Why creatives must have side projects

If you are going to be a freelancer for a living, it is essential that you have a side project.

It is not a maybe, it is a must have.

Side projects are what fuel your creative energy, allow you to practice your skills, and will ultimately become the the primary projects that shape the course of your life.

My goal with this post is to share with you the reasons why every creative must have a side project


Side projects can change your life

At one point, Facebook was once a side project for Mark Zuckerburg. 

The Accidental Creative was once a side project for Todd Henry. 

The Four Hour Work Week was once a side project for Tim Ferriss.

Stencil art was once a side project for Shepard Fairey

Every great creative career starts as a side project.  It starts as something the creative is so passionate about that they are willing to continue to produce it while working a day job to pay the bills. 

Side projects have the ability to completely shape your life, launch your career and move you one step closer to realizing your dreams. 

You can't wait for your golden opportunity to pursue your dream full time. You must start it on the side and it creates value for others, it will eventually provide and enable you to pursue the project full time.


Side projects give you complete creative control

Often with paid clients, it is hard to be as creative as you would like. You are always limited by the feedback, direction and instruction that the client gives you. While the occasional client that gives you free reign does come along every now and then, it is a rarity and you cant always rely on paid work for a creative outlet.

With your personal side project, you have complete creative control. You are the captain of the ship and you make every decision about where this project goes.

You can choose what the project is, what skills you will be using and practicing and what the goal of the project is.

When you control the project, you can be as creative as you would like. 

You have a blank canvas so paint away.


Side projects are fun

Lets face it, despite how much you may love your clients, you don't wake up everyday looking forward to doing work for them.

When you get drained from your paid work, then you can refocus your energy on your side project.

It is fun, it is entertaining and you can create the experience to be exactly what you want it to be.

Use your creative project as a way to recharge, as a way to motivate you to keep going.


Side projects can make an impact

Doing work for clients is nice, occasionally they may have a positive message to bring into the world and you can help them do that.

Yet the impact you have with client work is always limited by one factor, the client.

When you work on your own, you can sculpt your project to be the change that you want to see in the world.

You can use your project to broadcast a message into the world, raise money for a good cause, or to create a social movement.

When Chris Guillebeau began writing, he told his friends that he wasn't just starting to write a blog, he was starting a social movement.

He has succeeded.

Chris's books The Art of Non-Conformity and The $100 Startup have sent an entire generation off into an entrepreneurial pursuit of world travel, adventure and living non-traditional lifestyles. 

Chris didn't just write a book, he created the change that he wanted to see in the world.

Side projects have the potential to change lives and make an impact. 

The key is to be intentional with the impact that you are seeking to create.


Side Projects can land you your next client or job

Whenever you work on a side project, you are creating a portfolio piece and something that you can point to for years to come. 

These portfolio pieces can help land your next client, or your next job.

Tina Roth Eisenberg, aka Swissmiss runs four large creative businesses. 

What does Tina look for when hiring new employees?

She asks "What are your side projects?"

Side projects show initiative, they show drive, the are the sign of a self-starter.

When a creative has side projects, it shows that they aren't just an order taker looking for a job, it shows that they want to create meaningful things. 

On a personal level, I can't even begin to describe the number of new clients or opportunities that have arisen over the past year as a result of my blogging, podcasting and art. 

Clients see my blog and it gives them the faith to hire me.

Friends see what I am doing and refer me to someone else.

When you start side projects, you are giving people a framework to talk about you in. 

Instead of just saying "Jake is a web designer" they say "Jake has this cool blog, you should totally check it out"

When you start a side project, you can't even begin to predict the outcomes, but it can completely change your life.


The bottom line

Don't sit around and wait for the perfect opportunity to start that project you have always dreamed of.

Instead, dive in and start working on the creative project that will completely change your life. 

If you need some help along the way, Grant Spanier and I have put together a Skillshare course called GO+DO : Start a Creative Project that Matters.

In the course, we take you through the whole process of coming up with ideas for projects, deciding on an idea, getting started and shipping the project.

Sign up for GO+DO : Start a creative project that matters