Many times, as I asked other attendees what they were working on, the answer went like
“Well, I currently work on a very boring stack made of old and well-proof technologies, but I hope that my hierarchy will change that one day”.
I suddenly realized how lucky I am to work on such an amazing stack at Kuzzle.io, within such a great team fostering communication, benevolence and leanness. I don’t believe in “the job of your life” but it kinda seems the job I’ve been looking for during a lot of time.
I asked myself why I had the chance to have all this and why so many amazing people I met at the conference had not. I came to the conclusion that my side projects helped me a lot to steer my career.
You are the hierarchy
Sure your hierarchy will evolve one day, but they will do it once these technologies become old.
Teams that work with old technologies won’t change for the sake of hype.
Either you pull the new things in, either you quit the job. In both cases, you need to practice with the tools, not only know something about them.
Do your thing
You are curious. You are a developer. You have superpowers. So you should definitely do it.
A side project may not be profitable in the short term, many products take years to become profitable , but a side project has other benefits:
- you’ll be practicing with tools, technologies, methods and things you’re not used to. You’ll learn something.
- You’ll have the proof of what you’ve learnt (most of the time you’ll have something to show), which becomes particularly handy on job interviews: eventually, your side project will help you land the job you were looking for (that is what actually has happened to me).
- You’ll be happy. Even if you made no money, even if you landed no job. There is nothing more fulfilling than doing your thing.
Let’s face the idea that tickles you most and show the world what you’re capable of: most likely you will surprise yourself.
Do something useful
You are a developer, you love technology. You want to play with it. So remember that technology is made to help people.
Don’t just make up a dummy project just to try out the new stack you dream about. Think product. To keep things simple, you can start from a narrow scope: do something useful for you. Find a pain point in your life and imagine if an application can help you out.
It may be useful to nobody else but you: hey, it’s OK! You’re not Google. It’s a side project :)
You will likely have few resources to play with, so don’t run to the top too quickly. Your side project is not meant to save the world.
Everything starts from the v1.0 and, most of the time, the v1.0 definitely sucks.
But it’s ok. Google and Apple have the resources to release a stunning v1.0 that hit the ground and revolutionize our lives. You don’t. Neither I.
Think MVP. Divide and conquer. Cut your process into small chunks and do it little by little. Be patient. I have never really finished a side-project. Products are never “done”.
You’ll need time: find some. You may have to give up certain things: if you’re looking for a job, maybe you can try to
spend less time applying for jobs and get some time to do your thing.
If you have a job, maybe you can try talking to your boss about your project and get a week off. If you have a family, maybe you should talk to them, and tell them you want to do it because it will make you happy.
Maybe you’ll have to give up hanging out for a little bit.
But don’t go too far. Don’t harm yourself neither the people around you. Your boss has the right to refuse your week off because you signed a contract. Your family has the right to need you close to them. Your friends too. Play with your cards, everybody plays with a different set.
Generally, I don’t think you should spend too much money on side projects. But, sometimes, you may need a bit in order to support it. This is usually difficult to obtain, but there are some ways to get some.
Disclaimer: these are totally dummy advices. Finding money is a full-time job and a real skill on its own. I’m definitely not the best at it.
- Earn some. If you have a job, well… Earn some money. Ok… I said my advices were dummy.
- Ask some. Those who are good at finding money use to ask for it (to their family, to the crowd, to investors). Not an easy task. But this leads you to pitch your idea, which is a great thing. Pitching your idea will help you get confident with it, challenge it, sell it, analyze its real benefits. You’ll probably need to write about it, which is like pitching.
Funding an idea can be really challenging. And slow. And depressing. And many times it won’t be really necessary at the early stages of your side project.
If you need a lot of money to start, consider reviewing the early stages of your project. AirBnb started with nothing.
I’m not saying it’s going to be easy. I’m not saying you should sacrifice everything you have.
I think you should definitely not give up.
But, sometimes, you also need to be able to recognize that some ideas are just not viable. Which doesn’t mean that those are bad ideas.
Many times, good ideas are not adapted to the ground they land on.
But hey, it’s OK! You’re not Google. It’s a side project :)