Web designers, how do you sell websites when you can’t find clients? You might be the best website developer in the world but if you can’t find customers and you’re not great at sales, how are you going to make money selling websites? Glad you asked!

It can be challenging to find new business, particularly during tough economic periods. Even harder is when you’re starting out as a freelancer and you don’t have clients to refer you business, or for that matter, a marketing budget.

As a web designer you also invariably go through stages when you’re just downright sick of clients. Sound familiar? You come up with beautiful design comps for clients then they tear them to shreds, insisting on beveled nav buttons and a Flash splash page – so late nineties! How on earth are you going to develop a brilliant folio to help attract more sales when all your beautiful work keeps being spoiled by clients with no taste?

There is a way you can build websites and make money selling them without clients. You may not be able to sell them at a premium as you would to normal clients with custom requirements, but on the upside you won’t have to endure the time consuming back and forth with the client; discussing the color pallet, explaining browser compatible fonts, finding a stock photo that encapsulates the client’s brand… I digress.

So, as a web designer, how do you go about building and selling a website on Flippa, or any other website marketplace for that matter? Here are the basic steps involved:

1. Find a niche

A niche is a small targeted section of a particular market. There are thousands of sites and products out there that will help you find a niche, but a great place to start is the 30 Day Challenge. 30DC is a free online course that breaks down niche finding into a science. Also, you can find out what’s popular with buyers on Flippa.com by checking out tags buyers are watching.  When you’re a bit further along, use Google’s Keyword tool to discover how many related searches the niche receives.

A word of advice: pick something you’re knowledgeable about and enjoy. For example, if you like surfing, your niche might be about “how to wax a surfboard”. Choosing a topic you enjoy will make it feel less like work and help when developing content for the site.

2. Register a Domain

You’ve found a niche, now you need to buy a domain for the website to live under. A domain will cost you around US$10 from GoDaddy or NameCheap. Dot com names tend to sell better than other domain types so try to find a dot com relevant to your niche. Using your core search term in the domain name will also help.

For example: waxingasurfboard.com (by the way, that domain name IS available at the time of writing this post – I’ll give a free Flippa listing and success fees to whoever buys the domain and sells it as a developed website on Flippa.)

3. Get Some Hosting

If you’re a seasoned web professional, you’ll know that a website has to live somewhere. You may already have a hosting reseller account, but if not head over to one of the many hosting providers and find an affordable but quality hosting provider. You can host a single domain from around $5 per month or, if you’re going to make a meal of it, buy a hosting reseller account for around $25 /month and you’ll be able to host unlimited domains. I’ve used Hostgator (aff) for a couple of years and can recommend them.

4. Choose a Popular CMS

Not everyone knows how to to markup perfect standards compliant HTML like you. Building your site on a popular publishing platform will make your website more attractive to buyers as it makes editing and adding content much easier. Open source is definitely the flavor of the month with WordPress being one of the more popular platforms used for Flippa listings. You could also use Joomla or Drupal if they’re your weapon of choice.

5. Build It

This is the easy part for a gun website builder!  But it’s hard for many others, so this is where you add value.  You may have a spiffing design you’re dying to show the world, or you may just be happy to modify one of the many themes available for the platforms listed above. Design it, slice and dice, then implement – you know the drill.

6. Add Content

OK, this is the part that the client usually looks after, or the copywriter  –  the stage of the project that always takes the longestand keeps you from being paid. This is where it helps to love the niche you’re in, or find someone who does to write content for you. If you decide to go down the latter path, you can expect to pay about $8 – $10 per article for a 400-500 word article on Elance. As with all things, you get what you pay for. When writing your Elance brief, ask for samples.

7. Publish It

People want to be able to see what they’re buying, so once you’ve finished with the design, development and content loading stick the site up on your hosting account.

8. Install Google Analytics

Potential buyers will want to see some evidence of traffic – Google Analytics is pretty much ubiquitous for traffic stats on Flippa.

9. Build Backlinks

If you’re familiar with Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) then you’ll know what I’m talking about here. You want your website to be indexed by Google, at the least, and ideally, over time, it will appear on the first page of search results for your niche related search terms. No mean feet, but again, this will make it more valuable to buyers.

10. Let It Mature

Like fine wine, websites get better with age. Yes, this may be a generalization, but it’s undeniable that all else being equal, the more miles the site has under its belt the better. Some of the things buyers look for when buying websites are as follows:

11. List Your Website For Sale

Ready to sell your website? Here are some tips on selling your website at Flippa.

Watch Your Time and Expenses

You track your time and expenses when build website for clients don’t you… DON’T YOU? Well, of course you should do the same when you build websites to sell on Flippa. Work out the minimum you want to get paid per hour and try to achieve that. Quality start-up website packages generally sell on Flippa for $200 to $500 dollars, so do your sums. For example:

  • Domain Name: $10
  • Hosting (Say 6 months worth): $30
  • Outsourced Content writing: $100
  • Flippa Listing Fee (min.): $19
  • Total Expenses: $159
  • Your Time ?

Experienced sellers can setup a site in as little as 4 hours, though admittedly these are usually based on pre-designed themes. So,  if your site sells for $200, that’s $10 an hour. You’re not going be holidaying on a tropical island on those returns, but if your site sells for $400 you might consider giving your next annoying client the flick! Focus on providing quality; targeted sites with backlinks, some traffic, PageRank and even a little revenue and you’ll be able to generate some handy income on the side.