I took a bit of a detour this weekend from the main (side-)project to create another small project. It’s called Designers & Shoes (designersandshoes.com) and I hope you go visit it and sign up to be interviewed! 😀
But the real reason for writing about it is based on something that I tell people when they ask me about what to do to get started. Just make something!
Research is incredibly important for fleshing out your ideas in the beginning and you don’t want to waste time making a product that isn’t really based on user needs. But there is such a thing as over-thinking it. Sometimes when you’re presented with many choices on how to proceed, your best bet may be to just start making things, and in the process of making things and showing them around, you’ll learn what’s best.
Don’t wait to start!
This past week, I sat down with Jon Howard, founder of Emissary (http://www.emissarymed.com). We chatted about many different things, coffee, cycling, etc. One thing that we definitely both did (though his are probably more successful than mine) is sit down and set aside time to hack on little products on the side. I’m sure running Emissary takes a lot of his time and is very rewarding in its own way. But he still puts time into little projects (Airport Bingo or Is San Francisco a Post-Apocalyptic Floodscape Yet? for example) just to try new things or keep skills fresh. It is this spirit of just trying things, no matter what it is, that I think is most important.
A lot of the time, with my side projects, I really have no idea what I’m doing. I have an idea, and a willingness to succeed, and that’s about it. Six months ago, I knew nothing about what is needed to run a successful podcast. I may still not know (hah!), but I can tell you how we do things at the Design Review! 😀 The important thing though is to not wait till you feel like you know everything before just starting something. In the very beginning, there are too many things you won’t know, and sometimes you’ll just have to move forward despite not knowing things.
Where does it come from?!
What usually triggers my side projects are those particular ideas that feel like they burn a hole in your brain. They’re ideas that seem to persist in your mind until you finally act on them. Have you ever felt that way before? Maybe I’m just strange that way, but I’ve always had those kinds of ideas, as far back as I can remember. It’s just that until recently, I was very bad at doing anything about them. So what changed?
Well, for one, the tools available to us to make products are far simpler and more powerful than they were 5-10 years ago. If you were to ask me about writing code for apps in 2010, I would tell you I have no idea what you’re talking about or how to proceed. Today, however, with Swift and Xcode, it’s fairly simple now for someone with very little programming experience to just get started making things.
The world needs your projects!
Last week, I wrote about how feeling burnt out from work kept me from starting up side projects. I suspect many are still in this mindset. To reiterate what I wrote last week, I now realize it wasn’t my job that made me burnt out, it was not pursuing my ideas that did it. Leaving the ideas and visions for things I could create to rot and die on the vine was more instrumental in killing my personal velocity than any job or company I worked at. Escaping was just an excuse. Today, I value those ideas much more than I used to, and I hope more people do the same. Yes, it can be scary to get started, so many “what if’s”. But as long as you realize that those “what if’s” are exactly why you’re making things, there’s absolutely no reason not to get started!