We're builders. We build things.
We explore tech, systems, and processes related to how we build things.
We play with the stuff we find that intrigues us, and every now and then, we catch a spark. A glimmer of something bigger. Something that ignites a fire that we just can't ignore. Something that fuels our passion.
Then the bills come. Sigh.
Who hasn't dreamed of turning a weekend hackathon idea into the next big startup? Passion projects are often the playgrounds of innovation. They allow you to get creative, refine skills, and do what you love!
Like a painter with a blank canvas, passion projects grant you full creative control. You're not bound by client demands or company standards. This is your masterpiece. Heck, go ahead and use that new tech stack. Worst case you learn something new. Learn something new. No pressure!
There's a certain euphoria in building something purely out of love and curiosity. That energy can rejuvenate you and break the monotony of the routine.
While passion projects paint an appealing picture, it's the paying projects that often dominate our day-to-day. And, for better or worse, with good reason.
Mmmm, that sweet, sweet, predictable paycheck. It pays for the roof over your head, food in the pantry, if we're lucky (and smart) save a bit, and of course, get new shinys once in a while. Plus, working with clients and folks on your team exposes you to a bunch of new perspectives that broaden your thinking and contacts to add to the network. Let's not pretend that we only learn new stuff when working on our own stuff. Nor should we devalue the benefit of a robust network.
Further still, delivering quality work in full view of peers, clients, and customers can enhance your industry reputation. Over time, this can lead to more lucrative opportunities and establish you as a reliable & valuable professional.
Chasing passion without a paycheck might leave you starving, while solely chasing the paycheck could starve your passion. So, how do you strike a balance? We've got to tune things to let our passion burn bright while delivering professionally.
Most obviously, yet most elusive, is finding paying work that allows the freedom to explore new technologies or work with an org already using the new stuff you're interested in! Find those synergies!
More tactically though, there's a few things we can try:
Time Management: Dedicate specific blocks of time to your passion projects. Whether it's an hour every evening or a dedicated weekend, make it non-negotiable.
Set Clear Boundaries: Passion projects should be a joy, not a burden. Be wary of turning them into another form of unpaid labor by overcommitting or setting unrealistic expectations.
Monetize Your Passion: Ever considered that your passion project might have market potential? Exploring avenues to monetize it can be rewarding, both personally and financially.
Reinvest in Yourself: Use earnings from paying projects to take courses, attend workshops, or buy resources for your passion projects. This ensures you're constantly growing and nurturing your passions.
Remember that your journey is always changing, moving, evolving. Today's passion project could be tomorrow's primary income source. On the other hand, and as unlikely as it may seem, a routine paying gig might spark a new passion -- some small detail in there might be a thread that, when pulled, reveals a new joy.
The tug of war between passion and paycheck is real. It's not about choosing one over the other. It's about harmonizing the two.
As a developer, our craft thrives on balance. Both passion and paycheck offer unique rewards. It's up to you to architect your path, blending both elements to craft a fulfilling, sustainable career.
It's not an either-or choice. The synergy exists. Find it!