A successful side project takes more than enthusiasm and a desire to have fun, writes Jory MacKay for Fast Company.
Side projects are exciting. They offer the prospect of building something from nothing – something of your own. And whether they are successful or not, side projects can change your life. But side projects also require a lot of time, money, motivation and hard work with the prospect of failure a constant demon on your shoulder.
But, if you are thinking of starting a side project this year, Jory Mackay, editor of The Startup, one of Medium’s largest publications, has seven tips for making it a success:
1) Balance what you enjoy and what you are good at. Start a project purely for enjoyment, and it will become just a bit of fun. Start a project that is too closely linked to your day job, and it will become an extension of that day job. Find the right balance.
2) Treat it as an experiment. If you’re having a bad day at work, you can use the fact you’re getting paid to motivate yourself. You can’t do this with a side project. Entrepreneur Paul Jarvis suggests treating your side project as an experiment. “Rather than place the same level of importance on your side project as you do on your job, focus on getting something done,” says Jarvis. “Getting early results will help you learn and grow.”
3) Talk about it. If you are serious about your side project, go public with it immediately. Tell people about it and it will seem more real and you are more likely to go through with it.
4) Make people pay for it. Don’t feel guilty about charging for your hard work. If you have created something of value, people will be willing to pay for it.
5) Work with the best. Starting a side project is an opportunity to work with the sort of people you have always wanted to work with – people who challenge you and bring the best out of you. Find the best partners, collaborators and champions.
6) Accept failure. Things seldom (if ever) go to plan. If your side project fails, it will still have provided an opportunity to learn. “Building and launching a side project is about the experience, and the people you meet along the way,” says entrepreneur and side project coach Ryan Robinson.
7) Don’t quit the day job. Your job will provide a steady income and, depending on your side project, the opportunity to meet people who inspire you or who you want to work with. Just avoid breaching contracts you have signed, working on your side project on the company's time, and using the company’s resources.
YOU WON’T GET ANYWHERE UNLESS YOU TRY
There’s a good chance your side project will fail, but don’t let that put you off. Succeed or fail, a side project can be a valuable experience. “Side projects help us uncover new interests, promote divergent thinking (one of the building blocks or creativity), and can potentially take your life in an unexpected direction,” writes MacKay.