Ace Sites has been really successful over the last few months thanks to a bunch of different things- mostly Flippa. Now that I’ve been looking to sell the site, I wanted to write a post detailing what worked and what didn’t work in regards to finding clients and making sales. If you are looking to find clients for your web design business, you can learn from the mistakes I made.
After a slow start, Ace Sites eventually started earning hundreds of dollars of month through web design clients as well as selling pre-made sites.
I got the domain name for Ace Sites in early 2012.
Before that, I had created a bunch of little sites. I had collected domain names and built some of them out. I’d sold some of the sites on Flippa, but many more were just lying around. I wanted a place I could put them all together, like a little shop for sites I had made.
It took a while to find the right domain name, but when I saw Ace Sites, I liked it. The domain name is over 15 years old, meaning I was not even in highschool when it was first registered. I also liked that it was short and brandable. After acquiring the name I set out to design the site. It went through a few iterations before setting on something similar to it’s current design earlier this year.
Using Flippa as my main avenue for selling, I had a few sales early on but nothing too special. I actually went through a bit of a rough patch on Flippa, with most of my auctions not reaching their reserve. With Ace Sites, I didn’t have much of a marketing plan other than hoping people would find it over time. I made a Twitter account and made a few tweets here and there, but noone was contacting me to buy any of the sites and the site was getting very little traffic.
The problem was that I wasn’t actively marketing the site at all. I thought that it could slowly build up over time without having to reach out and pay to actually advertise the site myself. I know now this is a mistake- if you have a product with a decent price point, it’s better to get out there and find a cost effective way of advertising your product.
Ace Sites in it’s current form
On the day the Flippa classifieds got implemented, I decided to put an ad up. I offered to design simple WordPress sites for $99. I didn’t think much would come of the ad as there were already alot of ads flooding into the site.
The next day however, I was pleased to see that I had some emails in my inbox from potential clients. Most of them were telling me about their ideas and asking if I could do it.
I told them I could and started discussing specifics. Some of them ended up not responding again after that, but a few clients did respond.
Taking a bit of a risk
I realized as I was talking to clients that it was a little bit risky for them. They had to send $99 to someone that they didn’t know and just hope that it wasn’t a scam. I thought of a way to lower the risk for them and put the risk on my end instead.
I told the clients that if they wanted, I could build the site and do any edits they needed, before payment. This way I could keep tweaking the sites as per their instructions, and then when they knew they were happy with it, they could pay and I would send them all the files.
This seemed to allay the worries of some of the buyers, and we made some deals. I worked with about 3 clients at first, working hard during that next week to create websites for them, hoping it would be what they wanted.
Thankfully it was. For one of the clients, it was a one off sale, but the others were repeat clients. The second client bought a few sites in total, but the last client continued coming back for a couple of months.
It was amazing that so much had come of a $5 classifieds ad on Flippa.
Trying to step it up a notch
Due to the success of the Flippa ad, I decided to make another ad when mine expired. This time I payed the extra $20 or so to make it a featured listing.
The result was great, the next day I had a few new clients again.
Again, I told these clients that I was happy to build the site before payment. Sadly, there was one client I built 2 sites for who decided in the end he didn’t want it afterall. I built out the first one over about 4 hours, and he said he wanted to go for a different look, so I spent about another 4 hours working on another design and he decided he didn’t want either and would look elsewhere. Bummer! But I wasn’t upset, this is exactly why I wanted to build the sites first, to make sure the buyer was totally happy before paying.
I always try to look at the positives, so I figured it was time spent becoming a better designer. Also, you never know which clients will turn into long term repeat clients, so it’s worth putting in alot of effort for everyone who comes to your business, cos you never know if it might work out that time and turn into something really worth while.
After this I continued working for other clients and made a whole bunch of sites for them, all of which they seemed very happy with!
Since then, I haven’t put up anymore ads. I’ve been so busy in “real life” with my real life job and other events.
Over the last month I’ve sold a bunch of sites on Flippa, making around $800 since the start of October – I am fundraising for moving out.
Early next year I am moving into a new place. We’ve been planning it out for a while and I’m trying to raise as much as I can for the move, so I’ve decided to sell whichever of my websites I can find a buyer for. Due to the fact that I may not be able to have a job secured in the city I’m moving to before going there, I’m trying to save as much as possible to keep me going until I find a job there.
I’m looking to sell Ace Sites, along with all sites currently listed there, together in a bundle for about $999. If I can’t find a buyer soon I will probably list it on Flippa and just take whatever I can get for it. I’d prefer to sell it before having to do that. Even though I love Ace Sites, the move is quite important to me so I’m willing to liquidate everything I can to make it happen. If Ace Sites fails to find a new home I will probably just continue to use it as a place to list websites and sell them.
I think $999 is a decent price for the collection because it works out to only $100 per site, and some of them are very old, having domain names over 10 years old. Ace Sites itself was registered in early 1998 and another one for example the domain name HeavyHost.com is over 10 years old.
All the sites listed on Ace Sites also have prices next to them if you want to get one individually, but I am always happy to negotiate.
The main lesson that was reinforced for me regarding Ace Sites is that you have to be willing to pay to put your business out there. If you don’t advertise it, people are unlikely to just come along and find it. In fact, that was the topic of my recent guest post on Flippa.
Another tip is just to treat every customer as best you can. One of the client I had for a couple of months had me design a bunch of sites for him. If you don’t do a great job on the first attempt for a client like this, you may lose all those potential extra gigs.