reframe it, then block them. If you try to engage in debate, you’ll be sinking to their level, and making yourself miserable. Stay out of it, and stay classy.

Remember that the more famous you get, the more critics you will attract. That’s just the way life is.

Don’t try to tell me you yourself have never cast aspersions on politicians, celebrities, successful business owners, or sports starts. You probably didn’t give a second thought for their feelings, did you? And if you ever saw them complaining about criticism, you’d pile it on deeper — after all, they’re rich and famous, they should be able to handle it, right?

Well, karma sucks.

Now it’s you in the hot seat. You’re the rich and famous one — at least, compared to your critics.

Also, do you know what the worst thing you can do to a critic is? You can ignore them.

If they get a rise out of you, they’ve won. They got your attention. And by responding to them, you give them recognition and validate their existence.

Use your powers for good

Even before you get the wealth or fame you deserve, start giving back to the community.

Donate your time, or custom work, to good causes.

Help new, up-and-coming designers and builders.

Share your skills by holding classes, writing advice columns, or just answering questions posed in the online communities.

Maria Korolov