Why Do Your Side Projects Fail? And What Does It Take to Succeed at Them?

Have you ever started a side project and failed at it? You’re not alone.

Why do so many people fail at their side projects while they are doing perfectly fine in their day jobs?

I’ll provide my answers to that question. I also encourage you to join the discussion and write your answers in the comments.

The answer lies in the question. Let’s reformulate the question.

What do people do differently in their day jobs compared to their side projects?

The answer to this question is also the reason why people are attracted to side projects in the first place. Let’s write a few of those reasons.

  1. Day jobs involve strict working hours. Typically 9-to-5.
  2. Day jobs require you to be present in an office between those hours.
  3. Day jobs require you to work with a group of people whose skill sets are complementary to yours.
  4. Day jobs require you to report to an authority.
  5. Day jobs involve working on the same or similar projects for years on end.
  6. Day jobs involve working on projects demanded by the marketplace.

Day jobs compensate all of that with regular rewards, with a monthly paycheck. You can add more reasons to that list, and I encourage you to do that in the comments.

Apply What’s Working in Your Day Job to Your Side Project

Most people fail at their side projects because they don’t apply what’s working in their day job to their side project. You might object to that argument and ask “what’s the use of a side project if it should be the exact copy of your day job?”

That’s not necessarily my argument. My argument is to give up some of the fun of your side project to make it actually work. If you don’t do that, it won’t be a side project but a fun hobby.

  1. Work on your side project between set hours on set days.
  2. Work in a serious environment without any distractions.
  3. Work with people whose skills are complementary to yours. Hire freelancers if necessary. Don’t hesitate to invest in premium tools and services. If you’re writing blog posts, try to get them published in venues with a massive following.
  4. Have accountability partners. Get involved in an online mastermind group if necessary.
  5. When you start a project, stick with it for at least six months. Don’t start multiple side projects in parallel.
  6. Measure what the market responds to and steer your work toward that direction.

Last but not least, reward yourself regularly.

Conclusion

We are attracted to side projects because they are more fun than our day jobs. We fail in our side projects because we don’t use the same principles that we use in our day jobs.

We don’t need to make a boring job out of our side projects to succeed, but there are definitely a set of rules that we can borrow from our day jobs and apply them to our side projects.

What are your rules to succeed at side projects?

Burak Bilgin
Software developer with a Ph.D. and 15 years of experience. I write daily on personal development and life lessons. Sign up to my email newsletter to receive a weekly overview of my latest content on personal development and life lessons.

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