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Build a product without quitting your day job

The following is an extraction from How to build a startup — without quitting your day job by Aytekin Tank

Read date: Jun 27, 2019

Here are a few must-knows — especially if you harbour hopes of your baby project growing into an adolescent startup, or even a grown-up business:

  1. Find the Time: Seizing “Leftover Minutes”
  2. Find the Need: Delivering Extreme Value
  3. Find the Fun: Imbuing Your Project with Passion
  4. Find the Peace: Relaxing With Imperfection

Find the Time: Seizing “Leftover Minutes”

Everyone has leftover minutes in their day.

Secure those pockets of time. Protect them in the way you protect other things that you prioritize. Don’t double-book them in your diary. Put a ‘do-not-disturb’ sign on your door.

At the same time, don’t put too much pressure on yourself in terms of setting deadlines. This is the area of your life to be expansive, not restrictive.

Kevan Lee of Buffer knows side projects march to a different beat than 9-to-5 work. They target a separate part of the brain and therefore follow their own rules. His #1 rule? Be ok with missing deadlines.

Just go and hang out with your project. Make it like date night.

Find the Need: Delivering Extreme Value

Their dedicated ‘Labs’ page (Unsplash) offers ‘tools for the creative community’. It shows the company asked itself that vital question:

What is something valuable that we can give away in order to sell something related?

Your starting point? Putting yourself in your customers’ shoes.

  • What makes their journey less than smooth?
  • What gets in the way, or what takes too much time?
  • What is still too complicated?
  • We’re not talking about a key part of your core business. We’re assuming that that’s in place.

We’re talking about a generous extra to surprise and delight. A free gift to your customer that emerges from the independent pursuit of an idea.

Find the Fun: Imbuing Your Project with Passion

In fact, side projects should always be “stupid”, says former Spotify designer and side project champion Tobias van Schneider:

“The only way a side project will work is if people give themselves permission to think simple, to change their minds, to fail — basically, to not take them too seriously.

When you treat something like it’s stupid, you have fun with it, you don’t put too much structure around it. You can enjoy different types of success.”

So make it something that you’re into, that your really feelin’. Because, for the time being, the enjoyment and satisfaction that you get out of your project will be your only reward.

Find the Peace: Relaxing With Imperfection

So you’ve showed up (and keep showing up). You’ve found the time and the need. And it’s fun. But… it feels messy. You don’t know where it’s going. Some aspects feel plain wrong.

That’s just right for a side project.

Wanting to get somewhere in as little time as possible is the surest way to kill off inspiration of any kind.

The best way to approach a side project is as an experiment, rather than something with a clear-cut goal.

Paul Jarvis, creative entrepreneur and author of ‘Company of One’, explains:

“Experiments don’t ‘fail’ — they simply prove or disprove a hypothesis. So focus on the task at hand. Not the end result.”

Because when it comes to side projects, things usually don’t go to plan. That’s what makes them so exciting.

So go in without expectations and see what happens.

The Big Takeaway

Don’t be scared to invest time and effort into something that truly makes you tick. It won’t distract you or tire you out; it will energize you.

Worst case scenario, you sate your curiosity.

Best case scenario, you discover your life’s work.

But either way, don’t worry too much.

After all, it’s only a side project.

This post is licensed under CC BY 4.0 by the author.