As a part of our series on additional and residual revenue streams for freelance writers, today we're going to talk about flipping websites. I've discussed flipping websites in a previous post here, explaining it in a very general sense and discussing some past sites I've flipped myself. Let's go more into how flipping websites can earn you more money in freelance writing, and what you need to do to be successful at it.
Different Ways to Flip a Website
There's more than one way to flip a website. In some cases, the website is a long-term investment - you build an authority site or high-income site to sell at a high price. In other cases you'll cultivate a website for a few months (long enough to build a bit of traffic and have income stats to show potential buyers). In a third type of website flipping, you build and then sell the website almost immediately on completion.
It's the third way of flipping a website that is most relevant to freelance writers looking to build another revenue stream from their writing.
Benefits and Drawbacks of the Quick Flip
Some people look at quick flips as a bad thing. They assume a new site (with no real traffic or income to use as selling points) simply can't make much money, so it's always better to hold onto it for a while first.
That may be true for a typical webmaster, but it's not true for you - a freelance writer. You have an added value in the sites you flip. You have your content.
That said, one of the biggest drawbacks of a quick flip is that, even if you can get a decent amount for the site quickly, you could probably get even more by holding onto it for a little while. Another downside of flipping sites (specifically for freelance writers) is that you'll often get less overall than you would if you sold the content on that site separately (through unique and custom sales to clients).
Despite those two negative aspects, flipping websites can still be a great extra income source. Why?
- A quick flip can put money in your hands fast (often in a few hours to a few days).
- A quick flip doesn't require much of a time investment in marketing (link-building, traffic generation, etc.) or monetization.
- You can create and flip website on your own time and in any niche that you want. While you can get more for a site where you're offering expert content, they can be a good way to dabble in new niches as well. You don't have client deadlines, or have clients deciding on the specific content - they buy it as-is.
Whether you have a slow day or two without much client work, or an extra half hour a day you'd like to start monetizing, you can flip a site and earn some extra income.
The Site-Flipping Process
We already mentioned that there are different ways to flip a website. Now let's look at the easiest process when your primary value is your content (then we'll talk about things you can do to increase the value to potential buyers if you want to).
- Choose a niche. - Ideally, you'll want a niche you're an expert in to some degree as well as one with a solid potential demand from buyers (like a typically high-paying niche).
- Register a Domain Name. - When building a site for authority value in the long run, I consider it vital to look for a brandable domain name. However, for quick flips I've had the most luck going with search engine friendly / keyword-rich domains. This tool may help you find one (use the word search tool).
- Get Web Hosting. - You'll need to host your website(s) before flipping anything. In some cases, you'll transfer the hosting account to the site buyer. Personally, I don't operate that way (just an added headache). I use one shared hosting account when setting up sites to flip (or new sites of my own being developed), and I transfer the files and database to the buyer for them to host on their own account. I find this easier and more cost-effective when flipping more than one site. But do whatever you're more comfortable with.
- Setup the Web Site. - You can set up pretty much any type of content site that you're comfortable with, from a static site to something on a content management system (CMS). I always set them up on a self-hosted WordPress blog. It makes for a relatively easy transfer (and there are a huge number of templates / themes out there you can use). A blog format also means you don't have to create a homepage in addition to your content pages - it's dynamic. I also always use free themes when flipping a site. Why? Because the value is in the content - a custom design would be an up front cost that then also has to be accounted for in your selling price. I find it easier to base the price on the content (and sometimes the domain if it's a particularly good one), and then let the buyer swap in any theme they want. That said, I try to make sure it's a decent theme, not overly basic or over-used, and I generally make a few design changes (color changes, add a logo or header image, etc.).
- Write the content. - Pretty self-explanatory, right? You know the niche, the site's setup, and now it's time to create the content. Write your articles. Make them unique. Make them worth buying. Make them on par with (or better than) your work for clients. It's also a good idea to incorporate advertising into the site or blog when you add the content - even if it's not earning money yet, you want buyers to see how it could.
- Sell the site. - You can sell your sites anywhere you can find potential buyers. Personally, I sell them at a webmaster forum. You can set a price, or run an auction - I suggest running an auction (you choose the starting bid, bid increment amounts, and set a buy-it-now / BIN price for an instant close to the auction). Going this route, I've sold sites in anything from a few hours to a few days. It helps if you sell them in a place where you've already built a reputation.
- Transfer things to the new owner. - When your sale or auction ends, you can choose to transfer files first or have the payment sent first. My usual policy is this - I'll send them a copy of the files and database up front, but they don't get the domain name transfered (and I don't pull my site down) until they pay in full. This way, even if they don't pay and try to essentially steal the content for their own site, it's just duplicate content for them and there are things you can do to have that stolen content pulled down (I've never had this happen fortunately). The last thing to do is to transfer the domain name to the new owner (you'll need to check with your domain registrar on the process - it's a bit different with each one - know though that you generally can't transfer to a new registrar if it was registered within 60 days, so you can only "push" it to an owner who has an account with the same registrar).
How Much Can You Make?
I mentioned that one of the drawbacks of flipping websites as an income stream for freelance writers is the fact that you'll likely earn less per article than you would if you had spent the same amount of time on client projects.
However, quick-flips can be an excellent source of "filler" income - when you need to kill some time, just want to try something new, or simply want a break from your typical routine.
It's tough to give you an exact estimate, but with the half dozen or so sites that I've flipped, I've sold them for anywhere from $75 to $450 (sites I spend no more than a day putting together between the site setup and content creation). I've seen many sell for less than $75 (generally from people who don't have the luxury of putting added value on their content). The exact price you can get will depend on a few things, including:
- How much unique content is included.
- How old the site and domain are (traffic, revenue, etc. will play a role on the higher end sometimes if you've chosen to hold onto it for a while).
- How much you normally charge to write unique content.
- Whether or not you're a niche expert / specialist.
- Your reputation in the community where you're holding your auction or sale.
- Whether or not your domain name is good enough to add extra value.
Why would your normal freelance writing rates matter?
That said, if you normally charge $100 per article, you're going to be able to get more for your flipped sites than someone who normally charges $10 per article. Let's say in both cases, the writer is offering a site with ten unique articles. The asking price is $300. Buyers aren't going to be attracted to the site by the lower-price writer here. Why? Because it's still three times cheaper to hire the writer to put together exactly what they want instead. However, it's a 70% discount over unique content from the first writer - that's a more attractive proposition for the buyer (and relatively quick money for the writer - again, I suggest this as "filler" income and not a replacement for client work if you have a full schedule - do it during some free time or slow periods).Easy - because people are looking for bargains. For example, when I was flipping a few previously, I charged a starting rate of about $.35 per word for most unique content in that niche. Many webmasters in that community couldn't afford to hire me to write custom content for them. But because I offered a price on the site being flipped that would be a big discount on my normal rate, it became affordable. I didn't earn as much, but they didn't have the luxury of choosing the content, asking for edits, etc. - at the same time, I earned some money for sites I didn't feel like keeping and maintaining on my own, and they got affordable professional content from an expert in a decent niche (which they couldn't have otherwise afforded). That value completely outweighed the fact that the sites were relatively new, had pretty much no traffic, and no declared earnings during the auctions.
You can better your chances of getting a decent price for your quick-flipped sites if you do a few things:
- Choose a niche that's in-demand.
- Choose a niche with high-paying keywords.
- Use those high-paying keywords in your articles (especially in the titles).
- Include on-site SEO (add meta descriptions and keywords, cross-link related content, etc.).
- Build some incoming links (you could do something simple like setup a Squidoo lens even - and include that lens with the article price).
- Don't sell until it's indexed by search engines (my sites are usually indexed in 2 - 3 days - if you want it to happen quickly, get links to it).
- Spend some time in a community with buyers before trying to sell something to them - the more they already know about the value of your content, the more likely it is they'll be interested.
- Age the domain. While the site can be quick-flipped in the end, it can be a good idea to register the domain name earlier, and let it sit before building and flipping the site (better yet, let it sit with a page of content, and it may pick up natural backlinks, search engine traffic, and Google PageRank before you complete it for sale).
Have you ever flipped websites to earn some extra money as a writer? If so, share some tips of your own for those new to flipping websites and blogs.
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Jennifer Mattern is a professional blogger, freelance business writer, and indie author. She began writing for clients in 1999 and started her first blog in 2004.
She owns 3 Beat Media -- a publishing and client services company which operates All Indie Writers as well as several other websites and blogs including The Busy Author's Guide and BizAmmo. Jenn comes from a background in online PR and social media consulting, having owned a small PR firm for several years before choosing to pursue a full-time writing and publishing career.
Jenn also writes fiction under multiple pen names in the areas of children's fiction, mysteries, and horror fiction. Jenn is an active member of the Horror Writers Association (HWA) and currently serves as the organization's Assistant Coordinator of Promotions and Social Media.
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