3 tips for startup founders negotiating their own domain name deals


Today I was talking to a startup founder who was trying to figure out the best way to negotiate a deal for a domain name she wanted to buy. She was in a situation that I think many founders find themselves in, they know they want a specific domain, but don’t know the best way to reach-out and start the process of making a deal happen.

There’s a real fear that exists at this point. What if you make the wrong move and screw up the deal and have to go back to the drawing board to pick a new name? Well, to be perfectly honest, this is a healthy fear and yes, you can screw up a deal.

Below are three pieces of advice I give founders that ask me about best-practices for negotiating a domain name deal on their own.

  1. Reach-out to the owner directly (use a WHOIS lookup to find their email) and start with an offer. If you just reach-out and say, “I want to buy this domain, how much do you want for it?” Don’t be surprised if you don’t get an answer. Also when making an offer, you don’t have to start at the top of your range but don’t make it so low that it doesn’t make any sense. I usually recommend for two and three word .COMs starting with an offer in the $1,500 – $3,500 range.
  2. Don’t play the, “I need this domain for a student project” card. Seriously, people can see through this and starting a business deal with a lie is never a great move. Also leading your email with, “I’m a startup with a small budget” also won’t get you very far. Instead keep it short and sweet, let them know you want to but the domain and make a reasonable offer.
  3. Be prepared for a counter-offer. I’ve seen deals fall apart too many times when someone makes an offer, then the domain owner gets back to them with a counter-offer, and then they say something like, “sorry, my offer was the most I would pay.” Don’t make that mistake, know that if you make an offer, you could get a counter-offer and yes, you might have to pay more for the domain name.

If you’re trying to understand what prices domain names sell for, because let’s face it, you might not be keeping up with domain sales these days, I recommend looking at DNJournal and NameBio. Both of these sites keep updated lists of domains that sell so you can have a better idea for what a realistic price is for the domain you’re looking for.

Last but not least, whatever you do don’t insult the domain owner, call them a squatter, or claim that they’re “not doing anything with the domain” because if you do that you’ll either lose the deal or the price will get a whole lot higher. Hope this helps, now go get that domain!

Morgan Linton

Morgan Linton