There’s a lot of talk these days about the concept of “side projects”.
Many entrepreneurs, marketers, and business owners are advising us that we need to have our own side projects, that we need to start working our ass off if we want to build an empire, a company or something that will bring us the big bucks.
I understand the concept but what if I only want to create side projects that are giving me the opportunity to develop my personal and professional skills?
When I first started with my personal blog, it was way before Facebook, Youtube or podcasting got into the mainstream. Blogging it was only a hobby, a platform where I could write about something, anything.
However, after I recognized the power of blogging in the online environment, I started looking at it with a rather serious attitude.
Therefore, after I moved out from my parents’ house and started living in a bigger city, I begun writing on my blog every day. I woke up every morning at 6 AM to read the marketing and advertising news and write down my own ideas.
Blogging gave me the chance to work with other brands, to meet other bloggers and marketers and it also opened the door for my current job.
However, there was more: Blooging led me to several other new side projects I have started along the way and all these projects contributed to my personal growth, making me a better person and a better professional.
I am now a better marketer and project manager thanks to blogging.
And, every time i discuss with someone about my side projects, they are questioning me about what I do in order to be able to handle them all.
They are curious about how I manage to make enough time to manage all these projects, and still, to also have time for my family and for myself.
Prioritize by their needs
At first, I didn’t know how to prioritize all of them. I have perfected my skills in time, but only after I started having multiple projects.
My first step on learning how to prioritize them was when I got my first job after moving into a new city. I had to manage the job and also, find time for my personal blog. I really wanted to work on my blog because I knew that through this platform, I could get more chances and opportunities that I wish i had. I wasn’t going to build a big media empire from it. But, at the same time, my personal blog has become a gateway through with I was able to meet new people in this new city, to develop new skills and to work on time management.
Thus, while I was working 8 or 9 hours each day, I was also managing my personal blog. I was engaged in writing new content. I was constantly writing down new ideas. I was searching and looking up for new ideas I can write about.
After a while, I started to launch a few new side projects that made me prioritize them by their needs. For example, when I first started to write on another blog about Instagram, I was very into it. I had that moment when I didn’t know how to manage my work, my personal blog and also this new side project.
However, because I loved this topic and because I knew that Instagram will be something big in the future, I played my cards.
At that time, I was newly wedded, I had a job at an online advertising agency and I still found some time to work on my Instagram blog project. And, after working hard on writing down the news from this social platform, presenting the pros and cons, launching an ebook and also interviewing other instagrammers, there came the magic moment I got to be recognized for my hard work.
One day, I got an e-mail from a conference organizer who told me that he wanted me to talk about Instagram during his own conference. It was the biggest social media conference from my country and the invitation was quite unexpected. This was something that I didn’t know that it could happen. However, it was enough proof for me that if I continue to work hard and consistently, the results will come.
In conclusion, I’m learning everyday to manage the time I invest into my projects and prioritize them by their needs.
It’s not a simple and clearly defined job that gets done in a routine.
It’s something entirely different, something that you get to develop every day, every week, with every project you work on, with every task you create and pin on the wall.
Take advantage of my productivity time
At what time of the day you are most productive? When should you find time to work on your side projects? Is it early in the morning? Or, is it late in the night when everybody goes to sleep and the light on your room stays on? Are you able to work in the afternoon when you take off a few hours from your work just to hustle with your side project?
For example, I found out that I have 2 very productive periods of time during a day. The first one is early in the morning. I wake up very early (at 06:30), I drink my coffee together with my wife and after she leaves the house to go to work, I go to my office and start working on my side projects. The second one is somewhere in between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. I found out that during these 2 hours I can work very well on my projects.
However, there are times when I lose my focus if the phone is ringing, thus disturbing me.
My advice to you will therefore be the following:
Try to think about the best moment in the day you can get productive.
You don’t have to get up early in the morning like I do, if you are not a morning person and you find it difficult to waking up to work on your projects. However, you should know that I wasn’t either a morning person and sometimes it’s also very hard, even today, after 10 years of working on my side projects to wake up this early.
But, I found my reason to get up. It’s coffee. I like good coffee and I like getting it together with my wife. Now, thing about it: Are you a morning person? If not, do you love a good coffee? Is your answer yes? Then, do like I did. Make sure you get to buy the best coffee you can find in your town and also get the best coffee machine you can afford. This is the most important one, out of all the other reasons that are helping me wake up in the morning.
For me, another great time for productivity as well is when I am traveling by the train to the HQ of our office which is located in another city. I wake up at 4 am, I drink my coffee and afterwards I get ready to travel. I make sure not to forget to charge my laptop battery, my phone battery and my AirPods. When I get into the train, I search for a place where I can be alone, a place where no one can disturb me because I want to set down and write some articles for my blog.
And this is what I am doing right now, by the way.
Work with freelancers and collaborators
There are times when you can afford to work with freelancers. And, it is not about being lazy or not having the will to work by yourself. The reason to do so is because you have to prioritize between the stuff that can be done by yourself only and the stuff others can help you with in order to get to publish frequent and high quality pieces.
For example I’m working with several collaborators for my podcast. Here’s what I do and how I delegate tasks in order to make the whole work as efficient as it can be. After I record the podcast, I send first the audio files to an audio engineer. He is able to put it all together and make the podcast sound better. As soon as he finishes, he sends the file back to me. After I receive and download the files, I send the finished audio tracks to someone else, another collaborator who has the task to listen to it all and write down the most important ideas we are talking about, quotes, subjects and resources we are mentioning.
Thus, I get the draft for the article, I have the audio finished and now it’s ready to be published. Also, if needed, I am working with yet another collaborator who transcribes my interviews. It’s important to have a transcription that you get to publish along the audio stream as written text for the ones that are more likely to read an interview then to listen it.
Why should you work with freelancers?
You can assign more time and focus to all your other projects that only you can do.
It saves you precious time
In some instances, you will discover that there are other professionals who can do a better work than you are able to do.
There may be part of your projects that require you to allocate more time and therefore, have to prioritize between the things that can only be done by yourself and the tasks that can be assigned to someone else
Use productivity apps
There are only a few apps I use in my daily routines, in order to better manage my main and my side projects. Here are some of the tools that I’m using almost every day.
Reminder – Yes, I use the native reminder app from my iPhone. It’s easy to use and I can synchronize it with my MacBook. Thus, every time I have to do something later, I get to write it down over there. This way, I don’t have to think about it every day. When the time will come to think again about that idea and work on it, the Reminder app will tell me.
Evernote – This app is one of my favorites. Usually, I am using it as an app for “ideas”. I have created individual folders for almost every side project I have and therefore, this is the app that is almost always open. When something is popping on my mind, when I get a new idea for a side project, I write it down right away and come back to it when I am in need of new ideas. For example, I have a folder for this blog where I’m writing down topics I can write about, quotes I found on Twitter or links that are having a direct/indirect impact on its topic.
Trello – This is an app most of you already heard of and I am sure of it. It’s a project manager app. We are using it at work and I am also using it for my writing. Right now, for instance, I have several projects on it. Also, I have a project where I am collaborating with freelancers and the app allows me to keep track of everybody and everything they do or the things they have to do. It’s very good to know at any time how each idea and each process of each side project you are working on evolves and materializes into something real.
I enjoy what I do
I didn’t start my side projects because someone told me to do so. I don’t work on them because I saw a YouTube video where someone looked at me from the other side of the camera, telling me that all the pros have side projects. I found out by myself that side projects are giving me the chance to develop several skills that may be useful one day. I also found out that side projects are giving me the freedom to try new marketing tactics and see what results I can get with them.
This is the kind of experience I want to earn:
Practical experiences based on something I have already tried, I have already done.
Now, I get my joy from producing audio content. I want to know how to create a podcast show, how to launch a podcast, how to create a podcast brand and why podcasting is important today and will be important tomorrow as well. Now, it is no more than a local podcast but who knows, maybe in the future I will do something bigger, something global. Also I want to learn more about audio and voice experience.
That’s why I bought an Amazon Alexa and I want to learn how to develop Alexa skills.
If you don’t work on your side projects just because you like it, you won’t go any further with it. It will be nothing more than a simple one time project, one that will get to be abandoned as soon as the hard times will come.
If you are not invested in the projects and you do not like what you do, you will more likely step down and shut it down eventually.
For what I am concerned, I really enjoy doing them.
I enjoy seeing my work published, or seeing the results of my projects (even if there are bad ones).
But it’s something I like to geek out about it.
Having a side project is not an easy job.
You are your own boss. And it depends only on you how you will grow, where you will get after a while and what you will do with it.
The most interesting thing is that the internet gave us the opportunity to create new projects, to develop new skills while also democratizing the creation part.
You can now create text, audio, video and photo only using mobile or desktop apps. If you want to have your own audio show, start a podcast. If you want to create a movie series, start a YouTube channel. If you want to write a book, start a blog. If you want to shoot photos, start an Instagram account.
But you are the only one who will actually take the next step in your side projects.