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How a perfume enthusiast used his blog to launch a career

A bottle of Serge Lutens fragrance lays on a cushioned brown leather background, with white orchids placed above it.

A chance encounter with an unusual perfume in a UK department store kicked off Thomas Dunckley’s career in fragrance. “Kingdom by Alexander McQueen,” he remembers. “I was absolutely appalled at what I was smelling because it was sweaty and strange and horrible.” Unable to get it out of his mind, Thomas eventually bought a bottle, started looking at reviews on fragrance websites like Basenotes, and began posting short perfume reviews on Twitter. “At that point, I just thought, maybe I need to start writing because I found fragrances quite frustrating,” he says.

He launched The Candy Perfume Boy as a blog 10 years ago “I thought I’d do two posts and that would be it,” he says. Instead, he kept it up, and his debut dovetailed with a growing interest in scent and an increasing number of perfume blogs. “I was very involved in that whole sphere of perfume bloggers,” he remembers. “There was a big group of us who would always comment on each other's blogs and share.”

A decade later, he’s still regularly posting fragrance reviews, news and interviews; doing a podcast called Fume Chat, writing a column for the UK-based online beauty retailer, and working as a perfume copywriter and advisor for Olfiction, a fragrance consultancy. He’s also racked up an impressive six Jasmine Awards, a prestigious honor in the perfume industry. (And all this while he’s still working part-time in a senior HR role at the National Health Service.)

Here are some of Thomas’ tips for building up a multi-pronged business from a website presence.

A black-and-white image of a bearded man standing in an allée of trees sniffing a fragrance sample.
Thomas Dunckley’s fragrance blog The Candy Perfume Boy helped him build a multi-pronged business.

Write in an accessible way

Perfume is mysterious and sometimes intimidating, so it was important for Thomas to write about it in a down-to-earth, relatable manner to reach a larger audience. “I wanted to have some sort of smell-o-vision effect so that people can read it and understand what it means using language that makes sense,” he says.

For his topic, that meant using metaphors rather than specialized, industry-specific terms. “I always think about color, texture, emotion, places, people, things,” he says. “It is also so democratic then, because everyone knows what red is, right? And if somebody doesn’t because they have a disability, they will know another reference point.”

Use website content for deep dives

Thomas has noticed that dedicated fragrance enthusiasts engage with his blog posts more than his social media content. They are “looking for more detail,“ he says, which also allows him to be “a little more science-y, a little more niche. Whereas Instagram fans can be a lot more fickle.”

His blog posts also provide more space for a detailed narrative that encourages discovery. “You’ve got to try to convince someone that they may like a perfume, or they may not like it — it’s all a journey for them,” he notes. “I love when I write something and someone goes, ‘Wow, I bought that.’”

Build relationships

Early on, Thomas cultivated connections with PR reps to get perfume samples to write about. Building up industry contacts helped pave the way for his writing and consultancy gigs. Meanwhile, those jobs also help with cross-pollinating story ideas for the blog, whether it’s interviewing an up-and-coming perfumer or including an undiscovered fragrance in a themed roundup.

But, he notes, it’s also important to him to be ethical while juggling all of these jobs. At Olfaction, he helped create a line of candles, which forced him to make a business decision. “Now I wouldn’t write about candles at all,” he says. “I don’t feel it’s right for me to comment on someone else’s product if I am a market competitor.”

Trust your inclinations — and embrace the freedom

Thomas says his strategy is to focus more on what he intuits is the right thing for him, including what he chooses to write about and embracing his occasionally whimsical style. “People just like the way that I write,” he says. “They like that I can be fun and do silly things like write about what perfume would Miss Piggy wear?

While he does pay attention to what’s happening in the industry and on other blogs, he relies on his brand and his intuition to guide his choices about what to cover. “That sort of insulates you from mindlessly following these trends,” he notes, which is crucial to avoid “chasing after something rather than creating your own thing.”

Not running after clicks allows him to “tell the stories that people aren’t thinking they want to hear,” he says, and it also provides the variety he needs to stay engaged — and the credibility that draws readers in. “That’s what being a creator allows you to do, isn't it? The world's your oyster, you can just do what you want. The exciting part is the fact that it's just so open and free.”

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