It has been a tough time for freelancers right now; clients pausing, leaving & pushing back on quotes to get more for their money does mean right now it can be tough for freelancers to make money. At the very least, it’s definitely not business as usual. Whilst it can be tough, however, there are opportunities to be made.
Commonly, an issue many freelancers face is, “I’ve not enough hours in the day to do what I want to do”. The pressures on time on the freelancer can be overwhelming at times, and it was one of my common complaints on my business. By not working on paid projects, I felt like I was flushing money down the sink, instead of realising that by working on my business, rather than in my business, it would ultimately grow. I always wished for more time, so I can work on side projects.
I guess “be careful what you wish for, as you may get it” is apt here, isn’t it?
One of my goals for 2020 was to focus more on side projects, little projects that could lead to passive income (the ultimate goal), but assets that I’ve built that at the very least increase my presence in industries I find fascinating. In truth, it was my 2019 and probably 2018 goal, so you can see how well that went, but 2020 was going to be the year I did focus on these projects.
One goal was in a slightly different industry. Twitch is a service that I’d been exploring a while back – as I’m a huge video game fan. For the unaware, Twitch is a streaming platform that – whilst dedicated to video games to begin with – grew to feature other activities including creative pursuits like art, cooking and music. It’s revenue model is based on adverts, donations from users, and “subscriptions” (either paid or through Twitch Prime, a service connected to Amazon Prime that gives Prime customers one free subscription a month). I had taken up playing video games on Twitch to give me something to do in the evenings, as a start, but eventually look to it being a revenue generator.
Sure enough, this year I began to take it more seriously, connecting with groups of gamers to try and cross promote, get some professional(ish) graphics done, create a site to encourage repeat subscribers for Twitch Prime, and with other goals which haven’t been achieved. It’s beginning to pay dividends (who knew that people would want to watch more content when they’re stuck in the house!?!). More importantly, I began to regain focus on these projects, and I felt once again I was working on my business, creating an asset or revenue stream, and more importantly, having fun.
So, as I write this 4 weeks into lockdown, I suggest in those quiet times you look at your side project Trello Board and use this time as an opportunity to grow one of those things. If you have an idea, great! But what if you don’t? Well, here are my three tips I’ve learned from trying to start side projects.
Make It Something You Are Interested In
This is crucial. There’s a fairly good chance that this project won’t make any serious money. This doesn’t mean it’s not worthwhile – opportunities will appear from the project if run right, but it should be something that you ask yourself “would I still do it if you didn’t find it fun?”. If the answer is “yes!” then it is a good candidate for a side project.
It Should Be Cheap and Quick To Get Up & Running
In the most part, it should be cheap and quick to start, that way should you need to pause or stop it, you haven’t lost too much money or time. When I started streaming on Twitch I started for free – using equipment I already had. Even now, nearly a year down the line, the amount I’ve spent is probably under £200, and I’ve had a small return on that financially, but a lot bigger return from the community I’ve built up.
It should Be A Bit Different from Your Business (but if it uses your skill, brilliant)
As much as I’d love to be, I don’t think I’d become a professional video game player anytime soon. Web development is still my main business. However, whilst streaming is different, there’s a lot of skills I’ve used from my web development world in my streaming hobby, so if you can utilise skills from your day job, that’s great!
However, whilst this can be useful, it’s far better for it to be different. After all, you work all day on your business, this should be something different to keep you interested.
I guess to end is when we return to “normal” (whatever normal will be, but let’s go with this), how do you make sure that your effort doesn’t fall by the wayside? Well, two things I found useful and recommend is that you create a small “mastermind” or “accountability” group. These can be fellow freelancers (mine is, because we all wanted to grow projects), and it helps to have different disciplines involved.
The second tip is to make time for your side projects. Otherwise they’ll be left to die. Right now one day a month in my non-COVID world is dedicated to side projects. It can be more than that, but a day focused on something like this can be useful just to get side projects running.
That’s my brief introduction to side projects, and how I plan on using my spare time during this crisis. How about you? Have you pivoted your business at this time? I’d be fascinated to read your comments!
Rhys Wynne is a WordPress Plugin developer, author and speaker. In 2013 he penned bbPress Complete (ISBN-13: 978-1782167242) and has written plugins that have been downloaded over 100,000 times. Rhys has a keen interest in commercial WordPress development, SEO, security and open source technologies, and enjoys the community that has surrounded open source technologies. Rhys went freelance in 2018 and enjoys the freedom around it and the life it allows him to pursue. Away from tech, Rhys is a keen gamer and streams on Twitch 3 times a week, and enjoys football, professional wrestling and travelling.