David Airey is an independent graphic designer working with companies of all sizes since 2005.

On selling websites

Last week I was offered a five-figure sum for the sale of the Logo Design Love website. My sites will always have their price, but for a few reasons, I said no thanks.

Heart dollar
Photo credit: Instructables

My name’s on the book. If the website is controlled by other people, their actions will reflect on me, even if all traces of my name are removed from the site. That’s something I never thought about when naming the book, but on the other hand, the book’s success is helped by the popularity of the website, and vice versa, so it can be good having them linked.

Understandably, the sale was mostly based on statistics — visitor numbers and origins, what keywords drive people to the site, monthly ad revenue, etc. Thing is, I launched the site five years back, and since then it’s grown a personal value that’s more than numbers, not to mention the beautiful and smart readership that significantly adds to that.

Perhaps most importantly, the potential buyer owns another website where logos are sold in isolation at the lowest end of the market. One main reason for the purchase was to add banners and links pointing to this other site. Here’s a relevant quote from the Logo Design Love book.

“Every client is different, so every design project will be, too. It makes no sense to pigeonhole your clients into a specific price bracket. What works for one will not work for another, and your time — and profits — take a big hit when you limit yourself to a set range and attract clients on the basis of price alone.”

So not exactly a good fit.

Exit strategy?

If you’re thinking of selling your own website, here are a few questions worth answering.

  • What happens to the site after its sale?
  • How easy can you disassociate yourself?
  • How much have similar websites sold for?
  • What profit will your website generate over three years?
  • Can you trade for something other than money?
  • Who are you happy to sell to?
  • Do you want to keep any control over the content?
  • Will you provide support for a limited time?
  • How will you announce it to your subscribers?
  • Do you need a contract of sale?

If you want lower the time spent publishing content, but don’t want to sell completely, there are a couple of options: Hire writers, similar to Smashing Magazine or Web Designer Depot.

Site income > writer fees = profit.

Alternatively, store your content as an online archive, similar to Speak Up. Traffic will decrease over time, but it can still generate passive income, and act as a helpful resource.

Update:
Flippa seems to be one of the top marketplaces for those buying/selling a website (cheers Jon).

A couple of worthwhile reads for those in the selling market: Back in 2005 Yaro Starak wrote about how to sell a website. Some links are out-of-date, but much of the content still applies. Daniel Scocco of Daily Blog Tips shared a few tips for selling your blog or website on Flippa.

My second book on Amazon

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23 appreciated comments about “On selling websites”

  1. David! Deposit for a new house… Should never ignore these kind of offers. :)

    I do agree with some of your views, not all.

    However much you are attached to your ‘baby’ the fact is that once it’s out of your hands, you cannot shape its destiny. In your case, since the book and brand are married, no divorce.

    But usually post sale, even if you hold an interest, it turns out that you have lost control, and the next buyer’s views are never yours. So as a creative, you will feel disgruntled no matter what.

    And as an end user, I may not identify with the new ownership and leave. I used to be a ‘Borders’ bookstore fan. Never liked Barnes and Noble. The minute B&N bought the mailing list from Borders, post collapse, I unsubscribed.

    Emotionally I have never felt the same since. So if your site has these kind of subscribers, the next buyer will be in a soup anyway. :)

    As usual, interesting share and food for thought.

  2. I’m glad that you didn’t sell, David. I believe that your sites have a value that is underpinned with integrity and if ads for cheap logos were to be plastered all over them it would be damaging.

    Good choice.

  3. You did the right thing, David, especially since the buyers were one of those “mass procuced cheap-o logos” companies. Selling a site like logodesignlove to them would have been to undermine your/our profession.

  4. Wow, I’m sure that would have been tempting, but as soon as you said offered to buy for a 5 figure price, I knew it had to be a site like 99designs or other crap. I’m glad you made the right decision not to cheapen the site as I subscribe to both this site and that site and like them both a lot.
    Good move David!

  5. Glad you didn’t sell it, David. The reason you have a huge fan base is because of you: your personality, your expertise, great taste and insight. It just wouldn’t be the same if you weren’t the voice of Logo Design Love. It is wonderful that you’ve created something that can outlive you someday; something that is sellable. Many freelancers really just have a job. If something ever happened to them, would they have something that is sellable? (Great book to read on this is the E-Myth.) You created something that is sellable, and you must be really proud of it.

  6. Thanks so much for not selling Logo Design Love. You did the right thing!

  7. Cheers, Lak. The buyer wasn’t prepared to pay what I would’ve sold for, which is fair enough, and saved me a tough call. Curious why you preferred Borders over B&N.

    Chris, there was temptation, but the figure involved wasn’t a great incentive given the income generated by the website. I’ve read that you should multiply the annual earnings by three to reach a fair number, and it’s probably the bond between the book and the website that had me thinking a bit higher still.

    Joce, thanks very much, although I think that most designers with their own blogs are creating a sellable asset, even if they use their personal name for the title, such as davidairey.com. We might not make as much as George Foreman, but a name on its own can still have value.

    Steve, Torstein, Suree, glad you all think so.

  8. Glad to hear you didn’t sell, David. I agree with the other comments here, it would have been a mistake.

    Obviously the potential buyer you spoke of was trying to buy some credibility in the logo design realm that you’ve built, earned and maintained with your own brand. Passing that on to an organization that doesn’t have that same reputation does not guarantee success for them, and would likely have steered the site awry and ruined all your hard work. Not to mention, your core audience would have sniffed out the impostors and gradually left.

    Glad to hear you’re stickin’ it out.

  9. You rock! As always – a move filled with professionalism and the highest integrity :)

  10. Great decision! :)

  11. Graphic Design Blender was offered last week, too, and the owner decided not to sell. I think it’s the readers relationship with the author that makes the site worth a lot more than money.

  12. I’m glad you didn’t sell the blog. A lot of designers would have probably unsubscribed from Logo Design Love. The main reason why I love your blogs is because of the awesome design community you’ve built. You can see just from the comments how much respect designers have for you.

  13. Great to know we can continue relying on the quality content over on logodesignlove.com

    As always, a good example of integrity and good business sense.

  14. Every design must follow its function. You can’t borrow things from previous one. Every new material demands new form. By the way thanx for the remainder.

  15. Wow I’m glad you didn’t sell the site david. I could only imagine what would it would’ve become.

  16. Just imagine what a buyer like that would have done to it. Even more so, what they might have done to it would inevitably reflect on you given the link between your flagship book and the site.

  17. Thanks Leighton, Eileen. A sale probably wouldn’t be good for either party, in the long-term, anyway. I don’t use the site to gain new clients, which is undoubtedly why many visitors stick around.

    Rahat, Yaco, I appreciate that. Cheers all.

  18. Well done David, it is hard to turn down temptations like that, but with all the right reasons granted. I wonder if it would have been a long term thing for such a company anyway, I saw it more as a designers portal, but I guess clients searching for a new logo are finding themselves on the LDL site also.

  19. Initially, the purchase was to drive sales. After I chatted with the buyer I think ad revenue became more important. I do receive client enquiries through LDL, but they’re not of the quality I’d receive through this website. That’s perhaps because people find themselves on LDL after searching for “logos” whereas they might come here through searches for “brand identity” or “graphic design” or after seeing my name elsewhere.

    Hope you’re doing well in Cologne, Nick.

  20. It’s interesting that they want ad revenue when that model seem to be dying off.

  21. I can agree with what you did and after reading some of the comments I can understand why people would possibly think you were crazy for not selling the site. If you would have sold, especially to the wrong person, than it would have gone against what you’ve said to all of us on your blog, website, and even in your books. I believe and know you do all of this for the love of what you do, not for the profit (even though making money for what you love is the best money made). Additionally I’ll admit, that if I was given an offer like that it would be hard for me to turn it down but if it wasn’t my “walk away amount” and it was the wrong person then I would turn it down as well. I’m glad that you are sticking to your guns and we still get to read all your future posts.

  22. hello david & all the boys and girls,

    i think i’m in the right place here but here we go!

    just say you are thinking of going it alone, how do you pitch your web sites or ideas to potential clients? i have a few friends who i design for but what happens if someone new comes along, hopefully!

    Tank you as always,
    graeme

  23. Hi Graeme, here’s a post you might like: How do you market yourself as a designer?

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