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Rodion Chachura
Rodion Chachura

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Remote Work: Should You Start a Side Project or Get a Second Job?

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Remote work enables many of us to have more free time. Instead of being paid for hours worked, we receive compensation for accomplished tasks. If you fulfill your manager's expectations with a three-hour workday, good for you, no one will fire you for being effective with your time. Some remote workers use this newfound free time to pursue hobbies or spend time with loved ones, and some of us prefer to earn more money. We can find a new job with much higher pay, yet regular remote jobs usually don't have that much fluctuation in compensation unless we are going after equity. So the most obvious options are getting an extra remote job or making side projects that could eventually become businesses.

While I haven't tried juggling multiple remote jobs, I know people who have made it work. It's possible, and you might not have to sacrifice as much as you think. Since my main side project was a time-tracking app, I know exactly where my work time went in the last five years. I've spent more time on content creation and side hustles than remote work. Looking back, I realize I could have pursued a second job instead of dedicating time to side projects that didn't make any money.

At my previous job, I worked for a large bureaucratic company where software developers could complete their tasks in just two hours. Reflecting on this experience, climbing the corporate ladder to get a 20% raise wasn't worth it because you would end up doubling your work hours and spending more time on useless meetings. It makes more sense to get another job, double your income, and diversify yourself from the risk of your first job going under.

Money loves speed, and that's another compelling argument for having multiple remote jobs. Two paychecks in one year can produce more wealth than the same amount over two years. As a real estate investor, I've experienced firsthand how cash can lose its value over time due to inflation. On the other hand, properties tend to appreciate and can provide a steady source of rental income.

In the last year, I've been lucky to have a job with quite generous compensation that I've used to acquire small apartments that allowed me to reach some financial stability. Without having that, I could've been compelled by having multiple remote jobs. Especially when you like having some seasonality in life, why not get disciplined and grind a few jobs for one year to buy a house and then enjoy a half-year sabbatical? There's no requirement to commit to staying overworked, and instead, you can use it as a tool to achieve a specific financial goal.

Side projects are an entirely different game, there are no guarantees, and it's heavily dependent on luck, but you sure can increase your odds by being consistent over a long period. It's not as predictable as a strategy with multiple jobs, and I wouldn't peak it to make a specific amount of money in a short period unless one of the side projects has traction. However, if we are talking about the long-term, which could be longer than five years, and you enjoy tackling on your own more than a regular job, it could be a great strategy with unlimited potential upside.

I've spent most of my side-project time working on the productivity app called Increaser. It's hard to believe I've invested thousands of hours over the last five years on this unsophisticated software. I was going in circles, starting the project from scratch a few times, implementing some ideas that wouldn't work, removing those features, and then circling back to code similar concepts after a few years. The app hardly makes 60$ per month, and everyone would call it a failure and a waste of time. It almost feels like I've been in an abusive relationship with the project, every time coming back to it a few weeks after a breakup.

I don't feel bitter about being on the entrepreneurial path because I recognize my mistakes of choosing the wrong problem to solve and being ignorant about the significance of distribution by sticking to the web rather than making a mobile app. So while my side projects weren't financially successful, they allowed me to learn more than I would've on a regular job, and they helped me stand out when applying for remote positions in the west while being based in Eastern Europe. Also, making side projects usually felt like play rather than work, and I would often choose to tinker with the UI of my app rather than engage in online entertainment.

Finding a viable idea was one of the biggest problems on my indie hacking journey. It didn't come naturally to me, and trying to research my way out to an idea scared my creativity away and left me more skeptical of any given opportunity. With an uptick in remote work, it feels like more and more people got involved in making side projects, so every idea that is on the surface and in the zone of awareness of a tech person would have significant competition. So I've decided to focus on content creation to explore ideas productively and be more aware of opportunities without looking at everything through skeptical lenses.

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