Choices are hard, on this website we’ve already talked about some very good reasons to build a website insteading of buying one and some very good reasons to buy a website instead of building one.
I’m sure you agree with many of the arguments to join either side of the argument but let’s spend some time to talk about how to pick one, and whether you even should pick one.
There’s certainly some (at first sight) clear cut cases where it’s better to build instead of buying a site or buy instead of building a site but the situation is actually a lot more nuanced than you might originally think.
If you might have some savings you might lean toward buying a website and just run it but an alternative might be to start from scratch and use the savings to speed up the process buy hiring good writers, an editor and an SEO specialist instead.
On the other hand, you might think if you have zero savings that automatically means you have no option but to build a site from scratch and spend all your extra time on it, but if you’re really serious you might still decrease your spendings and use the surplus to hire writers or save up a while until you can buy a small but established website.
In this article we’ll discuss the deciding factors to help you pick a side. Should you join the buyers and purchase an existing website or join the builders and build your own website entirely from scratch?
Your first assumption might be that if you have savings to invest, you should buy a website and if not, you just build one. Case closed, moving on…
Not so fast. While having the money to invest is undeniably a game changer, there’s still many reasons to build a website instead of buying one.
Having funds to invest doesn’t automatically mean you should buy a website but it can disqualify you from buying one if you have nothing to invest.
But even if you have enough savings, you should still look into the other factors to decide if you truly want to go ahead and just purchase a website or spend the money on outsourcing to fasttrack a website you’re building from scratch.
Do you have time to spend on your online business? Do you even want to spend time on your online business? This is the question you need to answer next.
When buying a website, unless you get into the very cheap market segment, you’re buying a system in place. There might an editor and several writers working on it who might continue working on it with you as the new owner (not always the case, check when doing your due diligence).
Having an existing system in place will require you to spend as little time as possible on the website, only having to follow up with the editor or VA in charge.
If you have more time on your hand and also want to spend it on the website so it can grow quicker, this whole structure in place is not as important to you, maybe it’s even more of a hindrance to you.
When you have the time and don’t mind spending it maybe you could just as well start from scratch and have the system optimized for you.
Have you ever built a site before or will this be your first digital property? Do you have any technical or marketing expertise? Both might come in handy.
The funny thing about experience is there’s always a case to be made for both options.
If you’re new to websites you might entertain the idea of buying one so somebody else did all the hard work for you, but you can just as easily consider starting from scratch so you can learn from the ground up, at your own pace instead of being thrown into the deep end of the pool. I’m trying to say you might get overwhelmed by everything if you buy a website with zero experience.
Then if you’re well experienced on the topic, you might think about just buying one since websites have no secrets to you and you can immediately take over from the previous owner. But being experienced also means if you build from scratch you can get everything up and running, scaling quicker than anyone else. You also might have a certain structure you like you websites to have, which takes us to the next topic…
What’s your personality? Do you like things working in a particular way or do you prefer a basic structure being set up for you? Is it a plus or a hindrance for you if there’s an existing base structure?
Building gives you the chance the set everything up 100% the way you like it, which might be not only a plus, but a necessity for some people. If you’re one of these people who likes everything optimized and set up their way, I think you should probably build the site yourself because you’ll spend just as much time re-optimizing an existing website anyway.
Others like to have an existing structure because they might get overwhelmed and freeze when having to set up everything yourself, especially when they’re rather inexperienced on the top of that.
Consider what’s the best fit to your personality, this is probably the most important factor of all of them, because you’re the one where the buck stops.
Do you even want to run a website? Do you want to do topic research? Do you want to write articles? Do you want to browse for ways to monetize? Do you want to communicate with different vendors?
We know you want to own a website, you wouldn’t be reading this article if you didn’t, but do you also want to run it? Yes, you can outsource the parts you don’t like, especially once you got enough money coming in but are there any parts you like?
Maybe you think of yourself more of an investor than an entrepreneur (and there’s nothing wrong with any of the two). Maybe you think of websites as a better alternative to stocks, sorry, stonks.
If you think of it more as an investment than a business, it’s probably better to think of ROI and cashflow asap, giving the advantage to buying an existing website. If you can buy a site at a 36x monthly multiple (which is common nowadays), you’ll get a 40% yearly ROI (if your monthly revenue stays the same).
The only exception in this case would be when there’s an arbitrage opportunity, for example if you’re just really good at building websites, scale them up quickly and then sell them. Lots of people are, and they can often sell for 5x or 10x what they put in, in a mere 12-24 months. Others are specialized in buying sites that went down after Google updates or make too little for the traffic they get and flip those (kind of like a house flip)
If you care more about the building aspect than pure numbers, maybe it’s better to start from scratch and really put you heart in it, see it grow. Few things are more satisfying than seeing traffic and revenue go up from zero to infinity and beyond.
Imagine having a kid immediately when they’re 12 years old, missing those 12 first, important, formative years. Now I think about it, there’s probably a lot of people who actually do prefer this. Only further making my point. 😁
Where do you see this thing heading? It’s probably a question you’ve heard before from other people. Now you need to ask it to yourself.
Do you plan to hold onto this for a couple years and sell at a potential nice capital gain? Or do you care more about building a portfolio and getting as much casfhlow as possible?
In the Interests section we talked about thinking as an investor or as an entrepreneur, now, whatever the answer to that important question was, you need to ask yourself what type of investor or entrepreneur you want to be.
Do you want to be an investor that mostly gets cap gains (not very tax friendly, btw) or builds a portfolio and increases cashflow?
Do you want to be a serial entrepreneur, building a business up to a certain level until you move on to the next challenge, chasing a new shiny object? Or do you want to build one thing as big as possible?
If you’re not planning to hold onto something for long, why spend much time optimizing it just for the next owner having to re-optimize again, their brain might be wired completely different than yours.
If you’re going to hold onto something basically forever, why not take a bit of extra time to optimize it for you, you’ll make the investing time back anyway if you’re in it for the long run.
This will be a fun part because, unlike many articles, I had no idea this would be my end conclusion before I started writing this article, but along the way it became very clear the decision to build or buy mostly comes down to one question:
How long will you be holding onto this website?
It really is that simple, if you’re planning to sell as soon as you can, why “waste” time optimizing only for the new owner to optimize it again.
If you’re planning to hold forever, an optimized website will return a multiple of the time you invested in it, because it’s optimized for you as a person.
Again, there’s no wrong answer here, if you choose any of the two, more power to you, there’s more than one way to do this. You just need to pick what suits you best as a person.