I've been working on my side project ippy.io a fair bit recently, and have made good progress on it. I'm happy with the functionality, and it's now available online for people to use.
For me, this is a success - but I've worked on a lot of other side projects over the last few years - and none of the rest have ever reached this point. They've always either just fizzled out, or I've become distracted by some new idea and moved on.
I've been thinking about why I've had so much trouble sticking with side projects in the past, and the changes in attitude that I think have helped me overcome this.
I posted about this on twitter yesterday, in the form of a (long) tweet thread. I've unrolled it below for ease of consumption. Enjoy!
Harrison Reid@harrison_g_reid✨How to start and finish a side project (a twitter thread)✨
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years working on a whole bunch of different side projects. Precisely one (1) has reached a point that I’m happy with. My github is a graveyard where side projects go to die.03:36 AM - 26 Apr 2020
I’ve spent a lot of time over the last few years working on a whole bunch of different side projects. Precisely one (1) has reached a point that I’m happy with. My GitHub is a graveyard where side projects go to die.
I suspect I’m not alone here - a lot of people seem to find finishing their side projects really hard.
So, how do you make it easier?
I’ve been thinking about this, particularly in the context of trying to build a project that makes money. These are those thoughts 🤔...
It’s easy to get stuck before you start. You can spend months in a purgatory of ideation - dreaming up the next big thing, and the next! But if all you have are ideas, then you don't really have anything.
What’s more, a project doesn’t need the potential to be the "Uber of X", or the "AirBnB of Y" to be worthy of your time. You don't need to put a dent in the universe. It’s a perfectly valid to take something that already exists in the world and try to make it better.
Focus less on disruption, and more on distillation. Work to find the best in existing solutions, and cut away the bad. Less revolution, more refinement.
With that in mind, here’s a 3 step process to find your next side project!
Google around for products that exist in a space that you find interesting.
Find a successful product where you think - "Yeah, I could build this".
Don’t steal the design, don’t steal the code, don’t steal the copy. But by all means begin by replicating functionality. Then, improve it. Build a more intuitive UI. Serve a different niche. Make it faster. Make it cheaper.
Being original is overrated. Google wasn't the first search engine. McDonalds wasn't the first hamburger joint. Facebook wasn't the first social network.
In reality, the original is almost never the best. So don't put so much focus on being original - focus on being the best!
If you believe in the 80/20 rule, then you can expect 80% of progress on a project to come from 20% of the time spent on it. I don’t know how accurate that is, but I can say for sure that productivity comes in waves.
So don’t stress the days that you feel like you’re getting nowhere. It’s okay to step away from the computer for a while. Take the day off. Take the week! If you're not feeling it, you're not feeling it. All you're likely to gain by pushing on is a bad mood.
Overwork is a sure fire way to kill off your excitement and motivation. When it does, it’s only a matter of time before some new, shiny idea pops into your head. You chase the excitement of the fresh idea. The old project is soon forgotten, and the cycle continues.
Just aim for consistent progress over time, and don’t sacrifice your sanity for the sake of a side project.
If your end goal is to create a business that generates income over the long term, then you should probably stop thinking in terms of “finishing”. In this context, being finished probably means your product failed.
Take a long view. Accept up front that you’ll be working on this project for many months. It makes it easier to step back for a while when you need a break, and to resist the pesky new ideas that pop up to distract you.
I’m not saying you can’t move on from a project if it’s just not working out. But you want to be able to look back on it with at least a little pride, knowing that you actually gave it a good shot. This requires a long term approach.
If you liked this post, follow me on twitter!. I'll be posting about my experiences building ippy.io, and my ongoing attempts to find it some users 😉