Ever since our guest today said goodbye to his 9-5 job, he has been earning a living online with the freedom to work from wherever he wants on whatever he wants.
Today, he’s going to share his experience building, buying and selling websites and online businesses for himself and for Quiet Light Brokerage.
If you’re just getting started or want to improve your online business, then click below to hear what Chris learned after 10+ years of buying and selling websites.
Chris Guthrie is a top website broker for Quiet Light. Hear his thoughts on what it takes to sell six and seven-figure content sites…
Matt Raad: Hi again everyone. It’s Matt Raad here, CEO and co-founder of eBusiness Institute, where we teach beginners how to earn money online, particularly through buying and selling websites.
We love running these interview series for our readers because they’re so inspirational. And as many of you in our community know, we teach about buying and selling content sites because they’re quite passive. And don’t worry if you don’t fully understand what they’re about at this point.
But in this interview, I’ve got a very special guest, Chris Guthrie, who’s had incredible success in this space.
Not only has he had incredible success in buying and selling content sites over the years, but he’s now one of the top brokers of Quiet Light.
He’s a specialist in selling content sites in the six and seven-figure price range, sometimes into eight figures.
We’re fortunate to have Chris with us today because he can give us some really good insights into what’s happening with these content sites. And also give you some inspiration and ideas on niches, and share with you the money you can make from these websites.
And you can do all of this working at home in your Jimmy Jams. So that’s pyjamas, Chris, if you don’t know what that means. 🙂 But thanks for coming along today.
Chris Guthrie: Thanks for the very warm welcome. I’m looking forward to this.
Chris Guthrie shares the #1 reason why content sites are so popular
Matt: It’s been great having a chat with you, Chris. I’m glad we got introduced because we have very similar backgrounds.
I know you started over a decade ago, similar to when Liz and I started, and there’s a lot to talk about today. You’ve got many inspirational stories and examples to share with our community.
At eBusiness Institute, we teach people who are exiting their jobs (corporate roles, typically) to buy content sites and build them up. And that’s also been your journey over the years.
And now, you’re a specialist in selling some of these bigger content sites in the marketplace. Why are they so popular at the moment? We’ll look at some examples, but what’s happening in that space in this current marketplace?
Chris: There are so many directions we could take it.
In the content space, part of the reason why some people are interested in them is that they have the skill set required to run them.
The skillset is either you’re writing the content yourself or hiring people to write for you. And then, there’s the focus on continuing to create the content within that particular niche.
And so, in many cases, buyers are buying because they want to purchase a revenue stream, and they don’t want to start something from scratch.
The types of buyers who are purchasing content websites
Chris: So, let’s talk about the buyers themselves because there is a vast range of buyers.
Firstly, there are individuals who are looking to purchase just one site. They’re just trying to own a website while continuing to work their day job. They’re trying to do both things for a little while. And there are people who have their own personal portfolio of websites.
We also have funded companies that have been doing this for so long that they have tons of money to acquire sites and to acquire you. They’re looking at one website every month, for example.
“Many buyers love content websites because the model lends itself well to so many people who can run those types of sites.” – Chris Guthrie, Quiet Light
The surprising niche that’s making seven-figures when selling websites
Matt: When we were first introduced, a story you shared was how you found this interesting niche in selling these content sites. Are you able to talk about that?
Chris: Yes, so I met someone looking to sell her food blog, and it was a sizeable site doing over seven figures in profit. And so, we went out to the market and sold it for a significant sum of money. It was a multi-seven figure deal, so she was very pleased!
It got interesting because the food blog industry has private Facebook groups where the larger site owners talk to each other. And so, she basically shared my information. Since then, I’ve spoken to about 25 food bloggers, and I’ve sold a bunch of other food blogs.
It’s a weird random thing when you’re helping to do brokerage work. You end up getting a lot of referrals; in this case, it headed down this path of doing a lot of food blog work.
Matt: This is interesting because as a broker, you’re selling sites day-in-day-out, and you’re good at doing that.
How do you make money with food blogs?
Matt: How do these food blog sites make money? I’m sure they’re talking about cooking specific kinds of foods. Are these sites relatively niche?
Chris: People will narrow down to a particular diet and specific types of foods. They’ll also do, “I’m doing family-friendly meals that are inexpensive,” or “I’m doing family-friendly meals that take more time to prepare.”
There are so many different little sub-niches within that broader niche. And the same can be said for any niche in the content space. You could have finance, but then someone niches down to some particular area within finance – for example, dividend stocks.
Monetization Method #1: Advertising
Chris: So, it’s an exciting space. And the way that they traditionally make money is primarily through display advertising. A lot of them will use either AdThrive or Mediavine for their network. It’s always one of those two.
It’s not to say which one’s better; I think that they’re both going to be great performers. But for this space in particular, those two networks have helped to make publishers (the website owners) so much money from being able to run ads on their site and making money that way.
Monetization Method #2: Affiliate Products
Chris: And then we have affiliate marketing. Some bloggers will do digital product sales and things like that.
But I almost always universally see that the AdThrive or Mediavine earnings are driving more than half the website earnings, for sure.
Matt: So basically, the model for these food bloggers is they start at home as you and I did. They’re typing away, passionate about cooking meals (or a specific diet, like the paleo diet etc.), and they create a good article.
They’re not selling meals or products. They put content up, have ads on there, and make money off Google ads.
So that’s the model when they’re starting. And you are now selling these food blogs in the high six and seven-figure range.
What a $1 Million food blogging website looks like…
What team do you need to run a seven-figure recipe content website?
Matt: What does a food blog that’s making a million dollars a year look like? Are there lots of staff, or is it still that same person writing the content themselves? What have you observed once you get into the higher six figures and, say, a million-dollar food blog?
Chris: I’d say, of course, it depends on each site. A lot of times, the core person behind it is the one still creating most of the content. But they usually hire people to help with everything else.
For example, they’re not answering their own emails. And they’re not answering blog comments unless they want that feedback and cultural connection to their readers. They’re not scheduling posts for social media; someone else is doing that.
They sometimes even have someone else taking their photography. If that’s the case, they’ll give them the materials to go and create the same recipes (i.e., follow all the steps), and then they’ll take the photos for them.
So, a whole range of people will help support that core blogger.
But also, some owners are like, “Hey, I’m just managing the site, and I have recipe developers that come up with the recipes. I have people that also deal with social media and everything else.” So it really ranges.
I sold a site for someone doing that and only worked about two to three hours a week on this site.
So, it’s working out the high-level strategic goals towards what we’re trying to do and what content we want to create. And then it’s up to them to help get it out there. Other owners are more involved with the creation, so it ranges for the owner.
It’s important to outsource when growing your site to seven-figures
Matt: Great, so that’s the model you see. No matter what type of content site it is (whether it’s recipes, finance, whatever), they all work pretty much the same way, don’t they? Most roles are outsourced once you get into that seven-figure range.
Chris: That’s right. I know a few content owners who just create all the content (and do everything) themselves, and they’re making seven figures a year. But those cases are exceptionally rare.
And usually, they get to a point where they know they could go and hire someone and grow much bigger. But there’s usually a reason they don’t. Maybe they say, “I just want to keep it simple. How much more money do I really need from making $1 million plus a year?”
So, there’s definitely a wide range. I’ve also met other people doing eight figures a year with teams of 20+ people.
Matt: Well, eight figures is getting up there, and you would expect they have a few more employees.
Example of flipping a food blogging website for $300,000 profit
Matt: For this latest site you were talking to me about, I think it’s an excellent story, and many people don’t realise the scale of this, Chris. But you and I see it all the time.
You recently sold a content site for $700,000, which sounds pretty big to most people. Do you want to talk to us about that site’s owner and what was happening in the background?
Chris: Yes, well, this was another food blog. She originally bought the site from someone else for around $400,000 and sold it for $700,000. So, she made $300,000 from the time she owned it.
So, this is a flipping-type approach, and I’ve done that myself with my own content sites. I find websites to buy and then sell.
Is there still money to be made in flipping websites for profit?
Chris: But she sold the site because she had a much larger food blog from which she was making more money. So she said, “I’m just going to focus on this bigger site, so I don’t need to deal with this anymore.”
She originally bought it because it was an opportunity that she thought she would be able to improve. She wasn’t actively looking to purchase something. There are so many stories like that out there.
When doing the brokerage work over the years with Quiet Light, I’ve been dealing with online businesses, content, eCommerce, SaaS etc. I go to conferences and meet people, make friends, have great dinners and chat with lots of people.
The number of people I meet is dramatically scaled up because I talk to so many people. And it’s just shocking how much money some people are making and how large these businesses are. You would never have thought it could be that big.
It’s like something you wouldn’t really see until you do this. I’ve been doing this for a decade on my own, and it still surprises me that there’s so much money out there. It’s just crazy.
Matt: It’s eye-opening, isn’t it? You and I were chatting before the interview, talking about some of the deals we’ve seen.
People wouldn’t believe the amount of money you can make in these simple niches, even with just bog-standard content sites. I mean, that’s another story in itself…
How Chris Guthrie from Quiet Light started his online business
Matt: Another thing I would like to cover, Chris, is your story because it’s very inspirational.
For the last decade, you’ve been buying and selling content sites, eCommerce, and SaaS (but, of course, starting out with content sites…).
His first website was a gaming forum making $500 a month
Matt: Can you share with everyone where you started when you finished school? What was your actual career? It’s an unusual career choice, and it would be cool for people to hear about it.
Chris: Yes, I started around 15-16 years ago with an online forum focused on video games. I was doing it in college at the time, and I still like to play video games today.
I made a forum on an area I was interested in and got it up to $500 a month in AdSense. So, that was covering the college rent I was paying at the time. I thought, “That’s pretty nice. If I could just get more traffic.”
…and Chris quickly realised that Affiliate marketing would allow him to quit his corporate job
Chris: I thought in a rudimentary where I was like, “Oh, if I can just get ten times as much traffic, then I can make $5,000 a month.” And so, that was the path.
I started launching other forums to try and scale up that way. But ultimately found that affiliate marketing was what allowed me to leave my day job. I was building out content sites targeted more at people looking for stuff to buy.
And so, for me, it was Amazon’s Affiliate Program, and that’s where I went.
Chris’ corporate job was a game tester for Microsoft
Matt: And Chris, you got to mention your job because it was super cool. You were working for a big corporate. Are you allowed to say the name of the corporate you worked for?
Chris: Yes, I was working as a game tester at Microsoft. Even to this day, Microsoft still does contract game testing.
The only reason I left that was the pay was so low. I was making less than $3,000 a month. It was very minimal at the time.
But I worked on a couple of games. I worked on Halo 2 Vista and Age Of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties, which was an expansion pack for Age Of Empire.
So, if you go into the Age Of Empires game and look at the credits, you’ll see my name as a software tester.
Matt: All right!
Chris: But I used that time in college to build my forum. Making your first dollar online is like, “Oh man, this is amazing. If I can just do this, then I could maybe do this full time.”
Within 2 years, his online affiliate income exceeded his corporate income…
Chris: I worked at Microsoft as a game tester, and then I went to work in sales for two years. By then, my affiliate marketing income had surpassed my day job, and I got let go. I said, “Okay, I can do this full-time.”
And I’ve been doing stuff like that ever since. So, that was over a decade ago.
Matt: That’s super cool because you’re working for this corporate, earning about $3,000, and you had this big commute to work. All the things that I think a lot of our readers will be nodding their head going, “Yep. I know what it’s like.”
Chris’ insights on leaving corporate to earn more than $150,000 per annum
Matt: Now, I know it’s a distant memory for you, but there are people reading this who want to quit their corporate jobs.
In your first year, as you were transitioning, what money did you start making with your online business? And then, when did you hit your financial independence goal?
Chris: When I worked at my day job in sales (after the game testing), I made mid-five figures annually. And then, the first year after I got let go from my job, I cleared between $150,000-$180,000 in my business. So that was more than double my corporate job income.
I invested a lot of money I was making from various businesses into Tesla, which has gone well up until November. But now, at the time we’re recording, those stocks have had a bit of a hit.
I don’t remember the exact year I became financially independent, but I have enough where I can have a lot of freedom.
His brokerage role at Quiet Light gives him financial and lifestyle freedom
Chris: Part of why I like doing the brokerage work is because it’s really up to the individual in terms of how much they want to work.
So, I’ve only closed two deals this year, and I’m not working super hard because I don’t necessarily need to do a lot of deals. It’s very flexible, and it’s been a lot of fun over the last several years. It feels like it’s gone by quickly, with many trends and new things.
Matt: It’s so great to see the journey of someone like yourself and read it first-hand. You’re in this corporate role, you quit, and within a couple of years, you’re making between $150,000 and $180,000.
Since then, you have bought and sold websites, exactly what we teach here, and you’ve been successful. And I know some of them haven’t worked, but others have gone really well for you.
Chris Guthrie’s success secret behind creating an 8-figure website
Matt: You’ve been doing this journey now for ten years. When you look back, is there any advice you can give to someone starting out? What do you wish you knew back then?
Even just thinking back to that first two years, knowing what you know now, what would you say to our readers?
Step #1 – Pick your niche
Chris: I would say that the niche you select is pretty important. But also, maybe not as important as you might think. That’s because there’s tons of money to be made in any niche.
I talked with a woman I met at a conference who was making $20,000 a month on a website she built about a specific type of plant. I don’t want to say the kind of plant because it might be too narrow. But it was the sort of plant she was interested in. She works around 15 hours a week on that site.
And so, when I think back on my journey, I spent so much time fiddling around with the video game niche. But the way I was targeting it, I was trying to build a huge forum and get people to come that way.
Essentially, it wasn’t as effective as building out affiliate-type sites targeting buyer keywords and people searching for something they were looking to purchase soon.
That’s really been the switch that helped me.
Step #2 – How can you differentiate from the competition?
Chris: Today, I would say focus on what can you do in a niche that is different or better than what the competitors are doing?
I had one site I built because I thought, “All these people are reviewing these products. I can tell they’re not actually revealing anything new.” So, I created the site to review the things that no one else was doing.
And so, I hired an employee. I said, “Hey if you work on this site I initially built, this will become part of your training. If things go well, I’ll hire you full-time and keep working on other things together.” I did that for one of my sites, and it went really well.
Step #3 – Focus on the long-game
Chris: So, I would say that the niche is certainly important. But also, just focusing on something you think will have staying power. I said this to you before, but often I’ll get to the point where I’m exiting and selling between three to five years.
But the people doing exceptionally well (like multiple millions of dollars a year) are usually the ones who continue working on something consistently over a long period. These are the people who are making huge amounts of cash.
Matt: So that’s a good lesson for everyone listening, isn’t it? And even for me and you sitting here, just chatting as friends. When you look back over ten years, that’s a really cool observation.
Plenty of us get in and either build or buy and fix up websites. And we sell them off within five years, and we all think we’re legends because we sell them for whatever.
But really, it’s like Warren Buffet says, “It’s the long term 10-year journey.”
An example of how term consistency really pays off when building content sites
Matt: Is that where you are mainly seeing the seven and eight-figure deals? Is it the people who have held these sites for a long time?
Chris: Yes, in the content space, or at least in the food blogging space. And it’s predominantly been women I’ve worked with, but also some men too.
Usually, the much larger sales are people who have been working on their content sites for longer periods of time.
I talked to a guy I’d known for years who was looking to sell his site for $4 million. Fortunately for him, he didn’t end up selling it because I caught up with him again years later, and he was doing eight figures a year. I was like, “That’s impressive!”
Matt: And was that a content site?
Chris: Yes, it was his content site.
It really is crazy, the people I talk to and just hearing their stories.
I talk to huge funds that are buying content sites, as I mentioned earlier. I like to tell people that you have to work hard. But there are basically piles of cash lying on the ground. You’ve just got to figure out which one you want to start picking up and put in your pocket.
The longer you can keep mining and working on that, the bigger those cheques can become. I’ve seen it on my own sites many times.
Matt: That’s right.
Does Chris buy or build his content websites?
Matt: Chris, you’re obviously a very humble guy, but you’ve had a lot of success in buying and selling these websites. Is your strategy generally to buy and fix them up, or do you also build them from scratch?
Chris: I think that there’s something to be said for just starting.
If you don’t have any money, then you’ve got to start from scratch.
I certainly started with no money at all. I was making just above minimum wage at Microsoft. And so, everything had to be created by me. I didn’t have the money to pay writers, so I would do all the writing myself. And I’m not that great of a writer, but I thought, “This is going to be good enough.”
But if you have money, then maybe you can afford to buy. And if you’re in between, you could start from scratch and then hire writers to help you out.
I’ve done every option here.
The most recent site I bought was in the military space. I bought it, and improved it with one very simple change. I changed it from AdSense to AdThrive, which increased the earnings quite a bit. So, I just held it and then sold it a year later, making $200,000 on that one.
Should you focus on one website or a portfolio of sites?
Matt: For your portfolio, do you like to own a range of sites or when you do a website, do you just like to have one and focus on it?
Chris: I’ve had both.
The benefits of focusing on one site
Chris: I have primarily followed the portfolio approach. But then, over the last year or two, I have been selling off more of my content sites. I’ve been looking for a way to minimise the time I spend doing anything, so that’s why I sold.
I was less in the asset accumulation mode and more in the lifestyle appreciation mode. So, that’s another point.
If you could find one niche that you can focus on and just do that one site, you’re probably going to have better results.
And for everyone I’ve talked to, it’s almost like a universal experience.
I’ve had so many different businesses that I would run at all different times. And maybe I’m just not good at doing multiple businesses at once (and I don’t think most people are…). But, for those who focus on just one almost always do much better, from my personal experience.
Maybe there’s some survivorship bias because I’m only meeting the people at conferences who make it through that gauntlet to be able to be there. And I’ve thought sometimes, “Look, if I really wanted to, I should sell everything and just pick one. And I will focus on this one until it’s massive.”
Matt: And that’s really good advice too. We need to think about longevity.
A portfolio of websites allows you to diversify your income
If you’ve got the big multimillion-dollar plan, just think, “Okay, what can I stick at for the next five or ten years? What would I be happy to stick at and just make it work?”
Chris: But I will say the portfolio approach is also good because it’s definitely a great way to diversify.
I liked that approach initially because when I didn’t have many assets, I thought, “Okay, this is how I want to diversify my income stream.”
Then when I started having more assets, I thought, “Okay, now I want to try and concentrate on trying to hit a bigger win.”
Chris’ advice on how to reach your first $10,000 online
Matt: You’re the perfect person to ask this, Chris. For all our students, when you first get online, you realise, “Hey, I can replace my income here. I can make a good income.”
What are your thoughts for someone wanting to reach that first classic goal of making $10,000 per month online? In this day and age, if you wanted to hit $10,000 a month online, what would you do? What would your advice be?
Chris: I would say after 13-14 years of doing this full-time, it comes back to content.
I think that I would just start a content site from scratch. I probably wouldn’t buy because, when I first started, I was in a financial situation where there was no way I could afford to buy a site.
My wife and I actually put some of our wedding on a credit card. And I remember slowly paying that off over the next four or five months after I got married from my lower salary.
So, I would definitely say start a content site within the space you are interested in. Also, look for some market opportunity to do something different than what’s already being done.
For me, I was doing review sites and finding things that no one else was really reviewing in a specific way.
Also, look at how you can service that content. But content is the direction I would go.
Matt: And possibly, as you get more money (or if you had a bit more money when you’re starting out), you were saying, “Okay, if you don’t have the big multimillion-dollar deal, then doing a portfolio strategy works quite well in those first five years.”
Chris: Yes, definitely.
Why it’s important to know your online income goal
Chris: The approach I took was, “Okay, I have no money, and my options are limited.”
I thought that there was no way I could start an eCommerce business. I didn’t have any money to buy inventory, and I thought it might be too hard. So, I did content.
Only after I sold my first content site did I think, “Okay, now I have some money.” So, I started doing software because I’d always been interested in that.
I then went into eCommerce for a little while. But I got tired of eCommerce pretty quickly, so I focused on making software for eCommerce people. I also bought more content sites along the way.
The biggest thing to consider is: What is your goal?
Some people just want to make some extra money and run a smaller business on the side. Other people want to be able to replace their day job income. Just getting to that place is the main hurdle.
After that, many opportunities open up because you no longer have to do it while you’re also working at a day job at the same time, which obviously eats up your hours in the day.
So for me, I was basically spending more time playing video games for the first few years after I left. I thought, “Well, I’m making more money, and it’s fine.”
But, once I discovered we were having twins, I thought, “Okay, I need to work a little bit harder here. I feel like I want to go to the next level.”
Matt: When you look back over the journey, it’s pretty amazing, isn’t it? We tend to take what we do for granted.
Owning an online business has given Chris and his family the lifestyle they want
Matt: I’m presuming you work from home as well, and you’ve got a family like a lot of our readers. And you’ve got two twins!
So is your wife happy? I know I’m asking obvious questions, but what is that lifestyle like for you now, with the family and having young kids?
Chris: I feel incredibly fortunate.
My wife went to school to get her degree in occupational therapy. She started working down that path, and we were trying to have kids. We said, “You know what? There is just too much going on, and business is going well. So, you take a break.”
And she hasn’t gone back to work since then. But I would say she works harder now because she has to deal with the kids. It’s been nice to provide that way, and doing the online thing has made it great.
I laugh, though – I have so much freedom in terms of where I could live. Yet, I live just 5 minutes away from where I grew up. That’s where all my family and friends are, so I like to stay that way.
Matt: And it’s a nice way to raise your kids, too, with family and friends around.
And he has the digital skills for life to continue being an entrepreneur
Matt: Now you’re a broker out of passion; it’s not like you have to do it. You’re in a position in life where you can do whatever you want.
Do you feel you’ve got a skill where you can always make money no matter what happens? Is that a known one for you? And is that a good feeling?
Chris: I would say that my personality is sometimes driven by, “Okay, what’s the worst-case scenario?” I’m trying to be paranoid and think, “Okay, how do I protect myself this way? How do I develop skills to handle this?” And so, I’d think about that as I was working on different businesses.
Why Chris loves working with Quiet Light
Chris: But the brokering side is fun because you’re helping someone at a critical part of their entrepreneurial journey. You give them a great deal and get a cheque from that. And then you move on to the next person, and you help them.
Sometimes if you’ve been doing it long enough, you start getting friends of friends who have heard about you to come to you for help.
I’ve been very fortunate, and I have enjoyed the whole journey. And the reason I started brokering is because when I sold my last company, I wasn’t too sure what to do. I had been doing so many things for so long, and I was slightly burned out.
A friend of mine was working at Quiet Light. His name is Brad Wayland, and he’s also done a ton in the content space. And so, he brought me on and told me, “Hey, you’ll do good at this, and I think you’d like to do it.” So, that was about three years ago.
Matt: Well, it’s been an incredible eye-opener, Chris. Thanks so much for sharing. You’ve given us an insight into the journey of someone who’s been buying and selling content sites for the last ten years. And now, obviously, you do it professionally.
How to contact Chris Guthrie if you’re looking to sell a content site
Matt: If people want to reach out to you, Chris, what’s the best way for them to get hold of you? Particularly if they want to look at selling their content sites.
Chris: The best way to reach out is to email me: [email protected].
It’s been a very long time working with so many different businesses, and it’s been a lot of fun. So, I’m always happy to talk to people who are interested in selling. And if there’s anything else I can do, I’m happy to help.
Matt: Awesome. Chris, I’m sure you’ve inspired a bunch of people today. Thanks so much for sharing your story. It’s just unreal.
Ready to learn how to create a 7-figure content website?
Matt: If you want to check out more inspirational stories, make sure you have a look around our YouTube Channel. And, of course, if you want to start training yourself in how to do something similar to what Chris has done, we have a free masterclass on how to buy and sell websites.
I highly recommend that you go and attend that masterclass, and you can see the strategy of how we buy and sell websites, very similar to what Chris has talked about today. And might put you on that similar path to what Chris has done.