The Side Project Report


This whole #sideproject thing of mine was originally kick-started in part by a Do Lectures event and blog on the same subject. So it’s great to see this new Do Lectures Report on Side Projects. You can buy your own copy here and I thoroughly recommend you do so.

It’s full of some great insights, inspiring examples, and practical tips – I already have at least a dozen new to-dos and things to go look up!

However, a few interesting insights and observations to share here and now:

The Report starts with some data gathered from “100 ordinary people” (via Twitter) about Side Projects:

  • 83% of those surveyed had a side project
  • 54% were doing it alone, 19% with a single team-mate
  • 50% had aspirations to turn it into an income
  • 47% required no external funding (and 38% did, with everyone else hedging their bets or waiting to see)
  • The biggest reasons for starting a side project were:
    • 60% to explore a passion
    • 24% to learn something new
    • 14% to make some money
    • 2% to be the boss
  • The biggest reasons why side projects have not reached launch were stated as:
    • 69% time
    • 26% money
    • 05% team

All of this echoes my own interviews and thinking so far – the significance of personal passion, the importance of the future focus, and the tendency to go it alone.

However, one particular bit of data caught my eye…

“If you are employed, does your employer encourage side projects?”

  • 43% n/a
  • 29% yes
  • 11% no
  • 10% sort of
  • 07% don’t know

That massive 43% n/a – is that a lot of retirees, students, or a large chunk of self-employed freelancers? Even then, 29% said ‘yes’ – I find that a bit surprising… now it may be that the respondents are not a representative cross-section of society – this group may slant to the self-employed creative demographic I suspect. The Report documents a whole range of innovative employers (largely creative organisations) who allowed or encouraged their staff to pursue creative side projects – but this is not the norm.

Most of the creatives I know seem to always be developing side projects – it’s practically mandatory for any self-respecting creative to be working on several side projects. Likewise most self-employed or freelancing friends also have side projects.

Now is this simply coincidence? I doubt it. It strikes me (although I will go and research this) that anyone self-employed, freelancing, or working in the creative industries will have the confidence and toolkit to start a side project. So professional competence is also represented in this data-set.

There is also good value for creatives and freelancers to develop side projects; if an existing client doesn’t allow you to show the work you do for them to other prospective clients what can you show? Side projects become your portfolio. Likewise if you’re starting out and have no portfolio of client work, what can you show? Side projects. What if you’re trying to make a career move or shift into a new area of work and whilst you have a portfolio its in the ‘wrong’ stuff? Side projects might just be your evidence of passion/competence.

I’ve got more start-up stories to come – one is already in the bag, and I’ve got a handful lined up that will really inspire anyone to get started.




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