Resources for Buying and Selling Online Businesses

Incredible Exits: From Zero to a High Six-Figure Exit in Just 3 Years


Michael DonovanMichael Donovan was the founder of a content business he sold after three years. Now he’s the Project Manager of Acquia, the world’s only open digital experience company that empowers the most ambitious brands by providing them with one central hub from which to create, manage, deliver, and optimize content-driven experiences across any and all digital channels. Michael has over 10 years of experience in technology and project management, supporting some of the world’s most popular products.

Here’s a glimpse of what you’ll learn:

  • [02:08] Michael Donovan explains why he sold his business
  • [04:36] The journey of building his content site business
  • [11:40] Michael talks about his first potential SBA buyer and why the sale didn’t go through
  • [14:14] How waiting for a buyer to be approved for an SBA loan affected Michael’s emotions and business
  • [17:55] How a penalty from Google impacted Michael’s content site business
  • [21:41] Listing the business for the second time and the process of selling
  • [26:49] The emotional process of selling a business
  • [30:04] What Michael did after selling his business
  • [35:15] Michael’s advice for people considering selling a business

In this episode…

Do you plan to venture into the content site business? What do you need to do to build and grow a sellable business?

Michael Donovan knows the ins and outs of starting and building a content site. What began as a side hustle to secure his family financially, scaled to over $40,000 a month in revenue. After three years, he decided to sell it. Michael shares the challenges he encountered during his first offer and how he managed to exit with a high six-figure sale in his second attempt.

In this episode of the Quiet Light Podcast, Joe Valley sits down with Michael Donovan, Project Manager of Acquia, to discuss the journey of building, scaling, and exiting his content site business. Michael shares the process of building and selling his content site business, his first potential SBA buyer, why he had to list the business a second time, and the emotional process of selling a business.

Resources mentioned in this episode:

Sponsor for this episode

This episode brought to you by Quiet Light, a brokerage firm that wants to help you successfully sell your online business.

There is no wrong reason for selling your business. However, there is a right time and a right way. The team of leading entrepreneurs at Quiet Light wants to help you discover the right time and strategy for selling your business. They provide trustworthy advice, effective strategies, and honest valuations. So, your Quiet Light advisors aren’t your everyday brokers — they’re your partner and friend through every phase of the exit planning process.

If you’re new to the prospect of buying and selling, Quiet Light is here to support you. Their plethora of top-notch resources will provide everything you need to know about when and how to buy or sell an online business. Quiet Light offers high-quality videos, articles, podcasts, and guides to help you make the best decision for your online business.

Not sure what your business is really worth? No worries. Quiet Light offers a free valuation and marketplace-ready assessment on its website. That’s right—this quick, easy, and free valuation has no strings attached. Knowing the true value of your business has never been easier!

What are you waiting for? Quiet Light offers the best experience, strategies, and advice to make your exit successful. To learn more, go to, email [email protected], or call 800.746.5034 today.

Episode Transcript

Intro  0:07

Hi folks. It’s the Quiet Light Podcast where we share relentlessly honest insights, actionable tips, and entrepreneurial stories that will help founders identify and reach their goals

Joe Valley  0:32

Hey folks, Joe Valley here welcome back to another episode of the Quiet Light Podcast. Today’s episode is another incredible exit episode, Chris Wozniak work with Michael Donovan, helping him exit his three year old content business that he started from scratch, and ended up doing about $43,000 in revenue in his last month at the end of 2022. Pretty impressive after three years, quite a story quite a success story had some trouble during the first offer that he got. And it’s not his fault. It was SBA and then some issues with an algorithm update that he talks about a little bit. He’s risk averse. He talks about it at the beginning of the podcast. And then in the middle, we talked about oh, good thing, he was risk averse. And it worked out pretty well for him. And he’s also started a new company helping others learn what he’s doing along the way as well. So let’s take a listen. This is incredible exits with Michael Donovan. Here we go. Michael, welcome to the Quiet Light Podcast.

Michael Donovan  1:35

Hey, Joe, thanks for having me.

Joe Valley  1:36

Congratulations on your exit working with Woz getting the content site sold. How’s it feel?

Michael Donovan  1:42

It’s been great. It’s been about a couple of weeks now. But very, very happy with the outcome.

Joe Valley  1:48

Let’s talk, we can jump to the punch line. It was a high six figure exits. It was a long process with the first buyer fell through and then like three weeks with the second one, we’ll get into the details there. But let’s talk about why. Why sell? Why did you sell this business? I know you got some stuff going on in your life?

Michael Donovan  2:08

Yeah, sure. I’ll keep this condensed. I think most people when they sell there’s always more than one reason I found so it’s never really one thing for me, that was certainly the case. So a handful of personal things. I have a new baby girl, 10 days old. That’s our second kid. And so she was born just after we sold the site so that I knew that was coming, I knew I wasn’t gonna be able to give the attention that I was previously with just our son Declan. So having two kids changes things a little bit. And that was certainly true and has been. So I’m glad I sold. We’re moving out of this house that we’re in. We love this home, it’s on a lake. It’s great for me, my wife and I were without kids. But it’s 1100 square feet. So we quickly outgrew this space. So we just bought a home about 15 minutes south of here. So we’re moving as well. So those are two big personal reasons. But on the financial side, I think once my personal preference was when the asset became a high percentage of our overall net worth or accounted for a higher percentage than I was comfortable with. That’s when I felt like okay, maybe we should assess taking some chips off the table here. It allowed us to do some things like buy that house and keep this house and rent it. But I just was starting to get a little uncomfortable with the percentage of our net worth. And then so at that point, having cash on hand was more valuable than cash flow. Although I will say I missed the cash flow part.

Joe Valley  3:26

Cash flow is wonderful. But yeah, it’s not without risk. And we’ll talk about what happened during that first LOI here in a bit as well. Congratulations on the daughter 10 weeks old, completely exhausted yet because it’s a three weeks in or three months in for me when fatigue hit, like a sledgehammer.

Michael Donovan  3:45

So luckily she’s doing good. I mean, she has to wake up every three hours to eat like all babies, but we got pretty used to it. My wife and I were just joking. Like, you kind of forget what happened with your first kid. I think evolution has a role in that so that you blackout all the bad stuff. So you’ll have another kid. You’ll keep reproducing but it’s been okay, we’ve been sleeping okay, so far.

Joe Valley  4:07

Hey, look, word of advice, been married 25 years couple of kids under my belt. Hindsight is 2020, there’s nothing wrong with you sleeping in a separate room for the week and then switching so that you both get some rest instead of you both being exhausted my two cents with our new house. That might be an option here. It is not. It’s not an option. Right. Right. Well, this is awesome. So let’s talk about the site itself. It’s a content site. And did you build it or buy it?

Michael Donovan  4:36

Yeah, so I built it. It was actually the first site that ever tried. It was a content site monetized 95 96% With just display ads and the rest were a couple 100 bucks a month was coming from Amazon Associates.

Joe Valley  4:49

Did you started as a side hustle? Did you have a full time job at the time?

Michael Donovan  4:52

Yeah, I didn’t still do I have a full nine to five. I started it just before the pandemic hit in 2020 an hour sell Boston, my full time job is in Boston. And at the time, I was commuting in and out via train. And I was hour in hour out two hours a day minimum, basically, where I’m listening to podcasts wasn’t wasted time, but I wasn’t being very efficient with that time. And so that’s when I started writing articles was on the train. And just slowly but surely that first year, I think I had 40 total posts for the full first year. And obviously, I ramped that up as I went. But yeah, that was the start of it. And at the end of, I think it took six months to make my first dollar, which was exciting. And then

Joe Valley  5:32

Was literally $1, or $10.

Michael Donovan  5:34

No. So at that point, I didn’t have display ads, because I didn’t qualify for some of the bigger I didn’t know much about zoic. I did turn that on at this maybe seven or eight month mark, but it was Amazon Associates, and they only pay you once you hit $100. So I made my first dollar was probably a $4. Commission. And then actually, it’s funny, I didn’t set up my bank accounts. So Amazon sent me a physical check. It was $106 is what the first that month or whatever it was. My wife framed it for me. I actually like that a lot. But yeah, so I got a physical check from amazon for $106 or so after think month, eight or nine.

Joe Valley  6:11

So how long did you run the business before you connected with wires and ended up selling it?

Michael Donovan  6:16

So my first conversation with Chris was probably a little over two years into having the site and that was just a hey, sites making $20,000 a month at that point. And I’m not thinking about selling right now. But I have an asset on my hands that I didn’t fully expect to have, what sort of thing should I be thinking about? And so we had a good hour conversation just about, hey, let’s lay the foundation. And then when we connect again, whenever you do decide to sell, you kind of have that foundation, I ended up selling a little over three years into owning the site.

Joe Valley  6:43

Do you have expertise in SEO or any kind of background like that, that allowed you to build up a site to get 20,000 a month in revenue after two years?

Michael Donovan  6:51

No. So I had no SEO experience. I do work for a tech company. But I’m a program manager. I’m not technical in that way. But I did listen, I did consume a lot of podcasts and YouTube videos on building so niche pursuits by guy, a guy called Spencer Hawes. I listened to a lot of his stuff. And, you know, as I was listening and hearing people say these numbers, I was like, where is this money coming from? Like, they’re saying, you know, $50,000 a month with a simple blog how, right? And so as I went down that rabbit hole, I thought, one, I think I could do this in two, if I made 10% in what this guy is saying he’s making that could be life changing for me. You know, in our day to day life, you know, we’re not going to retire anything, but it would be great to have some extra income. And then it went from 20 to 30. I think the best month I have was 45,000 in a month. And so it just it really blew like my perception of what was possible with a blog. And when I hear the word blog, still, I have a weird reaction to it. I think of like, when I heard blog, the first time I used to think you go home and you have dinner with some people you tell the world what you ate for dinner that night, right? person take a journal right? That’s right. I didn’t think of it as like, possibly one of the best business models in the world. It’s really what it is.

Joe Valley  8:10

With incredible margins as well. I looked at your numbers and your margins were hovering profit wise 97 98% of the total monthly revenue. I understand that you were taking some money off the table and you felt more comfortable with cash in the bank versus cash flow. But had you considered quitting your day job and going all in on this given the numbers and the potential? This is the danger of being an entrepreneur’s like, we want more we think we can gain more. And that kind of stuff.

Michael Donovan  8:43

Yeah, it was certainly something that crossed my mind. I’m extremely risk adverse. And so was it a thought yes. But then my rationale was and still is, health insurance in this country is expensive. We knew we were having another baby. I wanted to make sure I had great coverage when she was born. That was a big consideration and also property right? We have some aspirations to, this house that I’m in now will become our first rental. Hopefully, we’re fortunate enough to acquire a few more properties. Banks do not love when you don’t have stable w two income reported for at least two years. My site had a great 2022 I think it did. I think we 340 350,000 last year when I owned it, but the year before that it wasn’t much, right. And so if I quit, and went to the bank and tried to buy the house that I just bought, they would tell me, good luck, they would not have given me the loan that I got. And so those were two big considerations. And then the third and maybe actually bigger than the first two is I love the idea of my entire family’s money coming in, depending on an algorithm that I have zero influence over and we can get into some of the stuff happening with AI but there’s just so much uncertainty to just walk away and say, I’m going to rely on this thing for to pay my bills. I didn’t love that idea.

Joe Valley  10:05

I hear you, yeah. So let’s talk about that you credit to you for reaching out and getting some advice, like from Woz about, hey, look, I’m thinking about selling what’s, what’s the deal here? How do I approach this? What’s the value? What should I do? You did that in about a year in advance of actually working with him to sell your business, right? Yeah, about a year. Okay. And you went under LOI, you had a pocket buyer, I saw some of the notes. And it was an SBA buyer. But let’s talk about that, gosh, what a nine month process, something I forgot when I was seven, eight months, where before it fell apart, and some of the things that happened here, because folks, I want you to listen to this. Because as entrepreneurs, we have a tendency to always say, I can do that I can do better, I can earn more, this is what sets us apart from just having a day job. We’re not as risk averse, Michael, as you’re talking about self, I think what you’re talking about is really smart. Right? In many ways. I look back on my 25 year career as an entrepreneur, I think if I could have been a little more risk averse, things would have been slightly different. But at the same time, risk is good in it. It’s it makes you sleep less at night, but you get to the ends a little quicker. Anyway you went under LOI with a great buyer that offered a great price through was and it was an SBA loan. Talk to us about that process. And what happened?

Michael Donovan  10:05

Yeah, so I went back I did it, I sent a newsletter summarizing this. So I have some of the information top of mind. But the first buyer, you’re right was an SBA buyer. Admittedly, I knew very little. So luckily, I did have Chris to explain, you know what that meant. And certainly no risk involved with an SBA buyer, frankly, is timing, right. And time kills every deal. You give it enough time, the deal will die. In this case, it depends on who’s applying if you’re getting a bank, that’s SBA preferred, that can expedite things. In this case, these buyers gave a great offer of a low seven-figure amount. It was a great multiple, they needed the SBA loan in order to make that work. And so we started that process. If I flash forward, that entire process, they got approved for their first SBA loan, however, the terms of that deal, were asking those potential buyers to put I think some of their other businesses tied into it somehow. So if they defaulted, guaranteeing it, and they didn’t like that idea, which I understood. And so that lender knew another lender that said, actually, the other lender that I’m talking to, will require the same terms, there’ll be more favorable. And I will share everything that I put together for your SBA with me, I’m going to hand off to him so that we’re not starting over again. And talking with Chris, we kind of weighed the pros and cons of that, if like, should be listed instead, and have more competition, we still felt like these guys were very serious. And they were. So we decided to allow that. And so went to this next bank, they started the process again, long story short…

Joe Valley  13:19

Typically can take anywhere from 75 to 90 days from Letter of Intent to closing with an SBA loan in this situation, you got most of the way down that process and then had to switch banks. How much time passed before you had to switch banks?

Michael Donovan  13:37

I think it was about the timeline that you just described, I admittedly, I don’t have that number of top of head, but it was it was about that. And then the next bank was much quicker. I think it was maybe 30 some odd days. Yeah, they had I think so they had everything. They weren’t starting from scratch. In the end to end it was about 115 day process for the whole thing.

Joe Valley  13:58

Before we talk about what happened in that situation, talk to me about your emotional state up to this point. You’ve got these guys. They’re going to switch banks. You’ve talked about it with Chris, you’ve got a good number on the table. How are you feeling about that and being patient and waiting?

Michael Donovan  14:14

Yeah, that’s not my strong suit. Patience is not something that I can grip, I like to move quickly get results. It was, admittedly, maybe one of the harder things I’ve done it sounds kind of funny. It was emotionally grueling. And the reason is one of the big things that we haven’t mentioned it all the while, that I got this big number, I’m getting excited. Obviously, we make new decisions based on that you start dreaming a little bit of what we’ll do with the money, all the while my business is starting to decline. And so traffic is dropping, and obviously traffic, it’s not directly correlated, but it’s pretty close to what you’re gonna make. When you monetize with display ads. It’s all about the numbers. And so as time is passing traffic is dropping. I’m getting worried that the buyers are going to get spooked and back out, right? And so it just dragged on month after month after month, and every day, I’m waking up looking at Google Analytics, hoping I still have a business that’s sellable. It was really tough.

Joe Valley  15:11

What happened? Why did the numbers start to drop?

Michael Donovan  15:14

Yeah, so these days, it’s kind of hard to pinpoint exactly what the result used to be, Google would update their algorithm a couple of times a year max, right. And if you know anything about the space or follow it closely, they’re rolling out two updates simultaneously. Now, they’ll start the month rolling update one week into that update the rollout, another update on top of it. And so they’re changing their ranking algorithms, almost feels like every other week at this point. It’s not quite that, but it’s a lot. And so that in combination with my site got hit with a manual action from Google, which admittedly, I didn’t know a lot about. They don’t do that much anymore. What that means is that someone from Google, their algorithm, or they couldn’t quite pick up that something was wrong, but they were looking at the site. And they said, something’s wrong here. And we’re going to put a manual penalty on the site. And so this was for this specific penalty was for unnatural inbound links to the website. And so I can talk a little bit about what I think that might have been. But that hurt the site as well. They don’t say like, oh, your traffic is going to get killed by this, but it certainly doesn’t help right in the grand scheme of things. And so that penalty came on, maybe a week after I started talking to the first potential buyers, we disclosed it, Chris, and I disclosed it immediately, the buyer said, hey, we understand we still want to move forward, we still think it’s a great asset. And the reason, I had gone three years building the site, I never built a single link, I never bought a link. I never guessed posted, I never did any link building of any kind. I got some natural, great authoritative links early on. And then about two and a half years in, I started thinking, what’s my biggest weakness, it’s my authoritativeness of the site. And so I engaged with a company that does link building, they assured me that they weren’t buying these links that they were building them and I do harrow now. I think it’s great. I think there’s great ways to build links that are safe. I got the first eight links back from these guys. They weren’t cheap was like $3,000 a month for the service. But I thought, you know, reinvest in the business. They were garbage links. They were truly bad websites, if you looked at them on, looked at their backlink profile, you could tell that they had been gamed to have the authority that they had. And so long story short, I said, Hey, I want the money back. And I want you to remove the links, which they did. And so those links, were only like eight links. Those links were live for, like 20 days, they were up, then they were gone. And then two months later, I get this penalty from Google and it was devastating.

Joe Valley  17:43

And you’ve calculated how much that cost you.

Michael Donovan  17:45

Significant. Yeah, yeah, it was significant.

Joe Valley  17:48

So you’re trying not to live here. I am just poking you. Open wound and you’re like, Dude, shut up. I put that behind me.

Michael Donovan  17:55

But it’s a good lesson. I think it’s important. It’s an important lesson. It was important lesson for me, certainly. And you can’t ever say definitively what was right, because Google doesn’t tell you. They just said unnatural inbound links that never give a single example, there’s no one you can ask, no one’s going to tell you exactly what it was. And so you have to infer and make some, you know, educated guesses as to what caused this. I think that’s the only possibility there is nothing, every site once you get big, and you start to get you know, at the peak, the site was getting 800,000 pageviews a month. Once you get to that point, you’re gonna attract spammy links naturally can’t avoid it. You can nothing you can do to avoid it. You can disavow those links in your search console if you choose. But Google’s gotten very good at handling just naturally spammy links, they just don’t look at them.

Joe Valley  18:42

800,000 unique visitors a month? page views a month? How many? How many articles did you have at that time? 320. Give or take? And you’re writing these articles on your own in your spare time? No help.

Michael Donovan  18:56

Correct. So well. So 90 plus percent of the articles I wrote myself, there was a period of time where I tried to hire some writers. That was crazy in of itself. If someone wants to become a billionaire have actually great writers. I guess no one does that. Because they just do it use them for themselves. But I went on ProBlogger Fiverr Upwork. Anywhere you can find a writer I went, I had four at once, at one point that were helping me. Quality was just never that great. I was always heavily editing the content wasn’t quite up to what I wanted. I was spending so much time that ultimately just said forget it. I just do it myself. It was working. I didn’t mind the writing. I didn’t love it. But I didn’t mind it. And so I just kept doing it myself. But yeah, so Anyways, long story short, when you’re building a site like that, and you have an asset on your hands, you have to be very careful about who you engage, certainly when it comes to links, and so I think the combination of that penalty, plus Google changing their algorithm a lot during that time. It could have been a combination of those things. But traffic dropped a little over 50% during the sale period, what was great was that when Chris and I listed the site publicly after the first buyer fell through, we listed it, only cash offers we accepted. Two days after we listed it, the penalty was lifted from Google. So that was great. So we had some buyers who were already interested in buying it with us fully disclosing the penalty. Now we could come back to them and say, hey, great news penalties lifted. So any concerns you had there, you’re already interested in now you probably are more interested at this price? Because we got the penalty lifted at that point? Well, how long was the penalty in place? That was in place for almost four and a half months?

Joe Valley  20:43

Okay, so it affected your income in that four and a half months by how much?

Michael Donovan  20:47

So we went from August was the best month at 43,000. That month, it dropped in December, it was down to 32,000. And then January, I think it was at 12 or 13,000. Now, Jan, that’s not really those aren’t Apples to Apples months, as you know, in the display ad business. Yeah, display ad rates drop almost 50% or more during that time from December to q4 to q1.

Joe Valley  21:13

So did you so maybe 25 to $30,000 overall that you might have lost during that four month period?

Michael Donovan  21:19

I think that’s fair. Yeah, I think that’s a fair assessment.

Joe Valley  21:21

Did you have a conversation with Woz at that point that that might have gone? Like, look, if you hold on, it’s back, the penalties lifted? Let’s wait 12 months, your business is growing, you’re not going to have this penalty, you just take that 25 to 30,000 times the multiple, you’re going to gain that if everything is normal. Did you have a conversation like that?

Michael Donovan  21:41

Yeah. So Chris did give me multiple opinions, right? He didn’t push me in any one direction. But he did bring that up as a potential thing of, hey, you have this asset, it’s been working very well, this is unfortunate. But you’ve got it lifted, maybe we take it off, you hold on to it, you know, let’s see what happens. I mean, traffic went up 15%, the week that it got removed. And then what I’ve heard is that it takes a while it doesn’t just like rebound right away. If that was the main contributing thing for me, what I was doing personally, in my life at that point, I wanted to sell this site, I had made my mind up at that point, for better or worse. I was like, I’m offloading this site. I also mentally could not imagine myself writing one more article for this website. Like it was just so and I knew all those things. So knowing that I was like, if I hold on to this thing, I’m not going to do it justice, right. And so just knowing that, take the hit, it was still a great outcome. In the end, I think, in the time that I owned it, plus the sale, seven figures of profit on a blog that I never imagined was going to if you told me then I’ll do $1,000 a month, I’d say what a win what was, and so yeah, so there was no question in my mind, I was selling the site.

Joe Valley  22:51

Let’s do some quick math. Did you make more? What we often say what I talked about the book is that you’re gonna make at least typically 50% Of all the money you ever make comes at the time you sell. Ballpark, how’s that math work in you operating the business for three years,

Michael Donovan  23:09

I made double with the sale when I ever made total with the site.

Joe Valley  23:13

Okay. So you read the book as well, right? I believe.

Michael Donovan  23:17

I admittedly didn’t finish reading all of it. But I read a lot of it. Yeah.

Joe Valley  23:21

The experience, but it’s, you know, it’s actually, I call it a reference book at times, you know, at certain stages in your business, you can go back to certain chapters and read digest, it’s just too much to digest all at once.

Michael Donovan  23:31

And with the simple content, a content business is so simple, it’s just like, boil down to business to the most simple form. That’s the content business. And there’s some things in there. Like, if I didn’t have inventory, there’s a lot of things in there that weren’t applicable to me in my business. Yes.

Joe Valley  23:46

Okay, so let’s go on to this second buyer, the first buyer fell apart because the traffic numbers concern them, they were at a much higher value based upon previous numbers. You went back out to market you picked a price. How long did it take to go under LOI that second time?

Michael Donovan  24:01

It took five or six days, maybe a little less, actually was probably four or five days, and how long it’ll take to close 20 days. And I told Chris, I said, listen, to this time around the baby, like was this impending thing that was happening? Also the house we knew was happening. And so I was like, hey, we got to, I want to make sure this thing closes. What can we do? He said, let’s just go for cash, cash only buyers. And so as cash is king. They can move quick. That’s what happened in our case, and I just want one quick comment about the first buyer. They were great guys. They put in an invested their time and money into that process. So I’m describing this painful for me, it was equally painful for them. They did not want that outcome. But when they did the math there SBA loan, it was $15,000 a month they had to pay roughly my January month of 13,000 Didn’t even service their monthly debt payment on the loan. So the math didn’t make sense. It’s I just want to like those guys. I liked them. They’re good guys, they didn’t want this outcome. I felt bad that happened on their end, too. But I was thrilled that the second deal went through as quickly as it did zero hiccups during the process in all cash ended up being the right way to go for the second sale.

Joe Valley  25:21

Addressing the first buyers look, they’ve learned a lot a lot in this process. And it as painful as it is, it’s something that’s never going to leave them and they know what to look for what the risks are and things of this nature, the next time they go through this process, it’s going to be that much easier for them as well.

Michael Donovan  25:39

It’s an education. That’s how I see it.

Joe Valley  25:40

Totally big education. People that are listening, people that started listening at the beginning going oh, wow, high seven-figure, high six-figure exit part time, why in the world is he selling and as you said, you’re risk averse. And lo and behold, you got hit with an algorithm update. So your gut was right. Talk to me, though, about that. We talked about this, I’ve talked about this with 1000 buyers over the years, or sellers over the years. But we’re 1000s to be honest. And that’s the emotional process of selling, right, you can use math logic, you can have all sorts of bravado about no, I’m not accepting anything. But this, when you get into it, and you get into that process, it’s emotional, because it’s a deep, deep examination of the business, which is a reflection of you. And then when you go under LOI, your emotions shift into really high gear. And then when you get bounced around like you did four months, three, four months at a time. And you’re having a baby and all this stuff. Tell me about how you just felt and how many times you’ve had to apologize to your wife?

Michael Donovan  26:49

Yeah, my wife and to Chris. So the good thing is, is that Chris, you know, having a broker, right, there’s a cost, of course, there’s a cost with a broker, but based on what we got, in the process that we went through, I mean, Chris paid for himself twice over, and I can show the math, to prove that we’ve got 15% over asking. And if he didn’t give me the advice on doing capital gains tax for the sale, I would have been hit with another $155,000 in the check that I just wrote to the government. So he paid for himself in spades. But where he also paid for himself was, if anyone knows Chris Wozniak, his pulse is like flat, that guy is calm, even talks calmly. And so, when I was kind of frantic, at certain points, sending him four emails in a row, because I couldn’t get my thoughts out in a single email, he was the person to just stay calm and relaxed and say, hey, explaining the situation, this is what happens. Here are the circumstances. And so, but know the emotional part of this, people talk about it. I’ve read about it, you hear other people say it was painful, until you have the thing that you worked on for so long, like this close to getting an outcome that is significant for you, for your family, start thinking about what you can do with that outcome. Yeah, it’s extremely emotional. And I was at a point where I’m working a nine to five, I’ve got a son who’s one and a half years old, I’m working on the side business, and that’s now become very significant. I stopped working out at that point, I wasn’t eating the best. And so already, my body was not primed to be jarred like it was. And so yeah, it wasn’t, you know, I don’t I don’t think I handled it particularly well, admittedly, I think the next time around, I would know what to expect. And I think a key point in that is, I don’t think I probably would have done anything different, to be honest, things happen that were out of our control a bit, but I would have just gone in knowing that this is how it is. There is a lot of uncertainty. And LOI, frankly means nothing. It is nice. It’s a nice gesture. It’s not legally binding. It doesn’t mean anything. And it actually, Chris said this, you know, when our second buyer, signed the asset purchase agreement, which that is significant at that point, that’s a binding legally binding documents huge. But even Chris said, I’m gonna wait to congratulate you until the wire sent. I’m sure he’s seen some stuff in his 15 years of doing this where it’s like, until that money hits your account. You got to stay regulated, you have to stay calm.

Joe Valley  29:21

Yeah, but you can have more confidence once that sharp disagreements, and I think I think, in my tenure here at Quiet Light, I think I’ve only see one of my deals, not close once the asset purchase agreement was that’s good to know. And there was a penalty for it. And we sold it for more afterwards anyway, but it was an emotional toll regardless. So it’s a pretty impressive story, right? You knew nothing about the space. You just listened to some podcasts and offline, you’ve done it. So congratulations on that. I would assume and tell me if I’m dead wrong. But now that you know this, now that you capable of doing this? Do you feel like you’re going to do it again?

Michael Donovan  30:04

Yeah, so during the process, I started getting on Twitter, very active on Twitter. And just sharing because I didn’t saw a big opportunity. I didn’t see a lot of people talking about this business actively, I didn’t see a lot of people sharing, just full transparency, here’s to the dollar that I’m making, here are my expenses. And here’s how I’m doing it. What’s working for me, and as you know, in the content space, you can do things a lot of different ways and still win in a big way. But I was just on there constantly. And so that grew, I think I’m up to 30, some odd 1000 people that are just paying attention to that piece of it. I have an identical twin brother, he saw what I was doing with the first site. So he was like, I got I need a piece of that. So he started his own site. In six months, he got up to over 50,000 pageviews was making $3,000 a month, and then that site got clobbered. It’s down now to an algorithm update came in like overnight, his traffic got wiped out, which if you follow other content creators, this is happening to a lot of people. No, he wrote he wrote those articles himself, he wrote 140 articles. Offline, I can share the URL with you, you can take a look at it. But it was good content, similar to what I was doing. But there’s just too many factors to know exactly what is causing something to get hit these days.

Joe Valley  31:22

You and fencer has been a guest many times on the podcast, and he’s got a portfolio of content sites, hundreds of them at this point. And actually, his process is to write all the, I think it’s to write 100 articles for each site, and then launch it and wait a year and see what happens. He says it’s a really bad idea to own just one for all the reasons you just talked about. Because sometimes stuff happens and an algorithm update occurs that you didn’t cheat, you didn’t lie, you didn’t steal, you didn’t do anything wrong, that you know of. But somehow Google’s algorithm changes and it affects your income.

Michael Donovan  31:59

And I think that’s spot on. And so the reason I told that story of why I started sharing this stuff that’s built us into now we have, a brand that we’re trying to build around And the reason that we’re doing that is we have right now, it’s taking a long time. But we have 12,000 sessions a month now split a third between organic, social, direct and organic traffic. And I sleep very well at night with that business. So that business has 4000 email subscribers growing very quickly, we have different income streams for that business, we have different traffic sources for that business, it is well rounded, it takes longer to do that, it has taken longer to do that. But I don’t wake up in the morning and check Google Analytics and hope I still have a business, it’s just way more stable than what I had before. I’m doing that publicly. And then privately, I’m working on a travel site with my wife, which is doing, early days, but that’s starting to get traffic, I think that could be a very good business. In the long run, that’s going to be a slow grind. But my mindset has changed a more, you know, slower, but better for longer is how I’m thinking about it now. And I think you do better by diversifying your traffic sources, I actually think there’s an argument to be made for starting a new site on a social channel first, that sounds kind of odd. But I think there’s an opportunity to grow a social presence, then create a content site and intertwine the two and I think your stability, your brand, your the awareness, the signals that that sends to Google that you’re a real thing, a real entity or person a bit, whatever it may be. I think there’s a lot to that. And so that’s what we do with Niche Twins at work. It’s working very well at the moment.

Joe Valley  33:39

Yeah, and I didn’t realize Niche Twins was the thing until now. So I’m looking at it now. It looks like you’re helping and guiding others through your own personal experiences so that they can launch their own niche sites as well.

Michael Donovan  33:52

That’s right. And part of the newsletter like I just did a sent out a newsletter last week, I’m sharing details that I wish I had seen when I went through the sale process. So I’m like getting into the nitty gritty of here was the timeline like Well, the last email I just sent 108 days SBA loan process, here were the milestones through that entire process that I dealt with, that I went through, here was the 22 day cash buyer. Here are all the milestones. Here’s obviously stripping away all identifiers, but here’s what an SBA loan application like what that might look like, and the closing costs associated with that no names, no bank, nothing like that. But yeah, just details that I learned that I think I was a fantastic education. It would be great if someone else could learn that without having to pay to pay for it a certain way like I did, in some ways, but yeah, so that’s the whole goal of it is just to be transparent. I’m not an expert. I’ve only done it once. I’ve done it for three little over three years now. So I definitely learned a ton. But just transparency people’s people really seem to respond to that when you’re just like, hey, straight up. This is everything I’m doing here’s what’s working here’s what’s not.

Joe Valley  34:54

I think it’s fantastic. Anybody listening I’ve got it up now take a look at it. See what he’s got there. or further detail on your story and your process of building the site and exiting, which I think is great. Great. Any other last-minute thoughts or tips or advice for folks that are considering building or selling an online business even bought?

Michael Donovan  35:15

Yeah, I think, um, I think the biggest thing that I see that most people struggle with is just being consistent. Like all things in life, right? Gym relationships, like doing content. I think a lot of people, it’s cliché, but it’s said a lot for a reason, people give up way too easily. And with organic traffic, you got to wait, it takes. And there’s a reason. If Google just ranked everything right away, it would be flooded with garbage. And so there’s a reason that these things take time. And it doesn’t guarantee that you’re, if you just write for a year, you’re going to succeed, but you certainly will never succeed. If you write for two months and quit, you have to stick with it and see things through. And so some people just can’t do it, which is, for people that are in this business, it’s a good thing. It’s kind of a moat around our business, where if you give up too easily, you know that that weeds out a lot of people, but if you’re going to consider doing this, I wrote 40 articles in a year, I think most people are capable of writing 40 articles in 365 days.

Joe Valley  36:14

How many words for the average article?

Michael Donovan  36:18

1500 to 1700 words, give or take. So I just I think anyone can do it. But if you’re going to do it, you know, just commit to sticking with something. And that’s another argument to maybe start with social. Because there is some more not all the way, you know, within a couple of days, but you get some instant feedback there. And if you’re trying to test a niche, or a way of sharing things, and you want to see if that’s resonating social can give you that fairly quickly, not immediate, but it can give you that you can kind of test the waters a little bit there. If you need that feedback, you know what I mean?

Joe Valley  36:54

I can see that it seems like the social side of it would be more interactive, you’d be more active on the social stuff versus you can write, you know all of your articles and it’d be great for an introvert that doesn’t want to, you know, communicate with the outside world. That’s you. Yeah, well, listen, man, fantastic story. Congratulations, you’ve done some amazing stuff. And in a very short period of time with a full time job. I love your approach of being risk-averse, obviously, it’s paying off. Congratulations to you, your family and Woz right. I mean, it’s takes a team effort. So congratulations,

Michael Donovan  37:34

For sure. Thanks, Joe. And thanks, Chris. If Chris listens to this, I appreciate all his help and thanks for putting up with me. I think I probably sent you 10,000 emails over the course of four months but it was a good.

Joe Valley  37:45

Woz probably won’t listen to this, but I am going to send out a message to the team that I had you on the podcast today and that you said quote unquote, Chris’s pulse is flat and some complimentary things around. That was a positive thing and positive thing. Michael, congratulations. Thanks for coming on sharing your story. Appreciate it.

Michael Donovan  38:05

Thanks Joe. Appreciate it.

Outro  38:08

Today’s podcast was produced by Rise 25 And the Quiet Light content team. If you have a suggestion for a future podcast, subject or guest, email us at [email protected]. Be sure to follow us on YouTube, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and Instagram and subscribe to the show wherever you get your podcasts. Thanks for listening. We’ll see you next week.

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