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Why Should You Develop a Side Project?

Why Should You Develop a Side Project?

In this blog, you'll learn how you can enhance your skills and discover your passions through side projects.
10 Minutes

Did you know that some of the popular products and companies like Slack, Twitter, Craigslist, Gmail, and Trello were initially just side projects? Seeking a new challenge, honing your skills, or pursuing an idea doesn't mean you have to quit your full-time job. You can create a schedule for yourself to bring side project ideas to life. This way, you can also make good use of your free time.

You might get caught up in the busyness of the day working on client projects or tasks given by your employer. Focusing on your job and producing quality projects is important. However, setting aside time for side projects, such as small ventures that allow you to explore new technologies, improve your skills, or work on something completely for your own enjoyment, is necessary. As the stories of popular products and companies show, many successful developers have considered side project ideas as a significant factor in their growth and career advancement.

Why Every Developer Should Have a Side Project

Every developer should have a side project to showcase their skills, interests, and passions. Your additional project can also help you stand out in your industry. Often, the desire to start a side project stems from the pursuit of entrepreneurship or an interest in something outside one's primary field of expertise. Below, you'll find answers to why you should develop a side project:

1.  Side projects contribute to both mental and physical health

Allocating time to work on product ideas you're passionate about or maintaining a creative pursuit that develops new skills benefits you mentally and provides life satisfaction. People feel more energetic and productive when they have side projects and creative hobbies. In short, a side project:

  • Offers the opportunity to learn new skills with lower risk.
  • Provides an escape from work, supporting your mental health.
  • Enhances creativity and productivity, benefiting your performance in your current job.

2. Side project ideas support quicker learning and self-showcasing

Day-to-day jobs are often filled with a set of tasks that need to be completed, limiting your focus to the task at hand. This may make it impossible to use your working hours to develop your skills or learn about new technologies. Additionally, routine tasks in your daily job might not give you the opportunity to showcase your skills at their best.

With an additional project, you can seize the opportunity to show people your innovative ideas. For these projects to bring you significant benefits, they should differ from your daily tasks in the following ways:

  • Unlike your daily job, you don't have a goal to make a living with a side project. Even if this project fails in the end, the skills you acquire during the development process contribute to gaining new insights.
  • Side projects do not have a fixed delivery date. This reduces pressure on you, giving you the chance to experiment and implement new ideas.
  • Side project ideas are brought to life with love and effort. They are projects you want to realize, not tasks you're obliged to do. This brings passion, curiosity, and motivation.

3. You get the chance to pursue your passions

Your job might not always give you the chance to pursue your passions. Projects developed in an area you're interested in offer the advantage of living out your passion. In the process, you can either acquire a brand-new career or enhance your current one. For example, as a web developer, you could work on brand-new machine learning projects and use your new knowledge in your current career.

4. Capture new opportunities with growth potential

Do you know what Gmail, Trello, Unsplash, and Twitter have in common? All of these started as side project ideas. Therefore, you should start working to bring your ideas to life. Projects that are just ideas today can turn into very large enterprises in the future. Slack, a messaging application, was one of the side projects of entrepreneur Stewart Butterfield. It was initially thought of as an application for creating a video game. Butterfield's other famous side project is Flickr, a popular photo-sharing service.

5. It helps improve your skills

Every extra hour you spend coding and solving problems with a side project increases your expertise in these areas. It also supports the development of multiple skills such as planning, ownership, and even marketing. Thus, you gain more experience by practicing your craft.

6. It contributes to building a good portfolio

Your future business partners will want to see examples of your work. You can show them your projects. Having a good portfolio consisting of interesting projects gives you a competitive advantage in job interviews.

7. It offers a good way to earn additional income

New ideas you bring to life can provide earnings. You can also sell the projects you create or generate additional income sources with your new skills.

8. It encourages creativity

A side project helps build confidence in writing your own code. Additionally, working on realizing an idea you're interested in will also stimulate your creativity. If you have interests outside of software development, you can blend them with your project to create something extraordinary. As a developer, you can explore the possibilities, the things you believe you can do, and test your limits and skills.

How to Find a Side Project Idea?

Side project ideas can be found by considering daily life, needs, and interests. Often, the best ideas come from one's own experiences. You can write a detailed journal of everything you do in a typical day and identify things that could be improved. You can also get inspiration for side project ideas from the following:

  • Set a goal: You can set goals such as gaining general experience in programming, learning a new technology, or building a portfolio.
  • Explore emerging platforms: As platforms emerge and develop, new opportunities arise. You can explore APIs and developer documents to identify new and creative ways on these platforms.
  • Check GitHub: GitHub can be a great source of inspiration. You can browse trending repositories for new ideas or projects to join.
  • Get inspired by big projects: You might approach this suggestion with some skepticism, but good ideas often inspire each other. Think of Facebook; after this platform emerged, social media evolved, and many digital domains were created.
  • Participate in a hackathon: Hackathons are designed for side projects. They motivate you to share ideas with other passionate creatives. The competition in hackathon events can also contribute to gaining new insights.
  • Follow new developments: New ideas often emerge by chance. Sometimes, stories from around the world can inspire new ideas. To increase your chance of discovery, follow the news, developments, and blogs in your area of interest.
  • Conduct a marketability assessment: Review the marketability of the project you plan to develop. Then, note what you will gain. Most importantly, determine if you are excited about building it. While doing this, also make a prediction about how long the project will take.

Side projects don’t just mean creating your own products. It’s also possible to contribute to open sources as a side project. This not only allows you to meet and learn from other developers but also gives you the opportunity to gain new experiences.

How to Start a Side Project?

Start your side project with small and simple steps. If you have a big idea, try breaking it down into several simpler side projects. As you bring them to life, you'll have the opportunity to reuse and improve small pieces like codes and modules. Let your goal be to enjoy and learn as you start. Additionally, you can follow these steps when starting:

  • Do not neglect to create a schedule for your work. Organize some of your free time for the side project in this schedule. This way, you can work consistently and disciplined, and develop your project quickly.
  • Have goals, but don't let them overwhelm you. Start improving yourself with small steps. Dedicate some of your working hours for the side project entirely to learning.
  • Don't forget to take notes on everything new you learn. The main priority of a side project is to learn new things. Not defining and documenting this can prevent you from seeing your progress later.
  • Do not completely discard your failed projects. Keep them aside and review them occasionally. Old projects can inspire new ideas.
  • Think about what your personal goals are and focus on them. This way, a side project will become enjoyable for you. Since there are no stakeholders here, you can plan it freely.
  • Working on something new will be refreshing. However, if you put too much pressure on yourself to produce, you might lose your initial excitement and energy. Therefore, you should continue working without feeling pressured.

Every new side project you create serves as a work document for your skills. Often, the work you do for your company is private. Because it's private, you don't get many opportunities to show the world how good a developer you are. In such cases, a side project will be an indicator of your competencies. You only get accurate information and suggestions about the side project you developed when you share it. For these reasons, you should share it with your friends after developing it. At this point, you can use GitHub to make your project public. The more you share, the more you will know about the deficiencies and areas that need improvement.

Hackathons are competitions where developers can work to create something within 36-48 hours. If you're struggling to create a side project on your own, a hackathon can be a good source of motivation for you. Here, you have the opportunity to brainstorm and work with other developers to complete the project. You can follow the hackathon page to participate in these events. Here, your goal will be to turn side project ideas into code.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a side project?

A side project is work that you can develop and bring to life in addition to your main job. For developers, a side project often refers to hobby programming projects created alongside the main task.

How is a successful side project created?

You can create a successful side project by turning an idea that blends your interests and skills into reality. Start by making a list of your skills, then brainstorm with friends, followed by preparing an action plan and a schedule for the side project. Determining the technologies needed for your project is also a critical point for a successful side project. You can achieve success in your side project by properly planning what you need to learn and scheduling.

What are the benefits of side projects?

Portfolio building, growth potential, and the chance to acquire new skills and experiences are among the biggest benefits of side projects. Additionally, side projects also provide numerous contributions to developers both mentally and physically.

What are the requirements to participate in hackathon competitions?

Anyone interested in technology can participate in hackathon competitions. However, each competition requires different skills. You need to review the content of the specific competition for this.

How long is the Hiring Challenge?

Just like hackathons, the duration of hiring challenges you can participate in as a side project varies. You can select a suitable event on the hiring challenge page and review the competition duration.

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