Side projects help you to learn new skills, meet new people and provide a different context in which to showcase your strengths. They can also help you to fail in safer environments, which allows you to take greater risks and increase your impact.
Side projects come in many forms but are typically projects started outside of normal work hours. Often, the desire to start a side project is driven by the quest to become an entrepreneur, an interest in something outside of your core area of expertise, or boredom.
Some of the most popular products and companies we know, including Slack, Twitter, Craigslist, Gmail and Trello, started as a side project.
The idea was to create something that had value and I wanted the product to be something that was easy to reproduce in unlimited quantities.
Side projects come in many forms and have lots of different purposes. Some people start them to create a nice product and eventually build a successful company, but there are many other reasons why working on side projects can be exceptionally important.
They facilitate learning and experience. Side projects allow you to experience and learn new things that your daily work might not. They help you learn new techniques or, through deliberate practice, improve your current skills.
Increase successful rate of starting your own business. Working on a side project is a great way to “test-drive” an idea or product before you leave the security of your 9-to-5.
A side project can provide that extra sense of achievement you might need to keep the monotony or routine of your day job from flattening your soul like a sad pancake.
They encourage your creativity. Side projects allow you to work without any constraints. There are no deadlines or specifications imposed by anyone except you. You decide your schedule, your pace of work, your priorities.
They can benefit your career. You will have more chances of getting a job if you can show a variety personal works that are real, interesting, and meaningful, rather than a simple résumé.
But no matter what the goal may be, it’s the perfect way to create something new. Working on a side project is different to “regular” work, because there is less pressure, no deadlines, and no rules. You’re free to play around and switch to something else whenever you feel like it.
Start small: The easiest way to start is to pick a small project you will find interesting, or will solve a problem you have. Then break it down into smaller components until one of them looks easy to implement. Complete that part and repeat the process until you have all of the parts you need to solve the original problem.
Keep it simple: The best approach is to keep it simple. Your project should have minimal complexity, minimal coding, and be focused on the main purpose it serves. If it’s an app that let’s you find new recipes, it doesn’t need chat functionalities. You can always add new things later, but when you are just starting you should reduce features to the minimum.
No pressure: Starting a new project can be exciting. Although it’s fun to read about the success stories about projects that where converted into successful companies, one of the reasons why working on side projects can be so interesting is that it shouldn’t give you pressure to make money with it.