It seems inconceivable now, but there may come a time that you want to close your online business. It may be for health reasons. It could be because you’re just tired of doing it. Maybe you’ve changed direction in your life and don’t want to continue any of your online activities. There are a variety of reasons.
One of the challenges we face with Online Business is that it’s been around such a short time, that there are not a lot of good models to follow when it comes to closing one. That was my challenge as I decided whether or not I wanted to retire. As a consequence, the amount of time and effort I put into researching the options has been documented here.
If you have decided it’s time to close your online business, here’s a list of steps you need to take.
1. List all of the domains you own. You can easily do this by pulling a report from your registrar (the place where you register and renew your domain names).
2. Determine the fate of each domain name. Will you sell this one? Will you keep it? (I always recommend you keep yourname.com, if you already own it. There is only one of those in the world and it may have future value for you.) Will you just let it expire?
Note your decision next to each domain name.
If you own a keyword-rich domain name, it may be worth it to sell it. You can determine the “value” by getting a domain appraisal at your registrar’s site. If they don’t offer one, you can always use TechTamersDomains.com (Choose it from the Domains menu.)
Once you have determined the potential value of a domain, you can
- Offer it to your list
- Point social media posts pointing to your list of domains for sale
- Sell it on Sedo.com (they are the best known site seller, but they also charge more) or GoDaddy Auctions (more affordable fees, but less traffic).
3. List all sites where you are making payments. The easiest way to get a list of these is to look at your credit card statements, your PayPal account, and your bookkeeping system. You may easily have:
- Automatic renewals at your registrar
- A shopping cart
- An autoresponder system
- Monthly sites you pay for, such as memberships
- Backup sites you maintain, such as Amazon S3
Next to each payment, list whether or not it is recurring. If so, be sure to cancel those. The biggest culprits will be those annual licenses you pay for things like backups, software licenses, etc. So these may take some digging.
4. With your list of payments, plan when to turn them off.
Timing is key here. For example, you cannot turn off your hosting account as long as you have active sites on it. So that may be one of the last accounts to close.
On the other hand, you can turn off all of the recurring payments you have for content immediately, since you won’t be needing it any more.
So look at each payment carefully. Better to let it go one more payment than to cancel in haste and decide you really needed that site one more month.
5. Focus on your intellectual assets. If, for example, you’ve created courses or written articles or books, decide 1) if each item has any value and 2) do you want to sell it to someone else?
A. You can sell your business as a whole. There are business brokers who will find a buyer for your business. However, recognize that there is a lot of work that you need to put in before you are prepared to sell it. For example, you will need to document each site, each product, number of copies sold, when content was last updated, conversion rate for the site, etc. If you are willing to put in that effort or already have those numbers at hand, this may be a good option for you. Just be prepared to wait for the right buyer, all the time either continuing your business or watching it deteriorate around you, with no guarantee it will sell.
B. You can sell your content. Again, there are multiple choices for how to do this.
1. You can sell your domains with content on them. If the domain has good content on it, such as a sales letter, product, or blog, you can sell it with the content, adding value to the buyer. Naturally you want to be sure you have all rights to the content. If you do, look into selling the site “as is” on Flippa.com or a similar site.
2. You can sell just the content. You could easily package the product or blog articles, for example, and sell a limited number of copies of it. Include Private Label Rights and the masters (such as the slides, Word documents, etc.) so that the buyer(s) can modify and update the content. As a bonus include a copy of your salesletter. Include training on how to repurpose PLR materials.
3. Sell turnkey sites that are clones of your original site. This is particularly effective if you have a product that newer marketers could sell, without specialized knowledge. You can even go one step further and use software like Backup Creator to clone your site and set up a duplicate on their URL. Providing this type of “service” goes beyond just PLR rights to the content. You are now selling a “turnkey business” at a much higher price point. You can charge even more by limiting the number of packages you sell. You could easily record a how-to webinar where you show them how to modify the site to make it unique.
6. You may have some assets that continue to generate revenue, with no additional work on your part. These will include affiliate revenues for recurring products – those will continue to flow into your account, so keep your PayPal account open. Likewise, books you’re selling on Amazon and other sites will continue to generate revenue. You may want to change the bank account where you receive your payments, but there’s no point in getting rid of these, unless you feel you can make more from them by selling the title or rights to the books.
7. You have a variety of social media accounts. Will you keep these or stop using them when your business closes? Make a list of them and determine the fate of each.
8. Email subscriptions. Start now to unsubscribe from everything. If you have decide to close your business, you no longer need multiple emails tempting you to buy things you don’t need. You no longer need to track what other marketers are doing. Just unsubscribe.
9. Multiple email accounts. If you are not in business, you probably don’t need multiple email accounts. Close them.
10. Decide whether or not you want to tell anyone you are retiring or quitting. Since there are so few high-profile Online Businesses that have quit or closed, there are few models to follow. Of those who have announced their “retirement”, 100% have resurfaced online within 5 years. So you may or may not decide to share the news with your customers, subscribers, and online friends.
11. Notify your customers. If people have purchased products from you, you need to let them know you are selling the product site or that you are closing it. Give them an opportunity to log in and pick up what they need before the site closes.
12. Consider your customers. If you are selling the site, you may or may not include the list of customers with the sale. It depends on the terms under which people subscribed to your site and whether or not you trust the new owner to take good care of your people. If in doubt on either item, don’t give them the customer list.
If you’ve gotten to this point, following each of the prior steps, it’s time to go ahead and take action. Every day you delay, it’s costing you money.
Closing a business is not an easy decision, nor is it a quick process, unless you just turn out the lights and walk away. Even then, if you have not documented your assets and how you will dispose of them, unexpected charges will come back to bite you. So take the time to do it right.
Naturally I would love to hear your ideas of what else you can think of – or what questions you have about the process.
Great article Jeanette! I think it’s a good idea to put all the various milestones on a calendar. Not all of them will be easy to calendarize, but most can be to some extent. Having a date by when you want to complete this is important as well — so it doesn’t become one of those projects without end.
I also think it’s helpful to have something else planned to transition to. As with many things we leave, lose or let go of in life, there is a grieving process we go through. It’s not always easy. When we let go, sometimes it’s helpful to know our next step. Not everyone knows what that will be, however it’s a good idea to think about that ahead of time. It makes it a lot easier to disassemble what you have when you know that it’s merely another step along life’s journey.
Finally, it can also help to have a trusted friend or coach along for this journey of “wrapping things up.” There’s no need to go it alone. Our businesses are so much more than just businesses — they are an extension of ourselves and letting them go can and will affect us on multiple levels.
What wonderful ideas, Tara! Thank you so much for your contributions. I agree with every one of them!
The tips you gave are great. It’s a nice run down of the steps a business owner would need to take to shut down a website. But how do you turn off or shut down the emotional relationship you have with your’ baby’ which is the site you started years ago and put your blood, sweat and tears into it?
It’s hard to turn off my emotional connection to a site, yet it sits there. But, a business is a business. Hopefully I’ve learned from it and am ready to start on the next business.
I agree, Carol. It’s the emotions attached to the site and all it meant to you – the hopes, dreams – and revenue! That’s what’s hard to say goodbye to. As a person who has a hard time with clutter in my life, in general, I totally agree.
I believe you have to adopt that “selfless” perspective of giving it away – or at least letting it go. I try to imagine how excited someone will be when they can suddenly buy the “perfect” domain name for their new business. And that makes it easier.
So Jeanette, After all that research, what have you decided to do?
Great question, Joanne. I’m actually doing a hybrid. I’m letting some of my domains go. I’m selling a bunch of them. Haven’t decided what to do with many of my older products. I’m keeping and updating the ones that support my books, moving all of them to JVZoo so that others can continue to promote them, too.
Then I’m turning to long-term revenue plans. I’m writing more books and looking for third party sites on which to post my courses. I’m cutting back on email frequency and restricting it to the times when I have something to say.
And I’m opening a totally unrelated site to share what I’m learning about my journey to wellness.
But gee, other than that, I’ll just enjoy my “retirement.”
Thanks for setting out your process…I am one of those who wants to shut down, stop working and spend the rest of my life with my honey and my family. And my quilting!
I’ve loved working on the web, getting to know a lot of wonderful people, feel that I did contribute to my clients and treasure the feedback that I have gotten from so many people.
Does this mean I am shutting down my computer…no way. But I am going to focus on hobbies, friends, a little writing and opportunities for traveling and new challenges.
And, I will sneak into my computer to see what you are going to be doing.
Much love and gratitude for all you have helped me over the years