Side Projects – Building Your Professional Playground

I come from a school where everyone has it in them to be an entrepreneur. Though my journey to self-employment consisted of quitting my full-time job before even opening the bar, paying my personal bills out of the change jars I amassed through years of bartending.

As I lived in my in-laws basement for almost 3 years while our business grew, I can fully understand why someone wouldn’t want to jump in head first like that, especially if you have a career you enjoy, serious debt, or you just plain don’t want to be a basement dweller for any period of time. .

That’s where side projects come in. The good news is, as a blogger, unless you specifically blog as your career, you are already indulging in a side project. Even if you aren’t making money, taking the time to actually work on something outside of the realm of your assigned daily routine is essentially what a side project is all about.

Whether you offer an actual product, be it crafting, making cupcakes, or selling upcycled goods, or offering a service such as personal training, website design, or music lessons – anything that puts your talents to good use is fair game for a side project.

Side projects can even be nonprofit endeavors, organizing charity events, or offering tutoring to students in a subject you’re proficient in. As long as you are dedicating some of your personal time to doing something outside of your full-time work world, side project possibilities are endless.

The best thing about side projects, in my opinion, is that they are fun. Sure they can feel like work at times, but having the opportunity to deeply explore something you love doing or feel passionately about makes it worth it. Another nice thing is the lack of pressure to “succeed” that comes along with full-time entrepreneurialism.

Although you want to see your side-project thrive, you won’t lose everything in your life if it doesn’t. Worst case scenario, you start back at square one. Best case scenario – you build something that turns into a startup and kiss your days of working for the man goodbye. Check also my post on leadership skills

My current side project is participating in a recruitment and retention team through our local chamber of commerce. Once a month we meet and discuss ways we can help local businesses thrive, bring new businesses into town, and improve our community as a whole.

This is really fun for me, I’m not going to lie. I get to help uplift other entrepreneurs and plan fun events. Our current “big project” is initiating a First Friday program downtown, where retailers extend their normal hours to target new customers and create a “nightlife” scene.

We kick-off in 2014 with a community scavenger hunt which will be judged via social media. Not only are we bringing new customers into shops, but we are helping them start and promote their Twitter and Instagram following. Win-win for everyone.

Today a fellow committee member and myself hit the streets to talk to local business owners and inform them about the event. The reception was huge, most were really excited to get on board and participate. It’s definitely an exciting and rewarding experience for me to see my “side project” (as well as the other committee members project) take flight, and elicit such a positive response from my peers in business.

You can start working on a side project today… Right now. Write down some ideas, and start moving on them. The beauty of a side project is that you can put as much or as little effort into them as you wish, based on your resources and time constraints. You can dabble in something totally unrelated to your current career, or expand on your current skill set, taking your job to another level.

If this sounds interesting to you, here are some other great articles on starting side projects. Francisco Saez writes about the benefits of taking on a side project, including enhancing your creativity and polishing your professional skills.

John Saddington writes about real-life examples of how side projects can become full-time profitable ventures, citing Evan Williams experience with Blogger and Twitter. This tongue in cheek article from Elite Daily is a kick in the ass if you are on the fence about a little side hustle.

I cannot emphasize enough how rewarding it is building something with your own two hands, or with a team of people who all have the same common goal. Having a side project opens up your life and your mind to so many opportunities, and I want to see everyone I know find the success and joy that I do in executing such things. If you could start any side project right now, what would it be? What’s stopping you?