Agencies Agency Culture What Do They Do All Day?

Creative side hustles: How Evoluted’s Joe Dickinson turned paper printing into SEO gig


By Joe Dickinson, SEO executive

April 2, 2024 | 4 min read

Side hustles can accelerate careers in unexpected directions. As part of our series demystifying industry jobs, Evoluted SEO executive Joe Dickinson explains his – a bespoke toilet paper printing business.

Joe Dickinson

Joe Dickinson, toilet roll entrepreneur and SEO expert / Joe Dickinson

If someone asks, ‘What do you do for a living,’ I don’t say ‘toilet roll.’ You’d go down a rabbit hole.

When I was at university, I really wanted to set up a business. It was my passion. I tried quite a few ideas, and none of them worked. I’d always thought that sending printed, personalized toilet rolls through the post would be quite a funny gift, but I couldn’t figure out the printing part. I shelved the idea. But after about four failed businesses, I thought: right, I’m going to do the toilet roll business.

I roped in my old uni mates who’d done engineering. They said I couldn’t do it, but we had a go at putting together a model. After about a year of trial and error, I got one that could just about work and print on toilet roll – and I took it from there.

I’ve copied and improved the design, and now we’ve got three. It’s more efficient – extra capacity. It can only print on one paper grade, pre-made toilet paper.

(When someone asks what I do for a living, I always say I’m in SEO; I work for Evoluted in marketing. Even that, they probably don’t understand.)

It’s essentially an e-commerce business. My experience as an SEO professional has carried over, and I used to use paid media – mostly Facebook ads – as well. In the early days of Covid, when toilet rolls were in short supply (and therefore, funny), we got some quite good celebrities to go along with it after I sent them some rolls. That generated loads of business. I’ve been on ITV’s The Voice, too.

But the SEO definitely helps. Knowing how to create perfect URLs with the right keywords, and then title tags, meta descriptions, how the site should be structured… I’m actually creating a new site at the moment.

When I joined Evoluted I had no marketing background. I’d just done trial and error with the Toilet Face site – that was my experience. In the interview, we talked about what I’d done, the kind of ads I’d been creating, the results I’d had, how I built the site from an SEO point of view. Maybe that’s why they went for me.

The printers are in Ancoats, in Manchester. They’re in an old, converted cotton mill. One day, they’ll probably want to demolish it; I’ve been watching the luxury apartments get closer and closer. It is literally just me there. I do it in the evenings, usually once a week.

We do massive wholesale orders. We get companies who use them for PR or merchandising at festivals. It generates a lot of business – they sometimes purchase up to 5,000 toilet rolls. But generally speaking, people buy them for gifts and order one at a time. That’s a good thing because otherwise, I’d be there every night.

I want to grow it. I just don’t have the time to do Toilet Face and my job at Evoluted. It has to remain as a side hustle.

As told to Sam Bradley

Agencies Agency Culture What Do They Do All Day?

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