Make sure all costs to your new business are accounted for

Expense Verification: A Critical Pillar in Online Business Valuation


As digital businesses continue to proliferate, accurate valuation methods become increasingly essential. While much attention is given to revenue streams, one area that often goes overlooked is Expense Verification. In an age where expenses can quickly spiral out of control if not carefully managed, understanding the full scope of your costs is crucial. This article delves into the importance of Expense Verification, what it entails, and why it is a cornerstone in online business valuation.

What is Expense Verification?

Expense Verification is the process of thoroughly reviewing and confirming all the costs associated with running an online business or website. This includes, but is not limited to, employees, hosting, content creation, marketing, and other operational expenses.

Why Expense Verification Matters

Undisclosed or hidden expenses can significantly impact the valuation of an online business. For sellers, fully understanding your expense profile can help you present a more accurate valuation. For buyers, a complete expense breakdown can prevent overpaying for an asset and give a clearer picture of profitability.

Types of Expenses to Verify

Understanding the various expenses streams involved in the business is critical. This may include:

  • Employees / Contractors - People are critical to business success, know how much the human element is costing.
  • Hosting Costs - Most online businesses have some kind of hosting costs, this can be complex, so an understanding is important.
  • Content Creation - Traffic = Audience, content is king and it also isn’t free.
  • Advertising / Marketing Expenses - Alongside content, paid advertising is an obvious route to attract users, what is the cost per user?
  • Software Expenses - Some businesses have software costs to allow them to run the service, make sure you know about these extras.
  • Operational Costs - Other, more general, but no less important costs.
  • Miscellaneous Expenses - Domain costs, Free coffee for your employees, SWAG, it all adds up.

Employees / Contractors

People are often the backbone of any successful business. Employees and contractors contribute to various functions, from development and content creation to customer service and marketing. As such, labor costs can be one of the most significant expenditures for a company. It’s crucial to have a clear understanding of these costs, which could include salaries, benefits, and freelancer fees, as they directly impact the profitability and hence the valuation of the business.

Getting access to some employee contracts at this stage may be a good idea, make sure there are no hidden ‘gotchas’

Hosting Costs

Almost every online business incurs some form of hosting costs, whether it’s a simple blog on a shared server or a complex e-commerce site requiring dedicated servers. These costs can vary greatly depending on the scale and needs of the business. It’s essential to verify these costs carefully, as they are recurring and can significantly impact the bottom line. Consider not only the current hosting costs but also the potential costs of scaling up as the business grows.

Content Creation

Content is often cited as “king” in the digital realm for a good reason. It drives traffic, engages audiences, and can be a significant source of organic growth. However, quality content comes at a cost. This could include hiring writers, graphic designers, and videographers, as well as the tools and software needed to create and manage content. Understanding the full scope of these costs is crucial for an accurate business valuation.

Advertising / Marketing Expenses

Paid advertising is another significant expense for many online businesses. Whether it’s PPC campaigns, social media advertising, or influencer partnerships, these costs can quickly add up. It’s not just the direct costs that matter but also the cost per user acquisition, which can vary widely across different marketing channels. A comprehensive understanding of these costs is essential for assessing both the current and future profitability of a business.

Software Expenses

Many online businesses rely on various software solutions to operate, ranging from content management systems and e-commerce platforms to analytics and customer relationship management tools. These software expenses can be one-time purchases, but they are often recurring subscriptions. Either way, they are an essential part of the operational costs that should not be overlooked during the verification process.

Operational Costs

Apart from the more obvious costs like content creation and marketing, operational costs are the less glamorous but equally important expenses that keep a business running smoothly. This could include customer service software, accounting services, utilities, and even rent if there’s a physical office involved. These costs may not directly contribute to revenue but are essential for day-to-day functioning and long-term sustainability.

Miscellaneous Expenses

Last but not least, miscellaneous expenses can often go overlooked but can add up to a significant amount over time. This category can include everything from the annual cost of domain renewals to smaller, less frequent costs like employee perks, branded merchandise (SWAG), or even free coffee in the office. While individually small, in aggregate, these costs can have a noticeable impact on the business’s profitability and valuation.

Best Practices for Expense Verification

Open Books

Transparency is crucial. Both parties should be willing to openly share and confirm all related expenses.

Use of Accounting Software

Platforms like QuickBooks or Xero can provide an organized, trustworthy record of expenses, enhancing credibility in the verification process.

Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs) can provide a layer of protection when sharing sensitive financial information.

Third-Party Audits

For high-stakes transactions, consider a third-party audit to independently verify all expenses.


Expense Verification is an often-overlooked but critical aspect of online business valuation. Both buyers and sellers benefit from a comprehensive and transparent understanding of all associated costs.

As the digital landscape continues to evolve, the role of Expense Verification in achieving fair and accurate valuations will only grow in importance.