Buying and Selling Blogs with Chelsea Clarke

How I Built It
How I Built It
Buying and Selling Blogs with Chelsea Clarke

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We’ve heard about flipping houses, but what about flipping blogs? Chelsea Clarke has built an entire business on just that. She teaches us what to look for when buying a blog, and the steps we need to take in order to sell. Listen in for an interesting and unique way to generate income for your business! 

Show Notes


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Joe: Hey everybody, and welcome to Episode 202 of How I Built It. My name is Joe Casabona, and our sponsors today are Outgrow, Restrict Content Pro, TextExpander, and Hostinger. You’ll be hearing about them more later on. But right now I would like to welcome our guest Chelsea Clarke. She is a website investor and business broker over at Chelsea, how are you today?

Chelsea: Hey, Joe, thank you so much for having me on the show today. This is awesome.

Joe: My pleasure. Thanks so much for coming on the show. I’m really excited to talk to you about this topic because, well, we always want to monetize our content, right? I mean, my goal for 2021 is to make most of my income from content as opposed to client services. Then a few months ago, I also had somebody on the show named Jase Rodley who does something very similar to website investing or blog flipping. He actually builds content specific websites and then rents them out.

Chelsea: Nice.

Joe: Yeah, super cool idea. I think this might go hand in hand with blog flipping, you know, similar kind of housing analogy. But before we get into all of that, why don’t you tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do?

Chelsea: Sure. Thanks again. And like you mentioned, yeah, website investor business broker and the online marketplace that I founded is And that’s just a place where investors and content creators can go and buy and sell profitable online businesses. So that’s like niche sites and blogs, eCommerce and Amazon FBA digital assets, things like that. I’m also a content monetization strategist. I’m just obsessed with digital marketing and growth hacking. So I offer marketing and business development resources via my own blog courses and podcast at HerPaperRoute. But really, yeah, blog flipping is just something that I sort of fell into as a way to make a little money on the side.

I have a background in marketing, and I was able to use that on the different blogs that I was just running as a hobby, and I kind of made the connection one day of how to actually monetize the content and grow the site with marketing, and digital products, and you know, affiliate marketing, and all that kind of stuff. And it all came together. And I realized that I could grow these sites fairly quickly and sell them for profit. So just like we’ve all heard of house flipping, you know, you buy a house that needs work, and you develop it and sell it for profit, really website investing and blog flipping, it’s the same thing. But you don’t need a mortgage or a team of contractors. You can do it yourself or with a small team if you have it. And the profit margins can be really good.

I feel like especially this year with so many people losing their jobs or just wanting to have a second income stream, and like you’re saying, doing something more passive, in addition to your services, something like having an online business or content site can really help with that.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. So let’s dive right into this then. I want to take this from two different perspectives. One from the person who built the blog who might be ready to sell it, because I feel like a lot of my listeners could be in that position, but then also, conversely, from somebody who might want to buy a blog. And maybe that’s a good place to start. Maybe that’s a more straightforward answer. So let’s say I want to buy a blog. What’s the process? What kind of research do I need to do for that? What should I know going into purchasing a blog? What’s the process?

Chelsea: Yeah, absolutely. So if you’re thinking about selling or buying a site, you’re probably going to be wanting to look at a few important things. I would say you want to look at the traffic that a site is getting. When you’re looking at a site that is already up for sale, the seller can’t give you analytics access. You can just go to Google Analytics and you can see literally where their traffic is coming from. If all the traffic is going to just one blog post, that might not be the right site to buy because things can change, algorithms can change, or maybe it’s a seasonal blog post, and then all that traffic will go away at certain times of the year.

So when you’re thinking about the traffic that a site has look for diversified traffic sources across the whole site, and also coming from different places. So, of course, Google search traffic is like the holy grail. We love that. But also Pinterest traffic can also be really good too. Because if the site has pins that are ranking on Pinterest, those can send you traffic for years to come. So that’s really valuable as well. Social traffic is good, but maybe it’s not as important because it doesn’t send consistent traffic.

You’ll also want to look at, and I think this is the most important thing, is the actual content itself. Is the content something that you personally can add your expertise to or an interest that you personally have? Because, I mean, we can all look at sites and say, “Okay, well, we can buy this.” But unless you personally have some sort of connection to the niche to be able to grow that content, then I think that’s really important. Sorry, go ahead. Were you going to say something?

Joe: Oh, no, no, no, go ahead.

Chelsea: I was just going to add on that point is the content itself, can you add your experience, education, and your personal interest to help and grow it? And the number one thing that people look at when they’re looking to buy a site is how much revenue is there? What is the site earning? And then can you continue that profit, and grow that profit? So those are the three things: traffic, content, and money.

Joe: That that makes perfect sense. I love that. Great point about the traffic too. Because running my personal blogs and my personal websites, I basically, mostly just look at the overall traffic. That’s what I’m mostly interested in. But you’re right, if it’s like one blog post that’s like “the best thing to get your spouse for Christmas” or whatever, that’s only going to do well in November or in December or whatever. And then actual content itself, how can you add your expertise? Again, this is not really a passive thing, right? This is not like, “I’m going to buy a blog about all the great places to go in Chicago because I think it’s going to do well.” I don’t live in Chicago. So I can’t really contribute to that in any way.

Chelsea: Right. I mean, there are ways to do it in a passive way. You can buy a site that’s getting a lot of traffic consistently, that it’s earning just from ad revenue alone. And in that case, it’s passive. But if you’re looking at it in a way where you want to create more blog posts, if you want to create digital products to support it so that you can make more sales, then it’s not passive, or at least it’s not passive at first because we all know anything that’s passive takes time and effort in the beginning to get it set up and then it can become passive later on. But yeah, if you’re looking at a site that has tons of traffic and it’s making $1,000, $2,000 just on ad revenue or more, then you could buy it and assume that you will just be able to continue earning that ad revenue passively. But I always like to say, Okay, great, it’s doing this, but how can we make it better? What can we develop or create to snowball it?

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Joe: I guess there’s two ways to look at it, right? It’s almost like, if it’s making $1,000 or $2,000 a month in ad revenue, you’re almost looking at it as an investment or like an IRA, like a trust fund or something like that, or a retirement fund, where you make an investment in the beginning and then it consistently makes money over time. Or you can look at it as a way to grow your own business, where in that case, you want to say, here’s how much it’s making now, how can we like 5x this in two years or whatever?

Chelsea: Yes, exactly. I also see a lot of people who are coming at it from that. And maybe they already have their own coaching business or their own services that they offer, and then they buy a niche site that is similar or relates to it, but is more in the digital space, and then they can kind of just connect the two. So they have one site that is full of content, blog articles that relates to the niche that they coach in, they just put their name on it, and there they have something ready to go that they didn’t have to sit there and write all of that content for years.

Joe: Ah, that’s really interesting. For example, I have a podcast coaching service, I have all of my podcast content, but I don’t necessarily have content specifically for coaching people or maybe answering the questions that people who need help with podcasting… Basically, I have the knowledge, but I don’t necessarily know what those people need. Maybe I can buy a blog that has that content, I have the expertise so I can contribute to that, and then that good content can be a lead generator for potential coaching clients.

Chelsea: Exactly. That’s the magic formula right there. And then too, think about if the site that you bought already has an email list full of customers or people who are interested in the business, then you’re even just getting ahead even more. You can just jump right in there and start talking to that audience that’s already part of the business when you bought it.

Joe: That’s a great point. Is it common for blogs to come with a mailing list? How much more valuable? Does that make the blog?

Chelsea: Yes, definitely makes it more valuable if the site comes with an audience, an email list. We can’t just sell an email list. That’s not cool. But selling an email as part of the business that that’s an asset that is included in the business. So the email list stays with that business when it goes to another owner. We often see people who will introduce the new owner to their email list, say, “Hey, thanks for this, guys. It’s been great. We’re under new management.” Or sometimes people even sell their business and then they allow their persona to remain. So the new owner takes it over and continues to run it under the old owner’s name or image and the business just continues.

Actually, there’s a lot of large well-known blogs that sold years ago and people really don’t know that that original creator is long gone. They’re on a beach somewhere. They’re not actually writing that content anymore, but their name is still used in the emails. I mean, there’s different ways to do it. And some people are like, “No, I would never do that because my persona remains with me.” And I totally get that. Not for everyone, but it is how some deals go down.

Joe: Yeah, that’s really interesting. I mean, it’s almost like how James Patterson managed to put out like 20 books a year, right? There’s no way he’s writing all those books.

Chelsea: Yeah,

Joe: One more point on that, and you touched on it, is that just buying an email list is not necessarily cool, just getting a list of email addresses. But when you buy a blog and you have domain knowledge for that blog, you’re essentially getting warm leads for people who are interested in what you have to say.

Chelsea: That’s right. Yeah, people who are already invested in the content and the niche. And maybe even the products if the site comes with products, then yeah, you’re getting all of those warm leads who are already in there, all that whole lead generation step, you just really get to skip over it.

Joe: And that’s fantastic. Because a lot of people have a hard time with that. Either like me, I did not start asking for email addresses soon enough. And so I’m like two years in the business and I’m like, “Man, maybe I should get information I can actually use to sell my products.” Or it’s just people don’t necessarily know how to manage or keep their list warm, where they collect the email addresses, and then they have something to sell two years later.

Chelsea: That’s such an important thing to mention. Thank you for mentioning that. Because a lot of times people do that. They’re like, okay, “People on my list, now what do I send them?” And they don’t keep it going and then a year down the line, they have a product and then they send an email. Well, people are going to be like, “Who’s this? What is this? I don’t remember signing up.” So keeping that relationship going with a weekly newsletter is so important in fostering that relationship with your readers. So important, especially if you want to sell something down the road.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. Because just being on the list doesn’t make them trust you. What makes them trust you is you delivering interesting and helpful information on a regular basis.

Chelsea: Totally. Yes. And all that high-value content that you share on a regular basis, it’s just going to go so far for that know and trust factor.

Joe: Awesome. That makes perfect sense. Now, let’s say we’re on the other side of the coin. Let’s say, aspirationally, I want to create a blog that I eventually want to sell. What does that process look like? How do you build that?

Chelsea: Great. Let’s say that you have your website set up here. So you’re not starting from total scratch, you’ve installed WordPress, you have hosting. And I always say, if you’re intending to sell your site down the road, make sure that you’re self-hosting. So purchase your hosting account, do it through if you can…but I mean, we sell Shopify sites and Squarespace sites too. But what I mean by this tip is don’t go on Tumblr or Blogger or Wix, and try to sell that. So have it as your own site, your own domain, and really just focus on writing awesome content. That should really be the first thought for anything whether you’re intending to sell or not. High value content. And you can monetize as you go. But really just creating helpful content.

If you’re wanting to sell your website, you’re also, of course, going to want to monetize it and focus on your monetization strategy. But also keep a record every month of your profit and loss. Because when it comes time to sell, the buyers are going to want to see that. They’re going to want to see how much it earns every month, where that income is coming from, and where you’re spending. So if you just start from the beginning, doing a monthly check in with yourself and your finances, put it in a Google spreadsheet, nothing fancy, you will be way ahead of the game.

And then when it comes time to sell it, you focus on some sort of monetization strategy whether it’s ad revenue, or affiliate marketing, or digital products like we were talking about, or combination of all of these things, it’s just going to put your site in a better asking price. Like the more that it’s earning means the more you can sell it for, for sure. But also, it’s just creating a better offer for the new owner if you have all of these things lined up. And then when it comes time and you’re ready to list it, really it’s just about putting yourself out there in the world and being like, “Okay, it’s up for sale.”

And then this is key. This is the last little point that I want to mention about when you actually are selling it. It can be tempting to put it up for sale and then just be like, “Okay, well, it’s for sales. It’s not my responsibility anymore,” and just kind of go and do something else. But no, when it’s up for sale, it’s still really important to publish new content and keep the traffic up and continue to engage in your social accounts that go with it. Because when buyers are looking at it, they want to see that it’s an active site. They don’t want to see that it’s been six months since you published a blog post or you’re not answering comments on your Facebook page, things like that. Like you really do need to keep it up until it’s actually in the new owners hosting account and the sale is done.

Joe: Yeah, I think that’s a great point. Again, if we’re talking about a house, if you’re selling your house, you’re not going to stop maintaining it as soon as you put it up on the market because nobody’s going to want to buy a house where the [inaudible] back doesn’t work, right?

Chelsea: Yes, exactly. Actually, when we were looking at houses, the first time we were going to buy a house, it was like, “Okay, this is a big deal.” I was open to anything just because I thought it was so cool that I could afford to buy a house. I was even looking at houses that didn’t even have a sewage system. The realtor was like, “You’re being crazy. Let’s reel this in and really focus here because you’re going to want something that actually is functioning for the long term.” It’s the same kind of thing. Like you say, you need the house to be in good order and maintained.

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Now back to the show.

Joe: You mentioned WordPress which preaches to the choir that is a lot of this audience, where I’ve been a WordPress developer for a long time. Maybe in the members-only portion of the show, we could talk a little bit about the nuts and bolts of maybe plugins or themes that you thought were helpful in creating good blog content or monetizing that content. Does that sound good?

Chelsea: Yes, that sounds great. I’d love to talk tools and plugins and software with you.

Joe: Fantastic. So for everybody listening, that will be in the Creator Crew version of the episode, which you can sign up for over at Let’s talk about good record-keeping really quick because I’ve heard this… I’ve interviewed a few people on selling their businesses and this is something that’s really important there too. I’ve reconciled this with myself that if I ever want to sell my online course website or this podcast, it’s going to be extremely difficult because all of my bookkeeping goes into one place under my LLC. I don’t have different books for my courses versus my affiliate income versus my podcast.

Chelsea: Yes. Okay, such a good point. If you’re thinking about potentially selling one of your assets or a business, keep a separate spreadsheet or Profit and Loss sheet like we were mentioning that it’s just related to that one business. In that you would go to your affiliate networks and you would check those tracking links or tracking codes to make sure that those sales came from just that site. You can just even create a new login for another account for your affiliate partners so that everything is just on one house or one lane for that business that you intend to sell. Because, oh my gosh, they could just get so confusing later if you have to try to split those out and split them down. And you don’t know years later, you’re probably going to forget where some of those sales are really coming from. So if you can keep it separate from the start, keep those books separate, you will just be way ahead of the game.

I just use a really, really basic Profit and Loss sheet that I created in Google Sheets. And it just tracks month by month what I sold, what affiliate sales were paid out, and then what I spent on the plugins or domain’s hosting expenses. And that’s the thing too. Expenses of running a blog are really low. So that’s where when you’re selling your site, your profit margins can be really high, which is great. So just having a spreadsheet like that. I’ll actually give your listeners a free copy of the sheet that I use if it would be helpful. I’ll create a link at And then you guys can go and get this copy of the profit and loss sheet that I use. It does all the math for you and it just makes your life a lot easier.

Joe: Awesome. I will be the first person to download that, mostly because I’m hearing this before everybody else but also because it’s super important. And it’s not just about going through an acquisition process or a selling process; you want to know what aspects of your business are doing well versus what aspects of your business are not doing well. I know because I have enough labeling or enough notes in place how much my podcast makes every year and about how much I spend on my podcast every year versus my other properties. But it’s just not as clear as an investor or a buyer would want to see. And so it would be a lot of work for me to extract all that data like you said.

Chelsea: Definitely. Think about it too. If you get to the point where you’re selling and you’re in due diligence with a buyer, and they’re looking at all your records and then they see that some things were from a different business, that’s going to look like you were trying to hide something if you didn’t have it separated or you’re trying to make it look like it’s more profitable when really it came from another business you have. So it’s just making sure everything is out there for your own clarity and also for the buyers so that they can see that you’re legit, you’re trustworthy, everything is marked down and nothing is forgotten. That’s going to help you close your deal all the time, whether any little thing that could come up like that, so that you can be like, “Oh, yeah, and this was in this month and this is why this was higher or lower.” So that you know your numbers, and you can confidently talk about them with a buyer.

Joe: That’s fantastic. So, let’s say we’ve done our due diligence, we have all of our records in order, we’re ready to sell. How do we price? Is it like, well, it makes this much money a year, so I want two years of revenue from it? Or is it more complicated than that?

Chelsea: No, it’s simple like that. The standard pricing model for selling websites and online businesses typically is a 24x. So like two years times the monthly profit. It can even go up to three years times the monthly profit. So when we’re pricing, we like to price somewhere in the middle there, which then still allows either people to negotiate closer to the asking price a little bit lower. Or if there’s lots of interest, then there’s room for above-asking offers, which but it’s still fair for everybody. So if you look at your monthly earnings and your profit and loss sheet is going to give you this answer, you can figure out what your site is worth just based on the actual income. And then you can factor in other things like maybe it’s getting a lot of traffic, or it has a big email list or a huge Instagram following. There’s different things that can make it become more valuable to a buyer.

Joe: Got you. Got you. That makes perfect sense. I just kind of picked that 24-month number.

Chelsea: You nailed it. Good job.

Joe: Awesome. Awesome. Great. So that’s good. We have some expectations to manage there now. As we get kind of towards…Well, not really the end, but this is kind of the last big topic I want to touch on because I think a lot of people have a hard time with this, is how do we monetize our content? You mentioned a couple of ways. I have a few ways that’s worked really well for me. But what are some tips for the listeners on monetizing their blog content?

Chelsea: Oh, yeah, for sure. For monetizing your blog content, ad revenue is great. AdSense is okay, but AdSense doesn’t pay that much. So if you can get your site into a premium ad network like Mediavine or even Ezoic, Ezoic is great too and it has lower session threshold requirements to get in, that’s really good. That way that is passive for the traffic that your site is getting. But I always say create a digital product. So if you can create a mini-course, that goes with your blog or your online business, that is just going to be so attractive to buyers, because it’s really giving them something that’s the next step that a customer would need after reading the blog content. So digital courses are great.

Membership sites are also great. If you can build a community around the business. And of course, affiliate marketing. That is my favorite one. I love affiliate marketing. I love reviewing software and tools and things like that, things that really help people with business. I could talk about that forever but we’ll just keep on going. But yeah, affiliate marketing, I mean, that is something that you can apply in so many ways. You could have your affiliate links in your blog post, sure, but you can also have them in your digital products as well. So you can actually create an online course that makes sense for your blog, which when they get into the course, you have your affiliate links and recommendations inside the course as well. And that kind of just all works together.

Now, I also love services. So being able to provide services is great. But if you are thinking of selling your site, if the only monetization revenue stream is services, it’s just going to be a bit harder or take longer to find a buyer because, of course, your buyer is going to have to have that same skill set to provide the services or to be able to have a budget to hire a team to do it. So if you can focus on more of the passive income streams that I mentioned, then that’s going to be a lot easier for selling your site down the road.

Joe: I mean, that makes a lot of sense. It’s almost like you’re selling a restaurant to somebody, but you’re taking the chef, right, now that person has to be a chef.

Chelsea: Totally. I love that. Good analogy.

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And let’s get back to it.

Joe: A couple of follow up questions here when you create a mini-course, generally, from what I’ve seen, the site owner is the one who delivers that course, right? If you buy one of my courses, it’s me delivering it. If I sell that site, do you think that there needs to be any messaging mitigation to say the person who delivered this course is still great like they made the site but it’s just under new ownership? Is there a tactful way to handle that?

Chelsea: I love that question. What I’ve seen some people do is they had their course already set up maybe when they weren’t even thinking of selling it, selling the business. And then before they transfer it to the new person, they’ll just put in the first lesson a little personal note from themselves saying, “This is a course I created and this will help you do X, Y, and Z. I’m no longer running the business anymore,” introduce the new owner right there or just say, “New owner.” We don’t have to say their name because they might go on and sell it again, of course in the future. But you can even just have a quick little intro video of yourself and add it into the first lesson of your course. And then that way people know.

I’ve actually bought websites before that come with a full course and then what I did is I took over the site, so all of the videos were narrated by the previous owner What I did is I just created a little video of myself saying, “Hey, this is Chelsea. Welcome to this course. These lessons are narrated by,” and I just said the first name of the person. So then it’s not too confusing to the people who are newly enrolled. But it also lets people know who are already enrolled. That, hey, there’s a new girl at the front of the show now but the other voice is still there. I mean, it’s a personal preference, how you want to do that.

I’ve also seen people create their course with the intention that they’ll sell it. So they’ve hired an actor to either perform it or just record audio. Or I’ve even seen ones…I haven’t seen this work as well but sometimes they have gone and actually used Amazon’s voiceover tool, where you can just put some words in, and then a bot from Amazon will narrate it.

Joe: Got you. That’s really interesting. Those are some interesting options. I think I was just genuinely curious about that. But as long as the content is good, I suspect that most course purchasers won’t be upset as long as the content is good.

Chelsea: That’s right. They’re there for the content. They may love the teacher, but really they’re there to learn what the content has to teach, and so that they can have the transformation that they need. Who delivers it usually isn’t as important as that.

Joe: Yeah, absolutely. And then my last kind of follow up around this is, with affiliate marketing, I am part of many affiliate programs. They are all under my personal email address tied very much to me. If somebody is starting let’s say from scratch, would you recommend that they use a blog-specific email address?

Chelsea: I would. I absolutely would. Use the domain address that you have for that blog for those programs. And then that way, it’s just a lot easier. When you sell, you just hand over the login information and the new owner can take it over; they don’t need access to your personal Gmail account or anything like that. And on that point, I also like to say even though when you are selling, or you’re the buyer taking over the business and you’re getting the affiliate networks, I would still say use your own affiliate accounts that you have and then just go and change the links on the site, just because that way your own tax ID is attached to the account, and you just know that you are the only one who has access to that, and also it’s just all in your name. It’s not, you know, things aren’t going to go wrong, but I just like that extra step of control.

Joe: I think that’s a really good point. Because if you’re selling a blog, you’re not necessarily selling the entire business. Each blog isn’t going to have its own…in the United States it’s an entity identification number, an EIN. Or you don’t want your personal social security number associated with a blog that you’re selling, right?

Chelsea: That’s right. Because that site could be sold down the road to another buyer who you don’t know, you haven’t had a relationship with and they sold it again and again and again. So just remove your personal property and identity from the site when you’re selling it. That’s usually just the best way to go.

Joe: I think that makes a lot of sense. And I suspect in the members portion of the show, we’ll learn about at least one plugin that can help us do that easily. I know because I have one in my head. I’m sure you have one in your head as well. Awesome. Awesome. Well, I’m excited to get into that. But first, I do need to ask you my favorite question, which is, as we wrap up here, do you have any trade secrets for us?

Chelsea: I do. I have one that I want to share, and I think it may be a little unexpected because it seems like it’s unrelated but it really does relate. My trade secret for quickly growing a niche site is Pinterest marketing because Pinterest is a search engine much like Google and it has the potential to send a lot of free traffic to your website, and to your lead magnets, and to your sales pages. If you can get really good about Pinterest SEO, so when you’re pinning something, you’re pinning it strategically with a lot of keywords, to a board with a lot of keywords, you could essentially start ranking in Pinterest search terms and that could really blow up your website. And you could really, really grow quickly.

So if you’re listening and you’ve heard about Pinterest marketing and you’ve been like, “Oh, it’s probably just for crafts or fashion or whatever,” no, a lot of business owners are really utilizing it to grow their sites lot, lot quicker than having to pay for ads or waiting around to get out of the sandbox and start ranking on Google. You can start ranking a lot quicker on Pinterest. So that would be my advice too, look into Pinterest marketing.

Joe: Wow. And you cut off my point, the question I was going to ask, which is, isn’t it just for crafts? So fantastic. I have never considered Pinterest because it is inextricably linked in my mind with the thing that cost me a ton of money for my wedding.

Chelsea: That’s funny.

Joe: But definitely something worth looking into. I’m joking, of course. A little. That’s awesome. I love that. Get into Pinterest marketing. Everybody listening, I would love to hear your feedback on if you’re using Pinterest and how it’s worked for you. I will link that, everything we talked about over in the show notes at Chelsea, thanks so much for your time today. Where can people find you?

Chelsea: Thank you so much, Joe. You can find me at If you’re interested in buying or selling sites. We actually sold a lot of sites at the end of 2020 and I have more buyers than sellers right now. So if you’re thinking of selling, please do get in touch. I would love to chat with you and discuss some options. Or if you’re more on the side of being interested in the digital marketing stuff and the blog development, come and find me at

Joe: Fantastic. More buyers than sellers right now. That sounds like a good market for the people who want to sell. So I will again link to that in the show notes over at Chelsea, thanks so much for joining today. I really appreciate it.

Chelsea: Thank you so much for having me.

Joe: And thank you to our sponsors. They are Outgrow, Restrict Content Pro, TextExpander, and Hostinger. Full deck this week. Thanks so much to everybody supporting the show. Until next time, get out there and build something.

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