How I Became a Domain Investor
I feel like I’ve probably told the story a bunch of times (which I am sure I have), but since a number of people have asked me recently, I want to share the story of how I became a domain investor.
When I was a NYU in 2002-03, I went to help a family friend clean the movie ride curtains at the Empire State Building since I lived less than a block away. For two days, we talked about how expensive the City was – especially for a grad student. My Dad’s friend recommended that I find some sort of product to sell and that I should sell it easily on Ebay. I looked around for a number of things – custom pencils (no margin), art (did some buying and selling) and finally I saw people selling domain names.
I would see names selling for a few hundred dollars, and when I went to Network Solutions, I saw that similar names were available for just $35.00. I bought my first name, and for the life of me I can’t remember what it was. I think it was a legal name with a hyphen. I remember I sold it after two auctions and broke even. Shortly thereafter, I learned about Godaddy’s less expensive registrations, and I began buying and selling newly registered domain names for 200-300%+ profit. It wasn’t a whole lot of money, but I continued to do it and reinvest all of my profits.
As the number of my customers grew, I began selling domain names in private and in bulk. Instead of selling 1 name for $30, I would sell 20 of them for $18/each. My profit margins were smaller, but my profits grew. With all of this, I continued to reinvest in my business, buying more newly registered domain names. I went to work at a Direct Marketing Agency in 2003 and continued to buy and sell domain names on the side, although there were times when I stopped doing it to focus on other things.
I later began to realize the value of keyword domain names, which was taught to me by Tasha Kidd, who also told me about domain parking. I had been looking at domain names as virtual pieces of land, but hadn’t really even considered monetization. Prior to this, I had focused primarily on “brandable” domain names, with some of my new registrations including BusinessMotels.com, GasolineExperts.com, and many more.
Sometime in early 2006, one of my clients recommended that I join DNForum. Up until that time I didn’t even realize there was an actual domain industry. Ironically, he told me that once I joined the forum, I probably wouldn’t sell him any more domain names cheaply. For some time, I continued to buy newly registered domain names, while selling them as quickly as possible… churning and burning through them.
It was on DNForum that I got my first big break. I saw a listing for the domain names Mortgaged.net, Mortgaged.org, Mortgaged.info, and Mortgaged.biz, and I bought it for what I believe is a few hundred dollars. I then did some research and found that Mortgaged.com was for sale for 4 figures from someone else, and I bought it – the purchase was my highest priced domain acquisition, and for the couple of days around then, I was nervous as hell. I hadn’t paid more than a few hundred dollars for a domain name ever. With some good luck, I was then able to flip the entire package for a profit, earning me more than I had made on any single deal before.
I continued to reinvest all of my profits as I started a new job as a Marketing Manager at AIG. I worked all day and came home to do more work in the evening – looking to make deals the entire time. One day in September of 2006, I bought TelephoneCall.com for $x,xxx, and a few weeks later, I flipped it for $20,000 at the TRAFFIC auction. I used the proceeds from that investment to acquire other domain names of higher value, and I continued to buy and sell – keeping taxes in mind (which is VERY important).
In October of 2007, I was able to leave my full time job at AIG and focus on growing my domain business. I literally started with a $35 domain investment in 2003, had zero technical or Internet background, and I have become a full time domain investor and developer. Fortunately, I learned about development, because I am able to do things I never thought I could do – such as changes to the blog, website development edits, and other very small coding projects.
While I do think times are arguably tougher than they’ve been anytime since the .com bubble, I still think there’s plenty of opportunity. I continue to earn a living buying great names at great prices and selling them at fair prices. I generate (growing) revenue from my developed websites, but I still primarily earn a living as a domain investor.
One of the reasons I happily blog every day is that over the last few years I’ve been lucky enough to receive advice from a wide range of domain investors, developers, designers, SEOs, venture capitalists, advertising executives…etc, and I am passionate about giving back. If it wasn’t for the advice of others, I wouldn’t be in the position I am in today, and I hope I can be helpful to those who can use it.
Just because you don’t have a huge bankroll and just because you didn’t start in 1996 is not a good reason for why you can’t be a successful domain investor today.
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