Improving Side Project Preferences
Refine your side projects to do more work that matters most to you.
Side projects are as much apart of the tech industry as coffee and keyboards. They are a great way to stay challenged and creative. Whether dabbing on the next big startup, stumbling down a cryptocurrency rabbit hole, or restoring motorcycles in their garage, side projects allow people to invest into more than their day job.
The following information unpacks typical tensions and tradeoffs within side projects. Everyone’s preference is unique. Understanding your ideal configuration for side projects helps optimize the experience to get what you need from the effort without losing your mind.
- Paid vs Unpaid. Are you doing it for enjoyment/fulfillment or to make money?
- Profession vs Hobby. Are you working within your professional industry or operating outside the scope of your 9–5 work?
- Independent vs Collaborative. Is the style of work done mostly alone or does it require working with others?
- Continuous vs Project. Is the commitment ongoing or is there a clear start and end date with finite deliverables?
- Asynchronous vs Synchronous. Can the work be done without coordinating schedules or does it require real-time communication with stakeholders?
- Strategy vs Execution. Is your contribution high-level strategy or hands-on production?
As you paint a clear picture of your ideal project, it becomes a litmus test when new opportunities emerge. As potential projects peak your interest, you get to decide if you will be moving closer to your ideal situation or actively moving from it. Of course, you can deviate from your preferences but it becomes a more intentional risk.
Here is an example of my side project preferences:
My side projects are paid engagements, within my professional expertise. I look for opportunities with a heavy bent toward independent, asynchronous work. Continous projects are ideal because I can take advantage of my range of interests without having to move between different projects. I look to balance strategy and execution to keep my programming skills sharp while also contributing to scoping the work to be done. My goal is that clients pay a premium, but consistently get more value than they purchase.
I may adjust my standards from time to time, but it helps to know the my sweetspot.