This is part three of a series of five with one piece of advice from some of the most successful domain investors, domain developers, domain monetizers, and others involved in the domain industry. I asked them for one piece of advice they would give to a part-time domain investor looking to build his business. I believe there are quite a few people who are part time domain investors, and I also believe just about anyone involved in the industry can apply some of this advice to their own business models.
I really appreciate all of the contributions from the industry leaders who contributed, and I hope the advice contained within is helpful to you now – or will be helpful to the growth of your business in the future. As an FYI, I intentionally did not put these posts in any particular order.
If you haven’t read them yet, I recommend viewing part one and part two, and part four will be posted tomorrow.
Thunayan Khalid AL-Ghanim, Future Media Architects:
Have a long term plan.
Take a risk, that can be handled.
and just go with the flow.
Make sure you are enjoying what you are doing.
Ted O’Keefe, Internet Venture Holdings:
We started domain investing out of frustration with stock investing. In the past fifteen years the stock market has been through some very tumultuous times. With rapid corporate fraud from Worldcom to Enron to Citibank. We didn’t want all of our money tied up in stocks and real estate. This has been great foresight with the unseemly mortgage backed securities debacle destroying stock and bond portfolios over the past few years.
Domain investing offered a different type of appreciating asset that had some liquidity, minimal expenses, and the potential for high returns which made it attractive. There was significant legal risks but varying ways to minimize this risk with development which was becoming very easier with the varying tools available for non-technical people.
The approach to domain investing should follow the same principles as stock investing except, a new investor should only invest in domain names with the ‘true’ speculative portion of their portfolios. Think of this as the mad money portion of your portfolio except it’s not for fast trading. We believe domain investing is still a buy and hold strategy. Some have had success flipping higher quality domains and if this is your strategy be sure you have a buyer or else it’s like owning a rental home with no renters.
We’ve seen random offers for some of our domains increase five fold in just a few years. That tells us we’ve made good investments. When a better investment comes along we’ll know it’s time to sell.
The same rules should apply as stock investing; 1) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket 2) Diversify 3) Know what you’re buying.
A good rule might be not to invest more than five percent of your overall portfolio and certainly not more than you can afford to lose. As the domain investor develops more confidence in the industry they can gradually expand this portion of their portfolio. If you have some early successes you might decide to make domains twenty-five percent or more of your overall portfolio. Early success are not unheard of – early on we made thirty thousand on a domain we owned less than a year. The buyer had success in online commerce with other ventures so in buying our domain investment he had a business already planned behind the purchase. We opted to immediately invest these funds back into other good domain names.
A good rule of thumb when domain investing that we continue to live by. Don’t buy a domain that you could not sell yourself via auction for the same price. If at any time you need to liquidate for any reason you want to minimize the downside. By owning the domain hopefully, you were able to enjoy a monthly dividend by parking your domain with advertisements so you still made money.
Now here is where domain investing is different from stock investing. We like to invest in domains when we ‘find a situation.’ Having a direct line to a current domain owner or eventually finding the owner will allow the new domain investor to talk to the owner and and get an understanding of the motivation for selling. If the domain investor is not interested in selling don’t beg. Often a domain owner will say a price that he/she thinks is high but might pose value to you as a domain investor. Most often negotiations are over the phone so let the domain owner just talk…
Every higher quality domain we’ve purchased has been one of the following scenarios; business bankruptcies or liquidations, health and or sickness, or just a change in a persons life – need money, moving, job loss, retirement etc. etc. If we don’t have one of these situations we walk away or record it for a future phone call. Without motivation to sell the current domain owner is likely in love with his domain and thinks someone is going to come along and give him a million dollars. Not to say this won’t happen but he might be holding it for a long time. The great thing about domain investing is there is always another great deal just down the road you just have to find it which is part of the fun.
Another strategy to keep in mind – unique to domain investing, keep your end user in mind. After all dot com stands for ‘commerce’. The movement to commerce on the internet is a revolution that is happening rapidly before our eyes. Informational type websites are helpful but they seldom motivate a potential buyer to spend alot of money for a domain. If there is not some type of business plan behind the domain purchase the buyer probably won’t spend alot of money which is what your trying to achieve.
Remember that many of the dominant domain investors in this young industry used type writers and went to the library when they were in high school or college. Computers in the home or office were scarce and only few know how to really use them for actual communication. There is still many opportunities in this industry.
Ron Jackson, DN Journal:
LOOK BEFORE YOU LEAP! I think the most common mistake that newcomers make is diving in head first before they know where the dangers below the surface lie. At first glance, this business looks easy – register a few names that you think sound cool and promptly resell them for 10-100 times what you paid for them. If only it were that simple! Unfortunately, there is a fairly steep learning curve involved and if you start throwing money at domains before you understand what makes certain ones valuable and others worthless, you are going to be throwing your money away. Since many come into this business with limited capital to begin with, leading with your wallet instead of carefully acquired wisdom could be a fatal mistake.
Among other things you have to take time to learn about keywords and which ones have value to the investors or businesses who are going to be your source of income. Generally speaking, you will do best with domains that define a commercial product or service or represent a reasonably sized locale (geodomains). It is those types of domains (especially in .com) that generate type-in traffic because people are always searching for the products, services and locations those domains represent. If you really want to go for the golden ring via full scale development, those kinds of domains also give you a head start because the name defines your business category – they are essentially unforgettable and that is a huge asset for an online business.
There are almost endless resources available today to help you learn about domains. So, take your time and learn from others with a track record of success. Don’t start buying things until you understand why they are likely to produce a return on your investment either through PPC, affiliate income, resale or development. Being in a hurry will get you nowhere fast. Take the time to learn what constitutes quality and then buy the best you can. This is even more important if you venture away from .com. There are opportunities in other extensions, but since the pool of buyers you can resell to is smaller it becomes even more important to accept only the best keywords if you decide to diversify into other TLDs. If you do diversify, remember that quality rules with extensions too – first world ccTLDs like .de and .co.uk are proven winners but there is almost no chance of finding buyers for third world ccTLDs like .ws and .cc. I still firmly believe that this is a great business with many paths to success. Though it is a unique business, it also has one thing in common with just about every other industry or investment – those who take the time to study before buying in are the ones who end up making the smartest choices.
Nat Cohen, Telepathy:
My advice would be go for quality. It’s the same advice I was given as a kid by an old-timer when I was getting into stamp collecting. Don’t spend your budget on several mediocre domains, spend it on the highest quality domain you can afford. The higher the quality, the more sought after it will be. A high quality domain should hold its value better when things are bad, and increase its value most when things are good.
When analyzing domains for parking, only buy domains when you know you are “shooting the fish in the barrel”. What I mean is that some domains are obvious winners and you already know this when analyzing them. Buy domains like MadridHotels.com or less expensive ones like PearTrees.com.
There are many other domains that look great and your knee-jerk reaction is to think would love to own them. However, you may not know for sure if they are great or not. Pass on the latter domains. These are like MadridHotelDeals.com or PearTreeSeeds.com . These domains may very well make money, but do you know this for sure? Why would you take a chance if you don’t have to? Pass on them, there are so many domains in the world to own. You want prime property. Take your time and keep looking.
Great domains will appear eventually at prices you can afford. It will make for a more secure foundation in a domain portfolio in almost all respects. You will also get all kinds of emails from potential buyers while you park these prime properties. All these potential buyers allow for an escape route, or exit strategy, if you should ever decide to leave the business. You don’t want to get stuck with tons of unsellable or slow to sell domain properties if you get in a jam.
This method is actually cheaper or equal to what you would spend buying a boat load of mediocre properties. You may have less domains only buying great domains, but you will make more money and have lower monthly renewal fees.
Morgan Linton, Domainvestors.tv:
Never stop learning. Read every blog, article, and book you can find – the moment you think you know it all is the moment you stop learning!
Eric Borgos, Impulse Communications:
My advice to aspiring domainers would be to try a little of everything and see what works. Too many people come up with a plan, spend weeks or months getting things setup and dreaming of all the money they will make, and then things don’t go as they expected. It is not always that their plan is bad, but sometimes other things go wrong, like web hosting problems, website errors, cash flow problems, partnership problems, copyright issues, programmer delays, affiliate program issues, etc.
I would suggest trying a little of everything to see what works for you. Do some minisites, try flipping domains, try putting blogs on your domains, try some SEO, try brokering domains, try hand registering domains, try buying expired domains, try setting up real websites on your domains, or try starting a website about the domaining business or start a service to domainers. What works for you is not always what works for other people.
Ammar Kubba, Thought Convergence:
Four words: Go With Your Gut!! This is especially true for “part-time” domain investors, as they have the luxury of having a “day job” to support their domaining habit. In this regard, part-time domainers have both an advantage and a disadvantage. Their advantage is that they don’t spend all of their time in the industry, thereby giving them an invaluable outsider perspective on potential opportunities within the space, one which full-time domainers may be missing. On the other hand, part-time domainers may not fully understand the many intricacies and machinations of our complex industry, thereby causing them to miss out on potential opportunities that they may unknowingly already have access to.
This “Go With Your Gut” philosophy also helps in getting past all of the naysayers that we’ve all encountered along the way… people that don’t understand our industry will never understand or support the seemingly risky investments in “virtual real estate” that we routinely make every day. It goes without saying that we’ve all made mistakes along the way… some more than others, but we’ve ALL had to learn through trial and error. Without a strong constitution and an iron will, most of us wouldn’t be here today. This same requirement holds true for current part-time domainers that are looking to make the transition to the big leagues.
Alan Hack, Names Plus Marketing:
My advice would be to have patience and faith in yourself and your vision. Too many people give up if they don’t have success in a short period of time. I would also advise that people network with and learn from others who are succeeding in the business. One great idea or contact can make a significant difference in your business.
Alan Dunn, Newfound Names, LLC:
Do not consider yourself an expert on anything – there is always someone who knows more and will teach you things any “expert” should know.
Always listen more than speak.
Do not follow trends. Trends are usually short lived and not a means to long term financial security. If you can ride a wave then bring a good board but know when to head back to the beach and look for another wave.
Stop reading domain blogs. Check in once a week, very little news will ever make you any money. Focus on developing.
Only believe 20% of what Rick says. This 20% is more than enough to help you understand the industry – the other 80% is just going to help you become a better car salesman … peace, Rick 🙂
Stop thinking in cents – anybody can make a buck.
Elliot – thanks for posting this great series, and thanks to the folks that you reached out to for their valuable insights.
Unfortunately, I’ve made many of the mistakes that are pointed out here, and they’ve been painful. I hope that a lot of newbies find this series before they jump in too deeply.
Like Ron Jackson says, “At first glance, this business looks easy” – but nothing could be further from the truth.
That said, and having learned some of the lessons pointed out by these successful folks the hard way, I know that a newbie can make money in this biz by studying what’s valuable and why, and not spending too much money on garbage.
Some good advice here, my thoughts though are how do we know who’s advice is worth taking? Which of the commentators have actually made good money with domaining?
In the domaining industry everyone wants to give advice but 90% of those people are not even making a living online, some are making less than $1000 per month yet they keep giving advice on how to make money with domaining. I say we throw out all that advice until the giver actually claims that they are making good money online.
Alan from newfound names had some good advice. Thanks Alan and thanks Elliot for getting together all the advice that is here. In regards to all of you guru imposters shoveling out advice by the bucket by results by the teaspoons, no matter how many mini sites and blogs youstart, financial success is measured by dollars in the bank, nothing more.
Do a Google search, and you will see some of the names they/their companies own. I’ve had many conversations with Seabass (who wanted to remain quiet), and I can tell you that I see his name in a Whois lookup at least once a week.
Just as a quick off-head example –
Thunayan (Ibiza.com, Cool.com, Media.com, i.net…)
Nat (OceanCity,com, Retirement.com, NorthCarolina.com)
Some people have had more success than others and some are more private than others, but I believe they are all successful for a variety of reasons.
I agree that money in the bank is an important measure, but generally the more successful people don’t let anyone know how much money they have 🙂
@ Elliot @ Troy
But El, one point I’ll ad inline with your reply to Troy’s comment is that just because someone owns one word domains doesn’t automatically make them an Internet success. That just means they were in the right place and the right time and bought some good online real estate or they acquired for $ later on in the game. No different than someone who goes out and buys stock or a piece of real world real estate. It’s just an asset purchase.
I’m only impressed when someone acquires a domain, develops it into a major business and then sells it for 8 or 9 or 10 figures. That’s the guy I want to have lunch with and pick their brilliant minds for hours.
Anyone can buy a domain. Turn it into a $100 Million payday and you’ve got my attention. 🙂
I agree and disagree. Sure, anyone could buy domain names if they were in the right place at the right time.
However, many people who did buy great names, either sold them years ago or dropped them. The smarter people bought great names and turned down big offers over the years, knowing the values would increase. This is especially true after the .com bubble burst 🙂
I was not calling out any one particular commentator on any of your 3 posts. All the people that are actually making money will probably agree with my viewpoint, and the people that managed that sneek their advice into your posts but arent maing amny money are probably going to be upset at me fo saying someting so “rude”.
One thing that I find funny is this…
Alan (who I think has done some big things in domains) says not to read domain blogs, I have also heard other big names say the same thing but other commentators in your blog post feel that one of the ingrediants for ther success is their exteensive reading of domain blogs.
My thought process is simply this, either these two different approaches are working differently for different groups, or some people are really not making that much money, just building a lot of mini sites and giving a lot of advice.
Person “A” says “Do A” person “B” says “Don’t do A”, it is at this point that a financial disclosure would be nice, I would like to know which one is actuall making money because as Rick says, the numbers don’t lie.=)
Guess it all depends how you define success. There are a whole lot of ways to be successful online and off. There are different strategies for people who have different interests, skill sets, risk tolerance…etc.
thanks for the cheerleading squad 🙂 however I must say names like Ammar and Eric Borgos have been far more successful than what we’ve done. I actually got in this business through development – domaining was (and still is) nothing more than a buy/sell of assets to me. The real gold is in development.
I think Elliot was asking for advice from a wide range of people and ultimately got some nice responses however just like TV, newspapers and every other form of media people will find inspiration from whoever they like (regardless of their past success). The range of responses is great because advice can be taken in many forms regardless of the source.
Remember, some of the greatest quotes in history are from people who many know their name but actually have no idea what they did.
How many famous people can you list that are famous for …. well, just being famous. No depth to them whatsoever – except people know their name.
Furthermore how many people idolize people only based on the persona they know through the media.
It is very possible to admire someone for their tasks but how can you truly respect someone until you know who they are off-camera? Its a funny world we live in.
The same is true for the domaining industry.
The most successful people do not blog (sure, you have some exceptions like Rick and Berkens) but for the most part many bloggers are simply people coming in to the business for the first time – then you also have the grand illusions of “expert” status which comes with looking at stats from how many people read their posts since a link on domaining.com can provide tens of thousands of readers a month (without Francois – many blogs would never get 100 people a month) or somehow creating an account at BIDO and instantly you are an expert.
The term expert is way overused in this industry – although probably less than the titles attached to commentators on Fox News so its almost a losing battle to know who really is an expert or not.
Many of the industry bloggers – well, their biggest achievement is their blog but that doesn’t mean we should discount some of their advice. As much as I am the first to criticize 80% of people in this industry I also could care less what 99.9% of other domainers do and that’s sort of where most newbies really need to focus.
You need to find your own plan, your own way, your own business plan (non-reliant on Google ads) and treat the purchase of a domain no different than the purchase of a brick and mortar company.
Building a website is far easier than building, staffing and advertising a hotel or spa but in no means should your effort be any less.
“Anyone can buy a domain. Turn it into a $100 Million payday and you’ve got my attention”
Cheering Squad? Then why didn’t I get one of those short little skirts=).
My only question for you Alan is this…
What ae you doing reading blogs?=)
“creating an account at BIDO and instantly you are an expert.”
how can I make the bido expert status tomorrow and make the money alan ?
Regarding what Alan Dunn, Newfound Names stated on do not follow trends, I have done the opposite and have followed trends, especially by buying spanish .com names in 1999 which is the reason why I do real well today in this industry.
However, following fads, or the hpye can get you in trouble. Therefore, I understand what Alan is trying to say. For me, I always look where the growth is worldwide on the internet, demographics, languages, extensions, etc. As like Rick says, look at the “numbers” and go where the action is but get there before the masses show up.
Thanks, Jim Holleran