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How Domainers Get Into Financial Messes

How Domainers Get Into Financial Messes

So many business owners have an incredible desire for profit but so few actually understand why it’s so important or how to attain it. So I’m going to first ask a really dumb question, “So why is profit so important?”

At its core, profit is a measure of a business’s sustainability. If year after year a business is not profitable then it will ultimately fail. Yes, you can keep on raising capital but at some stage investors will stop investing and demand a return on their investment. This will either be in the form of a dividend or a capital increase.

So in terms of a domain portfolio, unless you are earning a profit then your business will fail unless you (ie. the shareholder) keep on funding it through cash injections. This is very different from running short of cash to pay domain renewal fees….more on that later.

So the question needs to be asked, why do domain business often fail? I personally believe that there is a really simple answer to this question. Most domain businesses aren’t businesses at all. They have more of the characteristics of a hobby than a business where the owners are collectors rather than investors.

Just ask yourself the following questions:

1.      Do you have a cashflow?
2.      When was the last time you looked at your balance sheet and profit and loss statements?
3.      Do you have a clearly defined business model for each of your domains?
4.      When was the last time you cleared out non-performing assets?
5.      Does your accountant about how to treat domain names?
6.      Why is tracking both the purchase and the sales price so important for your business?
7.      What is the return on your investment and could you gain a better return elsewhere?
8.      How much do you value your time in your business plan?
9.      When was the last time you seriously considered outsourcing to free up your time?
10.  Do you understand the difference between cash and profit?

Let me tackle point number ten with a little story as it’s often really confusing for people to understand. It’s very easy to have a highly profitable business that doesn’t have any cash....let me show you how.

Imagine a domainer looks at their bank account and sees a whole lot of money has accumulated for the year from their domain parking earnings. They clap their hands with glee and go out and spend it all by purchasing a $30,000 premium domain that they've always wanted to own.

Sadly, even though they’ve spent the $30,000 in cash they actually can’t expense it. In most countries the accounting/tax rules insist that they take this sized item to the asset side of their balance sheet. Here’s the problem, let’s imagine they have $10,000 worth of expenses during the year. This means their profit is revenue less expenses or $30,000 less $10,000 = $20,000.

The government will put its hand out for their fare share of the profit. In the case of Australia, they want 30% or just under $7,000. But hang on! The domainer just spent the $30,000 and don’t have a spare $7,000 lying around.

I hope that this simple example illustrates the traps that many domain investors fall into. They completely confuse both cash and profit. This often compounds if they’re able to defer their taxes and can result in what seems like a double whammy if they continue to make the same mistakes.

So let’s imagine they managed to borrow some money from a friend to cover their taxes and this is secured against the $30,000 domain. If the friend is charging interest on the money then the domainer can expense it during the financial year that it was incurred BUT the capital payments will ultimately need to come out of the following year’s profit (not going to get involved with depreciation here). Yep, it’s starting to feel like a knotted ball of string already!

Suddenly, the ultimate business opportunity arises for their $30,000 domain. A major developer would like to partner with them to develop out the domain on a 50/50 basis. The developer is the ideal fit and they are absolutely convinced they’re going to make a killing. All they have to do is put their domain into the venture and the developer will match it with $30,000 of development.

Hang on a second……they’ve now essentially encumbered the domain twice. Their friend’s $7,000 is secured against the domain and if they default on the payments they won’t be too happy if the domainers gone into a partnership that involves the domain with someone else. At this point in time I’ve seen many domain owners say, "I just won’t default"….and try to slide the second transaction on through.

As time goes by, this scenario gets played out across more partnerships and more domains. Documentation of the transactions becomes scarce and before they know it, the wheels come off the cart and the domain owner is in a complete mess, defaulting on payments and trying to understand how they got into the mess they’re now in.

Fundamentally what it all comes down to is that the domain owner really doesn’t understand business but they love their hobby. They didn’t really know what profit is and how it’s different from cash. This level of naiveté is played out across all of their other business dealings.

Here’s a few sage words of advice, “Have a good account that you talk to regularly. Avoid all deals which involve forming equity partnerships…..they rarely, if ever work out.”

I’ll share more on business thoughts in future blog posts.


Michael Gilmour has been in business for over 32 years and has both a BSC in Electronics and Computer Science and an MBA. He was the former vice-chairman of the Internet Industry Association in Australia and is in demand as a speaker at Internet conferences the world over. He has also recently published his first science fiction book, Battleframe.

Michael is passionate about working with online entrepreneurs to help them navigate their new ventures around the many pitfalls that all businesses face. Due to demands on his time, Michael may be contacted by clicking here for limited consulting assignments.

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letsbehonestaboutit on 02 December 2015
I'm like a crack addict!

I'm like a crack addict but for domains but end up burning most of money but cannot help buying them, i get caught up in auction wars and up overpaying...Seriously i need help.

Maybe somebody should start domainers anonymous ?

I'm like a crack addict but for domains but end up burning most of money but cannot help buying them, i get caught up in auction wars and up overpaying...Seriously i need help. Maybe somebody should start domainers anonymous ?
DA on 29 January 2016

We are working on it
we aren't done with the site just opened in fact plan to have it up and running within a month.

We are working on it we aren't done with the site just opened in fact plan to have it up and running within a month.
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