3 Tips to Starting Side Projects

Picking a side project does not have to be hard. It’s easy to get stuck trying to figure out the perfect idea and end up not doing anything at all. Some developers associate picking a side project as their dream, which is usually far from reach, and discourage themselves to take action.



When you view side projects as a massive entity, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed before even trying. Therefore, the goal of this post is to provide some tips to break down side projects into something manageable.


1. Start with Something Small


It is better to start with a very simple side project that you know that you can complete. The reason why you should pick something small first is because people are not very good at keeping promises to themselves. For some reason, people tend to have problems with keeping themselves accountable. They get in over their head, which causes them to give up and let themselves down. Eventually, it becomes a pattern, where they continuously give up and let themselves down.


One of the biggest reasons why people give up is because they take on more than they can chew. They try to tackle projects or life changes that are too large and requires too much commitment. One of the best ways to overcome the problem is by making small commitments and follow through with them. That is why you should start with a small and non-ambitious side project. The project should take you a few weeks to a month to complete (at least the first version of it).


2. Start by Creating a Clone of Something That Already Exists


Designing software and building are two different things. When you are first starting out on side projects, you should focus on building the software. Your chance of success is much higher if you are not trying to design and build the software at the same time.


Once you become more experienced with side projects move into designing something new and building it. Now is the time for you to pick something more ambitious, but still achievable.


3. Make Sure You Follow Through


You got a side project picked out and you’re excited to work on it. But you should not jump straight into coding it. Instead, you should create a plan for the project. Having a plan helps you follow through and not lose steam partway through the project.


Define Your Goal


Think about how the first iteration of your project will look. What is the minimum feature set your project must have to be considered complete. The scope of your project can always be expanded later. What is important is that you have an initial scope to begin your project.


Give Yourself Deadlines


Giving yourself deadlines is a great way to hold yourself accountable. When there is a deadline, it creates a sense of urgency, which helps you take your project more seriously.


To pick a deadline, don’t be too aggressive. Leave some buffer space in case something happens. However, do not give yourself too much time because then you will likely end up procrastinating.


Have a System and Schedule or Create One


If you have not already done so, create a system for yourself to work on your side project. It does not have to be perfect, you can always revise your system later.


For the system you have established to help you make sure you address these three key points.


  1. Define concisely how much time you will commit to the project each day or week. For example, you plan to commit one hour a day or seven hours a week to your project.
  2. Define when you will spend the time to work on your project. This means actually scheduling a time to work on your project. For example, each day at 7 PM you will work on your project for one hour. From 7 PM to 8 PM, you will only work on your project and not do something else.
  3. Define how you will keep track of progress.


Consistency Is Key


Being consistent is important for your career and your success. This means you stick to your system of working on your project. Sometimes you will not feel like working on your project, but you got to still pull through. If you let yourself go off track and work on your project when you feel like it, then your chance of reaching your goal is slim. Let’s face it, there are probably many other things you would rather do than to work on your side project on some days.


Develop a Finisher Mindset


What is a finisher mindset? It is when you only start something if you will follow through to the end. Another way to look at it is that once you start, you do not stop until you reach the end.


We’ve all probably begun projects, which we have high hopes for only to quit after a few weeks. Maybe you lost steam that initially pushed you forward in the project. Maybe the project was too large and required too much commitment. Regardless of the reason(s), when you start thinking with a finisher mindset you will get more done and be more successful in your projects.


I hope you found this post helpful. If you found this post helpful, share it with others so they can benefit too.


What are your experiences with side projects? What other tips would you offer to someone who is having trouble with side projects?


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