Side projects are somewhat comparable to child's play: There is no real purpose and there are no fixed rules. They offer a playground to explore ideas, learn new technologies and develop new skills. The best part: You may fail anytime. That is a bit misleading of course, since you yourself define what success or failure means. Important is what you can take away in the process. This blog post is a pamphlet for side projects, a call to stop working full time and start a side project in the time gained.
Work, but not work
Work projects are fundamentally different from side projects. This fact can be summarized with three words: demands, dependencies, deadlines. In work projects there are usually many people involved and the requirements leave very little creative freedom. The influence you have on the timeline, the technology and the outcome is very limited.
Side projects on the other hand are quite the opposite: It starts with just an idea and you are in charge of everything that comes from it. The only limit is your own curiosity. You do the research, choose the technology and the tools, define the timeline. There is no legacy code base, there are no stakeholders. It's a blank sheet of paper: For a developer, the perfect opportunity to explore the latest framework, design trend, or SaaS solution.
It all starts with a domain
My domain registrar of choice (The one with the "No Bullshit" promise) had a great headline once. I can't recall the exact wording, but it was something along these lines: "Great things start here". I loved that heading - it perfectly captured that feeling when you have an idea on your mind and need the right (domain) name for it. Now, over the years, I visited that website many times, buying way too many domain names in the process. Full disclosure, most of them didn't last long 🤷.
However, here is the list of my currently owned and active domains, aka. side projects: (Order of domain registration date, newest first)
I bought this domain to test the file transfer functionality from scrt.link/files as a separate product. (This is work in progress)
I always wanted to own an emoji domain. This one is just an alternative domain for scrt.link
Ok, this is more of a (insider) joke. This won't last.
A couple years ago I created a company to have a legal framework for all my projects and consulting activities. Not much to see there.
Started this initiative to support local businesses from Basel, Switzerland. Unfortunately this projects never took off due to lack of time and resources.
This is my personal website. You will find a showcase with many more side projects.
I just kept that domain because it was one of the first domains I bought 😄. The contents changed many times. Currently you can experience a brief "scroll story" experiment.
You should still have a hobby
As you might have noticed until now, I love side projects. But I still want to add a note of caution. I'm not promoting side projects to be a replacement for hobbies - it can't replace recreational activities. At most, it is improving your general satisfaction you get from "work". Don't sacrifice personal time meant for family, friends, workouts or whatever - it's not worth it. Work part time if you can. Or ask your employer to provide a regular time slot for side projects within regular working hours. Or both.
In the intro I compared side projects to child's play. If side projects were a game, it would be one where everybody wins. You win because you grow intellectually, are more satisfied, and more skilled. Your employer wins, because you are not only a happier employee, but one that provides additional knowledge, inputs and insights to the whole team. Sometimes, a side project even becomes a real product.
Side projects help you stay up-to-date with latest technology, make you happier and more creative. Stop writing down your ideas on lists - start a side project now.
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