Why Everyone Should Have a Side Project
Here at Nadexa, we’re huge fans of the side hustle. We like to see entrepreneurs like Matt Tepper of Second Button — and now Peanut Gallery Comics! — and Leslie Lajewski of the Sleigh Bell Letters, and Luane Kohnke of Luane’s Cookies succeed in bringing their ideas to life.
Side hustles are less scary than total career changes, but they provide a creative outlet and means to vet your ideas before opening up the throttle. Here, Dave Gerhardt of Drift tells us why everyone should have a side project.
- It forces you to figure stuff out. When you’re at work, there’s always going to be some things that just are not part of your job description. I’ve always worked in marketing, but before starting Tech In Boston, I had no clue had to do something like purchase a domain, set up a website, create and edit images in Photoshop, record and edit audio, etc. When you’re working on a side project, you’re a team of one, so if you want to get something done you either have to pay for it (but who has budget for a side project?) or figure it out on your own. As a result, I’m a more self-sufficient marketer than I was before, and that goes a long way at a startup.
- The only way to learn is by doing. Tech In Boston has taken my marketing game up 100x. Why? Well, I’m still the same guy, but for 104 consecutive weeks now, I’ve had to write a blog post, send an email newsletter, watch traffic grow and dip in Google Analytics, watch subscribers grow and subscribers leave, create ads that work and ads that didn’t work. I’m a better writer and better marketer because Tech In Boston has become the practice (reps and sets!) that I need for my real job. Now, I have an opportunity at Drift to do this for real and at a much, much larger scale. My side project laid the foundation for the marketing and demand gen. stuff I’m doing everyday. The ONLY way to get better at something — especially when it comes to startup marketing — is to do it. You’ll never figure out how to get good at customer acquisition by read blog posts. Imagine you could get six pack abs by reading a book about fitness? Doesn’t work that way.
- It gets your brain working on something other than your job. Can’t say enough about using the things you’ve learned at work and applying them to something different and vice versa. A side project gets you creatively thinking about something other than your job — but you’ll start to see the returns every day at work. A side project gives you instant experience outside of work.
- You have to create your own network. If you want to grow a side project, it’s all on you — but in most cases, you’re going to need help, whether it’s for distribution, co-marketing, getting customers, finding partners or more. You have to build a network on your own, and those are all partnerships and friendships that can come back and benefit your business and career later.
- You are the CEO. Most people reading this post are not their own boss. And that’s not anything bad, it’s just the fact that very few people become CEO’s. Starting a side project lets you be the CEO of your own project. You are forced to make decisions on your own. Maybe you have a side project where you have real paying customers or sponsors? How do you negotiate your first deal? What happens when a customer churns? How do you deal with trolls and haters? At work, these are usually someone else’s (or a whole team’s) problems — with a side project, they are yours.
I can’t say enough about the impact of starting a side project.
Now, you just have to take the first step and get started — by doing that, you’ll already be ahead of 99% of people.