We all know how important is to have a side project. You might have even seen hundreds of articles around the web telling you that you should have a side project and all the benefits that come with it.
So, you get a great idea and you start your new side project immediately. You spend a couple of nights and weekends on it, and then you realize it’s too big, too complex or maybe you simply lost your motivation and excitement.
You decide to give it some time, think about it and get back to it later. In the meantime, you have another great idea, start another project and waste some of your precious time again.
I’m not sure if this sounds familiar to you, but it’s the story of my life. In the beginning I struggled to finish any of my projects. I started way too many side projects and I learned a lot, but I truly benefited from the work that I actually got done.
Let me first tell you a short story of my side projects and how much I gained with every one of them.
A backstory of my side projects
It all started when I was still in high school. One of my biggest side projects back then was, of course, my own CMS (Content Management System).
I spent a lot of time on it after school and on weekends. I never finished it but it helped me to get my first job as a PHP developer the same year I graduated high school. It meant more than a computer science degree for the employers.
The amount of stuff I learned and the experience I gained was priceless. It influenced my entire life and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t be where I am now without it.
Another side project I had while working at my first full-time job was a WordPress theme shop. First I designed and coded a couple of themes and started selling them on one of the theme markets. Later, I started my own theme shop and established a solid passive income from it.
That side project helped me to quit my first job, learn how to code themes and introduced me to the entire WordPress world. I would never have started working with Brian Gardner and StudioPress without it.
While working at Copyblogger Media, I started writing and building my audience with this blog, which I consider as a side project (and the biggest one so far!). In the meantime, I launched Typespiration.com and Gridspiration.com, too. And then most recently I started a side project of a side project (inception!), a self-published ebook: The Essential Web Design Handbook.
Do you see how much I learned thanks to my side projects? It would be a whole different story if I had just sat there and waited for opportunities.
Now, let me share with you some tips on how I made this happen.
Step 1: Find your passion
Be passionate about your side project. Don’t even start anything on the side if you don’t really love doing it.
Money is not a good motivator for side projects. Working after hours on extra projects need that deeper and stronger impulse that will keep you motivated for days and weeks.
Choose something that you really like and you know you won’t get bored with in a week or two. Whatever idea you come up with, maybe do some research or sketching to explore the concept, but don’t drop everything else and start the project immediately.
Give it some time and let yourself cool down. See if the initial excitement about the idea survives a couple of days.
Step 2: Focus
Can you afford to focus on your new side project? If you have too much going on, give it some time and wait for a better moment. If you’re too tired to work on it, you’ll stop liking what you’re doing and give up sooner.
Don’t work on more than two side projects at a time. Make sure you can focus and really dedicate it your time.
Step 3: Think MVP
Do you know the idea of a Minimum Viable Product? It’s good to think big, but you’ll never get it done if your side project is too overwhelming.
Try to scale it down and choose the most important features or elements of your project. If it’s a massive 20-module course on running an online business, see if you can make it a simple 5-module course with a possibility to extend and relaunch later.
It doesn’t have to be big in the beginning. It’s better to narrow down some core ideas and make them really work.
Step 4: Ship early and often
Don’t work too long on your side project without releasing anything to the public for too long. Seeing your work in the wild and getting some real feedback and results is the best motivator to finish your work.
Try to chunk your project into smaller portions and achievable milestones. Show what you’ve done every time you reach another checkpoint. It’ll help you to stay on track.
If it’s a design project, you can show the progress on Dribbble and see if people like it. If you’re working on an ebook or course, share a free chapter or a free module with people and get some attention.
What’s your side project?
Are you working on anything on the side? How many side projects have you finished? Feel free to share your experience in the comment section below or you can always email me. I’d love to hear from you.