The Side-Project Project

Allen Skyy via Flickr

Photo credit: Allen Skyy via Flickr

Do you have a side project? Something that you can call your own and proudly display to the world?

I personally think that having this kind of project is very important (especially for freelancers), because having a side project makes you special.

Instead of being yet another WordPress developer, you become “the guy behind that site for doing CSS arrows“. And trust me, that might not sound like much but it’s a huge step up.

So what’s a side project exactly? I define it as something that meets these three criteria:

  • Simple
  • Specific
  • Free

(Note: This is merely my own definition, and what I’m writing about here only applies to my own concept of a side project. So if you disagree, remember that we might just have a different view of what a “side project” is. )

Simple

A side project has to be simple. Ideally, you want to keep the time from idea to launch under 10 hours.

Keeping things small means it’s easier to find the time to get started, and it also means that even if your project fails, it won’t be the end of the world.

This is important because not finding the time and being afraid of failure are two of the main reasons why people never commit to side projects.

Specific

Keeping things specific means that you’re targeting a well-defined need, and that the purpose of your project will be immediately apparent to anybody who has that need.

CSSArrowPlease is the perfect example: if you’ve ever had to Google the code for CSS triangles, you’ll immediately bookmark and retweet this site. It just makes sense.

On the other hand, launching a new community for designers does not meet my criteria for a good side project idea: it will take a lot more work to make the project popular, since you will have to convince people of the idea’s interest first.

Free

If you can make a little money off your side project, why not go for it? Although that sounds nice in theory, in practice that almost never happens.

Paid products rarely go viral like free products do, and if you think getting people’s attention is hard, try getting their hard-earned cash.

Plus, what about the infrastructure? If you’re going to charge on a monthly basis, you now need user accounts, billing, etc.

Unless you can use Gumroad or another similar service to sell your wares, keep things simple and don’t try to make money from small side projects. That’s simply not what they’re good for.

The 3 Step Plan

Building a side project can roughly be split in three phases:

  1. Finding an idea
  2. Building the thing
  3. Promoting it

I can’t help you with part 2, but I can at least help you with 1 and 3.

Introducing the 0x∞ Workshop

Amy Hoy has her 30×500 workshop where she teaches you how to build a product and sell it to 500 people a month for $30.

So I’m officially launching the 0x∞ workshop, where I teach you how to build something that you give away for free to as many people as you can.

My workshop won’t make you rich, but guess what, at least it’s free!

Here’s how it works:

  • Join my weekly newsletter.
  • Reply to the confirmation email with your side project idea, and I’ll let you know what I think about it.
  • You build the thing (you’re on your own for this part, sorry…).
  • I’ll share a link to your project in the next newsletter and on this blog.

You can also read a couple more tips on how to come up with side project ideas that I sent out in last Sunday’s newsletter.

If that sounds good, join the newsletter and start brainstorming side project ideas!

P.S. if for some reason you don’t want to join the newsletter, just posting your ideas in the comments here works too!

P.P.S. as usual, Hacker News upvote/comment link.

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