Why we created Wanderly

A digital agency is an expensive business to run with the majority of costs made up of salaries of highly skilled professionals — so working for smaller clients with limited budgets on one-off bespoke projects makes very little economic sense. To give you an idea, the projects we work on tend to be in the £75,000 to £175,000 region and take anywhere from 3 to 6 months to complete. This makes sense when you’re a multi-million-pound business and the investment in the work generates significant profits. However typical start-ups (the self-funded variety, not Venture Capital-backed) and small business budgets are in the £3,000 to £10,000 ballpark. So we’re not actually playing in the same ballpark at all!

We want to be helpful and often refer these businesses to freelancers or generic platforms like Squarespace or Wordpress, which kind of works, but we know they won’t be getting the benefit of our experience and knowledge gained in the travel sector with the accompanying improvement in site performance and results they are looking for.

Sometimes we get almost weekly enquiries, particularly since winning The Travel Marketing — Digital Agency of the year award.

This just seems a bit mad, partly because when you add up all the enquiries and small budgets, they are pretty good. But also because our purpose at 3Sixty is to help more people to travel, so this does not feel very helpful. Here are enthusiastic travel specialists looking to get a start in the world and we’re telling them to roll up their sleeves and get hands-on with technology. It just feels wrong, surely we can do something?

It was this that gave us the idea of creating a travel website platform, like a Squarespace for travel. As a digital agency with a slim 10% to 20% margin, we are always looking for efficiencies, so a modular component library approach to work is quite familiar to us, and a scalable, customizable platform wouldn’t be a massive leap.

image of woman coming out of ice house

It was meeting Emma Durkin from Where The Wild Is that finally tipped us over the edge and booted us into action. Emma walked into our studio last year and said ‘I really want to work with you guys, but I can’t afford it’. And then just stared at us.

Emma’s energy and enthusiasm for the new business are infectious and we like her a lot, so we decided to invest in creating the platform. We would use Emma’s energy and business criteria to help steer the design and UX on the basis that if it worked for her, it may well work for others.

There is little relationship between the £250 per month licence fee Emma is paying us and how much time — which equals money in our world — we are investing. But that’s why it’s called an investment, I guess.

The platform is built using the Umbraco CMS because it’s licence free and we’re familiar with it, which meant we’d hit the ground running. Plus, the backend is easy to use, which means Emma could create pages, update content and generally manage the website quickly and easily.

Today, a year or so later the platform has 3 active users who are all contributing to our backlog of feature requests and the development roadmap. We also have deals in place with travel back-office providers that allow us to integrate the essential booking path, payment process and legal requirements such as ATOL certificates to make the user experience more integrated.

With the official launch just around the corner, (subject to completing legal partner documentation), we’re delighted to have found a way to help start-up and small travel businesses get off the ground and to do our bit to promote travel more widely. We’re also excited to have a scalable business that doesn’t rely on our time for income. Now we need to find at least another 47 users for Wanderly to turn a profit.