Flipping Websites with Designer Henry Jones

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GoMediaZine: Hello Henry, for those who aren’t familiar, can you tell us about yourself? Do you work alone, or with a team?

Henry Jones: I am a web designer, developer, blogger, and an entrepreneur. I have been designing and developing for the web for about 8 years now, but it wasn’t until recently that started blogging and got the entrepreneur bug. I am actually working on finishing up my last client contract within the next few months, at which time I will officially be a full time blogger. This has been my goal since I started blogging in early 2008.

Up until this month I have worked alone, which has been very stressful at times, but now I am getting some help from my wife. Our youngest child just started preschool, so she now has free time to help me with a lot the tasks that don’t necessarily require design skills, but have to be done.

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GoMediaZine: Let’s talk more about your entrepreneurial bug.  What have you done with it?  (hint: what sites have you started and have worked on)

Henry Jones: Well, it actually began a couple of years ago when my brother and I started GoodWidgets.com. It was a site that allowed people to easily create cool photo widgets and embed them on their blogs, and it was my first attempt to make money directly from a site. We held on to it for about a year and then sold in 2008. In a years time I’ve sold a total of 3 websites. The other two being DesignReviver.com and CardObserver.com. It’s very fulfilling to launch a site, grow it, and then sell for a nice profit.

GoMediaZine: I remember when Card Observer first came on the scene, I was impressed. I was surprised to hear you sold the site about 6 months after you launched it. Why did you sell it? Was this your intention from day one? Can you tell me about your experience designing the site, launching it, and the work you put in before you sold it?

Henry Jones: I originally got the idea for Card Observer about half a year prior to actually following through and creating it. I was noticing a lot of blogs doing roundup posts of really cool business cards and they were all getting popular. This was a sure sign to me that a gallery dedicated only to business card design would be a hit. I did some research and was pleased to discover that there wasn’t already a gallery like this out there. So after several months of procrastination, I finally launched it and it immediately went viral, pulling in over 60,000 pageviews on the second day.

Card Observer was built on WordPress, which made development quick and painless. I created a custom theme that was very minimal so that the site design wouldn’t get in the way of the business card designs. Although it has been modified a bit by the new owner.

My intention from day one wasn’t to sell the site, but I’m always open to selling a site if it makes sense. In this case it did. The money made from Card Observer allowed me to focus more on growing Web Design Ledger, which was the direction I wanted to go.

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GoMediaZine: Anyone can sell a site, but not anyone can sell a 6-month-old site for $50,000. What are the characteristics of a 50k website?

Henry Jones: Actually it was $55,000, but who’s counting. :) There are several factors that go into making a site attractive to potential buyers, but the most important is the amount of money it brings in, and the potential to increase that amount. A typical rule of thumb for pricing a site is 2 to 3 times yearly revenue. Card Observer was making $2900 per month in revenue.

Another factor that made Card Observer appealing to buyers was how easy it was to update the content. It only required about 15 minutes per day to add new business cards to the gallery, which would leave a lot of time to spend growing it and thinking of more ways to monetize it. Having a good design also plays a role in selling a site. I think people are willing to pay more money for a site that looks great.

GoMediaZine: What are your plans for Web Design Ledger? Do you plan on selling it as well? If not, why hold onto it?

Henry Jones: The ingredients for success may vary from niche to niche, but yes, those three ingredients have worked well for me when selling design related sites.

I plan on keeping Web Design Ledger. It’s grown much faster than I thought it would and has really blossomed into a valuable resource for web designers. It’s also coming up on it’s one year anniversary, so after investing so much time it would be difficult to give it up. I’ve become attached to the site and the readers. Going forward, WDL will serve as a “flagship” blog and as a launching pad for new sites.

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GoMediaZine: What are the advantages of selling your site as opposed to keeping the monthly revenue from ads or subscriptions?

Henry Jones: I actually think there are more advantages to keeping a site. When you hang on to a site you have things like: steady income, future equity growth, and an audience. By selling you lose all of that. Other than having one less site to manage, the only advantage to selling is possibly getting up to three years revenue in one lump sum. However, this can be a huge advantage depending on how you use that money.

Getting the money from Card Observer was big for me because it allowed me to quit taking client work and focus on growing my business as a full time blogger. The decision should really come down to your own business goals.

GoMediaZine: That’s good advice. If I were to start a new site with the intention of selling it, what should my priorities be? How long does it typically take?

Henry Jones: Actually, I would say that your priorities shouldn’t be any different than if you were building a site without the intentions to sell. Just focus on creating great content and adding value to the niche you are in. If you do all the things necessary things to grow your site, the traffic and money will come.

The amount of time it takes depends on how hard you work and how much money you want to make. I could have held on to my sites longer and grown them more, which would have meant making more money from selling.

GoMediaZine: Do you have any plans for new sites in the future?

Henry Jones: Yes. I have several sites planned. I’m hoping to have 3 going by the end of the year, and would like to eventually have a large network of sites.

GoMediaZine: How do you find a buyer? Who pays $50,000 for a site? Can you give us a few links to learn more about flipping sites?

Henry Jones: The three sites that I’ve sold were all posted on SitePoint Marketplace which is now Flippa.com. It’s basically a place for selling and buying websites. I’ve discovered that the types of people that buy websites does vary. I’ve sold to companies that want to add another property to their network of sites, and I’ve sold to individual entrepreneurs that aim to make their money back plus more within a short period of time.

I thing whether you’re going to flip a site or keep it, your focus should be on building great content and building traffic. A few of my favorite sites that offer great tips on how to grow a site are ProBlogger.net, Performancing.com, and DoshDosh.com.

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