(Part 1/3): Choose the Side Project for You

Choose the side project for you amongst what's out there.
Image credits: Unsplash

(This is Part 1 of 3 in a series on building your side project. Click for Part 2 and Part 3)

Analysis paralysis happens when you spend too much time thinking about what to do instead of doing. We want to avoid that when you choose your side project.

No more thinking about how there’s SO MUCH out there or where to even begin. 

Follow these steps to pick the right opportunity:

  • Identify the gap
  • Narrow down opportunities
  • Create and seek

Doing so, you’ll have figured out exactly what to do to get where you want to go.

Choosing Your Side Project

As mentioned in The Guide to Building Your Side Project, this part involves matching your project hypothesis with opportunities.

First, identify where you want to gain experience and what skills you need – the skills gap.

Next, focus on opportunities that can help address this gap.

Last, put the two together to create your hypothesis: “I’m going to do [project] to work on [skill]”.

Identify the gap

Figure out what you need to do to get from your current state to desired future state.

Step 1: Write down your goal – picture the end state and everything you’ll be doing, then write down the skills involved. 

What do you want to accomplish? What role are you looking for? What skills do they require?

(Tip: look at job descriptions for the roles you want for a list of required experience)

Step 2: List out all of your past experiences and the skills involved. Circle all of the skills that can be applied to your goal. Cross-reference with what you’ve written down in Step 1.

Step 3: Cross out each skill that appears on both lists. The remaining skills are what you will work on to address your gap. 

Now you have a filter to run opportunities through.

Note: Regardless of what you want to work on, focus on your strengths while doing the minimum to address your weaknesses. This provides the most results in the shortest amount of time.

For a deep dive into types of skills, read this article bucketing skills into intent (sales), numerics (quantitative), and synthesis (drawing connections). 

Narrow down opportunities

Armed with your filter, take everything you could possibly work on and put them into the following buckets to narrow down your search.

These categories are: own, find, and seek:

  • Own: creating a side project on your own. Examples: programs, apps, blogs
  • Find: existing jobs / asks from others. Examples: startups, freelance work, or nonprofits
  • Seek: pitching a solution to someone’s problem and making a project out of it

You may find that some types of projects are more suited to certain formats that others. For example, technical work such as programming or financial modeling can be done independently with an end product to show while qualitative work may rely on others (you can’t do community management without a community). 

Seen through these categories, you’ll now have a much more manageable number of opportunities to look at in deciding what to do.

Create and seek

Now that you know what skills you want to work on and what you’ll do to improve them, it’s time to match this hypothesis with what’s out there.

(Note: you might be wondering “how do I know if my hypothesis will work out?” Contact me to find out.)

For building out your own project, read the comprehensive guide.

To see what others might need help with, search the websites of organizations that match your interests for open roles. Note that the earlier stage of the organization, the more flexible the team may be in ways to get involved – I got my start with Crypto NYC through AngelList

Don’t see an opening but still want to work with an individual or organization? No problem! 

Find a way to get in touch and present them with something to react to – you might never know what opens up until you try as I’ve seen with my start in business development

But to do so, make sure to have done your research, both on the other party as well as yourself so that you can provide something of value. 

Regardless of how you find what to work on, it’s all about knowing yourself and others to mutually move forward.

Avoid analysis paralysis so that you can choose your side project by knowing yourself, what’s out there, and forming a plan to tackle it.

(This is Part 1 of 3 in a series on building your side project. Click for Part 2 and Part 3)

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