Why it's good to work on your own side projects

November 2008

Whether you’re freelance, employed or a business owner, we each have our own daily routine, which usually involves doing work to please someone else, whether that someone else be a client, end user, reader etc. But every once and a while I think it’s important to work on your own projects.

Side ProjectsAs I work on my major Masters project (due December), and while doing the odd freelance job, I take inspiration from the likes of Carsonified and Contrast who have been known for their ‘drop everything else for a week’ approach to work on other projects, and I work on my own side projects.

Their approach to taking a week to focus on 1 new project (from start to finish) is great but working 1 or 2 hours a day on a side project is also beneficial.

Why bother with side projects?

Luck favors the people who try stuff - Guy Kawasaki
1. Take a break

Take a break from your normal routine and refresh your head. Exploring different ideas can get you out of a creative block and bring inspiration.

2. Expand your skill-set

Try out new frameworks, see what you can do with different APIs, test your design skills. The creative community never stops moving so you need to make sure you stay up-to-date.

3. Brand awareness - raise your profile

Whether you’re a freelance designer or a large corporation, side projects can help raise your profile simply by having your name associated with it.

4. Contribute to the community

It’s always good to contribute something to the community. It’ll be appreciated.

5. Have fun

You can have a lot of fun working on your own stuff because you’re in control of the brief and there’s no one to tell you what to do.

6. Passive income

It’s hard to beat an application that makes money while you sleep or get on with the rest of your life. You might not make a fortune, but a few extra bucks a week to fund your Saturday night on the rip is a welcome addition :)

7. Try stuff

If you want to be successful in life I believe you have to try stuff. If it works, happy days! If it doesn’t, learn from it and move on. “Luck favors the people who try stuff”, says entrepreneur Guy Kawasaki.

Where to start

a. Take notes

Take notes when you think of projects and put them on your to-do list. I carry around a small notebook in my laptop bag and constantly add ideas to my ‘Someday’ list in Things.

b. Talk to other creatives

Talking to others will spark new ideas.

c. Read

Read a book from an inspiring designer or look at a book of visuals to get ideas.

d. Mashups

APIs make it very easy to launch small apps. Look at all the Twitter mashups now available. Think of different uses for Google Maps, Flickr, YouTube.

e. What would you find useful?

Chances are that if there was a website or tool that you would find useful, then there are 100s or 1000s of people who would also find it useful.

What side projects are you working on?

A successful side project I co-founded was The Big Word Project and I’ve just launched an Irish web design gallery (Web Designire) which only took a couple of hours a day for 5 days to develop (read more about it here).

Web Designire

Please feel free to share the side projects you’re currently working on or have produced in the past. It would be great to have your input.

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