Why work on side-projects?

05 Jun 2014 — By Marc — In about

Have you ever tried learning a new language or technology simply by reading and completing exercises? It may seem to work at first … but you’re very likely to forget everything in a month or so.

The problem is you’re only scratching the surface by working on trivial problems. You’re skipping over some important details that require deeper thinking on your own. You need to bang your head on the keyboard, let your brain boil a little, push your limits to improve and wrap your head around new things. The best way to do that is to get your hands dirty and build side-projects from scratch.

Working on side-projects

Side-projects are projects you work on part time, on the side, for fun. You can have several ones. Some on hold, some active. It doesn’t matter if you complete them or not. What mater is that they help you discover new approaches, techniques or technologies. They can serve several purposes:

  • If you’re looking to get a better or first programming job. You can use the projects on your portfolio.

  • If you’ve lost your passion for coding because of your day job. Then projects can give you something fun to work on the side.

  • If you’re now in a management position but still want to stay in the game.

  • If you just want to learn new technologies and languages. Projects are perfect for this! It gives you a chance to learn while doing.

  • If you want to work with other passionate programmers. You can team up on projects or just share your progress in the forum.

  • If you’re looking to get into open source and create a popular project. Creating a bunch of projects is a good way to achieve this, you’ll probably end up with something cool someday.

Personally, I’ve experienced all of these throughout my career and having a project on the side was always what made me happy and helped me progress. As an example, my project Thin got me many job offers, made me travel the world, meet incredible people and helped me build a business.

More creating, less consuming

Creating your first few side-projects is hard. Why so? Because we’re used to consuming libraries, frameworks, resources, tutorials and finding pre-made solution on StackOverflow. Jumping the fence to the other side, by producing, creating from scratch, is hard. It’s normal to feel lost at first and even feel that your projects are pointless.

But creation is never pointless. It can teach you a few lessons at worst. And improve the life of many at best.

Creating a side-project is art. You’re expressing yourself! You’re telling the world: this is how I see things working.

Some of your projects might gain traction and stay around for a little while. They might get a life of their own. Inspire others to create other things.

By creating projects, you’re making your dent in the universe.

What do you say? Ready to make a dent in the universe?

- Marc