The Importance of Side Projects by Spencer Hamm

Even though design is one of the most fulfilling careers (in my opinion at least), it can be daunting at times. Client work somehow finds a way to get under our skins, and sometimes we feel like we’ve jumped through enough hoops to get something out the door. Either way, side projects are not only a great way to grow creatively, but they may also help keep you sane at times.


Side projects don’t necessarily have to be something that the whole world will see, or something you have to make money off of. While it’s great to make something that could create a passive income, side projects are a great way to learn something you didn’t know before. With work, it’s easy to get stuck into the same routine and never try anything new. A side project is a great excuse to break a few boundaries. Maybe you’ve been waiting to experiment with a new programming language, or maybe you’ve been wanting to work on strengthening your illustration skills. A side project has noboundaries, and it doesn’t have any requirements. It’s simply meant to help you do something different.

If your goal is to improve a skill or learn something new, a side project is also a great way to mess up. It’s tough to experiment when deadlines are tight and things need to get out the door, and the fear of messing something up will limit your ability to go out on a limb and learn something new. By experimenting on something personal, you don’t have any fear of breaking or delaying a project, and you’ll be able to do something you enjoy at the same time.


Side projects are a great way for exposure as well. Depending on how extensive of a project you have, you can even feature it in your portfolio, which not only shows a new skill, but can also show your work ethic and drive to learn something new. Featuring your side project in your portfolio can also lead to more work along those lines.

You may also choose to gear your side project towards a company you would like to work for. Whether or not the company has a job advertisement up, starting a project for a company can be a great way to show the skills you have and the determination you have for getting something done. Even if you don’t get the job, who knows what opportunities may come from the experience. At worst, you’ve done something that will help you grow as a designer, and there is never anything wrong with that.


Regardless of how awesome or not your job is, it’s easy to get burnt out from time to time. We tend to overwork exhaust ourselves solving problems that may get shot down by our team or our clients. Side projects can simply be a way for you to do something that you enjoy, without rules or critiques or an end point. The only boundaries of a side project are what you put on it.

If work is starting to exhaust you, or you are getting tired of doing the same thing, a side project just might be the cure. Having a creative outlet that is different that what you are doing full-time will not only help you relax, but help bring creativity back to all areas of your life.

Things to Avoid

Starting a side project is always a great thing to do, but there are also a few things to avoid when starting one. First, make sure it’s something you enjoy. Side projects are meant to be something that you want to do, not something that you have to do. If a side project turns into something that you hate or don’t enjoy doing, then just stop doing it. You should never burn out from doing a side project, it’s always something you should enjoy. Second, you will need to separate it from your work life. While side projects are great, it can be easy to get completely wrapped up in working on it. It would be bad to have your side project turn into the only project you have because you were fired. Lastly, don’t do too much at once. Again, side projects are meant to be something that you enjoy, and if you can’t balance your time between projects and real work, then it may be time to delay a project from being worked on.

Side projects are a great way to stay motivated, as well as learning something new. If you haven’t started one today, the easiest way to choose one is to figure out something that would be useful in your life, and then start making it.



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