Check out this snapshot from 2011. Web design has come along way!In late 2006, I graduated from undergrad and I was ready to be a real grownup with a real job. At this time I purchased JackieZimmerman.com so I could build a portfolio site and get a job in marketing. I knew I’d need to share my design work online in order to be considered so I bought the domain and started the job hunt.
I got my first “real” job in early 2007. I let JackieZimmerman.com fall to the way side. Fast forward a few years and it’s 2011 and I’m in grad school. I’m ready for the job hunt again, so I revive JackieZimmerman.com and by the time I finish grad school in 2012, I’ve got my next job lined up, the website had done it’s job and I let it fall to the way side again. This time I made a huge mistake. I let the domain go because I thought “I’ll never need a portfolio site again! I’ll never need another job again! I’m so brilliant with my young 20-something knowledge!”. I didn’t renew the domain and it was sold in a bulk auction. This was a decision I would come to regret for the next ELEVEN YEARS.
Check out this snap shot from 2011. Web design has changed a lot sine then.
As time passed, I realized there were still applications in which I could use that domain, primarily in the health advocacy work I do. I tried to get the domain back but now instead of the usual $12/year, JackieZimmerman.com was going for $750. No way. Never in a million years would I pay that much so I bought an alternative domain, JackieZimmerman.co. Throughout the years I would check in on the domain, at one point it was up to $1,500. Every once in a while I’d reach out to the existing holder and low ball them with an offer but they never went for it. I had all but given up on it.
Earlier this week I got an email from a domain seller, which I totally thought was spam. They said they would sell the domain for $200. I knew this was close to the cheapest I’d ever see it…but it’s still wildly inflated so I counter offered for $150. I was shocked to see they accepted my offer…but I still thought it was a scam. So before I paid them a dime, we used Escrow.com to broker the purchase. I wanted protections on my $150 in the event that it was, in fact, a scam. Today they seller shared the Transfer Code (which you need to transfer a domain from one owner or host to another). I put the code in and the transfer failed. I was SURE it was scam. I tried the transfer with another registrar, and sure as shit…it worked. It went through. After 11 long years of waiting and enough sarcastic doubt to fill a yacht… I owned JackieZimmerman.com again.
So that’s the story. It may not seem like a big deal but I never, ever thought I’d get that back again. Which leads me to the actual info I wanted to share here, which is why you NEVER sell/not renew a domain unless you are CERTAIN you will never want it again.
What happens after I don’t renew my domain
Most often abandoned domains are purchased in bulk by domain squatters. These companies buy your domain and they sit on it and sometimes you might go to them to try to buy it back and they will skyrocket the price because now you have created demand.
Sometimes when I would check in on JackieZimmerman.com the price would be around $750. If I checked it again within a few days it would be over $1,000. So they know when you’re searching online for that domain and they are adjusting the pricing accordingly.
How can I find out who owns my domain now?
You can use a service called WHOIS to look up registration info on your site. Back in the old days this was nice because you could reach out the person who owned it and try to broker a deal directly. However now, with privacy concerns, most of us buy domain privacy which hides our personal info from the world wide web. This means its harder to contact domain owners, and sometimes it’s impossible. If a domain squatter has your domain after buying in bulk, you can reach out to them with the email address you find in the info listed. They may or may not respond but they will always inflate the price.
How can I get my domain it back?
The short answer is you can’t.
The long answer is you can get it back quickly if you’re willing to fork out the money for it but we’re talking about something that usually costs less than $20/yr getting inflated up to thousands of dollars. It might be worth it to you but it wasn’t for me.
What you can also do is purchase a similar domain, if you recall I purchased JackieZimmerman.co. I’ve had domain registrars through the years reach out to me on that site, and offer to sell me the matching .com. They all still wanted too much money. The domain was bought and sold about 9 times over the last 11 years buy domain squatters. It all comes down to cash.
I typically recommend that you say goodbye to that domain, and get something different. It can be heartbreaking but it’s so difficult to get them back.
How can I prevent losing my domain?
AUTO PAY IS YOUR FRIEND! Once you have a domain you care about, set that puppy to autopay and you won’t have to worry about losing it. Most registrars give you a 60 day grace period to change your mind after you do not renew your domain but once those 2 months have passed you might as well kiss it goodbye.
If your domain is bundled with your website on your hosting company, make sure that if/when you cancel your hosting plan that you still own your domain.
I typically recommend just keeping domains for at least a few years even if there is no website directly connected to it. For $12-20/year its a worthwhile investment in your ideas. If the domain is your name, I recommend putting that sucker on autopay and never looking back. It’s far to hard to secure your name in the first place, unless you have the most unique name on the planet, and you never know when you’ll need to promote yourself.
And MOST IMPORTANTLY….Own your own shit. Never let a designer/friend/wizard purchase your domain on your behalf.
Queen of GSD and I (Jackie Zimmerman) will always be a safe and welcoming space for people of color. Granted I don’t really have a physical space per se, but I mean I will hold space for you and will welcome your friendship, your business and partnerships.
I want to make this vow to all of my clients. I will:
Cut ties with any clients that are not anti-racism
Be your ally in every way that I can
Continue to donate to funds helping to support anti-racism causes
To support and promote your businesses
Below are links to businesses owned by women of color who are my clients. Please support them.
You may know me as the Queen of GSD, your go-to for websites, digital marketing and cute dog pics on Instagram (seriously, check it out!) I hit the scene in early 2019 ready to dazzle everyone with my skillz but there’s something you may not know about me.
In October of 2018, I thought I was living the dream.
By December 2018 I was starting to question my choice.
In January of 2019, I was in full-blown panic mode.
In February I walked into the SheHive for the first time.
When March rolled around, I wasn’t flailing around anymore. I had a plan. The plan was Queen of GSD.
April was the most successful month of this entire year.
“Ok, cool story Jackie but who cares?”
Well, I’m sure my Mom totally cares because Moms care about that sort of thing but I care. If you’re a business owner, you know the first year is amazing and bizarre and scary and a massive learning curve. You also probably questioned yourself and thought about jumping ship more times than you’d ever admit. When I quit my job I was CERTAIN that I was going to slay being a business owner but just a few months later I was already ready to work for the first person that would hire me. I didn’t believe I could do it.
Then I met the women at the SheHive. Everyone needs a SheHive and if they don’t have a SheHive they need a village of people behind them rooting them on, sharing insight and valuable life experience. It took a village to get Queen of GSD going and still heavily rely on that village. I am grateful to this village and I would literally wander through a jungle, wearing a loincloth, fighting off jaguars to remain in this village. They validated me when I really needed it helped me to see that I can do this.
“Ok, but what’s the point of this blog?”
The point is that I’m super grateful to my village but also equally grateful to all the wonderful people I got to work with this year. Below you’ll find a list of this year’s clients and when I was putting it together I was pleasantly reminded of those who trusted me with their businesses this year. Owning a business is bananas, but when you’ve got lovely people surrounding you, it feels like the bananas are manageable.
Thank you to everyone I worked with this year. Thank you to everyone who cheered me on. And the biggest of thank yous to my husband who has never doubted me, supported our family when it was dicey, and continues to think the sun shines out of my butt no matter what I do.
I hope you have a great holiday season and that we can tackle some more cool stuff in 2020.
In no particular order here are the clients that made my first year of business successful:
And by “website shit” I mean own your domain. Own your hosting. Own your themes and plugins. Own it all.
I cannot stress this enough. You, the business owner or individual, need to own all of your own digital assets. Regardless of whether you know what to do with your domain once you buy it or have a clue what a host is or does… make sure when you acquire these things, they are IN YOUR NAME.
In the last month, I’ve had two new clients with existing websites and social media sites… and with zero access because they do not own their own shit and their super “cool” (NOT COOL) former website person isn’t cooperating. This can literally happen to anyone, including you.
The topic of ownership of digital assets really fires me up because at the root of most of these issues… is someone who is being an asshole. Plain and simple. Protect yourself against assholes. I don’t care if you are working with your bestie, your Hunny, or your mommy – make sure no one gets to be an asshole about your hard work and your business.
Here are the top 5 reasons you need to own all your digital shit.
1. Because I said so, that’s why. Seriously, you NEED to own it.
If it is not currently in your name, you do not own it. This means even though your name is Jane Smith, you do not own JaneSmith.com unless it is registered to YOU.
Many times people who are not web savvy will hire someone to set up their website, social channels, etc. and just say “handle it!” The person they hire will purchase everything under their own accounts. This makes life for your web person much easier but as your business outgrows them, it will make your life MUCH harder to try to get your stuff back. Hard as in almost impossible if they choose to be… an asshole. And if it comes down to them not getting money anymore from you, it is a high probability that assholery will abound.
If you do not own your digital assets, I urge you to please talk to whoever does and try to get it transferred over. It is devastating to lose your domain and or access to your own channels. Also – super red flag if they give you push back.
2. Accidents happen
I hate to use this as a talking point…but it’s true. People die or have terrible things happen to them. That’s life whether we want to chat about it or not.
If you don’t own your digital accounts… they will die with them too. Or be in limbo if they are recovering from an accident. I’m sure you don’t want to be THAT asshole while someone is in the hospital, calling up and asking them to sign into a website because you locked yourself out and don’t have access to reset the password. Not a great look.
I know this sounds incredibly insensitive but your business is your livelihood and an unexpected tragedy should not take it down.
3. It gives you flexibility
Let me tell you a little story.
In 2006, I was a fresh-faced college grad ready to show my online portfolio to the world and get a job. Once I got that job… I promptly let my domain lapse and it’s pretty much lost forever.
$1,500 for JackieZimmerman.com? I’d rather change my name than succumb to domain squatting like that.
All of this is to say that while my priorities changed once I got that job, I really wish I still had that domain now for other purposes. You never know when things will shift, or new opportunities will come along. This is especially true if your domain is your name.
You’d be surprised how many of your “good ideas” for website names are already taken. So whether you are ready for it or not, I’d swoop on that name instead of risking some internet asshole trying to squeeze you later on.
4. You want to make changes
If your business name ever changes, or you are totally ready to evolve your business and you want people to see your cringy but genuine beginnings or maybe you want to merge your established shit with the business you’ve been dreaming about, it’s super helpful (read: critical) to direct the traffic from one business to your new site.
Guess what you sweet summer child? You need access to the domains to redirect them.
If you decide your website is too slow and want to change the host… you need access to your current host
If you decide your website needs to be redesigned… you need access to both!
Are you seeing a pattern here??
You cannot change ANYTHING about your site if you don’t have these logins
5. People Suck
The underlying theme here is that sometimes you trust someone to manage this information and these accounts for you and they do you dirty.
I do not understand designers and developers that withhold access to these things for petty reasons but alas, they do. Money, clout, personal issues – just jump onto a YouTube drama channel if you want to see how fast people can turn or how Petty LaBelle they can get.
They say not to mix family or friends with business, but a large number of people (especially entrepreneurs) do it. DNA and love don’t give immunity to assholery.
So to save yourself from some disgruntled former employee, or exploding family drama, put everything in your name from the start.
On most platforms, there are user role settings that allow you to create logins for other people but don’t allow them to take ownership. This is especially important on social channels.
I really want to be your hairstylist. Wait..what I mean is I really want to be like you hairstylist. Let me explain.
Today, for the first time in 8 months, I got a hair cut and long-overdue color update. I’m not proud of the recent state of my hair, but it was the result of making hard choices, like paying bills or having kick-ass hair. The beginning of 2019 was really hard for me. I had no business, no clients and no money but things have turned around and now I can pay bills and have kick-ass hair. I’m really living the dream.
Ok, but why are you talking about your hair?
I really like getting my hair done. I find the whole experience really appealing and exciting. My stylist, Michelle, has been my friend for about 8 years and I met her while doing a half marathon for the Crohn’s and Colitis foundation. We’re both Inflammatory Bowel Disease patients, and I like visiting with her, talking about her family and talks about our diseased butts. It’s just what we do. I love having my hair colored and washed, and Michelle massages my head and I think I’ve almost proposed to her a few times while sitting in her chair. I always leave looking far better than when I walked in and today I realized that I also leave feeling really confident. I’m confident about how I look, which makes me feel good, which makes me even more confident and so on. It’s not just about having good hair, because if you’ve ever seen me in the wild, you know that I can’t really do my own hair and I’m sure Michelle is embarrassed by what I do on a daily basis. Anyway, getting my hair done is about the experience. It’s about the relationship I have with Michelle, and the confidence I have that lasts well after my appointment. I know I look good and I wish like hell I had a presentation or something to give right now. Instead, I’m just going to take 10 selfies to post on Instagram.
Ok, but really…you’re still talking about your hair…
Here’s my point. Finally. I want the relationships I have with my clients to be like the one I have with Michelle. I want to know about their lives, to create friendships with them, and most importantly, I want them to feel like I make them look good. When I write an enewsletter for a client, I want her to be confident about how it will be perceived by the people on her list. When I design a website for a client, I want her to know her business looks good and to feel like she can snag any potential client she meets. The relationships I built with my clients are more than transactional and I hope working with me is an experience that they want to keep doing.
Shameless plug: If you’d like to talk about how we can create a relationship like this, shoot me a messageand let’s talk about how we can do cool stuff together.
Extra Shameless Comment: But seriously, look how good my hair looks!