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Matthew Collison for Skill Pathway

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4 Practical Reasons You Should Start a Passion Project

We’ve spotted an interesting pattern in our DM’s recently. Developers seem to find it really hard to stick to a project long term and not get burnt out, bored or doubtful that it could ever become something.

The pattern isn’t the subject of the message, but their response to this question: “Why did you start the project?”

The most common answer looks something like this.

I’m looking to make some passive income

While being a developer is one of those weird professions that allows us to build anything, its really impractical to go into a project looking to just make some side income. The amount of work involved is generally WAY more than we expect, from marketing, polishing, support and patches.

It’s all too easy to get overwhelmed before we even get a few weeks into projects like these. Overwhelmed by boredom, fear that no one will buy, fear that no one needs it, not wanting to put our name on something we don’t care about.

Enter the Passion Project

While a passion project isn’t going to solve any money troubles, if you’re someone that finds it hard to stick to projects long term, you’re probably more likely to make money this way anyway - in the form of sponsorships, partnership and monetisation opportunities thanks to the fact you can actually stick to it long term.

Here are our 4 practical reasons why you should start a passion project:

1) You don’t need to motivate yourself, it motivates you

If you work on something you’re truly passionate about, it will give you motivation, instead of you needing to constantly push yourself.

With “Side Hustles”’ that don’t really relate to anything we have a genuine fire for, rather than it motivating us, we have to push ourselves daily to keep working on it - and for most of us, this isn’t sustainable.

2) You’ll experience less burnout, as passion gives us energy

This is similar to the last point - but it’s really important to understand how burnout proof a true passion project is.

Think about those times you feel burnt out - other than reverting back to basic human needs, usually there’s something you’re passionate about that you’ll be craving to go do instead of that thing you need to do.

During this period of burnout, maybe you’re the type of person browse the Pokemon subreddit - perhaps you’re browsing pictures of rescue dogs on Facebook - whatever it is, it’s the thing you do when you’re burnt out. By definition it can’t burn you out.

Embed this passion (which some might call procrastination) into a practical development project, and you’re going to find burnout is drastically reduced or practically non-existent.

3) You can start to properly think long-term, as passions are life-long

When our focus is money, fame or something along those lines, we tend to want to get there as quick as humanely possible. Usually because the road we pick to those things is something we’re not passionate about and we want to stop needing to work on it, and we’re desperate to get that fix as soon as possible.

This is conducive to short-term thinking and (not surprisingly) counter-intuitive to your money or fame goals. There are (practically) no “overnight successes” - these types of people generally worked their backsides off for years before a chain reaction of events happened to give them what they needed.

And you need to be in the mindset of years, even decades - not months - if you want to make any real money. And the most practical way to do that is to tie it into a passion project. And who cares how long it takes - you love working on it! What if it fails in the first year? Rebuild it! Pivot the business to a completely different model.

You’re no longer desperate to get it over and done with, so enjoy the process - this is how winners are made.

4) You’ll build something you’re actually proud to put your name on

It’s really cool when you build something you can actually be proud of and want to tell everyone about - when it’s not a money making scheme or something you’re doing for alternative reasons, you’ll feel much more comfortable and proud of the product you’ve created.

It also gives you the opportunity to team up with others who have a similar passion who also buy into your idea - double awesomeness.

What’s your passion project?

Tell us, what do you think your passion project could be - or what is it if you already have one? We’d love to know if you have a similar experience to the one we’re describing.

Skill Pathway is our passion project - it’s the same reason we put out a volume of content without any expectation in return, and in 10 years time we’ll still be loving the process of helping others.

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Top comments (3)

nicolaigj profile image
Nicolai Gjellestad

Passion projects are the way to go, but I think this post oversimplify passion. Even though you are passionate about a project, it still requires a fair amount of motivation to stick to it over time. Passion involves a fair amount of grit, to not give up your long time goal just because you hit a rough patch.

This post states "Embed this passion (which some might call procrastination) into a practical development project". Procrastination is giving up long time goals for short time gratification, so you cannot really turn procrastination activities into a development project. When creating an app for surfing pictures of rescued dogs, you are likely to procrastinate by surfing pictures of dogs rather than creating the app itself.

I totally agree with the overall statement of the post, but in reality it is not that simple, and people need to realize this and be prepared for it to overcome the challenges in a passion project.

matthew_collison profile image
Matthew Collison • Edited

Really appreciate this comment Nicolai, thank you so much for posting.

You’re right in that this does oversimplify things a lot - there’s going to be so many variables as to how determined and driven you are, not to mention your own mental state that affects these things too.

Self-awareness is key here really - you need to be able to work on something you’re passionate about and equally know all the things you’re getting yourself into.

For us, it was so clear as every project before we had before this ended up in the “unfinished” pile, but working on this has been completely self driven (for 2+ years now mind you)

We also want to mention that we understand oversimplification isn’t completely helpful, we try and pull in both directions with these sorts of things because there’s always 2 sides to the coin - check our other post 3 Actionable Tips To Avoid Abandoned, Unfinished Projects to see what we would consider that flip side.

Thanks again for the balanced perspective Nicolai! Always appreciated

jeansmaug profile image

👋 Hi
All I read here is true.
I'm currently building a passion project Condorcet
It's about mathematics of voting systems.

And I would like to add, you can use this kind of project to make articles and conferences about it. A passion project is an opportunity to share your subject and how you've done it.

Also it offer the possibility to experiments a lots of technologies. In my case I wanted to discover Vue.js, now it's my favorite front end framework. I improved my knowledge of Firebase. I discovered Tailwind, Cypress, CircleCI...

I'm still motivated, but I think one day I'll need help from other developers. Well, we'll see

In short, passions projects are GREATS !
Thanks for you're post