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Lukas Mauser
Lukas Mauser

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5 Tips to Start a Side Project while Working a Day Job - Zero to Startup Ep 6


We've been working for the last 6 months on building a docker hosting platform while having a day job.

In the last episode I introduced you to our first prototype and gave some background info about the build process.

But creating this prototype was not easy and if you work a day job it can be super challenging to build something on the side. So how did we manage to create this prototype while still working a day job?

The series

We are two passionate developers from Germany on a journey to building our own profitable SaaS startup from scratch. In this series I will share everything we learn along the way, from coming up with the idea, coding a prototype, getting our first users and scaling to infinity. We are starting from absolutely nothing but our coding skills. We will not rely on any external funding. We are Lukas Mauser and Jonas Scholz and this is Zero to Startup.

5 Tips to Start a Side Project while Working a Day Job

1. Embracing Messiness

I'm usually a pretty orderly guy. I love my processes and following strict guides and simple rules. We tried crafting processes, working in sprints, creating our Excel sheets, using project management tools. But our day job kept crossing these plans.

What always happened was, that at some point we just quietly stopped using these tools and resources and bounced back to messiness. So I thought to myself, why not embrace this?

We are just two developers at the moment, we don't need to have daily meetings and write everything down in 6 different tools... this just slows us down. All that matters right now is building and marketing so we just started building and letting it flow organically.

And for us it worked. We planned on the go and squeezed in development sessions as our schedules allowed us to. No fixed times, no fixed processes, no documentation duties. More fun, more motivation.

Of course at some point we need a higher level of organization and that way of working doesn't fit anyone. But at this early stage it somehow becomes our superpower and enables us to make fast progress while still working on our day jobs.

2. Leverage existing resources

If you want to build something on the side you should leverage existing resources where you can. Not only you don't have the time to do everything from scratch but probably also not the energy.

Before we started our project we had already accumulated lot's of resources like scripts, components, template projects, ... over the past 5+ years of working as freelance developers and starting multiple side projects on the go.

If you starting from a blank canvas, it might make sense to buy these resources in order to move quicker.

3. No hard work after work

After a long day of working my brain is usually pudding. And I simply do not have the capacity to think to much about any hard decisions or dive deep into complex bug fixes.

So after a long day of working, I only do simple tasks. Sending a few messages, having an easy conversation with my cofounder, organizing stuff.

4. Have breaks

What I've found is that procrastination and things that feel particularly hard in the moment are often linked to a lack of clarity. There are open questions floating around in your head and stepping back and letting the unconscious mind figure them out, usually helped me.

I did not work every day on the project. Some days I simply took off to recover and this usually worked wonders for me. New ideas always came to my head after a break.

5. High Focus Sprints

Every now and then we squeezed in a high focus sprint. Not that scrum stuff, but more like: On that weekend we come together, eat fast food and code as much as possible, or do marketing until we fall of the chair.

On such events we usually made huge progress and boosted our motivation through the roof.


Starting a startup next to a day job is hard. After doing it for 6 months, we found our early stage rhythm by:

  • Embracing messiness,
  • leveraging existing resources,
  • doing mostly easy tasks after work,
  • not forgetting to have breaks,
  • doing high focus sprints every now and then.

Now we made some huge progress in the last six months, but with all that early stage messiness, you can quickly loose overview. Recently we introduced a low effort organizational framework that helps us to stay focused on the target. It goes hand in hand with the 5 points I outlined above.

Stay tuned to find out how we organize our project on a high level.

ℹī¸ Additional notes

Feel free to comment or get in touch with us to talk about any topics you are interested in or questions you have about the project in general.

Check out the product on


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