Almost everyone I know has an idea they dream about turning into a business. But having the idea is the easy part. Having the guts to take a chance and make a side gig happen is the tough bit. But the rewards can be huge.
If you’ve decided to go for it you can either:
- Quit your job and commit 100% to running your project.
- Develop your idea as a side project working full time. You’ll have a steady income and keep in touch with like-minded people who can help you achieve your dream.
Both of these options are exciting and if things go well option 2 will lead to option 1. Just make sure if you’re staying in your job, you aren’t breaching any contracts you have signed with your employer. And remember to keep them separate – the side project is your own work not your employers.
Turn a side project into your main gig and change the world
Some of the most successful businesses in the world started out this way, founded by brave people who weren’t always 100% confident they’d succeed but took the leap anyway. Look at some of the companies they’ve built:
- Twitter – created during a company hackathon and now a global communication phenomenon.
- Instagram – a small side-project for the founders that signed up over 25,000 people on day one.
- Buffer – founded by a full-time web developer who built a two-page site to test if there was demand for his idea.
- Imgur – created by a student who couldn’t find a good resource for image hosting on Reddit.
- HubSpot – started life as a little blog while the founder chased other dreams.
- Slack – created as an internal tool at the founder’s company and became the fastest startup to hit a billion dollar valuation.
- Airbnb – started by two designers who couldn’t afford their rent and wanted to turn their loft into a lodging space.
Your venture might not make you a billionaire business owner, but everyone who pursues their entrepreneurial dream shares some of the same spirit, a mix of fearlessness, creativity, multi-tasking brilliance and hustling skills. Not to mention a dash of crazy and a squeeze of passion.
But it’s not for the fainthearted. A study by Allmund Law found that 90% of all startups fail. You’ll experience highs and lows and should be prepared to go on a high speed learning journey. Sahil Lavingia, who dropped out of university aged 19 and left his position as the first designer hired at Pinterest to focus on Gumroad, says: “Don’t be afraid to bite off what you don’t know you can chew. You’ll learn to chew it.”
Remember that every failure is a valuable experience that’ll help improve your next venture. It’s how you bounce back that counts.
How to kick start your project and make it more than a hobby
Solve a problem. Firstly create a product that you wish someone would create for you. What would make your life, and the lives of others similar to you, easier? If your product answers a genuine question, you’re probably onto winner.
Pitch it to others. Don’t keep your idea a secret – master how you talk about it by pitching it to people you trust. This will help clarify what your product is in your own mind and involve others in the journey.
Take on advice and collaborate. Listen to those people you take on your journey. Without them you won’t know if your idea is a goer, be open to their constructive feedback and advice.
Stay motivated and focused. You’re on a tough road. You’ll hit obstacles and could end up going in an unexpected direction (which is often a good thing). You need to be persistent, but also know if and when to call it a day – that’s when listening to others helps. Your side project will also eat up your time and money, so work out how you’ll manage this before diving in.
Find enjoyment. Facebook’s product design vice president Julie Zhou says: “Side projects work best when they live at the interaction of ‘things you enjoy’ and ‘things that help you practice a marketable skill’.” The more you enjoy what you do the more likely you are to stick at it and succeed.
If that’s inspired you to launch your own project, good luck! It could be the best decision you ever make.
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