Side projects are a natural fit for web designers. They offer a chance to do something out of the ordinary and sharpen your skills. It can be a great way to further your career.
And they are often a lot of fun to work on. At least, in the beginning. In reality, small hobbies started with good intentions can get out of hand before you know it. They have the potential to become overwhelming.
For some designers, having a side project “blow up” is a good thing. It may even lead to a full-time gig. But that’s the rare exception – not the rule.
Indeed, many find that the fun disappears when the project starts to feel like hard work. At that point, it’s less of a hobby and more of a burden. Who asked for that?
It’s a common experience. But there are some ways to ensure that your side project doesn’t take over your life. Let’s explore the balance required to keep these little kittens from becoming big, angry lions.
Understand Who You Are
Personalities play a big role in our projects. For example, some designers are never satisfied with their work. Others are content in saying that something they created is “good enough.”
Therefore, it’s important to think about your personality when deciding whether or not to start up a side project. If you’re one to obsess over every last detail, that may be a warning sign of what’s to come.
That’s not to say you shouldn’t move forward. But it is worth considering how a gig will impact you. Will it take time away from your primary work? What kind of emotional investment is required? What’s the ultimate goal?
While there’s danger in overthinking the possibilities, these are still good questions to ask yourself. Finding the answers will help you determine whether you’re ready and willing to take on the challenge.
How In-Depth Is the Project?
The type of side project you choose is also a factor. Some are naturally more in-depth than others. Because of that, it’s good to have a mental picture of what’s involved.
Let’s say that you want to start a new open-source CSS framework. This might be a great way to enhance your understanding of the language while showing your creative side. However, releasing any tool to be used by others has a certain amount of responsibility with it.
Handling routine maintenance and user support takes effort. Best practices also change over time and require vigilance. Thus, there’s a long-term commitment to this type of project.
A blog, on the other hand, might be a little more relaxed. You could go days or weeks without writing – then pick up again whenever you want.
Not all projects are created equally – nor do they require the same amount of work. If you choose one that could keep you busy, understand what you’re getting into before you start.
To Go Public…or Not
No rule says your side project has to be in the public space. And there are some real advantages to limiting your potential audience.
Building something for friends, family, or just yourself likely means it’s a labor of love. The project feels more personal. Thus, you can avoid the pitfalls that come with trying to attract and support a user base.
It’s also an effective means of saving some money. You might even host your project on a local WordPress installation – which only costs you a few megabytes of storage.
Besides, nothing says that you can’t go bigger in the future. Starting small provides you with a chance to see how much you enjoy the project. If things work out, great. If not, then hopefully it was a valuable learning experience.
If you don’t have a desire to create the next worldwide phenomenon, don’t worry. There’s great joy in simply tinkering on your own.
Find a Side Project That’s a Perfect Fit
A side project can be very beneficial. It’s an opportunity to do something you enjoy and learn a few things along the way. And the sheer variety of options available to web designers makes the experience all the more exciting.
But like anything else, it’s wise to think about a project before you jump in. Consider how it fits with your personality and what kind of commitment it requires. In addition, define your potential audience and what it will take to serve them.
These factors all play a role in how well a project will fulfill your needs. Ask yourself: what will make this project fun? If all the stars are aligned – go for it. Otherwise, there’s no harm in heading back to the drawing board.
Remember that a side project is about pleasing yourself first. Anything short of that may not be worth your time.
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