Side projects are what everybody is excited about. All over the Internet you hear and see of others’ awesome and cool side projects as if they themselves where the next hot design trend. I think that they are in a way a trend, but no one should do them just because. In order to have a successful side projects you need to have passion for the idea otherwise you just won’t continue to make progress on it. And, by successful, I do not mean it will get purchased by a Silicone Valley hot shot for a six-figure check; I mean it will teach you something valuable, and you will walk away with great lessons, and a great project.
Learning about yourself
What I find the most rewarding about side projects, and I hear it from others too, is that is allows for free creative expression and at the same time you learn a lot about yourself. You get to broaden your horizons while having a good time.
Explore your curiosity
A side project is a great hobby to have as it will allow you to explore something you love on your off hours. As a designer, you don’t have to create a new UI kit – instead you can take this opportunity to learn something you have been meaning to such as knitting by creating an iPhone app for a community based on sharing knit patterns. Or, if you are a developer and are looking to learn more about gardening you too can create something that relates to it.
Hell, if you are a designer you don’t need to be designing at all and if you are a programmer you don’t have to be programming either; what you need to be doing is exploring something you have the desire to learn about whether or not you can use your professional background for it.
Learning along the way
The best way to learn is by doing, or so a lot of people say. I’d like to think that they are right. Thanks to side projects, I learned HTML and CSS as a kid. It wasn’t easy; I have spent hours trying to figure out why things were not working properly. But, I walked away with a valuable skill that I now can proudly brag about.
Just like it is hard to spend your hard earn money, same goes for the lessons you learn without someone guiding you and fixing your mistakes for you. It is just much more rewarding to learn on your own because it gives you such a sense of pride that you figured it out all by yourself, all because you wanted to. Some skills, however, are not learned right away instead they come with time. And that too is very valuable because no matter what, you will not be able to learn if you do not purse a side project.
A word of caution: don’t take on anything too big – start small and work your way up one step at a time. This will make things much easier for you as you will be able to accomplish things quicker, which helps stop you from getting discouraged. If you have short finish lines often you won’t be bugged down as much, progress will be easy to spot. Seeing regular results and progress is healthy; it is actually really good.
The new resume
A few fellow designers have written online how side projects are the new resume and they are 100% correct. Side projects give people recognition online, it leads to new connections and therefore new clients and new jobs. At the same time, they help prove that you know what you are talking about – that you are passionate enough about your job to seek out side projects – and make you stand out from the rest of the crowd.
Side projects, I have found, are the best way to get your name out there and to demonstrate your skill set! It is difficult to convince hiring managers or potential clients of skills in a bulleted resume. Instead show them what you are actually capable of doing!
Connecting with others
In addition to getting new leads, side projects can be so much more when you pair with someone else. If you have a friend who too would like to see your idea become reality ask them to join in. It can be lonely working on side projects sometimes but it can be fun working with others. This doesn’t mean that you have to work together on the entire project; it can just be a single part that you could use some help with. On top of that, having someone else besides you can help you keep going when you get discourages too.
Your side project
I really enjoy learning about other designers’ project, so please leave a link in the comments so that I can help you spread the words or even buy the cool things you are selling :) It is all about helping each other out!