What makes a good side project

Why side projects are so important to me as a UI / UX designer

Starting side projects as a designer - why at all?

Develop an interest in something

What do you think about when you are not busy with design jobs and freelance projects? Do you deal with other topics in addition to your job or have you developed a greater interest in a certain area? Perhaps you have discovered a new need through work that you would like to pursue further?

If so, then it's a huge plus for you and your design career.

It's good to have something on the side that will help you develop another creative part in your brain. That's why many say that it would be better if side projects initially had nothing to do with your job. I can well imagine that, but it's still something that I don't follow 100 percent myself. For me, half of the side projects are also things in which I can contribute my knowledge as a UI / UX designer. And that's simply because our skills and, above all, our ways of thinking are so valuable in many areas. I often see certain things with different eyes and that helps to ask the right questions in order to get any further.

But even if half of my side projects have something to do with my job, the other half is new territory. And this mix is ​​perfect for me.

There is something to be said for it that you have to open yourself up to new and interesting paths if you want to develop your career further. And that's easier if you ask yourself where an area might lie in which you have already developed a bit of a passion.

But I've learned that the more time I spend with something and the more fruit it bears, the greater my passion for it becomes. So you don't necessarily look for your passion first and then start, you rather develop it on the way there.

How I found a passion for something

Let's take my podcast as an example. It started because I wanted to position myself as an expert in my field in order to ultimately attract new customers (here are my experiences after the first year). The whole thing then developed into a passion that I can no longer let go of. The feedback, the questions and conversations with other designers strengthen me in my work so much that the meaning and purpose behind the whole thing has changed. Today, I no longer produce posts that are supposed to attract customers (this is a possible side effect), but instead I prepare topics that interest other like-minded people.

I pass on my experience to other designers and I have a great interest in using the digital network to ensure that all designers can learn from the same level of knowledge, regardless of their location and position. And that in turn became another passion of mine.
I just enjoy teaching other people, and the internet gives me the opportunity to do just that. I don't need a teaching degree or any certificate for that. I can be a teacher and still work as a designer at the same time.

What do you want to do with your time?

set priorities

Many say they don't have time to do anything on the side. But not having time is a decision! You decide what you want to do and how you prioritize things in your life.

I mean what are you doing all day How many free hours do you have per week that you could possibly invest in your own project? You may be thinking "none" now, but how did you set your priorities? Would you also like to watch Netflix, YouTube, Facebook, or Instagram? Just look how many hours such platforms eat up. With the result, you could probably already have two side projects going on.

Many also cannot understand why I want to work on something else as well, even though I have been finishing design projects, blog posts or podcast episodes all day. Paula has often said to me that I can do it because I like to do it. I love my job. And that's exactly the great thing about it. Because if you also start a side project, it's not about pursuing something that you don't like. You choose the best.

A side project is something you really want to do. You want to keep working on it, so you don't care if it's after dinner when others are watching a series. You are pursuing a goal that is greater than the added value that a streaming service can give you.

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What I was able to learn as a UI / UX designer from a new side project

A new side project of mine is the fashion label CYLVAN. You may have heard of it. It's a project that a friend and I have been thinking about for a very long time. We must have been discussing it for a period of two years, collecting ideas and continuing to write on the business plan. But last year (2017) we finally tackled it and started to really put it into practice. And that was a great feeling, because it is also something of its own that is bearing fruit in very slow steps.

I have been busy with the online shop lately and dealt with various design topics. In the future, it will definitely be more towards marketing strategies and entrepreneurial skills in general. And then you notice the combination that I mentioned earlier. I use my knowledge from my job and contribute it to this project, for example by designing the online shop and initially doing the entire corporate design myself.

Nevertheless, I know that I can learn an incredible amount of new things, for example in marketing. And this knowledge is in turn valuable for customer orders that I work on as a designer.

In addition to my mental challenges, which I have to master in addition to my everyday projects, I have also learned above all in the following three areas:

  • trust
  • Time management
  • productivity

Let me go into that briefly:

1. Trust

Trust is the basis on which a good company is built. Because in order to be able to make the right decisions, you also have to trust partners and employees. It is therefore advisable to let go from a certain point in time and to have the confidence that the other will work on the task in the best way possible and in our interests. You must never doubt that. Everyone is pulling in the same direction.

2. Time management

At some point you realize that the day really only has 24 hours and there is absolutely no trick to manipulate this number. That is why time is the most valuable thing there is. But what you can do is give up more of your own time-wasting activities. And that is exactly the first step towards growth and this in turn needs trust (point 1). This is difficult for you at first, but at some point you realize that if you want to continue doing everything yourself, you will never get the chance to achieve your goals because they may simply be too big.

3. Productivity

As soon as point two (time management) has become clear to you, you start to document processes and write down procedures. This will help employees complete these tasks without asking you questions. At the same time, you will also notice how many problems or improvements there may be in one or the other process. But that's good, because now you're starting to rethink, simplify, and automate things. And automation is really the key word here. This includes developing habits so that you can work off something quickly and also use tools that are simply better and smarter than you are.

Why start a side project?
I am convinced that you can only benefit from side projects if you are willing to learn new things and allow yourself to fail every now and then.

What are you working on on the side right now? Has that also affected your work as a designer?

Feel free to write me a message on my Instagram account or here on my website.