A side project, also known as a passion project, is something you do in your spare time that acts as an outlet for your creativity. Side projects differ from hobbies in that they usually have a tangible output at the end, such as a manuscript or film. They’ve also been described as labors of love because there isn’t a profit to glean, at least initially.
Today, almost everyone has a side gig of some kind, from blogs and bands to homemade crafts and apps. The creative industry, especially, is filled with innovative minds that hope to one-day get their side projects off the ground.
If you happen to have a career that’s associated with your passion, consider yourself lucky. Many others need to supplement their side projects with a full-time job in order to fund their creative endeavors. Think of actors who shoot a commercial or take a small role in a blockbuster sequel so they can put their earning towards writing or directing an independent passion project. In other words, taking on these less fulfilling roles enables them to make films that matter to them.
The Benefits of a Side Project
A side project is the most fulfilling kind of work because you are spending time doing something you enjoy. It gives you satisfaction, keeps your creative wheels greased, and gives you some time to be yourself.
The benefits don’t stop there. Pursuing side projects has even been said to improve personal growth and development, and ward off depression. Exploring labors of love in your off-time can also make you a better employee because you have nurtured your own creativity, making you more productive, helpful, and less-stressed in the workplace.
So how do you juggle a full days’ work and still find time to pursue the things you love? Below are the ingredients for balancing your day job with your true calling, and how to keep your spark alive when it comes to doing the things you love in your spare time.
1. Time Management
Famous writers were known to set aside specific hours of the day to dedicate to their craft, whether it was late at night or early in the morning.
What did they all have in common? Consistency.
Schedule time to create, to photograph, to paint, or to design. It doesn’t have to be every day. It can be once a week if that is all you can feasibly do, so long as you stick to it.
Routinely working on “what moves you” is the surest way to develop a habit. Once you’ve got it engrained into your daily, weekly, or monthly schedule, it will feel like a natural exercise that gets easier overtime.
2. Pace Yourself
It’s tempting to want to shift your side gig into full-time status, but this can raise a few alarm bells if you haven’t thought it through.
First, is it financially wise to pursue a side project full-time? Probably not until you have enough experience and savings to quit your bread and butter and opt for dessert.
Secondly, have you thought about what working full-time on your passion project would entail? Would you know where to start? Or would you be filled with anxiety from the pressure you’ve put on yourself now that you are self-employed?
In any case, a side gig is cathartic and fulfilling for a reason. It is less risky because you have a day job to fall back on if it doesn’t work out. Be patient, build your project gradually, and don’t feel pressured to get it done too quickly. After all, you are the one setting the deadlines.
3. Stop Procrastination
Procrastination affects every artist, student, and worker at some point. The trick is to not let your guard down and make it a habit. This is especially prevalent for those working and creating on the side, where there may be a strong urge to want to watch Netflix rather than to sit at your desk and sketch or write.
Banish procrastination by adhering to your schedule, making a to-do list, and tuning out any distractions that could pull you away from what’s important.
Defining your goals and how to get there is another way to stave off procrastination. Keep a task list next to you while you work so you always have an agenda of ongoing priorities to bring your focus back when you feel your attention waning.
4. Be Proactive About Inspiration
All work and no play can cause a lack of inspiration. And because inspiration is often the root of motivation, it’s hard to have one without the other.
Working on what excites you might be enough to spark inspiration. If it isn’t, there are several ways to get inspired, including:
- Talking to other artists about their work or side projects
- Seeing, reading, hearing, or touching another artist’s work (books, art, film, concert, theatre, etc.)
- Creative exercises or prompts
- Taking a class
- Observing your surroundings
- Walking or other physical activities
5. Learn and Adjust
In addition to the benefits listed above, a side project helps you to learn about yourself and your craft. What you learn can be applied to your work to make it better, or even to adjust and change direction entirely. You have the luxury of being able to experiment.
Chipotle, Twitter, Craigslist, Harley Davidson, and even Facebook, all started out as side projects and turned into successful businesses because the creators adjusted their projects along the way by learning what works and what didn’t. If you hope to take your project to the next level, watch out for signs and if something is not clicking, pivot towards something that does.
6. Lean on Your Support Network
Between your full-time job and the time spent harnessing your creativity, what can you do to make sure you stay sane? Surrounding yourself with people you trust, respect, and love is the key ingredient to moving forward. A one man/one woman show can be an exhausting task without loved ones in the audience, at your poetry reading, or taking an interest in what you do, and most of all, rooting for you to succeed.
The people we confide in and spend time with can shape our perceptions of ourselves and our futures. Those who lift you up (or provide constructive feedback) are the types you want to have in your corner. If anyone pushes you otherwise, take a step back and think about whether they are really supporting what makes you happy. If not, they may not be a good choice for your book dedication.
Can you Have the Best of Both Worlds?
Not everyone can be a full-time artist without ending up as the down-and-out stereotype that every creative type works hard to prove wrong. Often, taking a day job to make a living is the only way to feed your creative expression on the side. In fact, if done right, your job and side project can fuel one another if you manage to strike a comfortable balance between them.
So next time you are feeling down about your day job or discouraged about your lack of creativity, think about a side project you would enjoy doing or remind yourself why you spend your spare time practicing, creating, and expressing yourself. Those who do not work hard or invest in their interests when they have the time will not reap the same rewards as those who do.
What is your side project? How do you stay motivated?