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

The financial value of side projects

At the start of the year I turned down an offer for one of my websites. But the buyer didn’t leave it at that, and I’ll share how things panned out.

Direction
Photo by Miss Thelma

The initial offer was £10K GBP. I said no.
He came back with £15K. I said no.
Then it was £20K for both Logo Design Love and Identity Designed. At that point I said £50K, because I wasn’t too interested in selling but still wanted to share my get-out figure. He said no, as expected.

A few months later a different approach was made: £10K up front with another £5K each month for a year, so £70K in total for both sites. I still wasn’t keen to sell, and I thought it’d be risky to count on followup payments, so I said it’d take £100K (not including Identity Designed).

And that was that, until some weeks later I was offered £45K up front. That’s when I started thinking about my mortgage, and I went back with £60K. The compromise was £57.5K (about $90K USD).

I talked it through with my publisher, because I knew if I sold the website that I’d want to distance myself from the brand name. I asked if there was any precedent for a book title being changed between the first and second editions. There wasn’t. And I was told it’d harm book sales if I didn’t have control of the online presence.

I also talked to others I respect. The general consensus was, “Don’t sell (for that price),” which was ultimately settled when my publisher said that now’s the time to work on a second edition of the book (I’m expecting a contract offer in the next couple of weeks).

Not to mention the credibility factor that would accompany a sale — this was always a big factor, raised in the comment thread a few months back.

Anyway, all done. No deal.

If there’s a lesson here, it’s that you can create a saleable asset of significant value by simply spending a few hours each week building a website on-the-side. You need to enjoy it, though, summed up nicely by Alan Watts.

“Forget the money, because if you say that getting the money is the most important thing, you will spend your life completely wasting your time. You’ll be doing things you don’t like doing in order to go on living, that is, to go on doing things you don’t like doing. Which is stupid.”

My second book on Amazon

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25 comments about “The financial value of side projects”

  1. Respect to you, David. Initially I thought that this must have been a very tough decision but the more I think about it, the more I can totally understand your thoughts on this. Building your brand (and related asset(s)) takes years and it’s hard to put a value on the time that you ‘spent’ each day / week.

    I’m in a similar situation, although with nowhere near the financial value of your example, where I’m building a brand (for want of a better container description) with the sole mission of helping to improve people’s lives through personal challenge and adventure. The brand is strong and many people have taken to it. It’s surprising me already how many people want to get on board and take a slice of my still-very-young brand-to-be. People are offering their services and connections just to be related to the brand and to be able to use its name and symbol etc. I can’t help feeling that these people, or at least some of them*, just don’t share my passion with its future so for now at least, I’m keeping it very tightly guarded from outside influence.

    I think it’s great what you have created, David. Not just with your websites but your books, articles, chat, advice, guidance etc., and it would be a shame to have it diluted by someone who is just in it for the money.

    *It has also attracted many likeminded folk who have hearts of gold and are in it for the right reasons, i.e. not the money.

  2. I salute you fella : )

  3. Really interesting post. Thanks for being so transparent with the figures and the behind the scenes details.

    Totally agree with the advice you were given plus the outcome.

    Another quote to sum up your decision-making process is: “Follow your bliss” from Joseph Campbell who was good friends with Alan Watts. (I love Alan Watts :)

  4. I’m so glad you didn’t accept the money, both sites are of such high value that no amount of money would amount to their worth.

    I’ve always loved Identity Designed especially, the community of commenters with insightful thoughts, the unique and clever brands shown, the positive vibe about it all, and to have someone take that from you and maybe even taint it with their touch would be very sad indeed.

    It’s a shame that the world revolves around money, we need more good natured things, people doing what they love, not what fills their bank balance.

    All the best with future endeavours!

  5. Hats off David, I was reading down and thinking “he’s going to get the price he wants… ” then totally forgot about the book and the implications of that.

    I can’t say I’d have done the same thing if I was in your shoes!

    It’s a great post. You could’ve sold up and left it at that. But it says a lot about how you run your sites that even though you’ve turned down the offer, you’ve written a very informative post describing the situation that others can ultimately learn from.

  6. Big respect David!

  7. Doing something out of pure enjoyment, is always more rewarding than any other reason. Excellent post!

  8. Looking forward to your next book, Negotiating Love. Okay, maybe that’s not the best title :-)

  9. Glad you hung on to it, David. It’s a great resource & I hope it continues to be.

  10. I’m glad you made the right choice David! In the long run, sticking to your guns pays off.

    Just like the title of your second book.

    Great quote form the fantastic Alan Watts, wise words indeed.

  11. Every designer is bright enough to do something on the side. Even if it’s only 30 mins a day, try to do something on the side.

    The best type of income is the type of money that you can earn while you sleep. I’m actually in the process of experimenting with different types of passive income and will have a post on it soon.

  12. Steve, Abbas, like anyone with a mortgage, I’m in a lot of debt, but the bills are paid on time and I have everything I need. It seems as if you’re onto a winner with the new brand, Steve. All the best with it.

    Hi Rajesh, Rob. I thought the figures might help others if they have similar decisions to make.

    Louis, it’s always good of you to join in on ID. There’s a top group of people leaving feedback over there.

    David, a nice title for this post, though.

    Thanks for the chat, everyone. I have your email addresses for when interest rates skyrocket and I need a loan.

  13. So glad that you didn’t sell the websites. At least you prove that money is not the only thing that matters in this world. Money can’t buy you happiness. What’s the point of selling it if you would feel miserable later?

    And the quote is right on the money!

  14. Glad you hung onto those sites because I could only imagine how they would change for the worse. Side projects are a great thing and definitely have their benefits if you don’t leave them dormant and forget about them.

  15. Wow. Even creative liberals have their price. Better to bring in more book sales than to sell your domain space. Good for you. You are holding out for more money yet some folks here are patting you on the back with tired cliches like “Money can’t buy you happiness.”

    Give me a break. You are a talented guy and you deserve all the success you can harness. But, don’t play this off as some sort of noble action on your part; you’re looking for more money, period. Good for you.

  16. The full speech is well worth listening to, Keira. Couldn’t help myself again this morning.

  17. Oh, and trust me, you won’t get financially rich selling design books.

  18. Interesting post. Both on how you decided not to sell, which I think was the right choice as well, but also how you got a pretty good offer just from an initial side project.

  19. Thanks for sharing, loved the quote by Alan Watts.

  20. I’ve been checking out each of your websites every morning ever since I first read your books. I’m glad that you didn’t sell the website, it would be a shame to check it one morning and find it completely covered in ads.

    I definitely count you as one of my biggest inspirations!

  21. I truly agree with your decision to not sell ID. I must tell you, ID is the first resource for me to learn about identity. Something that can’t be bought by money: knowledge, passion, inspiration, and aspiration. I learned a lot about identity, and that inspires me to be a brand identity designer. I also strive to be a great designer. Aspiration. Look how you can share knowledge, passion, inspiration and aspiration from just a side project. I hope you keep continuing this awesome project. Truly, it’s priceless.

  22. Phew! I started reading the post thinking it was an announcement that you sold. SO glad you didn’t sell it. I can imagine the temptation, one fell swoop and your mortgage would be paid off. But I know I, and I’m sure many others, wouldn’t frequent the site anymore once it gets slathered with ads to design competition sites like 99designs, etc.
    And thanks for the transparency, it was interesting and useful to note the amount valued. Regardless, I’m glad you listened to your publisher!
    Keep up the good work as always.

  23. Integrity. A rare thing in the creative industry.

    Most designers follow the Groucho Marx approach

    ‘These are my principles, if you don’t like them? I have others’

    Hats off for sticking to your guns.

  24. Great point made, and in David’s case, the right call for the situation by the sounds of it. I’m fascinated by side projects, which eventually led to me pursuing mine (https://sideracket.com) full time. Would love to hear what people think of the site.

    The interesting thing about side projects is that while I’d never sell some of them, I’d happily let a caring owner adopt them.

  25. The only thing I would say is when you’re just starting out sometimes you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do when money is what’s going to keep you afloat and moving forwards.

    Some projects will be great and others not so great. Just stay in the flow and figure out how to do more of what you love and get paid at the same time.

    Once you’re financially more stable focus more on doing what you love and follow Alan Watts’ advice. At the end of the day we all need money and it’s being paid well for what you love that’s the goal in my opinion.

Anything to add?

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