Posts tagged side projects
The upsides, the downsides, and the vulnerability of creating publicly

Whenever I’ve launched a project on Kickstarter, it’s always been a turmoil of feelings. Every time, starting about three days after I’ve publicly announced what I’m interested in and hope to discuss by launching a project, my doubts arise. Has it really been necessary to ask people for money to work on something I care about? Has it been necessary to look for people the way I do?

If a project succeeds, then, of course, it’s all great! It will be celebrated as a success, and I’ll get what I wanted and what motivated me to launch a project in the first place; people will talk to me about what I’ve declared as a subject of my personal interest.

But then, of course, what if a project doesn’t succeed?

I’ve finally stopped procrastinating on learning my TEDx talk. (Writing it was hard. I had someone I consider an exceptionally thoughtful writer edit it and help me shape my thoughts into words.) Now, every single day, I get to listen to my voice repeating out loud what’s become a mantra.

In short, and in the words of Dan Harmon, “If you find your voice, shout with it from the rooftops – and keep doing so – the people who are looking for you will eventually find you.”

That’s what always remains on my mind whenever a project is public; are people interested in what I’m interested in? Do I know such people? Where will I find them? How will they see me and will they find me in time?

Many doubts arise doing what I do and have repeatedly been doing for years. However, I also know I’ve met many incredible people because I’ve been “creating out loud” for years. Having projects live has always given people a reason to talk to me (about something I’m interested in). It’s also given me a reason to approach strangers without it seeming all too awkward. Over the years, I’ve met people who I now call friends because I did something I shared online. I’ve been referred to clients because of something I’ve created and people thought it was interesting. It’s been great and rewarding. Yet, I also question, will it work again? Or not?

It takes a lot of courage to share unfinished work publicly and even though I know the benefits of doing so, I also know I’ve always felt the way I feel right now every time I’ve gathered the courage and shared work in progress. To me, however, it’s not just about working on something I care about and trying to find my people through the work I put into the world. It’s also got to do with my personal philosophy;

“If I had told people I aspired to become a writer before I published my very first book, it would have made publishing that book much harder for me. I would’ve probably needed someone else also to declare me a writer and give me the self-confidence to do something more than practicing writing online and on social media. I might have waited until an agent picked me up and a publishing house approved of me, rather than to go down the path of self-publishing.

If I called myself a writer, it would’ve made me vulnerable. It would’ve allowed the world to criticize me, and possibly hurt me if it did. Yet with social media, I felt it’s all work in progress. And having others watch and notice my progress without claiming perfection has always felt encouraging.

When I started working on my first book, I knew that if someone were to say the book wasn’t any good, it would’ve been relatively easy for me to swallow that criticism. Given I had no official training or any sort of references, I didn’t have to justify mistakes or failure. It was easier for me to start because I had nothing, not even my image—or as it’s now called, ‘my personal brand’—to lose.

I wanted to write a book, and I knew I needed help to make it good, yet I didn’t aspire to become a writer. I just wanted to write, so I did. On social media, I shared my progress, and I was open about the journey of improvement.”

And I can now see where it all led.

You might question why not finish something, find a way to monetize it through a bigger company, and then present things as a success after?

It’s because I believe in transparency. I believe in sharing the process of unfinished work and have others see how something is being done. I believe in it because I believe it gives others the necessary courage also to try and start from scratch and create something. I want others to see the struggle. I wish for people to see the slow curve to “success.” I wish for people to understand they too can try. Because that to me is the power of the internet.

I keep reading about mental health. I keep reading about how people struggle with social media, however, I also believe it’s an incredible tool to create and find “your” people.

In a way I still want to prove that; I merely believe that if someone connects with me because of something I’ve created or at least tried to develop, it will be the most meaningful connection for both of us. And that’s the advantage. The power. The tool we all have at our fingertips. I’ll talk about it more in Graz, yet just really wanted to share this with you. To keep things transparent.

The key to get the job or the client you want!

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If you could fill up your work days with anything, what would it be? What is something you’d love people to pay you for? It doesn’t matter whether you’re a freelancer or if you have a job, you should always work on something you’d one day love to do professionally. 

For freelancers, it’s extremely important to always work on a little side project to sharpen your profile and to build a portfolio of work you want others to associate you with. For people who work full-time, it sort of goes by the same rule: if you ever want to apply for a new job, it will be much easier for you to get into something that you’ve been practicing on the side for a while. 

New work always comes because of your previous work, so it’s important to have done the work you care about. Some people might argue that they don’t have the time to do the work they would like to be doing because it doesn’t pay, but let me tell you, that’s not necessarily true. You can always start a Kickstarter project such as I’ve doneVolker and Daniel have done, or Harald has done (several times) to launch a freelance business.

One of the questions I like to ask people is who they would like to work for or who you’d like to have as your client. If you have more than just one idea for a side project that you’d like to realise in the near future, it might be best to pick the one that’s the most relevant to your “target.”

You should always do something just for the sake of keeping your excitement high. Just because.. after publishing This Year Will Be Different, a lot has changed for me since now, the majority of my new work comes to me because of this one reference. And I really believe that anyone can do that, even though sometimes I don’t even believe I am myself. If you’ve seen this, you know what I mean. 

So think, what would you like people to pay you for? Write me back and maybe I can give you some thoughts on how to make that work or even monetize it.

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What it takes to finalise a project and how to find people to help you with that.

Like every new year, we usually start off with resolutions of what we'd like to accomplish in the upcoming twelve months. However, throughout the year, our preferences may change and we sometimes forget about our big hopes, grandiose plans and inventive visions that we had at the beginning of January.

As with most projects, we need other people to get a project off the ground; not just to keep up our motivation levels, but also to produce the quality of work we want to see associated with our names.

In the last newsletter about my Kickstarter for This Year Will Be Different, I might have mentioned what I'm working on, but I haven't quite told you the story behind the story: publishing a book had been my resolution for 2013 (!).

So, how did I suddenly manage to make it work and what can you do to make your New Year's resolution stick?

It seems that once you set a deadline, spend money and include other people, it's far more likely you'll not just start another project, but you’ll finish it too. So, in other words, only after I assigned a budget to this side project, set myself a deadline and found a graphic designer, an illustrator and an editor, things finally started moving.

When you're at the beginning of your career or want to make a career change, you need to learn how to become your own client. If you've read the interview with Lauren, which I shared in the last newsletter, you know what I'm talking about.

Luckily, once you decide that you must start working on projects that fill you with joy and not just your bank account with money, you'll realize, sooner or later, that other people are also looking for projects that will help them evolve in the right direction.

If you share your vision and beliefs and are open about the reasons why you're doing what you're doing, it's not going to be for the sake of “money” why others will want to help you get your project off ground: I've been incredibly fortunate to find a team for This Year Will Be Different on Elance and Behance. I openly shared my vision and these highly-talented women agreed to help (yay!). While I had a budget assigned to this cause, it definitely wasn't how much I want to pay them once the book starts selling (hopefully). Having included other people in my project absolutely increased my dedication to making it work.

So, what's the project you need some extra pressure for and who do you need to get things started? Let's make this mail a project matchmaking: please respond with your exciting project ideas and I'll follow up on this cause next week.

How to get to where you want to be, doing what you want to be doing.

Do you sometimes crave more time off, to do what you're really passionate about?

A friend of mine recently published an article after being paid to style a photo shoot: 

"I was in heaven. I guess you've found your dream job when you wonder all the time why you get paid for it.”

This sentence, the whole article, resonated with me. One question has been on my mind since: How do I want to be spending my time? What do I really want to do?

Usually, when I talk to my friends, they have a vision of what they want to be and where they want to work. But often these aims are dependant on other people’s decisions. And what happens if that particular person doesn’t give you the break you want so badly? Does it mean you should give up on your dream? 

Of course not!

If someone else doesn’t give you the chance you think you deserve, then you must create the opportunity for yourself:

  • If you want to be a museum curator, then start curating without the museum;
  • If you want to be a magazine editor, then it’s your time to self-publish a magazine on Issuu;
  • If you want to be a singer, you have to get out there and sing.

Now comes the argument about not having enough time and having bills to pay. We all do. I get it. But trust me, the most amazing careers started off as side projects.

Maybe you cannot be what you want to be tomorrow. But then again, what you want to be is your aim and aims are supposed to be big, right?

You can't take just one big step in life. No one can. You have to make several small steps to reach what you aspire to.

The question is - when are you going to take the first small step? 

Start small, get up a little earlier tomorrow and do a little bit of something you’re passionate about every day from now on. 

Enjoy the journey and keep me posted on your future side projects. As always, just comment below!

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