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Flippin’ Websites & Makin’ (A Tiny Bit Of) Money

I have pretty limited experience in selling websites, but I thought some people might be interested in what has happened so far.

iconPot

My first experience with selling a website was iconPot which I sold in March 2010. I made this website in literally 4 hours one weekend in early 2009. It was a ridiculously simple single page HTML website. Seriously. I didn’t even bother with a back-end! With the usual marketing ploys, it got covered on some blogs, delicious, stumbleupon and others. After a while, the traffic levelled off and we were doing about 5,000 pageviews a day (definitely not huge by any standard). It also averaged about $60-$100 per month in advertising through BuySellAds.

I then received an email asking how much I wanted to sell iconPot for from a guy in the USA. I emailed back and said $8,000 initially. Totally trying my luck as I hadn’t really considered selling it and also was being a bit cautious having been contacted out of the blue by someone when it involves money. After exchanging traffic analytics of the website, the guy surprisingly came back with a $5,000 counter offer – and I agreed to sell. How could I not!? That figure was something like 4-5 years worth of projected revenue – totally unheard of in most website sales where the selling price is usually 12-24 months revenue at a maximum.

We settled on payment being done via Escrow.com which is (from what I could see) the safest way to transfer money for website sales. It basically involves the buyer paying Escrow, who then wait to confirm the domain name has been transferred before passing the funds on to me – taking a small cut themselves of course.

The transation went smoothly and I bought my DSLR camera and accessories with the money, and banked the rest 🙂 And of course, the iconPot website was quickly totally ruined by the buyer, removing all useful content and replacing it with ads. *clap clap*. I have to be honest in saying that it is sad to see something you made be totally destroyed and lose all credibility and usefulness. But when selling a website you have to try to forget about that and remember the stuff you used the money for!

FWDitON

The other website which I always thought could be sold is FWDitON.com. This website was started in 2006 and the idea for the website literally came to me while driving my car one day – a social repository for all of those FWD: FWD: funny email you get in your inbox. Back then, nothing of a similar nature existed. This site is totally different to iconPot in that I really would have lost count of the number of hours of development I have spent on the site – hundred and hundreds for sure. It has been through 3 major redevelopments in those ~5 years, consistently adding more and more features and improvements.

The site’s heyday was definitely during 2008 & 2009, when it was covered on major blogs like TechCrunch and even had a couple of mentions on broadcast TV in the USA. At this time, the site was doing amazing (in my eyes) traffic (400,000 pageviews per month) and decent revenue ($300+ per month).

This was all happening during one of the web 2.0 bubbles and I was contacted by a number of Venture Capitalists (VC’s) and investors wanting to invest in the site. I never could quite get my head around their interest and take the site in such a serious business manner. So like an idiot, I always sold myself short in my phone calls with them, saying things like “oh, we are not a company, its just a site I work on in my spare time…” and my favourite, “I don’t really have a set plan of what to do to grow the site. I guess I could quit my job to work on the site fulltime and spend money on marketing?” – all of which is probaby not the thing to say to people who want to give you money! Business plans and faux confidence would have been good right about this time.

Lesson learnt. Who knows what the site could have become.. a profitable business like collegehumor would have been on the cards for sure. Or perhaps I should have just sold it at this peak. Either way, I should have been smarter. I can look back on my ignorance and laugh now.

Anyway, so slowly but surely I lost interest in the site, traffic and revenue died off and I have barely touched the site since late 2008. So I recently thought  that I may as well try to sell the site. I turned to the Flippa website which is quite well known for “flipping” (a.k.a. buying/selling) websites. I spent a bit of time collating all the required information for potential buyers and created a new listing on Flippa for FWDitON.com.

At the end of the auction, the price had only got to $2000US. Which is approximately 2 years of revenue. Even though this price is probably about right for the site’s current revenue and traffic, I just couldn’t let it go for that – seeing as how popular and profitable it had once been in the glory days. I do believe that with the right owner who has more motivation than me, the site could climb up the rankings again. I am fully aware that I am probably in the wrong here in not being able to accept the site for what it is right now. My experience with selling iconPot also hasn’t helped my impression for what I *think* FWDitON should sell for.

My experiences with these two sites demonstrates that the selling price of a website doesn’t always correlate to the number of hours development effort and preceived worth. I simply cannot fathom how anyone could think a silly site like iconPot was worth more than a complex and more popular site like website FWDitON.com. The value is in the eye of the beholder I guess! My experience with selling iconPot may also show that, well, sometimes you just get lucky!