Side project not side product

The Side Project Accelerator is a confusing name for a lot of people because they assume that a side project is a product, and assume that in the SPA they will learn how to build that product.

But that’s not what we do. We don’t teach anything related to design, or web development, or how to build products whatsoever.

Sounds crazy right? If you had asked me five years ago what I thought about it, I would have agreed.

But that was before I realized that a side project does not have to be a single product. In fact, a side project can be a series of coordinated efforts that build off of each other in order to achieve your vision of success.

Five years ago I didn’t know exactly what I wanted to build, but I knew that I wanted to make something that could earn passive income and enable me to have creative and financial freedom in my life.

I tried building several products. I made a platform for travelers on a budget, a site that found track listings for electronic music sets, a project management app that automatically created a resume from your work, a chrome extension to help you stay focused, and a WhatsApp bot that could send you daily updates.

I went on a productivity tear. I worked my ass off, and with each new product I crossed my fingers and hoped that this would be the one to make it. Yet each product met the same fate, eventually fizzling out and leaving me in the same exact position that I was in before — with no more money, no more influence, and no new asset that I could use to increase the chances of success for my next product.

I looked for ways to change that, and I tried to think how I could mitigate my risks. Until then my “side projects” were very linear. I’d start one, work on it for a while, end it, then start a new one. There was no overlap between the products I built and they didn’t benefit each other.

The only common trait between all of these things was that I was the one building them. And then I realized, that’s it! I could be the thing that connects these products. I built products to solve my problems, and I knew that there were other people like me, interested in similar stuff, and with similar problems. If I made my users aware of who I was and that it was me building these products, I could create a bridge between them and make sure that with each new product I would gain some valuable asset that would carry over to the next one.

I did this with Hacking UI. I created both technical and information products, at the same time. It wasn’t that I was working on 5 side projects at once. I was working on one side project that was made up of several products, such as a blog, a newsletter, an SVG exporter for Photoshop, a curated resource collection, an accelerator program and a podcast.

With each new product, I was able to use the other ones to support it and help it get off the ground faster. When I launched the SVG exporter, it was downloaded thousands of times because of the blog and newsletter, when I launched the podcast the very first episode had more than 2,000 listens and when I launched the accelerator 15 members immediately filled the first batch.

I only had a fixed amount of time each week to work on the side, so I wanted to make the most out of it. By working on everything as one connected side project rather than a series of unrelated products, I maximized the potential of each new thing that I did.

Now each of these products bring in passive income and allowed me to quit my job and take a gigantic leap in the direction of creative and financial freedom that I so badly desired.

This isn’t the path for everyone. In order to build this type of network between products, media and a personal brand, you have to like creating content, you have to be open to sharing, and it really helps if you have a passion for teaching. Lots of people don’t want anything to do with something like this, but for those can handle those things, working on a side project instead of a side product is an excellent method that guarantees improvement and produces results.

If you’re interested in learning more, I’m hosting a few free webinars about how to start building your personal brand and how to start writing.

David Tintner is the co-founder of Hacking UI, and the co-creator of The Side Project Accelerator. He’s also in the middle of a 30-day writing challenge, and this is article #19. If you enjoyed this article hit that 💚 to let him know that he should write more.