Last year I sold my web agency to begin a new journey. Here's why and how I did it.
While writing this, a year has passed since I signed the agreement. My first ever company wasn’t mine anymore. At first, it was a glorious feeling, but the days after weren’t that good. I felt empty, a bit lost even. But in the end, I’m grateful for the path I’ve chosen and felt the need to write about my experience.
How it all started
I started DJ’ing as a teenager, first at my school and at small birthday parties. Not too long after, I was playing at some local clubs. It became a more serious hobby. I figured I needed a website, so clubs and event promotors had a way to find me online. I searched the internet on building a website and stumbled upon WordPress like many of us did. That same evening I was working on my first website, and I enjoyed it a lot.
After a while, I started getting the hang of it. A friend noticed my new passion and asked me to build him a new website. ‘Sure thing!’ and off I went. I remember how excited I was, taking my first steps as an entrepreneur by publishing a website meant for someone else. I did everything in my power to get it pixel-perfect.
The start of a web agency
Soon after that first project, roughly 6 years ago, I decided to start a web agency, Pixelstart. At the time, I was working as a support employee for a web hosting company, PCextreme. During my initial year, I managed to work my way up as a marketing and sales agent while gaining the liberty to work for clients when needed. Two months later, I gained enough clients to become self-sustainable and decided to leave PCextreme.
As Pixelstart began to flourish, I decided to move away from DJ’ing and focus my efforts on building the right network to grow my new web agency.
It started with Dancefair, one of Europe’s leading electronic music conferences. I was hired to revamp their WordPress website, implementing a new design and functionalities such as a dynamic event timetable.
Experiencing the first more significant project coming to success, not only did I learn valuable lessons, but it also brought me lots of new opportunities and introduced me to interesting potential clients. Soon, new projects started coming in, and I built at least 2 to 3 websites per month. As it turned out, all these projects had something in common. They were either YouTubers, DJs, or artists selling merchandise. I found myself in a niche market, which was excellent but challenging.
I was fooling myself
Although Pixelstart was growing fast, I struggled with the web hosting side. All my clients were doing many transactions and new product releases, which impacted the servers heavily. I had to find a better hosting solution, and believe me, I’ve tried them all. After lots of trial and error, I finally found a party to host all websites.
Spending two years finding the perfect hosting solution made me realize I was focussing on things that I didn’t want to do. I started Pixelstart to build websites, not to host them. Looking back, I never realized how frustrating web hosting actually was. Due to the increasing demand and web hosting issues, I couldn’t keep up and rejected new requests. I told myself this was a good thing, being able to cherry-pick. But it didn’t take long until I realized I was fooling myself. I needed help.
To hire or not to hire
I had to hire if I wanted to make Pixelstart a successful company. And so, I found myself looking for someone exactly like me. It seemed an impossible task because the type of person I was looking for was probably running his agency and the people who replied to my job offer were too inexperienced. I needed someone who could start performing without needing my seal of approval on every task. I quickly realized that I’m a control freak when handing out work that I tend to do myself. I decided not to hire anyone.
And so, I tried working with several freelance web developers. The first projects went alright, but they all became less productive over time and eventually weren’t delivering after a while. I always blamed myself for this but realized this wasn’t always the case as they were struggling with the same workload that I used to have as a freelance web developer.
Another very stressful but essential element of Pixelstart was the support work. And by this, I don’t mean regular email support. No, I mean the 24/7 support. I could never leave without my phone or laptop. What if something went down? During this time, I learned that the online world never sleeps. There have been times I had to drop everything to fix the issues that came up in support. Sure, you can find people who can help, but I wanted to do it all myself.
Combining these feelings and experiences made me realize that I didn’t see a future in this industry as it didn’t feel scalable enough. It made me spend time and focus on other people’s issues, drifting away from my core business. I wanted to face challenges of my own. Create a story of my own.
The start of something new, part II
Obviously, I wanted to live a happy life where I didn’t have to be reachable all the time. I felt the need to work on my brand, not the brand of others. This made me decide to sell Pixelstart’s clients to another company that could serve them all. I found several websites that listed companies that wanted to expand their customer base. Not long after, I was in touch with a dozen interested companies. There were several things I looked into before making a decision. What kind of clients do they serve? How many employees do they have? What does their portfolio look like?
It didn’t take long before the first meetings were scheduled. Most of them didn’t feel like suitable candidates, and I finally managed to end up with two promising companies I felt comfortable with. I started negotiating with them both—and with success. The process took over 4 months, including the strategy and how to migrate all clients. After which, two more months were necessary for the purchase agreement and financials. Eventually, all clients moved to the new company on January 1, 2021. The months after, I did some troubleshooting here and there, but the new company served all clients themselves not too long later.
With Pixelstart, I was able to develop myself on many levels. It has challenged me, taught me many things, given me a network, and made me the person I am today. Within the 5 years of running Pixelstart, I enjoyed working for some fantastic brands. To name a few: Enzo Knol, StukTV, Headhunterz, Wildstylez, Colourful Rebel, O&R Streetwear, 100% Hardcore, and many more.
Running a web agency made me discover what I want to do, what I’m good at, and, more importantly, what I’m not good at. Selling my first company was a huge milestone, and I am incredibly proud of it.
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