This article is the first in a series focusing on topics related to selling websites and blogs. You can see the follow up article here. When other articles in the series are published I’ll add links:
If you’ve read my article How I’ve Made Over $1 Million Blogging you know that selling websites and blogs has been a major part of my business over the past 10 years. While I’ve made a pretty decent income from managing my own sites and blogs, it’s the lump sums that I’ve made from selling some of those digital properties that has been life changing for me and my family.
I’m not saying I can kick back and never work again, because that’s not the case at all… I work long hours every week. But selling websites has allowed my wife and I to load up on our retirement savings so we’ll hopefully be able to retire a little early, plus we’re able to live mortgage free.
Over the years the topics related to my experience with selling websites and blogs have always seemed to be intriguing to a lot of other bloggers. If you’ve never bought or sold a website before it can be a little overwhelming to think about the process of actually selling your own blog. But at the same time it can be really exciting to think about how much money you might be able to get for it!
When I was first getting started as a blogger I was always inspired and motivated when I would read stories about other people getting a nice chunk of money for their blog. I remember when one of my blogging friends, Henry, sold a blog for $40,000. It was exciting to see that other people were making real money as a result of their hard work.
But selling a blog or website that you’ve spent countless hours on is not an easy decision. There are pros and cons of selling. In fact, some people wonder why you would ever want to sell a website that is making money. In my opinion, it’s really a personal decision and your own unique situation will be a big factor in determining if you should sell or not.
In this article I want to take a balanced look at the pros and cons of selling a website or blog. For the purpose of this article, I’m assuming we’re talking about an established site that you’ve been managing for a while and one that brings in some money for you. It doesn’t have to be a huge amount of money. Even blogs that make a few hundred dollars per month can justify a selling price that will make you take notice.
Reasons to Sell a Website or Blog
There are several different reasons why you might want to sell a profitable website.
1. Cashing Out
The most obvious reason to consider selling a website or blog is the money that you can get from the sale. Instead of slowly making money over a period of time with the site you can potentially make one lump sum, and then have no more responsibility with the site. (In a lot of cases, especially with bigger selling prices, the purchase may be spread out into multiple payments, but you should at least get a significant amount up front.)
In some cases people sell websites because they need a large amount of money and selling is the best way to get it quickly. Even if you don’t need the money, selling can present a way to “cash out” on the time and effort that you have put into the site. You’ve been making money each month by maintaining the site, but selling puts you in a position to really get the most out of the time and effort that you have put into it.
If you feel that the value of your site (your revenue and profit) isn’t likely to increase over time, you may want to consider selling it while the value is at its peak. Part of being successful with selling websites is knowing when to sell. You don’t want to sell too early before you’ve been able to maximize the value of the site, but you also don’t want to wait too long and miss the opportunity to sell while the site is at its peak.
2. The Ability to Free Up Your Time
One of the biggest motivating factors for me when I’m considering selling a site is the time that it will free up. Most profitable websites require some time each week, and in some cases it can be a large time investment. If you sell the site and eliminate the need to spend time on the site going forward you can use that time in other ways. You can then focus on projects that you’ve been wanting to work on, or you can simply work fewer hours.
When you are maintaining your own websites and blogs for a living, your time is money. While your site may be profitable, that doesn’t meant that is the best use of your time. Sure, it makes money for you each month. But could you make more money if you were able to free up that time and use it for something else? Perhaps you have other sites that have become a better use of your time. Selling off your other profitable, but less valuable, websites may allow you to focus more of your time on your most valuable sites.
Or maybe it’s not so much that another project is a better use of your time. Maybe there is something else that you would just enjoy more.
3. Avoiding Future Risk
The main reason that I hear or read for why you should not sell a website is the loss of ongoing revenue. Say your site is making you $1,000 in profit each month. You might be able to sell it for $20,000. This is a nice chunk of money, but you could make more than that just by maintaining the site over the next two years.
This is true, and something that needs to be considered, but it’s not always the whole truth. First, there is some value in freeing up the time that you won’t need to dedicate to the site after you sell it. With that time you might be able to produce more than $1,000 per month. Second, there is no guarantee of future revenue or profit.
Over the past several years Google has made many algorithm changes, and thousands of profitable websites have been severely impacted by those changes. If your site relies on Google for a decent percentage of traffic, there is no guarantee that your traffic level will stay the same. The same thing could be said about social networks like Facebook and Pinterest.
Even aside from Google’s algorithm changes there are plenty of other ways for a site’s income to drop. Maybe the topic of your site loses popularity over time and your audience simply becomes smaller or less enthusiastic.
Selling your site today helps you to avoid the risk of your income dropping. Buyers are taking the risk, and this is part of why prices for established websites and blogs are not higher.
Selling a website can provide a sense of closure for the project. While selling a site that you have an emotional connection to is not easy, there will be times when it feels right to get some closure on a project that you started, and move on to something else.
Want to know for sure that the site you devoted 2 years of your life to was a success? Sell it for a good price and you’ll know exactly how much money you made for your effort.
5. Loss of Interest
If you have maintained a website for a few years it’s very possible that your interest in the site or the subject has just faded over time. We all have interests that change, and continuing to maintain a site that no longer interests you can become quite a chore. If this describes your situation, you may want to consider selling the site so you can use your time working on other sites that will be more enjoyable for you.
6. Maxed Potential
There may be times when you feel like you’ve done everything you’re able to do with a site. If you work on your own you may reach a point where you feel like you will need to hire other people or bring on a partner in order to take the site to the next level. If this is something that you don’t want to do you might prefer to sell the site to someone or a company that is in a better position to help the site to continue its growth.
Reasons Not to Sell a Website or Blog
There are also plenty of reasons why you might not want to sell your website or blog. For someone who advocates selling websites and blogs, you may be surprised to see that I have listed even more cons to selling than pros. In order to make the sale a good decision for you, you’ll need to find the right timing and the right buyer/offer. If you try to force the sale when the timing isn’t right you could be making a move that you’ll regret.
Here are some reasons why you might not want to sell.
1. Emotional Connection to the Site
If you’ve spent a few years building your website and your audience, chances are you have a strong emotional connection to it. Selling the site to someone else and simply moving on may not be something that you want to do. The more of yourself that you pour into your site the harder it can be to let it go.
2. Lost Income
While selling a profitable site is a way to make a nice lump sum, you’ll be doing that by sacrificing your ability to make ongoing revenue from the site. If the site is an important part of your monthly income you will need to be able to quickly replace that income or adjust your living expenses to account for lower income.
3. Prices are too Low
Most website buyers are looking for great deals. People who buy sites frequently know that in order for the transaction to work out well for them they cannot overpay for the site. Especially if you’re selling your site at a marketplace like Flippa, there will be plenty of bargain hunters that will only be interested if you are willing to almost give your site away.
As a seller it can be frustrating to see that other people’s value of your site is not as high as what you feel it’s worth. If this is the case, your best move is to hold on to the site and keep moving forward with it, unless you are in a position where you absolutely have to sell.
One key to keep in mind is that you only need to find one buyer who values your site. You could have 100 people at Flippa tell you that your site is not worth what you are asking, but if you find just one person who is willing to pay your asking price, that’s all that matters.
By the way, I don’t really advise selling an established and profitable site on Flippa. Some sites fetch a good price there, but overall there are better options for sellers. I sold two sites on Flippa (one was in 2010 and the other was probably 2011). Since then I have always sold my sites privately. We’ll get to the options for selling later in this series.
4. No Guarantee of Future Success
If you’ve built one profitable site you’re probably confident that you can do it again. Confidence in your ability is a great thing and I do hope that you’re confident, but keep in mind that there is no guarantee that your next site will be as successful as the one you are selling. Before you sell a site that is making a lot of money for you, really consider your plans for the future and be sure that you feel it’s the right move for you.
In the world of internet marketing things change very quickly. After selling my most profitable site, one that had been my primary source of income for several years, I had to re-learn a lot of things in order to reach success with my new websites. Most of the strategies that I used to grow a blog several years ago are no longer as effective today. Building a new site from scratch and making it profitable is a lot more challenging than maintaining a profitable site, so be sure that you are ok with starting over.
5. Loss of Control Over Your Site
This point kind of goes along with the first point about having an emotional attachment to your site. When you sell you’ll be giving up all control over the site and someone else will be making every decision. You may or may not agree with the direction they choose for the site.
I typically don’t get emotionally attached to my websites. I don’t have a hard time selling a site and handing it over to someone else, as long as I am happy with the price. But what I struggle with is a few months later when I notice some change that I wouldn’t have made or some new direction that I don’t agree with. If you’re considering selling a website you need to be prepared to completely give up control of the site, and understand that you may not like what the site becomes in the future.
6. Loss of Influence
Depending on the site that you’re selling and the audience that you’ve built over time, you may also be giving up a great deal of influence in the industry or niche. In some cases you may be able to carry some of that over through your own personal branding, but by selling a popular website you will be giving up a platform that can be used to reach and influence your audience.
Influence can be a very valuable thing. For example, if you have one popular blog you could use it as a springboard to launch other sites, products, or services that target a similar audience. If you sell your site you will no longer be able to use it in this way.
Getting paid in a lump some is great, except for when it comes to taxes. Before selling a website or blog I recommend that you consult an accountant to get an idea of how it will impact your tax position. This becomes increasingly important as the price gets higher. If the income from the sale results in a huge tax bill you may prefer to simply keep the site.
I also recommend talking to your accountant about how the income will be treated and taxed (as regular income or capital gains).
8. Finding the Right Buyer/Offer is Not Easy
The biggest lesson I learned from my first website sale is that finding a buyer, at the right price, is not easy. I had planned to sell the site for a few months and was working to increase the income before looking for a buyer. I had a decent network of people to contact about the sale, and I did get a few offers through the connections in my network, but none that were even close to my asking price.
I did wind up selling the site a few weeks later, but it was for a price that was lower than I really wanted (although higher than the first few offers I got). I moved forward with the sale because I wanted to free up my time for a new project, and that turned out to be a good move in the long run.
Don’t assume that you will be able to quickly or easily find a buyer that is willing to pay a good price for your site. Be prepared to continue to maintain the site for a while during the process of finding a buyer. With my largest sale I was planning to wait several months to find the right buyer. It wound up taking only two months because I had a good connection from someone in my network, but that’s still longer than most people would assume that it would take. Finding a buyer can take time and effort, which may or may not be something that you are willing to do.
If you hire a broker to handle the sale you’ll have a better chance of getting a deal, but you’ll probably pay 10-15% commission to the broker. Even with a broker, a sales isn’t likely to happen instantly.
9. Non-Compete Agreements
As part of the sales agreement the buyer may require you to sign an agreement not to compete. The details will vary, but a typical agreement may restrict you from working on another website in the same industry for a year to a few years. This can prevent you from starting your own website that will target a similar audience, and it can also prevent you from working as a freelancer or an employee for another company/website in the same industry. Before you agree to a sale be sure that you are aware of any non compete agreements required by the buyer, and be sure that they do not conflict with your plans for the future or prevent you from being able to earn an income going forward.
You can also negotiate the terms and details of the non-compete agreement. You could try to get the length of time shortened, or you could ask for certain provisions to be included that would allow you to do whatever it is that you are planning after the sale. In my last few sales I’ve had some specific provisions added to the non-compete agreements to make sure that I can continue to do the things I want to do.
In my opinion it’s best to be upfront and clear with the buyer about your plans for after the sale. If they have no problems with those plans you can get those details laid out specifically in the contract so you won’t be in jeopardy of violating a non-compete agreement.
What Are Your Thoughts?
Have you ever sold a website or blog? Would you consider selling a profitable website? Please feel free to share in the comments section.