How to turn your blog into a business » SMEInsider

How to turn your blog into a business

Tom Bourlet started his travel blog, spaghettitraveller.com, as a hobby – but it ended up funding a road trip across the USA and raking in more than his part time job. Here, he tells SME Insider how it all began.

I started with the blog because I had an interest in marketing,” says Bourlet, a Brighton University Business Management graduate who admits that, to begin with, his approach to marketing was a little old fashioned. “I realised I would have to embrace digital marketing and get a bit more up to speed with technology.”

Bourlet’s plan was to teach himself more about HTML. CSS, SEO, PPC and Content Creation by using blogs as “experimental grounds.” Despite having never left Europe at this stage, Bourlet was developing a nascent passion for travel and decided to write about it purely because he enjoyed it. But, before long, he began to receive emails about advertising on the sites. “I had no intention of making money from my sites at this point, so this was a pleasant surprise,” he says.

Gradually, requests for banner adverts and product reviews became more frequent and the money began to build up. Bourlet decided to capitalise on this by getting in touch with companies himself to offer advertising and review opportunities, and began to branch out into affiliated schemes and sponsored trips. At the time, he was still studying for his degree, working part time in the University Shop to bring in some extra cash. Soon, he says, he was earning more from the websites than from the job, had cleared his student overdraft and had a few thousand pounds to spare – which he used to fund a road trip from San Francisco to Miami, blogging on the way.

Although he didn’t set out to make an income from his blog, Bourlet says that he has always being drawn towards entrepreneurial endeavours. At sixth form, he set up a T-Shirt design business, worked as a personal trainer and spent four nights a week at gigs, helping to promote musicians, collect email address from fans and organise future gigs – with some of these bands (such as the Kooks, the Rifles, Matchbook Romance and Art Brut) going on to huge success. Again, he says, it was less about making money than honing his event management and marketing skills.

Although he still loves travelling, it isn’t something that Bourlet wanted to do full time – he prefers where he is now, balancing the blog with working in marketing full time. “After a few months, I tend to miss those home comforts,” he says, “I’m not one of those people who dreads working in an office, I love wearing a suit and I get joy out of seeing progress at work.”

On the other hand, he says, “I would never call Spaghetti Traveller a side project, as it has become part of me, I feel close to it as I have spent so much time dedicated to building and nurturing the site to the point it is at right now.”

Blogs provide a great way of marketing a business for free and, when it comes to turning one into a business, Bourlet recommends trading skills with people you know as a great way to get things done without a budget. “For one job I got a graphic designer student friend to help me out and the end result was something I could never have completed,” he says. “In exchange I helped him set up a site, so we both won!”

And, whilst many people feel that studying a subject at university is the only way to land a job, Bourlet believes that practical experience is far more valuable. “I still feel the course [at Brighton] was a bit dated with its subjects. That is partly what spurred me on to learn these various areas, as I was nervous I would be ill equipped once I graduated,” he says.