Why you need a side project

There is no better time to start your side project than now, with so many resources online to make whatever idea you have, reality. Put that with websites out there like Kickstarter and Indiegogo you could even make your project a viable project for investment. Look at John O’Nolan, creator of Ghost; he had the idea of changing the way online publishing functioned. Within 30 days of posting his idea on Kickstarter, he completely smashed his initial target of £25,000 and raised a massive £196,362 to make his idea a reality. This just shows the potential waiting in all of us to make our ideas a reality, don’t let money be your motivator though! Ghost is not for Profit Company, this is massively obvious in John’s approach to the business and how he truly wants to make a great usable product which will revolutionise publishing as we know it.

Coming home from a day job and picking up your laptop or sitting down at a desk could be some people’s worst nightmare. However, you have to think about this slightly different from just work. This is a release; working on a side project will push you in ways you couldn’t imagine were possible with client projects. You have time to actually learn what YOU want to learn, be it a new framework, designing packaging, learning something new altogether.

What a side project did for me

So a little background on me first, over a year ago I finally chose to act upon an idea I had for a long time. For many years I had wanted to create my own clothing brand, to take care of all duties from designing the clothing, to screen printing the products myself, the photography and development of the website. If you wish to take a look please do, MYOF Clothing

Now for a designer, this wouldn’t be much of a surprise for most people, however I am a front end developer, my day-to-day life is spent writing JavaScript, CSS and HTML. Did I have any experience screen printing, no. Did I have any experience designing for clothing; not really, the only experience had been designing websites or the odd idea for a t-shirt. However, what I did have, was a passion and ambition to make this idea a reality.

Never before have I been so excited and driven on a project. When it’s something that you have set, you have a whole new perspective on working. You are doing it for you; no one else, the amount you learn during this process is unbelievable. I have learnt so much during this process that I would never have taken on board if it wasn’t for taking a leap and starting the project. I can now screen print to a pretty good standard, I have built my own exposure unit, and I have designed for all types of apparel and printed up my own tees and hoodies ready for sale. I have had beanies manufactured from scratch from an idea in my head.

Your side project can be whatever you like it to be

Unlike your client / agency brief, your side project has no limits or boundaries. You are the only person who can set a condition or limit for the project, be it as big or as small as you like. This means that you have all the freedom to explore something that is completely different to your day job if you like.

This also means that you set the deadlines, everyone always complains of how a deadline is far too short. Now you can set a realistic time frame to achieve your goal. If you choose you may not want to set a deadline, however, I would recommend that you do still set one else the project could go on forever and you may lose a bit of drive that you originally had.

You can learn something new

This could be anything from what you originally aim to achieve from the side project. I.E. You’re a developer but there is a new framework you have always wanted to check out, but there has never been the right project to use it, or the risk is too high for your Technical Director to let you learn while you code that new project.

Other things you can learn from a project are the little things that make day-to-day work less stressful. Problem solving techniques that work best for you, organisation techniques that you can implement in your full time position. Managing expectations, if you are anything like me, you will always have the highest expectation of yourself, in a self-initiated project you have to learn how to manage this else you would never actually get the project complete.

It could get you that new job

Any side project shows to new employers that you are a very driven person who wants to be the best they can be. It also demonstrates your knowledge in a particular subject.

For example, if you are a front end developer and wanting to move to a new agency who is crying out for Angular.js experience. Having a project that explores just the smallest of things in that chosen framework could be all that’s needed to separate you from the next candidate.

If you are a web designer, that concept mock-up you did for a new Virgin ad campaign, could be the thing that puts you above the next person. As it will show your not zoned in to one medium but can apply your skills across a plethora of mediums.


Being able to spend time on a personal project actually improves self belief, even if your project does not go to plan and you cannot finish it. This is not a bad thing, you will have already learnt a lot in that process and if anything, this will probably spur you on to far greater things.

No matter how your project comes out, make sure you post it around the usual places, you will be surprised at the amount of feedback and help there is online for you. Who knows, if your project is something that people feel they need in their life, it may well become something you can sell or give away.

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