While attending the NamesCon domain name conference last month, I had the opportunity to sit down for one-on-one meetings with a variety of industry colleagues. Quite a few of them asked me what I was up to these days, and I realized that if my domain industry buddies don’t know what I am doing for a living, then folks outside of the industry definitely wouldn’t know.
So, with that in mind, here’s a brief summary of what I am doing work-wise. My main focus is running Name Ninja, and what we (yes, there’s a team of us) primarily do is help clients acquire a specific domain name they want that is already owned by another party. Technically, the term for the role that we play is Domain Buyer Broker, meaning we represent the buyer in the transaction. Our clients range from serial entrepreneurs to early-stage startups to marketing executives at larger companies. Acquisition budgets for the domains we get asked to acquire are all over the map, and sometimes have no logical correlation with the size of the company wanting to buy the domain – or fair market value! I will probably do another blog post about the harsh realities of startup and corporate domain acquisition budgets, but let’s just say that not every company wants to, or can afford to, spend five, six, or even seven figures on a domain name. Even some Fortune 500 companies balk at paying more than $1,000 to acquire a domain name, as crazy as that may sound. Naturally, I provide a lot of ‘reality checks’ to clients who are under the impression they can buy a one-word .com domain for a few thousand dollars. Sadly, it’s not 1995 anymore.
Although Name Ninja is based in Canada, the vast majority of our clients are in the US and Europe, although we are delighted to work with Canadian clients when the opportunity presents itself. Most of the domains we help clients acquire are one and two-word .com domains, but we’re TLD agnostic and will help clients acquire any domain in any extension they desire. In addition to lots of .com domains, we’ve helped clients acquire .net, .org, .TV, .co, .biz, .ca, .fr, plus a smattering of new TLD domains. Interestingly, it’s been a year since hundreds of new TLD domains have publicly launched and I can count on the fingers of one hand how many times a client has expressed an interest in one of the new TLD domains. For them, and for now at least, .com is still king.
A common reaction I get from people when I tell them what I do for a living is that they are surprised to hear that someone, let alone a team of people, can make a viable living just focused on acquiring domain names for others. “Surely that’s not your full-time job,” they ask with a puzzled look on their face. Yup, it certainly is, and here’s why: There are thousands of startups, new businesses, and new products being launched every single day by entrepreneurs around the world, and most of these new companies are going to need a domain name at some point. Not surprisingly, in many cases these entrepreneurs’ first choice of domain name is owned by someone else. Some of these entrepreneurs realize they need help acquiring their ideal domain name, and that’s when they seek out the help of a domain name buyer brokerage like Name Ninja.
I love what I do, and nothing gives me more pleasure than seeing one of our clients get a domain name they’ve been wanting for months or even years. I should add here that not every domain acquisition we do for clients is a purchase from a third party. Sometimes we’re able to scoop up domains for clients during the expiry stage (here’s a great case study of one such project) and other times we’ve been even able to get domains donated to our clients.
One of the things I love about my job, even though most of the time it doesn’t feel like a “job”, is that every domain project is different and comes with its own set of challenges. No two projects are identical, and each is like a new puzzle waiting to be solved.
People often think that the hardest part of domain acquisition projects is the negotiation, but in my experience the hardest part of what we do is identifying and contacting the domain owner. We love it when we discover the domain is owned by a domainer, because most domainers want to be found and are interested in selling their domains. I wish the same could be said for some members of the general public, and don’t get me started about large corporations that are just sitting on some killer domains. Sometimes it’s really obvious who the owner is and it’s relatively easy to reach them, but other times it can take weeks or months of detective work to track down the real owner of a domain name and convince them to talk to us. We’ll go to just about any length – as long as it is legal and ethical – to find a domain name owner and get their attention, even if that has meant doing some pretty crazy things. Without wishing to give away any trade secrets, I can say that some of our projects have involved helium balloons, mint tea, and an undercover agent who speaks five languages.
I’ve also done a number of pro-bono assignments for individuals and companies whose domain names have been lost or stolen, and these projects are the most rewarding assignments of all.
So that’s what I do for a living, and I feel blessed that it’s something I really enjoy. Life is far too short to be doing work that you don’t find interesting or fulfilling. I am also deeply thankful to my Name Ninja team and amazing clients and industry partners for making my unusual “job” a wonderful reality.
Domain name expert Bill Sweetman is the President & Lead Ninja of Name Ninja, a boutique domain name consulting firm that helps companies acquire, manage, protect, and profit from their domain names. Bill has provided strategic domain name advice to major companies around the world for over 20 years.
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