My First Side Project
I spent the summer before my senior year of college studying for a standardized test. During that time, I came up with a better way to study for the test, and, to make a long story short, I decided to turn that idea into a video product to sell to other test takers.
I connected with a friend who knew about video, and we learned how to do everything else along the way. We ended up turning an initial investment of about $300.00, financed on my credit card, into a profitable business that still makes money to this day (about 8 years later).
The money was nice but so was the education that we received. We learned about creating a product, selling online, managing inventory, marketing, forming a business, and dealing with taxes. These skills allowed us to create other businesses, and they continue to benefit us in our careers.
The business also gave us a sense of hope. We saw how possible it was to make money working for ourselves and doing something that we liked. If you had the right product and the right execution, then you didn’t have to work for someone else for the rest of your life. You could literally make money while you slept.
Money, education, and hope. Those are just three of the many reasons why you should start a side project.
A Side Project Should Make Money or Advance Your Career
By “side project,” I don’t mean “hobby.” Hobbies are generally too personal and too limited to produce life-changing benefits. For example, taking photographs and displaying them in your house is a hobby. But taking photos and learning how to set up a branded online store where people can purchase your photos is a great side project. It will teach you about setting up a website, processing online orders, marketing, and dealing with customers.
Another example is learning how to code. Reading a programming book and creating sample scripts that have no real-world application is a hobby. Learning how to create and launch an iPhone app with a specific, useful purpose that will be used worldwide is an excellent side project.
Not all side projects need to make money. You could also undertake a project that advances your career. For example, maybe you are a new lawyer who wants to become more well-known in the state where you practice. Your side project could be creating a blog and email newsletter that teach other lawyers about the impact of new court decisions in a particular field. This will get your name out there, help you network with other professionals, and it could even lead to referrals or employment opportunities.
A side project can be anything, but some examples include:
- Launch a Photography Website: buy a camera, learn to take photos, teach yourself how to make a website in WordPress, and launch your own online store where people can view and purchase your pictures in digital format.
- Create an App: come up with an idea for a simple app. Don’t buy a book, just get the software that you need to get started (e.g. XCode for creating iPhone apps) and then get started. Learn from websites and YouTube. It’s easier than you think.
- Set up a blog: you can learn how to purchase a domain name (youraddress.com) and web hosting in less than an hour. You can learn how to create a WordPress website in 30 minutes to a few hours and can even install a pre-made theme to make your site look professional. You can have someone create a logo for you from fiverr.com for as low as $5.00.
- Write an eBook: write an eBook. Learn how to use free eBook software so that you can sell your eBook on Amazon.com (or use a low-cost eBook conversion service).
- Create an Online Course: you can purchase an inexpensive video camera (or just use your smartphone) and basic lighting materials. Teach yourself about video editing software, and upload everything to an online course platform that lets you sell your course.
- Offer a Service: your side project doesn’t have to be limited to products. You can offer a service, such as personal training, web design, logo design, and copywriting.
The best thing about side projects is that there is no downside. Larry Page, co-founder of Google, said, “It’s very hard to fail completely, if you aim high enough.” Even if your side project isn’t a massive success (which it could very well be), I guarantee that it won’t be a failure. You will make some amount of money, probably indefinitely, while learning useful skills that you can use in the future.
Don’t Fool Yourself With the Three Most Common Excuses
People often ask me questions about some of my side projects. After I tell them how I got started, I usually encourage them with something like, “If you want to learn more, I could send you a few links.” They almost always decline, citing one of the following three terrible excuses:
1) No Technical Knowledge
“I could never do that, I don’t know anything about making websites.”
I don’t have any formal training in web design. I taught myself how to create websites from scratch when I was 10 years old, and I continued to learn over the years.
If I could do it, then you can do it. And the good news is that it’s MUCH easier these days. To launch a website, you no longer need to know any programming languages. You can purchase web hosting from Bluehost.com, install a back-end system called “WordPress” with one click, upload a pre-built theme for WordPress, and then drag and drop text and pictures wherever you want them on each page. Need a logo? Hire a designer from fiverr.com to make you one for as low as $5.00. If you get stuck or confused along the way, then Google your problem and find the solution.
In fact, the Internet can teach you a lot for free. I learned how to create iOS (iPhone / iPad) apps through a combination of trial and error, Google’ing problems that I encountered, and watching instructional videos on YouTube. I’ll never forget when I learned how to do an advanced programming technique by watching a YouTube video created by someone who couldn’t have been more than 15 years old (judging by the voice). The Internet is truly an amazing place.
Once you get past the excuses, you’ll find that learning new technical skills is actually quite easy.
2) No Time
“I would, but I don’t have the time for that.”
There is literally always ways to make time. You could wake up earlier. You could go to bed later. You could watch less television (or work while watching television). You could play less video games. You could spend less time at the bar. You could work on your side project on weekends. Time for your side project exists, you just may have to sacrifice a little bit.
People using this excuse may also overestimate the amount of time that a side project can take. For example, creating your own iOS (iPhone / iPad) app may take quite a bit of work upfront to learn how to program, test the app on various devices, and launch to the App Store. But once the app is done, so is your time commitment. In other words, you may work hard while creating the app, but then when the app is finished, you can sit back and reap the benefits.
Another example can be the photography website mentioned above. It may take some time to set up a website that allows you to sell your photos on the Internet. But once it’s done, your time commitment greatly decreases and you only have to worry about adding new pictures (if you want).
Simply put, you have the time to take on a side project, and you are probably exaggerating the time that it would take anyway.
3) No Money
“I can’t really afford to do that right now.”
People also exaggerate how much it will cost to get started. For example, if you want to launch a website, then here is the cost:
- Web hosting from Bluehost.com: $3.95 per month
- Domain name from GoDaddy.com: $0.99 the first year; $10 to $15 per year after that
- WordPress theme from Themeforest.com (optional): one-time fee of $10 to $50
- Logo from Fiverr.com (optional): one-time fee of $5 to $50.
As you can see, it doesn’t take a lot to get started.
If your side project requires equipment (e.g., camera for photography or a microphone for podcasting), then you should not let that initial investment discourage you. You could save money by bringing your lunch to work instead of eating out each day. You could skip a couple of expensive dinners on weekends with your significant other. If your job pays overtime, you could work a couple of extra shifts. You could take a loan from a friend or a family member. You could find a no-interest credit card offer to purchase the equipment with, create the product, and then pay back the credit-card debt before the end of the offer period. There is always a way.
It’s Time to Strive
When you are tempted to make excuses, just remember the benefits. You should also remember that there is no downside to learning and trying new things. And most important of all, remember to subscribe to our email list below, which will get you access to tutorials and case studies on how to launch your own side project.