DO YOU HAVE A SIDE PROJECT? DON’T BE AFRAID TO SHOW IT! (EN)


I dedicate today’s blog to all side jobs, side projects, pilot experiments … in short, it is about all projects that we engage in during the evenings, on the weekends, i.e. after the work that pays our bills … Let’s have a look at what such work brings us, what benefits we can gain from such activities, and why this phenomenon of ever increasing importance is on today’s labor market.

(20 min reading, mp3 version here)

I believe that at the end of my tale each of you will find within you the motivation and specific inspiration for taking on something similarly on-the-side during your current profession whether you are a freelancer, a new employee, or an experienced corporate manager, or even if you are directing your own NGO! 10 out of 10 career coaches even recommend creating your own side project.

Let’s start with some light terminology (so that it’s clear) in the Czech language there is no formally accepted expression for what is called a “side project” in English, though we do have some slightly pejorative expressions (bokovka, vedlejšák). The term “side project” is used in Czech, for example among musicians, or these days it is used even more among IT developers (you will find many inspiring links to this topic, just google it). In Spanish, the term “proyecto parallel” is used and, in my opinion, is even more fitting.

Nevertheless, I will continue to use the not-too-pretty English expression “side project” – so I kindly ask linguistic purists for tolerance. In any case, I welcome all suggestions for better translations.

So what is this “side project” exactly?

As I hinted at in the introduction, it is an activity that we engage in concurrently with our current job. It can be an experiment within the scope of your current work to see if you will save time, it may be done using time your boss has directly dedicated for these experiments (we are all probably aware of the famous yet controversial 20% in the Google office). Alternatively, it is something that we are doing by ourselves, completely voluntarily, after work, after school, outside of your current core business. At the same time, it is something that, as a rule, we can’t get out of our heads because it is simply and purely founded on our basic need to create, experiement, and investigate; it is something founded on our passions, interests, and skills.

How then does our side project differ from a mere hobby or education?

In short, it has the parameters of a project, i.e. we are not doing the activity randomly or just trying something without a target. But we have in our heads (and then ideally also on paper or in a project tool) an idea about its concrete results, the steps which lead to them, a timetable, expenditures (of time, people, and finances).

WHERE TO GET AN IDEA FOR A SIDE PROJECT

To be specific so that we can imagine the extent and variability of projects of this kind, I offer here a couple of tips from working with my clients, colleagues, and friends:

  • Janet is a teacher who wrote the book Loving for Those in Love.

  • Originally a shop assistant, Lucie is passionate about second-hand clothing and sustainable fashion, so she started creating workshops for producing recycled bags and backpacks called Relu

  • Tomas, a graphic designer, went on trip to China to find good tea and started a tea subscription and the summer tea school Meetea

  • Computer programmer Eduardo, besides doing coding for companies and beside his own core business, created the platform Fotobookers (like airbnb when looking for an event photographer) which he is now testing out not only at home in Guatemala, but also trying to start up business in Columbia

  • IT cloud expert Pavel taught himself to program in the evenings while working on the project IKnowMyTime, which automatically generates statistics from your Google calendar.

  • My brother Martin, a hydro-construction architect, founded a group with his friends offering teambuilding workshops to companies about Brazilian samba, and he also plays as a professional musician in I don’t know how many other projects.

  • My former colleague George, who led the first ESF projects in Prague with me, wrote the book On the Hill because he lost a bet and now he is living off its profits.

  • - Many similar activities come up on the website RedButton, where I am a member, and where one can gain a lot of inspiration.

  • Dan, originally an on-line marketer who enjoys podcasts, started his own, and within a few months he built up one of the most listened-to Czech podcasts Against the Current.