No matter what industry you’re in and what point you’re at your career path, there are a myriad of reasons you should start a side project. Side projects are exactly what they sound like—they’re projects that you work on during your spare time while still maintaining your regular employment. Side projects are great because they push you outside of your comfort zone and allow you to explore your creative capabilities.
Maybe you’ve had an idea for a side project for quite some time, but keep finding excuses that prevent you from taking the next step forward. Perhaps you tell yourself that you don’t have enough time or that nothing beneficial will come from it. Now is a great time to lay those doubts to rest. Even if you create a side project that doesn’t become a golden ticket to success, never doubt the feeling of achievement that comes with creating something on your own. With that in mind, here are some tips for getting started on your side project:
Think of the benefits
There are several benefits of starting a side project; understanding these benefits can give you a nudge in the right direction. For many people, side projects can offer a major motivation boost—particularly when you aren’t feeling inspired in your day to day work life. It can motivate you to keep pushing forward, but it can also have an interesting side effect on your current role; it can make you more creative, make you a better problem-solver, and improve your critical thinking skills. In a nutshell, a side project can help you avoid the dreaded workplace burnout.
Lastly, side projects—when taken seriously—can be lucrative businesses that may one day balloon to a full-time, revenue-generating passion project. There are many side projects and hobbies that have turned into successful full-time businesses, and this level of success is possible for anyone who’s committed to giving their side projects a chance.
Ignore the “Too Big” mentality
Perhaps the side project you’ve got in mind feels “too big” to build. Let’s say you’re a software developer and you want to build and manage an open source project using tools like ConanCenter. Now let’s say you’ve got a grand vision of a content management system for musical artists. Even though you believe this could be a great project that will make a difference, maybe the scope feels too big to be achieved.
If you think your idea is too big, it can quickly become too stressful to start, and you’ll fall victim to procrastination. To help motivate you start, it helps to start small. Think of your big idea and think of a modified, smaller way to achieve a similar goal. It may not be a feature-rich as your original idea, but it will get you going. For example, as an aspiring novelist, writing your first book might seem like a mountain you can’t climb, so why not start by publishing and sharing your first short story? No matter what your side project is, you’ll find that if you take a step back and start on a smaller scale, you’ll feel more motivated to take larger steps later down the line.
Start making time
Side projects require time commitments, and it’s important to balance out your time. Part of striking a fine balance within your schedule is knowing when to say no to other time commitments. Think about the things you can cut from your life that will create more time without having a negative impact. Do you find yourself watching too much television or spending too much time on social media? Instead of putting your time into entertainment, carve out the time in your dedicate to dedicate to your side project. Waking up a little earlier or cutting out social activities when you need to might also be necessary. When it comes to your side project, allow yourself to be a little selfish.
Knock out the fear of failure
As previously mentioned, many people are deterred by side projects out of fear of failure. However, even if your side project doesn’t make you a millionaire (check out these side projects that turned into million dollar companies) or achieve the goals you want it to, you’re still a winner. First and foremost, side projects look very good on your resume. It shows that you’re passionate about something, created something from scratch, and can juggle multiple responsibilities at once. If you maintain a positive frame of mind, you’ll always be a winner because you’ll always either have a story to tell or something to show.