Starting a side project can feel like growing a new limb for the first time and expecting perfection. Before even buying the pen to put onto paper, your unborn side project already cultivates concerns over the permanent mark it will leave on your life. This is how I used to feel starting my side projects. A galloping fear that went on for way too long. A healthy mix of age and experience demonstrated that best way to start any side project was to simply… chill out.
This is counter intuitive, but who doesn’t love such a discussion these days? Let’s consider the grand plan of your work life. Your day job, I assume, navigates around results. These lead to and generate from other’s results. The structure exists to make sure one gear fits with the other five thousand in the same vehicle. Your side project however is more of a bicycle then corporate machine. Now, it might be the most badass bicycle ever, but it is a simple operation in comparison.
Mirroring a 9-5 result cycle will inevitably make your side project feeling like, well, a job. Look - this is one of the rare, special, write-home-to-your-mom opportunities you can be a boss, manager, assistant and intern without worrying about payroll. Now your side project can definitely lead to a business, and payroll, but there is more to figure out before that point. And it starts with you.
Intimidating, I know.
Much of the side project experience is confronting yourself. You need to know what works - and doesn’t work - for you. To illustrate, my second blog 103Weeks, documenting my first two years in the Netherlands, had a very definitive structure. Each week included two photography posts and one written post. I needed those little goals per week to keep motivated during my blog’s two year course. A little trial and error coupled with my own research around how to get things done shaped this approach. You can learn from other’s ways, but ultimately it needs to be self-tailored.
If the side project is something you completely believe in, then your life will inevitable shift to explore it. Consider your schedule as a closet with only so much space. This means extracurricular activities and time spenders will either be cut down or eliminated to add something new. When I started writing for GLAMCULT, for example, designated weekends and weeknights were reserved for writing and researching. Now, this can seem unrelaxing, anti-social or tiring. And at some points, it is. View a side project as a golden opportunity to test your life balance to see if there is a better equilibrium.
Don’t be afraid to build your own canoe while in the water. You can make the needed adjustments underway. Use whatever tools you have now at your disposal. Do you only have an apartment floor, pair of scissors and want to make an entire apparel line? As a former art school student, I have seen an impressive amount of items, from dyed fabrics to furniture, built in dorm rooms with limited materials. Go out there and get your side project started. It’s your chance to just be you, and a better you at that.