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Typically, the easiest way to sell a website or online business is to work with a business broker. However, hiring a broker isn’t always the right fit. Most brokers only work with businesses of a certain value, so using a broker isn’t always an option for smaller businesses.
Additionally, brokers usually charge a percentage of the sales price for businesses they successfully sell. These fees vary depending on several factors but often equal 10-15% of the sale. Sellers who want to avoid these fees may attempt to sell the business on their own without a broker.
This article covers the process of selling a website or online business without a broker.
What Is a Business Broker?
A business broker is an intermediary between buyers and sellers. They help facilitate the sale by valuing the business, marketing it to potential buyers, and negotiating the terms of the deal.
Since the seller pays the fees, the broker essentially works for and represents the seller, even though they provide some services to the buyer.
Pros and Cons of Selling Without a Broker
Of course, each approach comes with pros and cons. Here are the advantages and drawbacks of selling a small business without a business broker.
- You avoid paying broker fees, which can be significant.
- Some buyers prefer working directly with the seller rather than through a broker.
- If you have a potential buyer in mind, you can save time by going directly to them.
- You’re unlikely to have access to as many potential buyers as a broker would.
- Brokers often achieve higher selling prices due to increased demand from a bigger buyer pool.
- Brokers often generate a quicker sale.
- You may not have the same expertise or resources as a broker when valuing and marketing your business.
- Most brokers are skilled negotiators, and you may not get the same results doing it on your own.
- Brokers provide valuable guidance and insight throughout the process.
- It can be time-consuming and overwhelming to handle the entire sale process on your own.
As you can see, there are some significant drawbacks to selling a site or business on your own without a broker. By far the most common reason people try to sell without a broker is to save money on the fees. However, since brokers can often get a higher selling price, you might actually walk away with more money by going with a broker, even after the fees.
I’ve sold some online businesses privately, and I’ve also sold a few through a broker. The sales that brought the highest multiples were the ones handled by a broker (I’ve worked with Brad Wayland of Quiet Light). Each time, the broker got a much better price than what I could have gotten on my own.
Based on my experience, a good broker is worth the fee. However, if you have a strong network or an ideal buyer in mind, you might be able to skip the broker.
How to Sell Your Business Without a Broker
Now, let’s look at the specific steps you should take if you want to sell your own online business or website.
Step 1: Prepare Your Business for Sale
Jumping into the process is a common mistake many sellers make. You should plan the sale in advance and prepare your business to get the best results. There are a few things you can do to make the business as attractive as possible to potential buyers.
- Maximize revenue
- Cut any unnecessary expenses
- Create standard operating procedures (SOPs)
- Get organized with your financials and other records
- Gather data on traffic, customer acquisition, conversion rates, etc.
Getting your business in order before putting it up for sale gives you a better chance of increasing the business’s value. Plus, the more prepared you are, the smoother the sale process will be.
The time you need will vary depending on the details, but generally, planning at least 6-12 months in advance is ideal. The average monthly profit is the biggest factor in the business’s valuation, so giving yourself time to maximize revenue and cut expenses will allow you to see tangible results.
Step 2: Business Valuation
Next, you’ll need to determine the value of your business. When you approach potential buyers, they’ll want to know your asking price.
Online business valuations are typically based on the average monthly profit. The valuation may also consider other factors such as the business’s age, growth trajectory, and industry trends. However, profit is by far the most important factor.
The average monthly profit is then multiplied to determine the selling price. The industry standard multiple is usually between 24-48 months but can vary significantly. See our valuation guide for a more detailed look at the topic.
You can use a few online business valuation tools to get an idea of what your business might be worth. Here are some of the best options:
Empire Flippers offers an excellent (and free) website or business valuation tool. It only takes a few minutes to enter the details of your business, and you'll get a report on the estimated value. You don't even have to talk to anyone! It's my favorite tool for online business valuations.
It’s important to remember that these tools are intended to show the value or projected selling price if selling through these brokers or marketplaces. The price you can get privately may be lower because the broker/marketplace likely has a larger pool of potential buyers, which creates more demand.
Note: The true value of an online business is whatever a buyer is willing to pay for it. Each buyer has their own method for determining value, so it’s not an exact science. The valuation tools above will help you understand what it might be worth, but the value to real-world buyers may be higher or lower.
Step 3: Market Your Business and Find a Buyer
If you decide to try to sell your small business without a broker or marketplace, here are some of the ways you may be able to find potential buyers.
Contact Companies and Individuals That Invest In Online Businesses
A growing number of companies and individuals own and manage a portfolio of online businesses. In most cases, they acquire businesses that meet specific criteria. They may focus on a particular type of website/business (like e-commerce or content-based websites) or specific industries or niches.
Since their business model involves acquiring online businesses, these companies and individuals are usually open to submissions or inquiries from sellers. Some examples are listed below, but there are many others out there.
Contact Individuals and Companies Who Have Bought Other Businesses In Your Niche or Industry
One of the best ways to find a buyer is to reach out to people or companies who have bought other similar online businesses. If they bought one of your competitors, they may be interested in buying your business too.
Individuals and companies that have gone through acquisitions in the past are more likely to buy another business if it makes sense for them. Obviously, they see the value in buying an established business.
First, you need to find the people and companies that have bought online businesses in your industry. If you’ve been in the industry for a while, you probably already know who a few of these companies are. If not, you can search press releases for acquisitions. There are also some databases (like LexisNexis and Mergent Online) that provide details on mergers and acquisitions, but they typically only cover large acquisitions, and they charge subscription fees.
After you know some individuals and companies that have made acquisitions in the past, the next step is getting in touch with the right person. If you can find press releases or articles about the acquisitions, you may find quotes from someone who was involved. That can be a good indication of who you should contact.
If the company has a LinkedIn page, you can also browse their employees and job titles. Earlier this year, I sold a site by reaching out to someone on LinkedIn. His job title was VP of Business Development, and I got lucky by contacting the right person on the first attempt.
Contact Companies That Would Benefit From a Strategic Acquisition
Strategic acquisitions allow businesses to expand their products and services or their audience in a specific way through the transition. For example, if a financial media company wants to get into the field of education, it might acquire a business that already offers online financial courses.
To find possibilities for strategic acquisitions, think about who would benefit the most from taking ownership of your business. Who would benefit from getting access to your audience and customers or by selling your products?
Once you’ve identified some potential strategic buyers, you’ll need to get in touch and explain why you think they could benefit from buying your website or business.
Investors Club offers a free valuation tool that only requires a few minutes of your time. Enter details about your site, including traffic, income, and expenses. The tool will provide you with a report showing your site's estimated value. If you like what you see, you can proceed to list it for sale with Investors Club.
Use Facebook Groups
Facebook Groups can be extremely useful for selling a website or business. In 2017, my wife and I sold an Amazon FBA business through a Facebook Group.
There are several groups that exist specifically for buying and selling websites and online businesses. Some of the best ones include Flipping Websites, Website Flipping, Niche Website Flippers, and Upniche. These groups have thousands of buyers and sellers and plenty of activity.
Most of the websites sold through these Facebook Groups are on the smaller side. You won’t find a lot of six and seven-figure deals. But if you’re looking to sell a site for about $20,000 or less, there are a lot of potential buyers.
You can also use niche or industry-specific Facebook Groups. Those that target business owners are best.
Contact Your Partners and Affiliates
Have you collaborated with individuals or businesses? If your site is monetized through affiliate programs, you can reach out to the companies you promote. And if you sell your own products, you can reach out to some of your top affiliates.
Maybe you’ve done cross-promotions or other types of partnerships or collaborations. Anyone you’ve had these types of arrangements with may be worth contacting. They may be interested in buying your site to reach your audience or sell your products.
Best for Sites Making at Least $5k Per Month
Best for Sites Making at Least $2k Per Month
Best for Sites Making Less Than $2k Per Month
Contact Other Professionals In Your Industry
You can also reach out to people in your industry and let them know you’re interested in selling your online business. You don’t need to ask them if they’d like to buy it, but you can ask if they know anyone who might be an ideal fit. This approach expands your network exponentially.
Go through your contacts and reach out to anyone well-connected in your industry. Check your email address and LinkedIn connections to see who you can reach out to.
Contact Your Competitors
Optionally, you can reach out to your competitors to see if they’re interested in buying your business. Not every seller wants to go this route, so it’s okay if you skip it, but your competitors could be ideal buyers.
Step 4: Receive Offers and Negotiate
After you’ve contacted potential buyers, you’ll (hopefully) start to receive offers for your website or online business. Offers may be below your asking price, so you might need to negotiate to get a deal you’re happy with.
It’s important to have a clear idea of the minimum price you’re willing to accept for your site and what terms you’re looking for. Determining your minimum price before negotiation helps you make clear decisions without being swayed.
Step 5: Sign a Letter of Intent
If you reach an agreement with a buyer, the next step is to sign a letter of intent (LOI). This document outlines the basic terms of the sale, including the price, payment schedule, and other details. Although it’s a non-binding agreement, it shows that both parties intend to see it through.
Once both parties sign the LOI, you can move on to the next stage of the process.
Motion Invest is one of the best places to buy or sell content-based sites. Most brokers ignore businesses worth less than $100,000, but not Motion Invest. You'll find starter sites and established sites priced in the 4-5 figure range.
- 97% success rate
- Active marketplace with new listings each week
- More than 1,000 sites sold
Step 6: Complete Due Diligence
Due diligence is an important part of any business sale. The buyer will want to verify that all the information you provide about your website or business is accurate and complete. This may include reviewing financial records, traffic data, customer information, and legal documents.
As the seller, it’s essential to be transparent during this process and provide all necessary information to help the buyer make an informed decision. The amount of time needed for due diligence will vary based on factors like the size of the sale, the complexity of the business, and the buyer’s level of experience.
Step 7: Close the Sale
Once due diligence is completed and both parties are satisfied with the terms of the sale, it’s time to close the deal. This involves signing a purchase agreement, transferring ownership of the website or business, and finalizing payment arrangements.
Depending on the terms outlined in the LOI, you may receive a lump sum payment or be paid over time. An escrow service like Escrow.com is often used to protect both the buyer and seller. They hold the funds until all terms of the sale are met, ensuring a smooth and secure transaction.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is the best way to sell an online business?
There is no right or wrong way to sell an online business. You can use a broker, list it on a marketplace, or sell it privately. There are pros and cons to each approach. Selling it on your own allows you to avoid paying broker or marketplace fees, but you may risk not getting as much exposure to potential buyers.
Why use a broker to sell a business?
Brokers provide a variety of benefits, including access to a large network of buyers, expertise in valuing and marketing businesses, and handling negotiations. However, they charge fees for their services, usually a percentage of the selling price.
How do I sell my business discreetly?
If you want to keep the sale of your business confidential, there are a few things you can do. First, you can use a non-disclosure agreement (NDA) with potential buyers before revealing sensitive information about your business. Additionally, you can avoid publicly listing your business for sale and instead reach out to potential buyers through private channels.
Should I Use a Broker to Sell a Business? Final Thoughts
Online business brokers provide valuable services to sellers, but the success fees can be significant. If you want to avoid fees or your business is too small for a broker, you might consider selling on your own.
Selling a website or online business privately requires effort to find and get in touch with the right buyers. By following the steps covered in this article, you may be able to find an ideal new owner and keep all of the proceeds for yourself.