Seven Creative Benefits of Working on Side Projects

Recently I’ve been hearing more about other creatives’ side projects. A side project is a small, usually personal, project one takes on in spare time. Among designers and developers this is becoming more and more popular.

People do it for various reason, as a way to demonstrate their skills and help their resumes or to do something fun on their off hour. Whatever the reason for doing it, there are a number of benefits that come out of working on a side project nonetheless. I was able to come up with at least seven of them. (Though out this post I will share photos of side projects from various creatives.)

Learning a New Skill

Like I’ve said, there are numerous benefits of working on side projects. But, the number one reason you should pursue a side project is for it’s learning opportunities. Whether you take up a side project related to your career – a developer programming in a new language – or something totally irrelevant to it – a developer learning how to knit – you will learn something. Even if you take up a side project in something you already know you will at least further refine your current skills. Most importantly, working and doing will help you gain experience and that is how you learn my friend.

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Growing Confidence

If you do happen to work on a side project that is relevant to your career you will grow in confidence in your skills. It’s hard sometimes to have full creative freedom at a job; so it’s nice to express it elsewhere. When your refine your current skills or gain new ones you will notice that your day job will be come easier. Heck, you may even become so much better at it that you will advance. As you learn you will naturally become more convertible with your skills. When you become more comfortable with your own skill set, no matter how elementary, you will become more confident too. It’s an interesting side effect you often see in others who pursue hobbies or side projects; I’ve seen it in myself too.

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Learn About Yourself

A side project is a great experience and opportunity to learn about yourself. This can be done in many ways. For instance, you may explore new areas that you haven’t had the chance to before. If you are pursuing a side project that is in a topic new to you, you will learn whether or not you enjoy such activity. For me, I fell in love with kickboxing a year ago as a hobby; for you, you may fall in love with basket weaving. Or, you may hate it. Either way, you will learn something new about yourself by trying new things. Although this example is very simplified the idea holds true in more detailed setting. Maybe you’ll enjoy coding in C++ or solving for crazy logical riddles, I don’t know.

Additionally, by pursuing a side project you will become enlightened. You most likely won’t find the meaning of life but you will learn thing about yourself that are totally irrelevant to the craft you’re under taking simply because you are doing something different. Human mind works in a weird way where new ideas are created and explored when our routines are broken. A small side project will get your mind going.

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Exploring Your Own Curiosity

One of the best things about side projects is the ability to satisfy your own curiosity. This is an opportunity for you to explore things new to you. Have you ever wondered how hard it is to do bartending tricks? Have you ever wondered what it’s like a to do a full day hackathon? A side project is great excuse to try something different; the more out of the ordinary for you the better! Like I’ve said, a side project is a create place to explore and learn new things. Satisfy your curiosities no matter how big or small just so you can finally know!

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Creative Freedom

While your exploring a side project you have the ability to also explore your creativity. Because a side project is usually a personal project just for you – or at least so it should be – you will have the ability to work on anything you want and do it however you wish. We don’t have this ability at work as we have bosses and clients to please, deadlines to meet and budgets to keep. When working on a side project you can fail as many times as you want, do as little iterations as you want or take risks your day job won’t allow you. A side project is your own little baby to which you can do whatever you please; the only one you have to answer is you. So please, take the opportunity of a side project to unleash your creative freedoms and reach deep into your creative potential.

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Creating Connections

I find it very interesting when people share their side projects on social media. It’ always nice to hear what people are currently working on in their spare time. Side projects are great because they actually bring people together. It’s easy to ask people for opinion or for help and they are always willing to check out the problem at hand. It’s a nice conversation starter as well. All in all, the design community has a very good response to side projects form what I’ve seen. There are some projects I know about that started as a one man show, so to speak, and turned into a multi-person collaboration (like Icon Jar).

If you have a project in mind it’s also nice to ask other people to join in. You don’t have to collaborate on the whole thing with anyone but on certain bits and pieces it could simple be fun. You will meet new people or make closer friends this way. Either way, side projects lead to new connections for sure.

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A Better Resume

One last perk of working on side projects is that they can improve your resume. In this industry, side projects can sometimes be the only things you can show to hiring managers if you’ve previously signed NDAs and if the work you’ve done hasn’t been published online yet. Additionally, side projects are a positive indicator of your skills and the fact you like to expand your skills out side of your job. Hiring managers just love to hear about these kind of projects; they help you stand out form the crowd and show you off in a great light. Side projects can also become super successful, so you never know 🙂

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Paula Borowska
Paula Borowska
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