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How to find inspiration for a side-project

eekayonline profile image Edwin Klesman Originally published at ・2 min read
  1. The generally accepted best (AND most talked about) way to find a suitable side-project is to think about digital annoyances that you have in life, and how you would fix them. Scratching your own itch is called out as one of the best ways to find a side-project. It helps you to solve something that you experience yourself so it makes you kind of an expert since you have expectations that are not met. Those expectations might lead to a product/service.
    Start by writing down things that you notice. I have a Trello board full of all my ideas. I organize them into columns Mind spins > Investigating > Serious > Executing > Done > Archive > Trashbin. I regularly go over the board and investigate the most interesting (most chance of being viable and least amount of work/fastest shipping possibility) and groom the board. Since I wrote down all my ideas I have enough to work on.

  2. Talk to people; talk about stuff that's bothering them. Don't fall into the steep canyon of talking solutions. Go way back to the origin of the problem that they're experiencing, and think along from that. 5 Why's are also great here: ask them 5 times why to their answer to finding out the real issue.

  3. Check out and search for "side project ideas" to find inspiration and tools to help you pick a side-project

  4. Buffer has some great advice in this post on side-projects in which they talk about how they approach it and what projects they're currently up to. Check it out!

  5. Google for side-project ideas

Discussion (9)

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andrzejchmura profile image
Andrzej Chmura

Follow-up question: how to stay interested in your side project before jumping to a new one? 😅

rikschennink profile image
Rik Schennink
  • Show others what you're working on so you get feedback. Not only is this useful to find problems early on, honest feedback is also a great motivator.

  • Tell others that you're building something so they keep asking you how it's going.

  • Keep it small. The bigger the project. The more new ideas popup and the harder it is to ignore them.

andrzejchmura profile image
Andrzej Chmura

Those are some great points there, thank you!

eekayonline profile image
Edwin Klesman Author

Totally agree on Rik's points. Sharing the fact that you're working it motivates you by the interaction you'll get. It also gives you a sense of commitment since, well, you can't let them down can you? ;)

Choose if you're in it to LEARN something, or to SHIP something that might be viable (aka: gives value to others and might bring you revenue).

If you're in it for the shipping option, choose the tech that you KNOW and are comfortable with.
Focus on the shipping part by realizing that:

Shipping > building features

By choosing tech that you know + solving a problem that you're familiar with + keeping it small you'll keep the friction as small as possible. Building the MVP's features will go smoother and that will help to keep you motivated as well.

foodogsquared profile image
Gabriel Arazas • Edited

This so much! I just find idea every after I'm doing my side projects and I just couldn't stop myself at times. I really want to see a post discussing deep about that.

brsjsk profile image
Boris Joskic

I'm working on side-projects when I'm learning, experimenting with new stuff, or if I want to build something I need. For example, I could not find a time tracker application that suits my needs..either I did not google enough, or a free time tracker that allows you to enter multiple projects, add hourly rates, offers ability to enter hourly rate and has various data decided to build my own time tracker with Electron and Vanilla Javascript(no framework needed!). Been working on it when I feel like it and have some extra free time. It's becoming somewhat usable, and when I'm happy with it, I'll release it to the public..

So yeah, working on something that you need is least you don't have 20+ projects you will never finish.

eekayonline profile image
Edwin Klesman Author

For sure, I totally agree.

In addition to that, I'd like to state:

  • don't do a side-project for multiple purposes: either do it to learn or do it to build something useful. Doing both will slow down both goals.
  • don't make it "too perfect"; as a developer I often worked too long on stuff and got demotivated. Shipping something and making the circle go round is awesome and fuels my intentions always. Check out this article called "Stop Perfecting, Start Shipping" that I wrote for my sideproject.
foodogsquared profile image
Gabriel Arazas

don't do a side-project for multiple purposes: either do it to learn or do it to build something useful. Doing both will slow down both goals

Holy crap! 😯 That is on point with my situation right now. I'm trying to build a simple freebies resource list website but I'm also using it as a way to know about React. Yeah... I can say that statement it's becoming real now that I've noticed it.

I guess it's a perfect time for me to separate learning and making stuff a bit. I've been doing both of them almost all of the time. So thanks for stating those statements.

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eekayonline profile image
Edwin Klesman Author

I'm 37yo but this old tractor has seen quite some road and knows where the deep puddles are.
Glad that this article helped you to recognize where you're at and guided you somewhat.

This is what communities like Dev.To is about: helping each other to keep on track and go about a little better each time 🙌🏻👌🏻🔥💪🏻 Keep at it! you can do the thing!

Code Hard, Ship Harder -