Anatomy of a 5-Figure Flip: Outsourcing for Free?

If you followed along in the first article in this series, you learned how I leveraged a domain drop catcher and historic whois records to acquire a highly brandable PR 4 domain ( for the paltry sum of $300.  I probably could have just flipped the domain for a few grand but instead, I decided to develop a blog and sell it as a website.  In this article, I’ll highlight the development process I undertook for this site, and how I outsourced key components for little or no cost.

To start out, I need to admit something. I have a pretty substantial advantage over most casual flippers.  I work professionally as a web developer, and although my expertise lies in the programming end of the spectrum, I also have a pretty good creative eye.  I’ve built $40,000+ websites.  I know fancy web technologies like ASP.NET MVC and Zend Framework.  I own Adobe Creative Suite 5, and I know all the keyboard shortcuts in Photoshop.  I could have sat down and created an entirely custom design for Better Parenting and built out a custom CMS that perfectly met my needs.  I didn’t do any of that.

What “Flip This House” Teaches Us About Website Flipping

If you ever watch any of the myriad of house flipping shows on television, you’re bound to encounter a situation where the novice flipper forgets that they’re building to sell.  Their renovation becomes less about the profit and more about what they would love to have.  Huge mistake.

I knew right off the bat that I wasn’t going to go crazy with custom solutions.  WordPress is free and takes minutes to install, not days to build.  I own developer rights to the fantastic Gazette Edition theme (by Woo Themes).  With slight modification totaling under an hour, that theme was pretty close to what I would have built from scratch.  No messing around in Photoshop for hours.  No need to code out all the XHTML / CSS from scratch.  A new site, ready to go, looking nice in almost no time at all.

I can’t stress enough the importance of spending your time on high-value activities and finding ways to minimize the time spent on low-value ones.  There’s a reason house flippers put their money into kitchens and bathrooms — buyers value improvements in those areas.  While design is significant to establishing the credibility of your site, for $150 you can own developer rights to 4 high quality themes.  You can leverage those over and over again, without any additional cost.  If your site starts making money hand over fist, and you later decide that you would really benefit from a custom design, you can always change it then.

Low Value Activities (you won’t get your money back on a flip):

  • Creating a custom design
  • Creating back-end admin functions
  • Directionless content creation
  • Social MEDIA

High Value Activities:

  • Building links
  • Keyword research
  • Content creation (based on keyword research)
  • Guest posting
  • Creating link-bait
  • List building

Remember, people don’t buy pretty — they buy profit (and sometimes potential profit).  It takes traffic (preferably targeted) in order to succeed.

I set out to outsource or eliminate all low value activities, and even some of the simple high value ones.  Where possible, I did so for free.

Leverage Your Best Asset

There’s a reason I bought an aged domain with relatively high PageRank — I knew I wouldn’t be able to create a good parenting site if I was the only writer.  I like to think I’m a great dad (my kids tell me as much), but they’re only 6 and 4.  There’s only so much I can provide insight into.  I can’t tell people how to handle their out-of-control teenage daughter.  Even if I could, my time is limited and the only way to make more time is to use someone else’s.  I knew that I needed to bring other writer’s on board.

I also knew that I needed credibility if I wanted to outsource writing on the cheap.  People would accept less (or no) pay if they thought they were writing for a substantial publication; if they found it to be an honor to be published on this site.  To marginally tech-savvy potential writers, PR 4 (rightly or wrongly… okay, totally wrongly) suggests that credibility.  The brand name pulled the rest of the weight.  Perceived brand equity was my best asset.  The only problem was I had an empty site that screamed the exact opposite.

A site with no content destroys all the credibility that otherwise flows from PageRank and brand equity.  This had to be remedied quickly.  For starters, I wrote a bunch of content.  I also set my wife to work, writing a few articles.  I had my mom do the same.  We started to build up a decent base of content that started to fill in the holes.  Then, I went on a hiring spree.

Where to Hire Writers

I went to oDesk and hired a bunch of writers to produce articles at $5 each.  I created a long topic list and had my writers choose articles they would be interested in.  The quality of writing for the price was quite good, and the site was quickly filling with content.  Later, I made a post on the ProBlogger job board, which resulted in over 300 submissions for a paid writing gig.  I added a few more writers from this crop — all very talented, all very low paid (between $5 and $10 per article, depending on skill).

The first month I spent around $100 for additional content.  I published at least 1 new article ever day and traffic was already growing strong (nearly 11,000 views on 4,300 visits).  And here’s where the magic started to happen.

How to Get Free Content

I installed the Contact Form 7 plugin for WordPress and posted a “Write for Us” page.  I described the benefits of writing for the site, a little bit about its traffic, and added a contact form (with file attachment capabilities).  I started receiving regular submissions from site readers who, seeing the large number of authors writing for my site, felt comfortable submitting their content as well.  By prominently featuring the multi-author nature of the site and making it easy for potential authors to submit their articles, I was getting new content for free.

I also set out to work existing relationships — I posted a note on my Facebook account about the site and asked any of my friends who were interested in writing to let me know.  A friend from high school (who now lived in New York and worked professionally as an editor) volunteered to write for me.  So did my brother’s neighbor, and a few others.

I started retweeting stuff from some parenting coaches who impressed me, told them how much I enjoyed their sties, and suddenly they were interested in writing for me too.  I had hit the free content jackpot.

What it Means for You

I saved money wherever possible in building and launching the site, and spent it where necessary (augmenting my content creation abilities) in order to build a site that projected an image of credibility.  That perceived authority is a content magnet.  You can do the same thing with your sites, and you’ll find that when it comes time to flip the website, you’re in position to fetch top dollar.  Even if you don’t want to be a “content magnet,” focusing on high value activities will ensure that you get the most money back for your efforts when you sell your website.

I know I kind of breezed through traffic generation — some of you are probably wondering what I did to go from 0 to 11,000 pageviews in a month.  I share with you what worked (and what failed) in the next article in this series.

P.S. — If you don’t want to miss any of the articles in this series, be sure to subscribe to our RSS feed.

  • I’ve been watching the show and i really love it. What i didn’t realize is that it can also applied it in outsourcing to make it free. Excellent article!

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  • denzal wellington

    I like the idea of an enhanced link exchange. I guess the key is to
    know your demographics and target sites that aren’t direct competitors?
    That sounds much more useful and less spammy than the link exchange
    form letters I get that read “Dear [insert name here] I’d like to
    exchange links with you” etc.

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  • Efrat

    Great post.
    What about newbie flippers?
    What would you recommend?

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  • Hey Eppie, meant to say in my last post, congrats on acquiring FlipWebsites, here’s to your success with it!

    Question: would you always develop a site before flipping or are there occasions where you may flip just the domain?

    Also what’s your opinion of RegisterCompass? I used it to get some aged domains, it was easy to use and you could find some real bargains, but its a paid monthly service, so I cancelled after a month. Are there any free sites out there which do the same thing?


    • John,

      First, thanks for the congratulations and well wishes. Now, to your questions — I actually started out flipping domains, not websites. I still sell domains with some regularity, and there are certain names that I would only consider buying to flip as domains (if the market is too saturated, or if you can get a good deal on a 3 or 4 letter .com, for example). Not everything gains value when developed.

      Generally when I buy names, I try to only buy ones that I’d be comfortable being stuck with. By that, I mean that I only want to hold names that I could find use for — develop into a business. I only make an exception for a really good deal.

      As for RegisterCompass, I’ve never used it. I’ve been a big fan of FreshDrop, and when I didn’t have a subscription there, I used my own home-made tool (which I still use for some things). I may have to look into doing a comparison of FreshDrop and RegisterCompass, though.

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  • Hi Eppie

    ~How much did you sell the site for in the end?


    • @John — I sold the site for $10,000… and left a bunch of money on the table. You’ll get to learn from my mistake in a few days. When you hear how it went down, you’ll get sick to your stomach.

  • Wow…These are the kind of post I check your site everyday for. Lots of valuable info here, I truly can’t wait for then next installation as I could benefit immensely from the ability to draw that amount in a month!

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