How I Made Over £16,000 Across 3 Months With Less Than £1000 — Side Hustling From Home.
This is something you can do from the comfort of your armchair in Bali, or wherever else you find yourself with a bit of free time, perhaps less than 12 hours a week.
Firstly, let me say — this isn’t one of those articles that asks you to signup for some overpriced underachieving course. I hate courses. Go to YouTube and figure that stuff out yourself. That being said, feel free to subscribe to my newsletter (for free), or drop a comment if this article benefits you in any way.
If you’re like me, you’re constantly looking for ways to improve your life, your income, and your financial situation. I’m consistently trying to find better ways to make money and enjoy it at the same time. I’ve been a digital marketer now for around 5 or 6 years and prior to that, I loved messing around with things online, creating blogs and websites, and generally just experimenting with my creativity.
In 2018, probably a whole 20+ years fashionably late to the party (as usual) I discovered the value of domain names, collecting or purchasing them and selling them via auction to make a profit — sometimes developing them into usable websites. Since then, I’ve been getting better and better at recognising a good domain name, one that’s both valuable and priced right. My pattern for doing this has changed over the years.
Tools & Resources
First of all, let’s talk about some of the resources I use and what I use them for when looking at purchasing or hand-registering ( a freely available domain) domain names. It’s worth stating at this point that I have only focused on UK domain names (.uk .co.uk etc.) and not on .COM or any other TLD or ccTLDs because they are much, much more competitive. That being said, there is talk of newer TLDs being worthwhile registrations, but we will get into that another time maybe.
dropped.uk — Droplists & Dropcatching
Scouring droplists has been unequivocally useful across my domain name career, proving itself an effective tactic time and again. Dropped provides a droplist service allowing me to look ahead in time (up to 90 days) and see which domain names will drop back into the registry and on which date. It also provides tons of useful information to determine the value of domain names, from their historical value (if any) to Google search volume for the keywords inside the domains.
Dropped provides a subscription service for droplists allowing you to choose the length of time you need to look ahead at from 1 day to 90 days. On top of this, you can back-order a domain name for £35. Back-ordering a domain name means that Dropped will attempt to register the domain name on your behalf on the day it’s said to become available again. You can find out more about Dropped’s services by visiting their website.
Acorn Domains Forum — A community of domainers
Acorn Domains is a forum dedicated to domainers like me. And it’s proven an invaluable resource since I signed up at the start of 2018.
I would say a good 80% of my domain sales have been to other domainers, rather than to end-users (a buyer from outside of the domaining industry, or someone who turns the domain into a product, website or service etc.). So having a place where you can go to and advertise your domain names (mostly for free) to a large majority of the UK domain name space, has been massively helpful.
The forum is entirely free to signup and use, but they do encourage you to subscribe to their paid plans which grant you access to further boards and features, such as larger inboxes etc.
Nominet — The UK domain registry
Nominet is the company tasked with looking after the UK domain name registry. Often embroiled in controversy (1,2,3). However, I could not talk about UK domain names without mentioning Nominet as to register UK domains at volume at the lowest price, you need to go wholesale. Nominet offers UK registrars membership registration of UK domains currently for £3.90 exc. (£4.68 inc.). Outside of their membership, domain registration costs £80 per domain exc. a whopping £96 inc. which is simply not feasible when selling for profit.
So, whilst trying to figure out the best way to sell domains and make the most money, I decided to become an Accredited Registrar with Nominet directly. This involves jumping through various hoops and, as mentioned earlier, even when you become a registrar you’ll still need to apply for membership to register domains at wholesale cost.
Membership costs £400, plus £100 yearly (which you also need to pay in your signup year 😂), the total cost calculates to £600 inc. so no small amount if you’re just starting out. I didn’t have the money and got a loan from my Dad to pay it up-front. I knew a special time was approaching Nominet, and I needed to get that wholesale price immediately to make sure I didn’t miss out on registrations, but I’ll talk more about that later on.
Read more about becoming a member at Nominet here. It’s worth noting here that you don’t need to be a registrar with Nominet to become a member, but you will need to be a registrar to take advantage of the wholesale cost of domain names.
Please contact me via Twitter if you need any help or advice on the process, I’m happy to help.
DomainLore — UK Domain Auction Platform
I wouldn’t have made anywhere near the amount of money I did if it wasn’t for DomainLore. If you have a UK domain you want to auction, this is the place where you go.
UKBackorder — Honourable mention
Rob at HostedChasing used to host a public auction platform with UKBackorder which is no longer available, but I made a lot of money from RoR selling domains there too and he is worth a mention as he offers droplists and back-ordering like Dropped.
The 2019 Rights of Registration Release at Nominet
First, a bit of backstory. In 2014, Nominet created a new, shorter, sharper version of the .co.uk domain name — .uk. It was aimed at smaller businesses and sole traders, and they thought it would take off. It was met with silence. They promised .CO.UK owners that they would reserve their .UK counterparts for 5 years when it launched. Nobody cared, not even the big brands like BBC.
Fast-forward 5 years to July 2019, and the RoR release at Nominet comes up. A huge swathe of over 1.8 million unwanted .UK domain names get released in waves, starting at the end of June (remember I talked about the big event I became a member for earlier in the article? This was it).
This was really my introduction to making big money from practically zero pounds.
Dropcatching — what is it? What tools to use and where to find them.
Dropcatching is highly competitive in the UK namespace, as it is in other such areas in the industry, such as .COM and, more recently, .IO, .CO, etc.
Imagine 2000 people trying to register a domain you want at the same time. You have 1/2000 chances. It’s not great. This is where dropcatching comes into the equation using specialist tools and scripts to compete in this industry.
I’ll try to explain this in a way that makes sense to people who have never used this sort of software before. When you’re a Nominet registrar & member, you can apply to use the DAC (Domain Availability Checker) for £25 annually exc. this allows you to “poll” the Nominet registry to check whether or not a domain name is available.
You can do this 432,000 times in any 24-hour period. You can poll at a maximum speed of around 16 times per second. Any more than that, and Nominet puts a temporary block on your client.
People competing in this industry either write their own or lease software that can essentially take full advantage of the DAC’s ability to poll at 16 times a second over a block of around 6–8 hours of the day, to see a domain name’s availability. As soon as the registry reports it as available, the script sends a “create” command to the registry in milliseconds. If your set-up is fast enough, the domain is yours. If not, too bad.
But it’s not just about the code, that’s usually written in a super-fast language like Perl or Ruby, or some other low-level language. It’s also about how far away you are from the Nominet servers. This is described as “hops” and ideally, you want to be just one hop away from Nominet’s servers. This usually means you’ll want to be very local to Nominet’s physical servers. Many people see Netwise House as the closest you can get, thus reducing the time it takes for your server to connect to Nominet’s EPP server. Read more about Nominet’s EPP here.
As I mentioned previously, there are people who code their own (and are usually very successful at it) or people like me, who need to lease their software because I didn’t have time to learn to code an EPP client before this event. There are a couple of places you can do this, including the aforementioned Dropped.uk. But the service I have used most often and reliably is HostedChasing. Also, Transcom has been very useful to me in the past.
Let’s talk about money
So far, I had spent perhaps £7–800 getting prepared for this industry. So how did I do during the event?
I spent hours each evening intensively scanning the droplists (which contained hundreds of thousands of domains each day during RoR) to find domain names that I deemed valuable.
What would I look for?
- Brandable names
- Dictionary words
- First names
- Common words
- Memorable words
- Geographical domains (ie. Cumbria.uk)
So how did the RoR event go down?
It was a little bit different during RoR, because I hadn’t yet come across HostedChasing or Transcom and was actually using a hand-created and hand-operated script by an Acorn Domains member called Aaron. The way this script would work is that you’d load up a list of domain names into a file, and when the script was launched, it would go through them one by one to check if they were available.
The problem with it was I was creating huge lists of domains I wanted to register, but if I had more than 16 domain names, it would reduce my polling time for each domain name down to just one per second or less. Most of the time, it wouldn’t matter. There were so many domain names available, that I banked on people being A) Greedy and going for lots of domain names and reducing the chances of them getting mine. B) Not going for the ones I wanted at all. And C) As confused as I was 🤣.
Some days I’d have 4 or 5 big ones in the list to make sure I at least got one of them, some days I’d run a list of 4 or 5, catch a few, return to the file and load up some more and fire it off again. I’d even go back to the droplist after the day was done and hand register domain names nobody had got to yet, some of which sold for large amounts.
Unlike others in the industry, I had little faith in .uk ever taking off. People around me wanted to register these domains and sit on them forever, hoping someone would come along and offer them 5 figures for them. It never happened and I was smart enough to see that. I auctioned most of my domain names right away, almost as soon as I caught them they were on DomainLore or UKBackorder.
My first sale, and to this day one of my proudest, was cumbria.uk (I live in Cumbria). I auctioned this off and it finished at £1,302.
Just a reminder — that’s £1298.10 profit — from one domain name.
My mind was blown and I was giddy with excitement. I’d just recovered all of the costs I’d invested so far, and had plenty of change. But as an example of what I was talking about above, cumbria.uk was never sold to an end-user. To this day, it sits on DAN.com (a domain marketplace) where it will probably remain forever.
Throughout this period, and over the next 3 months or so, I would check the droplists and see what was available from the release event. I’d go on to accumulate around £16,000 in sales from domains I would register for a mere £3.90 exc.
When the July in 2020 came around, a lot of the domain names that had been registered the previous July and hadn’t sold at the price the registrant wanted for them (usually 5 figures or more), they would let them drop back into the registry. By this time, I had got set up with Transcom and was catching domain names daily and selling them to connections I had made in the domaining industry over the previous year.
When I wasn’t catching domain names for my own sales or personal use, I was advertising on Acorn Domains or elsewhere for anybody wanting backorders. I’d charge £75 on catch or £35 up-front non-refundable, it was a good business model as I’d often get people wanting to spend less money up-front but end up paying £75 per domain when I was successful at registering the domain for them.
Where I’m at now
A lot of things have happened since 2019, I now hold a small personal portfolio and I often register new domain names in the industry (not just .UK space) and I do still actively auction domain names and cold approach businesses.
There’s a lot of money to be made in domaining and if you’d like to find out more about domaining or business side hustles, or if this article has helped you in any way, please subscribe to my newsletter. If you’d like to contact me, please follow me on Twitter.
This article was originally published on fsociety.