Is domain investing a reasonable side hustle?

7 min read
Joe Styler

There are certainly a lot of people talking about a side hustle lately. I often get asked if it is possible to have a successful side hustle in the domain name business. I certainly think so as long as you understand that a side hustle is that, a hustle. It will take grit and determination and a lot of learning and hard work.

Over the years I have seen many people use domain investing as a successful side hustle. One of the people I think exemplifies a successful side hustle in domain investing is my friend Ray Neu. Even though investing in domain names is a side hustle for him, I think you would be hard pressed to find someone in the domain investing business full time who does not know Ray and respect his hard work. To me that says a lot considering this is not his full-time job. Recently I was lucky enough to get some of his time and interview him about what he does to be so successful in the domain industry.

What do you do as a “day job” and why did you choose to do that?

Ray: Although, technically a "night job" I currently am employed as a Deputy Sheriff; working 6pm to 6am 3-4 days per week. Law Enforcement was always a personal goal of mine from when I was a child and after I graduated with a degree in Criminal Justice from Florida Atlantic University I began to search for full time employment in that field.

You also have a very successful side hustle investing in domain names. How did you get started in that?

Ray: October 2004, while a freshman in college, the first TRAFFIC Domain Conference was in Delray Beach, FL; which was conceived and ran by my father Howard Neu and well-known domain investor Rick Schwartz. From that moment on pretty much every aspect of my life was based either around domains or the conference and now the internet business overall.

I know you own a bunch of businesses based on domains you have purchased. How has being in the domain business helped you with them?

Ray: I look at my move from domain acquisitions and sales as a microcosm of the domain business. For many years I simply parked domains and sold some here and there and they generated money ... but that went away. So now we focus more on building on domains we have had in our portfolios.

Right now I am focused on; my father and I both have owned this domain for years and now have started to build a businesses on it. Having a definitive domain in the space is already a head start on the business.

Especially with a business like the importance of the domain name is crucial; it almost necessitates having a premier domain name in the space.

I think most people know you from running a successful conference in the domain industry called Merge and being a part of a couple other conferences in the past such as The Domain Conference, and TRAFFIC. These seem to be part of your passion for domain names. Why is that?

Ray: Conferences are what brought me into the business and will ALWAYS be my favorite part of the industry. The domain business has been the most fulfilling aspect of my professional life. This is mainly because of the people in it; and I get to see them at conferences :)

What do you like most about the conferences?

Ray: Seeing old friends and meeting new ones. Also learning, I have always been able to take away something from every show I have ever been to that helps me professionally or personally. It is important to maximize your time at conferences to make sure you can learn, network, and have fun.

I always have equated conferences to going to college. It is the best time in your life to meet people, to learn, to have fun, and to set yourself up for a better future. But it is truly about the people, as much as you can learn in college or at a conference it is the people and the good times you remember best.

How do you find the time to do the conference, run websites, and focus on domain investing all on top of your work in Law Enforcement?

Ray: By being busy and focused all the time! Many nights sacrificed at home instead of going out and wasting time. Obviously, turning your “side hustle” to your only hustle is the goal for everyone. But with the right dedication it is possible to have a successful side-hustle (or multiple ones) and keep your day job.

The fact is there are 24 hours in a day; only 1/3rd of that is spent at work. There are still 16 hours of every weekday away from the office; and if you add up not sleeping much, working on lunch breaks, sneaking emails while in the restroom, and working all weekend your side-hustle hours can greatly outnumber your day job! Especially if you are setup in that way.

With all the things on your plate you must reach out to people to help you. Who do you reach out to and get help from or bounce ideas off of and why is that important?

Ray: I am the luckiest person in the business as far a network to reach out to goes. First it starts at home with my mother and father Barbara and Howard Neu. It makes it very easy to bounce ideas off of your inner circle when they are your parents; I truly would not be where I am today without them.

While I was in college I worked for Mike & Judi Berkens helping manage their domain portfolio; and they both have been a huge influence on me personally and professionally.

Being involved in the domain conference business for almost 15 years now I have had the great opportunity to grow in the business and learn from friends who are also my mentors. Chris Hartnett, Rob Grant, Ron Jackson, Rick Schwartz, Bob Olea, Ammar Kubba, the .club team Jeff Sass and Colin Campbell, Stefan Pretty, and George Verdugo have all been wonderful friends and mentors who I can bounce any idea off of at any time.

It’s so important for any business (especially a side-hustle where your time maybe limited) that you have clear and concise advice from people who are experts in your network of people to reach out to.

What kind of advice would you have for someone who wanted to get started in domain investing today as a side hustle?

Ray: Dedication, passion, and sacrifice; I've never thought one moment I've spent working online as a waste of my time and there is not a movie, a party, TV show, or video game that you can enjoy more than your time working. And if by the chance you do get dragged to a party or movie; it’s a great time to relax and think about your business ?.

As far as getting into domain investing I would suggest investing in a small number of names of something you can build on. Specifically if you have a passion for the business or industry. In my very humble opinion it is more likely you will start a business on a domain name which will grow to be a success than buying a name, sitting on it, and selling it for a huge profit.

Especially as a side hustle. Having domains for sale is a wonderful thing, but as a side hustle business you would want the potential for more of a regular income.

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