Today’s post is a guest post by Monika Kanokova, a freelance community strategist and the author of This Year Will Be Different: The Insightful Guide to Becoming a Freelancer. She is currently about to publish her second book for freelancers. Her heart belongs to good design and delicious filter coffee. If yours does too, follow her discoveries on @kathmo or visit her website to learn more about her approach to community and product strategy.
There might come a point in your life when you start wondering whether you’re on the right track. You may also decide that what you?ve been doing for several years might not be what you want to be doing for the years to come. Especially in January, many of us reflect on our life choices and question whether we have chosen the right path.
If you’ve decided that entrepreneurship is the path you want to take, but just don’t know how to get started, you might wonder what to do to make such a breaking transition! Side projects are a perfect way to get the skills you need and the funding to get started.
First time I realized how crucial side projects are was when I blogged about social change and architecture during my studies. Even before I graduated, I was headhunted by a strategic consultancy that offered me a job. My hobby became my full time career and I didn’t even need to do any unpaid internships to get there. Then, years later, and without much preparations, I decided to go freelance. I knew that the best way to kick off my career was by creating something that would showcase my skills: writing, community and project management. I immediately started working on a book about becoming a freelancer. Not only to learn about what it takes to be successful as a self-employed creative but also with the aim to help others who ask themselves the same questions. Having that side project and talking about it on social media has brought clients to me that I never thought I’d ever have a chance to work with and it?s also the reason why I’m currently working on a second book for creatives hungry to learn more about creative entrepreneurship.
If you want to start your own business; even if you just want to start small and build up a side hustle, you should definitely start with a side project. Here are the steps you can take to get started:
1. Ask yourself what you want to be doing that should pay your rent
First of all, it’s important to say that you?re not the only one in doubt. There are many who feel stuck and wonder how to best start their own business. The good news is, nevertheless, that there are even more people who managed to transition and now do what they love for a living.
So, how did they do it? And what can you do? What steps can you follow that will put you on the right track?
Telling people around you what you want to do might be a start, but probably not a very fruitful one. The best way to reach your goals, attract the right people, and get to where you want to be next is with forward motion. You need to start doing whatever you want to get paid for, and the easiest way to do just that is by starting a side project.
Every time someone sees your CV, they learn all about your past, but side projects showcase where you’re heading. They let you test the waters and see what sparks your interest before taking a plunge. Your side project is your entrance ticket to wherever you want to go in the future. It’s the most crucial building block to starting your very own business. Also, it should be the first thing you mention whenever someone asks you what you do and what excites you.
As big as a side project might sound to you at this point, it can be simplified so that anyone can start working on one, even as soon as tomorrow.
2. Define your side project and set goals
A project is always something that has a specific duration and a clear, accountable goal. A good timeframe for you to start with might be a month.
The next question is what will you work on? The answer to this is simple: work on the skills you’ll need in your business. If you want to become a published author, then you have 30 days of writing ahead of you. If you want to start freelancing with web design, you have 30 days of learning web design and prototyping ahead of you. You get the point. You need to work on something you want others to associate with you, so it’s entirely up to you and your interests.
Next, you need to make your project more specific. You’ll need to pick a theme, a very specific topic that you’ll explore from different angles. You can draw a cat every day or write a 200-word story about a person you saw on the subway. Whatever it is, try to make your project figurative and accountable in one way or another. Whether you give yourself a timeframe every day, like drawing for 20 minutes or writing a short story with a specific length, try to find a way to make it easy for you to feel like you’ve accomplished something.
3. Create out loud and talk about your passion project on social media
Once you have an activity, a theme, and a timeframe, it’s time to make yourself follow through. Having a plan is one thing, but following through is a completely different story. Personally, I’m a huge fan of social pressure. Once you share your plans with people around you, you’re far more likely to do whatever you said you would. Having a public deadline and letting people follow along will not only help you commit, but it will also inspire them to follow your lead. Social media is a wonderful tool to create out loud and let others participate in your process. You can be open about wanting to learn a new technique and let people see how your skills evolve. Nothing is quite as inspiring as seeing the struggle others have gone through to reach where they are now. (Whenever you struggle, watch Karen Cheng’s TEDx talk.) Once you commit and talk about your side project along the way, you’ve created a way to talk about your goals in the most authentic way.
4. Struggling to follow through? Join a community!
If you’re someone who needs social pressure to get things done, then you can also participate in collective creative projects. National Novel Writing Month, better known as #NaNoWriMo in November, is a collective attempt to write a first draft of a 50,000-word novel. #The100DayProject is a creative hashtag project that prompts people to doing something creative for 100 straight days.
And don’t forget that when you become a member of Amazing.com that you join their community of entrepreneurs who will keep you accountable. You can also pull together your own local community to work on side projects alongside others. It’s like book clubs. But different.
5. Harvest the ?fruits? of your side project
Throughout the years that I’ve been talking to people about their careers, I’ve often heard that many of them started as side projects. Many professional bloggers never intended to make money, many makers started out with a small Etsy store, and many people who pivoted their business to transition into new, creative careers did so because they had a side project they were truly passionate about.
Don?t forget to let us know about your passion project in the comments below
It?s time for you to start now! If you want to change, it’s in your hands to make it happen! Please let us and the Amazing.com community know what you?re working on in the comments below!
Matt Clark is the Chairman and Co-Founder of Amazing.com, a serial entrepreneur, and investor. He’s been featured on Forbes, CNBC, and Entrepreneur.com.