6 tips for better side projects

Side projects are a great way to pick up a new skill, hone your creative talents, and, if you're lucky, make a bit of money. Thanks to online resources it's now easier than ever to take your pencil drawing techniques to the next level and learn how to start a blog, but turning your side project into a success is still incredibly difficult. To help you on the way to side project satisfaction, we asked designers for their hints and tips.

01. Break it into smaller chunks

“I think about side projects as these bursts of activity,” says Jessica Hische. “I didn’t think of Daily Drop Cap as a big project: I thought of it as 20 to 40 minutes a day. That was very palatable and easy to figure out how to work into my life.”

02. Do it regularly

“For larger projects, I’ll usually do a day or two at a time,” adds Hische. “So I’ll commit a Thursday or a Friday. It’s amazing what you can accomplish in two consecutive days. If you did that every other week, it’s enough to get through a big part of a larger project.”

03. Turn it into a habit

It’s easier to stick with a side project if you can establish a regular routine, and you’ll find friends and family will be more accommodating if they understand when you’ll be busy working on it. Try to find an hour in the morning or in the evening twice a week, or ban Netflix for a month.

04. Use your time well

“Everyone’s lives are different; everyone’s routines are different – you just have to find the rhythm that works for you,” says Gavin Strange. “The thing I find most inspiring, though, is the fact that we all have the same 24 hours in a day. It’s up to us how we use them!”

05. Set your own goals

“That’s the beauty of side projects – they’re allowed to be sprawling,” adds Strange. “They’re allowed to take years. They’re allowed to be weird. You are your own client; your own boss. You set your own expectations. Just throw caution to the wind and experiment.”

06. Don't be afraid to call time

“I don’t feel guilty about not finishing projects,” says Hische. “If I’m just being lazy, I’ll give myself a hard time about it. But if this thing I was super-passionate about two years ago isn’t part of my life any more, then to follow through with it feels disingenuous because I can’t deliver it with passion.”

This article was originally published in Computer Arts magazine issue 261. Buy it here.

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