by Mark Hendrickson
Six months ago, we started Side Racket. Built to get people doing more of what they love, you can create, discover and join amazing projects. It’s a home on the web for side projects.
In startup circles, people often ask if you’re selling painkillers or vitamins. It’s a way of quickly assessing if you’re offering something people get a bit of value from (vitamins), or something people want or need urgently (painkillers).
I love side projects because they’re vitamin-enriched painkillers.
If people know and do what they love, side projects let them do more. Like vitamins, they enhance what you already have. For people who don’t do what they love, side projects ease the pain of being stuck in a shitty job.
Passion is a precursor for awesome
Side projects are all about passion. I mean, why would anyone spend their precious off hours working on something they don’t care about? Electively spending free time on something is a great measure for how “about” it you are.
Less think, more happy
The kicker is that when we’re driven by emotion or passion, it makes side projects a great way to remove that frontal-lobe bias that gets in the way of people doing what they really love to do.
The long haul to overnight success
Often we hear about how Pinterest “burst the dam” into mainstream, or how Stripe “exploded”. Both cases, they took a number of years before to get out there and take off. If your project requires a long haul, consider settling it in as a side project – much easier on the bank balance.
Jumping is scary as hell
Bailing from your day job into a full time project is scary, and if it’s pure theory up to that point, it’s kinda stupid. Side projects are a low-risk way to test the water. Do you actually like working on that idea? Can you really work with these people well?
Risk conversion built-in
Side projects are great at taking the, “What happens if I stuff up and I’m left ‘out there’ with no income?” risks and converting them into “What if I can’t put in enough time to really capture the opportunity?” risks. Both are problems, but one is a good problem to have, the other is just a problem.
Discovery through done, not maybe
There’s two ways you can discover what you love. You can either guess that you’ll like doing X, or you can go try X to find out. Stop guessing and find out.
The random effect
Jumping into a side project will expose you to a bunch of random “stuff” that you otherwise wouldn’t have been exposed to. You don’t know what you don’t know, so try something and see what you learn.
These days, a painful re-invention of your skillset is a necessary evil. Outside of the day-job focus, many people curate equally marketable skillsets via side projects – making a career pivot a much simpler manoeuvre.
Team is better than one
It’s obvious teams get more done, but there’s no formula, rulebook or user manual for team building. Enter side projects as a great way of testing if there’s enough kick in the kickass team you think you have.
So go get yourself a project, or join someone who’s already got something awesome going. If you love what you do, don’t forget to take your vitamins, keep that passion on fire. Keep at it! If you’re not not so lucky and you’re not loving what you do, here’s that painkiller. Hope you feel better soon.
Mark Hendrickson is a co-founder & CEO of Side Racket, and co-founder of Clarity.io. Based in Melbourne, Australia, he’s determined to help people all over the world get more out of life through side projects. Mark does what he loves.