I’m constantly on the lookout for blogs dedicated to website flipping. A while back I ran across a blog called FlippingAwesome.com. The two people behind it were Ian and Amy. I was impressed with their blog so I started following their websites for sale on Flippa. I quickly realized this husband and wife duo were real pros at building and selling startup websites.
I’ve read in some forums that you can’t make money selling startup websites. These guys were obvious examples of the contrary. They’ve been so successful selling startup websites that Amy was able to quit her 9-5 job last year! I had to interview them to find out more. This is a record of that interview. Enjoy 🙂
FW: I know Ian has been making a living online since 2002 but you guys didn’t start flipping until the summer of 2009. What was Ian’s “specialty” during those 7 years prior to flipping websites full time?
IAN: I created and maintained websites for small to medium sized business in the local area and I hated it. Dealing with deadlines, ridiculous red tape and having to continuously be in motion between 9-5, it was terrible way to earn money. When I made $997 in one day from my first flip, I was hooked.
FW: I hear you. The 9-5 is definitely a drag. $997 on your first flip? That’s awesome. Congrats! Amy, I understand you quit your day job in the summer of 2009 to pursue site flipping for a living. Were you involved with Ian’s Internet business prior to that? And what is your background?
AMY: My background was banking. In college I majored in Business Management and as I was working on my degree, I started working at a small credit union in worked my way into the Accounting department. It wasn’t long before I was miserable. Because the credit union was small, the accounting department basically oversaw everything. I was overworked, had a tremendous amount of responsibility, and of course was under paid. I remember going to the bathroom and looking outside the window and just feeling like I was missing out on life.
IAN: While at the credit union, Amy would sometimes call me crying because she was so miserable. Those were hard phone calls. She would come home and be mentally exhausted and need to take a nap to recover – it was tough to see her go through that. After a few of those crying calls, I knew she needed a change. She was burning out fast. I started to teach her how to install WordPress, add articles, etc.
FW: That’s awful. I’m glad to hear you were able to break out of that “prison!” As a team now of full-time flippers, tell me what it’s like working together and who handles what in the partnership.
IAN: We have a lot of fun together everyday! Our desks are right next to each other, so we sing songs, laugh and joke around all the time – it’s really awesome. Sometimes we hit up coffee shops and do some work there. When it comes to flipping sites, we both know how to do the entire process, so sometimes we have 2 sites going and we are both working on a site, sometimes we double team a big site to get it done faster. Sometimes I start one and she finishes it off. While we don’t have set responsibilities, we both know what needs to happen and in what order so we can bounce from one site to another.
AMY: Like Ian said, in terms of creating a site we don’t have “set” responsibilities. However he is better/faster at creating graphics than I am so he tends to handle that more. Because of my work experience, I tend to handle a lot of the business related tasks, such as tracking our income and expenses, etc. After all, flipping websites is a business!
FW: Exactly. And thanks for pointing that out. This is a business and if someone wants to succeed at flipping websites they need to have that frame of mind. Do you guys outsource any of your tasks?
IAN: No, we don’t outsource anything yet, however we do have plans to do some outsourcing soon. Behind the scenes we are currently creating a system to outsource the entire process of flipping, everything from creation to listing… if it works it’s going to really change what we do.
FW: That sounds interesting and I can see how streamlining the process like that would dramatically change your business. Given your current processes and systems, how many sites do you flip per month?
IAN: If I had to guess we flip about 10 NEW sites a month, but we are constantly selling OLD sites to people that stumble upon our site/auctions as well as doing custom work on the side. This past month we haven’t been flipping as many sites because of our coaching program, but you can expect the number of flips to increase when the first course is over.
FW: I know you guys just recently launched your coaching program. Tell me more about it.
IAN: Our coaching program walks you through each and every step of website flipping with videos, diagrams and descriptions. From brainstorming niche topics, buying a domain name, finding eBooks to sell, adding AdSense/ClickBank/eBook, changing theme graphics and a ton more. What really separates our course is that is NOT just an eBook, this is an online classroom. We release a topic or two each day and you complete it. You can ask us questions about any topic and we personally respond with an answer/explaination.
The coaching program is limited to 10 people to ensure a one-on-one environment with our students. The cost is $197 and it takes approx. 3-4 weeks to complete.
FW: Sounds like a terrific opportunity for those new to website flipping. Walk me through the process of determining what websites you’re going to build for a given week (or month – or whatever schedule you adhere to)? Do you even have a set schedule?
IAN: Wow, great question. We actually don’t have a system/schedule in place. We basically hear about a hot topic, see what topics are selling well on Flippa, read Google news, etc.. and make a niche site about it. Nothing too complex about that process!
AMY: I try to always have a list of hot topics ready to go. As I go about day to day life, if I come across something that sparks an idea for a site, I try to document it, and if I have time I try to find some available domain names for it. By having a list of ideas on hand, it really helps me move along from one site to the next. Before I started doing this, I would find that I would spend a lot of time trying to think up the next idea.
FW: You both point out an interesting point – don’t over think or over complicate the process. I think too many people get bogged down in the details and they never get anything done. You guys are proof positive that keeping things simple works! Do you have a set “model” of how you develop your websites? For example, maybe you make sure every website has at least 10 articles and an ebook offer – something along those lines.
IAN: Actually Yes. Typically our flips have the following:
15 Articles each with a thumbnail
3-5 Revenue streams
FW: Where do you get the articles from? Do you write them yourself or are you using PLR articles or articles from places like Ezine Articles?
IAN: Typically the articles come from Ezine Articles. I think we maybe sold 5 sites with 100% unique content, but that is definitively the exception not the rule. We find that writing content yourself takes too long and outsourcing the writing can be expensive (for quality articles).
FW: Do you do anything in the way of promoting your websites before listing them for sale?
AMY: Every time that we list a new site, we put a link to it on each of our Facebook pages. We also try to make sure that they have had some SEO plugins installed, as well as submit the site to Search Engines.
FW: How long does it take you from the time you start on a website to getting it listed for sale?
IAN: This varies widely, but if we are both working on a site, no distractions, really motivated and everything goes smoothly, we go from acquiring a domain name to listing a completed site on Flippa.com within 2 hours. Sometimes things go bad, nothing works, the Internet connection sucks and thumbnails are hard to find – those days it takes 2-8 hours.
FW: Wow. You guys are fast. I’m terribly slow at building websites so that’s why I don’t sell startup sites myself. I envy your speed;) I’ve seen many of your websites for sale on Flippa (they are very nice by the way). Each one is so different from the other. Between the two of you, which one does all the graphics and website layouts?
IAN: It’s split between us. Sometimes I can make things like banners/icons faster than Amy, but she is mostly capable of doing it herself. If she ever gets stuck we are only 2 feet away from each other, so I slide my chair over to her desk and help out.
FW: Right. You sit right next to each other…lol. I also noticed after looking through your websites that you use WordPress exclusively. Why WordPress vs. any other platform?
IAN: In my opinion, WordPress is extremely simple to use, supported by thousands of developers worldwide, it has tons of free plugins and best of all – it’s FREE. Before WordPress I used to create sites in HTML via Microsoft FrontPage, it was slow and tedious.
AMY: WordPress gives you the ability to make a quality site fast. I have used Frontpage here and there so I have seen firsthand how complex it can be. If it weren’t for WordPress I don’t think that I would have been able to learn this whole process so quickly. Another plus to using WordPress is that it makes maintaining a website so easy. Because of the simplicity of using the admin panel in it we are able to sell sites to a bigger market. If we were selling html based Frontpage sites, first-time site buyers who are just starting out would not be able to maintain the site and as a result and we would be decreasing our potential customers.
FW: Great points. That exactly why I have used WordPress exclusively myself for the past few years. Before I was introduced to WordPress I tried FrontPage and I wanted to pull my hair out. Do you guys use premium themes or free themes?
IAN: We have used themes from places such as WooThemes. However, recently we’ve been developing a lot of our own WordPress themes and we will be launching a theme club just for website flippers very soon.
FW: You’ll have to keep me posted on that. Aside from using WordPress as your platform, what tools (free or paid) do you use for your website flipping business?
IAN: For graphic design we use PhotoImpact. I started using it many years ago and never had a need to move on to PhotoShop. Someday I’d like to learn PhotoShop, but for right now I am extremely fast at PhotoImpact. We use FileZilla for FTPing files. We also use the following FireFox plugins: MeasureIt (onscreen ruler), FireBug (helps tweak CSS and PHP files), and ColorZilla (for eye dropping colors).
FW: Great list of tools and best of all, they are all free – except PhotoImpact, which is only $30. Getting back to your websites for sale, most of your sites are startup sites. Will this continue to be your primary type of flip for the remainder of 2010?
IAN: It will always be the majority of what we flip, but we are looking into creating 2 sites to keep for 2 months to promote and build traffic and then flip them – then buy 2 more to hold for a few months, then flip. You can get a lot more money with sites that have traffic/revenue, but having to wait months is a drag – we like money and we like it now!
FW: I hear you! The obvious advantage to selling startup websites is that you can get paid now, as you’ve pointed out. What are the challenges to selling them?
AMY: When creating a site that has no traffic or revenue, you need to compensate for that. You really need to create an outstanding site, and in the sales description “paint a picture” of all the possibilities that this site can offer a buyer.
FW: Paint a picture of the possibilities is an excellent tip. When I was in real estate we had to do that with buyers because for many people it’s hard to “see” what the potential is. Final question guys, it seems most of your websites sell somewhere between $97 – $250. Is this price range the sweet spot for startup sites?
IAN: Yes, that is about right for a “no revenue/no traffic” site. We ran an experiment a while ago and found that half the buyers of $100 sites host with us. Since then we have been trying to sell to that type of buyer because what we are really after is the monthly hosting payments – those are the best!
That’s an excellent strategy and a great way to make residual money on each flip. You guys are good:) I want to thank you both for your time and for your candid answers. I wish you both all the success for the rest of 2010!
You can follow Ian and Amy on their websites: FlippingAwesome.com and LiveAnywhereWorkAnytime.com