My Biggest Fear as a Domain Investor

I become a full time domain investor in November of 2007. At the time, I was advancing in my marketing career, but looking at my options since I needed a change. Just prior to resigning, I had worked out a couple of deals that were to be finalized in January of 2008, so I knew I was going to be in a good financial position for 2008.

My thought was that I would be a domain investor for at least a year and see where I net out after that first year. Worse came to worse, I would mess around for the year and begin to look for another marketing job in corporate America if things didn’t work out.

Well, now it’s been three years, and my business has grown. Although my income is not quite as high as it was in 2006/2007 (primarily because this wasn’t my main source of income), I am very fortunate to make a good living at what I do, and I won’t complain about the financial aspect of it for a second.

The issue is that this business is unpredictable. Every day is a risk, and nothing is guaranteed. I do have liquid assets that could be sold if necessary, but I don’t want to sell core assets unless I have a strategic purpose for doing so.

As the days go by, my friends continue to advance in their careers. They are getting promotions, pay raises, and taking on more challenges and responsibilities at their companies. They are positioning themselves for leadership positions in their companies or getting ready to start their own businesses with their deep experiences to support them.

Should my business begin to fail, I feel like I’ve put my career on pause. I have a lot to show for it, but I don’t think my “TRAFFIC Best Blog Award” will be impressive to a recruiter or HR department. Β I think failure is my biggest fear, but the fear of failure is one of the biggest things that drives me.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has closed eight figures in deals. Please read the Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. After I got my MBA in 1997, everybody was getting these $XXX,XXX corporate jobs. I decided to enter the domain business with no money instead, with just credit cards in hand. Everybody though I was crazy and I though I was crazy. I had no kids then, so it was easier to take that risk, I just could not see myself working in the corporate world.

    However, only you know what makes you happy and don’t worry about others. It’s been a long road, but today I am semi-retired at a young ago because of that decision of going into domaining in 1997 and not working in the corporate world. I get to spend everyday with my 2 year old twin daughters while my neighbors go off to there “dreaded” corporate jobs. Keep looking ahead, and picture yourself doing what you want, when you want to do it, and spending everyday with your kids when you have them. It will all be worth it. Your friends in the corporate world will still be stuck in the “rat race”.

    Thanks, Jim

  2. Elliot,

    As someone who stepped away from corporate 20 years ago, I understand where you are coming from. It’s nice to have a steady paycheck. When your working for yourself, there will be many ups and downs. The first year that I worked on my own was 1986. I left a job I hated at a big 8 accounting firm for a headhunting job that was commission only. My first years earnings were $ 12,000. I thought I made a huge mistake. My boss encouraged me to stay which was great advice. Over the next few years 6 figures was the norm. There have been huge swings, but the key is to save up for bad times. I can not stress that enough.

    Btw while many of your friends may be doing well, I’m
    sure that you must know others that have lost their jobs and have had no luck in finding a new one even at half their last pay.

    Keep smiling even in bad times, which can be hard. Your not alone. There’s always support somewhere.

    Happy holidays

  3. @Elliot

    The key is t work like you still have a boss. I left corporate 11 years ago. But I pretend every day that my job is to grow my business in every way or I could be fired. I pretend my old bosses are still looking over my shoulder and think about what questions they would ask.

    Driven to success by fear of failure is not uncommon. What is uncommon is really having that fear. Dave Thomas made a few million as a KFC franchisee. But he lied awake at night afraid he would loose everything, so he started Wendy’s. Sounds to me like you ate concerned you are getting comfortable, which is very dangerous.

    If you could hire someone to run your business, what would you mandate they do? Now, you go do it. What did those before you do when they were at this exact same stage, how did they break through?

    Maybe it is actually time to double down…

  4. Nice post and one I’m sure a lot of people doing domaining part or full time think about too.

    Only thing I can say is when you work for yourself you probably have a higher motivation than working for someone else. You have more control, can work more hours if necessary, and do what it takes to increase chances of being successful.

    I see working for someone else as something to be more fearful of than the fear of failure in your own business. Their companies can get bought out and downsized, their positions could become redundant, they are at the mercy of a higher-up authority. Many found this out over the last couple years – there is no such thing as a secure job anymore.

    Think about all the skills you have learned since going full time, most people don’t have that. Skills to do with the internet and websites will just continue to become more important as online activity increases over time.

    Working for yourself makes you more flexible and open to all investing opportunities – whereas working for somone else keeps you narrow and focused in getting someone else’s company ahead. I know it’s not a black and white issue, and nothing wrong with having a job, but personally I couldn’t see myself just working for someone else without having something going on that was my own (even if it’s on the side, part-time).

  5. You bring up valid points.

    However, I believe the skills and knowledge you are accumulating are extremely valuable whether in the corporate workplace or on your own.

    You are building foundations for small businesses that may grow to degrees you do not realize.

    I would bet that some of your friends in the corporate world are very envious of your position. They are probably in silos that pay well for now but will probably change in the near future.

    You are agile, knowledgeable and attuned to the changing marketplace.

    I say, go confidently in the direction of your dreams.

  6. A very honest post. But people get fired left and right every day. So, keep on working hard and as someone above said make sure to have a nice savings account πŸ˜‰

  7. Hey Elliot — Just like the previous poster stated that he made 12K his first year, I suspect your future years will be full of financial rewards.

    As the Net gets more complex domain experts, of which there are less than 100 in the world IMO, are going to be critically necessary. Consulting will pay big. There are very few people that truly understand the nuances of domains and how they can help businesses.

    Keep trucking along — parking is dying but sales are growing and the market in my opinion is in it’s final days of the long tail ascent to critical mass after which there will be no turning back on the hot market for domain sales.

    I think the top is about to explode on the pressure cooker. πŸ™‚

  8. ah the unpredictability of running your own show, especially your way and certainly some of the people here I think, thats why we do it.
    Somehow I dont think you will have much to worry about, and if the wolves are ever at the door I’d give you a job selling pink tutus on one of my sites, no resume needed just shave yer legs hehe πŸ™‚

  9. Comes down to what career path makes you the most happy in life, thats most important not the money side of it.

    “You can have everything in life you want, if you will just help other people get what they want.” ~ Zig Ziglar


  10. Just having to answer to someone else is what keeps me out of the corporate environment; almost always there is someone further up the chain who is (and theres no other way of saying this) stupid. Working for yourself is freedom – you’ve just got to keep at it!

  11. Entrepreneur’s Credo

    I do not choose to be a common man,
    It is my right to be uncommon … if I can,
    I seek opportunity … not security.

    I do not wish to be a kept citizen.
    Humbled and dulled by having the
    State look after me.

    I want to take the calculated risk;
    To dream and to build.
    To fail and to succeed.

    I refuse to barter incentive for a dole;
    I prefer the challenges of life
    To the guaranteed existence;
    The thrill of fulfillment
    To the stale calm of Utopia.

    I will not trade freedom for beneficence
    Nor my dignity for a handout

    I will never cower before any master
    Nor bend to any threat.
    It is my heritage to stand erect.

    Proud and unafraid;
    To think and act for myself,
    To enjoy the benefit of my creations

    And to face the world boldly and say:
    This, with God’s help, I have done
    All this is what it means
    To be an Entrepreneur.

    Written in 1776 by Thomas Paine


  12. Oh man I just woke up my neighbours with my howls of laughter, haha nice one tho um if that were me Id probably want it kept on the qt huh :p

    anyway. the prize for the my biggest smile generator of the day goes to you sir, thankyou πŸ™‚

  13. You make some valid points – corporate America may not value your domaining/development experience like they would a corporate marketing job over the last couple of years. However, the life experience one gets managing an online venture would likely not be accessible working in a corporate environment. Recently I heard from an individual at a company I worked at previously – employee morale is down as salaries are frozen, employees are stressed due to headcount reductions which don’t reduce the workload. Another had to relocate their family to accept a position and due to the company’s financial difficulties the position is likely to be short-lived. In my field, one tends to do routine reports or processes every month or quarter. So what have I really missed the last couple of years other than a steady paycheck? I have seen it repeatedly and heard of it happening at other companies – a high-level individual comes in, brings their buddies from a former employer and a group of individuals who have years with the company in management-level positions get squeezed out. There are advantages to both corporate and entrepreneurial environments. Be flexible, willing to learn and work hard. But ask yourself why you chose to do what you do now rather than what you did before.

  14. Very good point. I have been thinking about similar things lately and while everyone at this post seems to be scoffing at 9-5, i think there is nothing to scoff at if looked from a different angle.

    I had my own business for past 5 years, so no bosses no headaches. I do alright for myself, comparable to what i would be making in corporate world, maybe a bit more but in same range none the less. Yet i know my field as back of my hand yet, and while there might be growth i am not sure if i will be able to manage or scale up business to the level i would like with efficiency i would want.
    That kind of skills only come from working for large company and being thrown into the melting pot. My concern is not career i might be leaving behind, but the skill and abilities that the position might bring.

    I am planing to go back to 9-5 in the next year or 2, and work for at least few years at managing much larger pieces of the business puzzle. To summarize, while we might have different reasons for lamentation about corporate world, i certainly see Eliots point of view, and don’t rule it out, maybe corporate world is better way to go at least for a short while.

  15. I’ve held many jobs in my career. Some in corporations. Some as an independent consultant. Some as a full-time consultant to private firms. They all had their pros and cons. But one thing I never did was become stubborn about what I was doing. I always kept my options open, looking for opportunities, and remaining agile in spirit, mind, and body.

  16. @Elliot

    It’s better you work as corporate in domaining world. Take a pen and a fine paper and write how many hours you have to work per day to earn $xxx,xxx/month or 2-3 months….

  17. @Elliot
    I have passed my School in 2008 and now i am a Diploma student. I came to know about domaining, blogging and making money online in the final year of my school. From that day i am learning new things daily. Now what i can tell you about these things is that online marketing is the best business i can ever do. I have always hated that 9-5 job. I don’t like if someone orders me to do anything. I don’t want someone shouting on me if i am a bit late in doing what they told me to. I don’t want that 9-5 headache which is your partner at office comes even your home with you. I don’t want my life and income be limited……. And all these things just for some big paychecks, WTF. I would prefer $2000/month upon $10000/month + all the other big things that come with it. In fact, if you think deeply then you will find that what your business can pay you will never possible with your that 9-5 job. On your job, how successful you will be depends on how successful they would let you to be? But do this also apply to your business…… At your job, is it possible to make your $10000/month starting salary to $1million/month, maybe yes in some cases but what more than that…. But do this also applies to your business where sky is the limit…….
    Ok, lets take and example “What if Mark Zuckerburg would have preferred a good 9-5 job in a multinational $10 billion company instead of doing what he is doing now…………”

    My father is a businessman himself, he has always tought me one thing “Son in your life you will always find two ways. One will lead you to a good and simple life and will be very easy. One will lead you to make you what in fact you want to be but will be very tuff in starting, you will get many problems and challenges. You will need to make a desicion what to do next. But before making any desicion remember one thing your that desicion will make your future. You will decide at that time that what will you be in future, will you be what you wanted always to be or would you prefer to be what most of the people are………..”

  18. Excellent post and something that stays in the corner of all our minds as we push forward on the journey to greatness. I’d much rather be an astronaut then an accountant… keep breaking through the boundries set by the ordinary.

    Happy thanksgiving.

  19. Everyone has those anxieties. Even those worth tens of millions think of the ‘what ifs’.

    IMO, in this line of business, you need to have an exit strategy or a temporary pause one. If things slow down or go disastrously bad, you cannot afford to live in NYC for too long, and makes no sense to do so. Maybe Kansas or Costa Rica for a few years?

    And you need a developed site that brings home the bacon, that’s a must. Relying on “maybe I sell a name this month” just doesn’t seem reassuring to me.

  20. @Priv

    Yes, I agree. It is healthy to maintain some degree of flexibility and to give oneself options or exit strategies. I owned many companies and helped direct many companies. Many of the more successful ones ended up in a place that was totally different from where they intended to be. Most companies end up going no where no matter how much effort they put into it. That is life.

    It is impossible to generalize about what is the right direction to go. For each person it is different. However, without good health, there is no direction except straight to the hospital – and too much stress is just plain unhealthy.

  21. @ Priv

    You had me until:

    “you cannot afford to live in NYC for too long, and makes no sense to do so. Maybe Kansas or Costa Rica for a few years? ”

    LOL… I am not a huge spender and have plenty in reserve, although I may move to Boston in a year or so when my wife starts looking for jobs after grad school.


  22. β€œyou cannot afford to live in NYC for too long, and makes no sense to do so. Maybe Kansas or Costa Rica for a few years? ”
    I actually meant if your biz crashes. Say Google ruins all your rankings and there’s no light at the end of the tunnel in sight. Or domains become as useless as they were after the year 2000. Eventually you will recover, but when?

    Having lived in NYC I know how expensive it can be, but I guess it depends on the rent, health care and other fixed expenses. It also depends on reserves, in fact it all can depend on them. For me it’s another country where all I need is my laptop and can live much better than here, for much less πŸ™‚

  23. Elliot,

    Your on the right track, keep doing what your doing. Like I said before, you don’t have kids, so now is the time to take the risk and you will succeed.

    Also, it’s sad when people depend on Google for there living on the internet. Personally, Google has no impact on my success in this business, I don’t develop. I buy low and sell higher, doing that for 13 years so that IMO. I think SEO is turning out to be a sham anyways. It’s all about money in the future, if you want 1st page on Google your going to have to pay. Who wants that, but that is where it’s going!!!

  24. “Also, it’s sad when people depend on Google for there living on the internet. “.

    No it isn’t, you only sell domains. Suppose you have an online store with yourself as the only employee. You start ranking higher and higher and have 5-10 employees because you cannot turn business down . What happens when Google lowers your rank?

    Plus, never underestimate the google factor, you can make enough in one year to have decent reserve to change your life. So it isn’t sad, it’s a fact of life.

  25. @Elliot,

    What I suspect is that you make money with domain investing, however, it takes up the majority of your time. Domain investing interferes with the time you spend with your wife. In addition, your marketing career offered more career reward than domain investing.

    Money is not everything when you have to dedicate all your time to answering fielding emails, writing articles, and developing websites.

    I never thought you would take on another project with building In the past, you mentioned that your blog and projects are time consuming. You’re getting heat for doming too much.

    Your marketing position may have been a more respectable position. You made more money and probably earned a great of respect. Whereas, you may have respect in the domain industry, there is no comparison to the marketing world.

    Being your own boss is not as lucrative as many assume it to be, especially when you have to work around the clock to maintain success. Even small business owners have to work 16-20 hours a day to keep their business running efficiently.

    You’re definitely an expert as what you do – marketing and domain investing. Why not use the two as a team to increase your earnings. Set a goal to surpass your 06/07 earnings. Target bigger projects that offer you more financial rewards. Weed out the projects that consume your time, instead focus on the projects that make more money and offer you greater incentives.

    I sense that you want to be appreciated for what you do. While you have a company, you want accolades that your friends receive – more respected ones than having a top blog. You own the domains and the knowledge to accomplish bigger goals.

    Living in Manhattan and being able to travel is an opportunity I would welcome. While I invested the last few decades in film, writing and college, I never reached the success I planned 17 years ago. Every failure resulted in my decision to go after my goal. I would never go back and change my decision. However, I would avoid making bad decisions that put me in my current situation.

    Good luck. Know that you’re respected, and that you have the skills and intelligence to do greater things – whether you choose to continue domain investing, going back in marketing, or starting your own company beyond Top Notch Domains.

Leave a Reply

Recent Posts

If You Want to See a Stampede, Look No Further Than This…

If you're seeking engagement on Twitter in the domain name space, the best thing you can do is tell people you're looking to buy...

Nick Huber: “drop a little coin” for a Premium Domain Name

I do not know Nick Huber, but I see he has a large following on Twitter and frequently offers advice to startup founders and...

Trademarkia Hiring Lead Developer for Domain Registrar Integration

Trademarkia is a website I use occasionally to perform trademark-related searches. This morning, I noticed a job listing the company posted on LinkedIn that...

SquadHelp Ultra Premium Marketplace Goes Live

πŸŽ‰ It's here! The Ultra-Premium Marketplace is live We've partnered with @HilcoDigital to curate an incredible collection of domains. More additions coming soon! 🌟 Check it...

ROTD Auction Web3 Domain Names

According to a press release I received a moment ago, Right of the Dot is auctioning "Web3" domain names in partnership with Unstoppable Domains....