10 Reasons You Should Start a Side Project
Whether you’re starting a new business, building an app, writing for a blog or volunteering your expertise, side projects are a great way to boost your career. In fact, many leading companies actively encourage their teams to work on side projects, with Google among others, allowing its engineers one day each week to focus on their side projects.
I appreciate that not all of us work for a company like Google, but that shouldn’t stop you from seeking out and benefiting from side projects outside of the workplace. Here are 10 reasons you should take on a side project:
If you want to learn new skills, but for whatever reason don’t have the opportunity to do so in your current role, getting involved with a side project is a fantastic way to develop them. I’m interested in web design and coding, but rather than seek opportunities at work, i’ve been learning these skills via a side project. I don’t want to become a web designer, i’m just have an interest in the process and believe having a better understanding is a good thing.
While skills are important, employers are always keen to see how these skills have been applied in the real world. They want to see the projects you have worked on and the results achieved. A side project is the perfect platform to gain that all important experience and become involved with a new area that you’re looking to learn more about.
Unless you work for an agency with a roster of diverse clients and varied projects, your daily responsibilities can sometimes feel routine. With a side project you can mix things up and get some variation in your working life. For instance, as a content marketer I have to follow a particular tone of voice and style guidelines, but the side projects i’m involved with, enable me to explore a different style and keeps my writing fresh and focussed for work.
When starting a side project, there’s often many networking opportunities that will present themselves. The people you collaborate with, the suppliers you partner with or the clients you serve, may all be able to help you in the future or vice versa. While you shouldn’t take on a side project purely for the potential people you will connect with, the opportunities to expand your network are a happy consequence of side projects.
I’m adamant that entrepreneurship should be taught in all schools. The vast majority of people work for businesses and we all need to know how to create value and generate sales. A side project is the ideal way to develop a deeper understanding of business. Studying equips you with the tools and frameworks to tackle a problem, but experience in a side project lets you put it into practice.
I’ve always found that working with a new set of people gives me a much better understanding and new perspective on a challenge. While skills and experience can help you get a job, it is your insights, strategising and approach that helps you succeed. Side projects let you develop a new perspective and help you to see challenges and opportunities in a new light.
Nobody ever wants to fail, but within side projects, often the pressure is off to succeed the first time around. In effect they offer a safe environment to fail, learn and iterate. Indeed, sometimes what you learn and the journey of discovery can be more valuable than the end result. With the pressure off, there is scope to take more risks, be more innovative, and be bolder – ultimately there is the opportunity to learn more in a short space of time.
Learning new skills and gaining experience is a powerful combination and will undoubtedly boost your confidence. Whether you take on projects in the fields of web design, PPC advertising, cooking or something completely different, you’ll soon find that you get the opportunity to apply what you’ve learned in the workplace. In fact, you may surprise yourself how often you draw upon your new skills.
By their very nature, side projects are something you do outside of your normal responsibilities. A lack of time forces you to focus on what is important and will deliver the most value. This approach has enabled me to prioritise work that delivers the most to my team. The 80/20 rule, Pareto Law, “hacking” or whatever you call it, side projects equip you with skill to assess and prioritise tasks within an overall project.
Side projects are also a whole lot of fun. Working together, meeting new people, and helping to achieve something is hugely rewarding. Although developing new skills and stretching yourself can often be a big challenge, the feeling of satisfaction at the end is enjoyable and very rewarding.
Naturally, I have a couple of side projects up my sleeve, but i’ll be revealing more on them later. In the meantime i’m interested to hear what side projects you are involved with, what you have learnt, and how it has benefited your career?