I'm a developer in Melbourne, Australia, and co-founder of Hello Code.

Published Tue 21 May 2013

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I sold my side project

In February, I decided I would get rid of my side project of the last two years, I listed it on Flippa and hoped that someone would buy it, but if not, I would just shut it down.

I wrote a blog post about the experience that had led to this point and submitted it to Hacker News, hoping that it would give the listing more exposure.


It hit the front page.

Over those three days the post garnered 24,000 hits, with 8,000 clicking through to the Flippa listing. That's a lot of exposure. Friends saw the post and sympathised. Oh, are you sad? It must be really hard. Not at all! I was elated that HN loved the blog post. I felt redeemed.

Ophélie, Flippa's Community Manager, had also seen the post and helped me tweak the listing while upgrading me to premium for free. Throughout the auction she kept in contact with advice and support.

Fame has its perks.

Over the two weeks that the auction was open, I received half a dozen enquiries. One bidder, who I skyped a few times, seemed particularly keen and asked me if I'd stay on to help build his future plans for the site. I was excited. We seemed to be on the same page in terms of goals and vision, and not only could I stick around to help guide future plans, but I would be getting paid to work on my baby. It felt like a great way to keep alive.

In the end it came down to just two bidders. I hit my reserve the day before the auction ended, and in the last hour bidding between the two parties drove the price up a couple of thousand dollars more. It wasn't a lot, but it was still a sizeable amount for someone to spend on a niche website that had zero revenue. Again, I was happy to be validated.

Jon, the bidder I had skyped, had ended up the winner.


Handover proceeded smoothly. Jon and I discussed my plans. I would be able to commit a small amount of time weekly, at a significant discount to my normal rate, to maintain and develop the site.

I transferred it to its new server. It was officially someone else's.

A few weeks after the auction, I was still happy to have sold the site, but I worried that I had been naive to think I could keep working on it.

I've made a huge mistake

By this stage I had finally grasped the reality that Jon and I were not actually the same person. Where things were unclear, I had assumed a lot, and projected my own plans and values onto Jon's. As a perfectionist, any tiny aesthetic change that didn't fit my values hurt me. As the person who had managed everything until this point, not being included or consulted on any decision, no matter how minor, felt like a tiny affront.

I knew I was being precious about it. I didn't own it any more. Jon had bought the right to do whatever he wanted with it when he won the auction.

Still, I couldn't do it.

I was like an overly attached builder who had sold the house he built and stayed on to renovate it. I can't knock down this wall, it has emotional significance to me! What do you mean, you want to put a spa in there? That doesn't fit the bathroom's minimal aesthetic!

I would make a terrible builder.

Thankfully, Jon was understanding and let me out of our agreement. It also benefits him to now have a developer who can make changes without grumbling.

I watch the new developments with interest, but as a user only.

We've all learned something here today

I've learned a lot from the process. I'm still proud of and all my work on it. I'm still glad to have sold it.

When working with clients, there's always a compromise to be made between their vision and your values. Compromise can be difficult if you hold those values strongly, and it only gets harder when there's an emotional attachment.

So I've learned that if you are attached to something – don't sell it.

Or sell it, then walk away.

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