How to successfully finish your side project

Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

In this digital age, if you're a freelancer, you'll undoubtedly have a little 'side project' on the go. Something that isn't 'client work' but could become an extra revenue stream.

You might be a developer building a new app or tool. Or a photographer setting up an online gallery for artists. You might be a designer, developing a new product. Whatever your side project is, it's always incredibly tough finding the time, energy and motivation to get it finished and launched. Especially when you have bills to pay and client work as a priority.

So how do you successfully finish your digital side project? The following tips should help you make it to the finishing line.

Consider value

Firstly, consider whether your side project will offer value to people. Is it something that fills a niche? Is it something that solves a problem? Do you have any competition, and what are they doing? Where can you offer more and stand out above the rest? Take time to plan your side project, so you're able to set off down the right path.

Break it down

Embarking on a new project can be overwhelming, so sit down and sort your work into manageable, bite-size chunks. It will help you stay sane and take each day as it comes. Trello is great for task management. BaseCamp and Things are also great, as are these 10 project management tools we highly recommend.

Set deadlines

Once you've got your project spread out into different stages, set deadlines for each one, so you keep track and don't lose momentum. Create detailed (not vague) plans and stick to them. Figure out when you can reasonably launch your project and set an overall deadline to finish.

Make commitments and stick to them

Nothing is more embarrassing than saying you'll do something by a specific date only to fail miserably, so announce to the world the time of your official launch. Tell family and friends. Take out banner adverts on other websites. Write a press release and send it your favourite industry magazine. Tweet about it. Do anything to put pressure on yourself to achieve your goal.

Perfection isn't key here

Your first launch doesn't have to be perfect, so don't waste time fretting over whether your side project is 'good enough'. Just get it out there and know that you can carry on 'tweaking' and improving once it's launched. It's called having a 'Minimum Viable Product', something that you can launch as soon as possible with the minimum amount of features. You can always add things later.

Fight the 'Half-Finished' syndrome

It's so easy to lose faith, energy and enthusiasm with your side project. It's why many people never finish what they start. Fight this inevitable phase by reminding yourself of all the hard work you've put in so far, and how great it will be once it's launched.

Keep taking breaks

Breaks are so important, especially when you're working full-time on client work and then pushing through to evenings and weekends to focus on your side project. At regular intervals go outside, get some fresh air and stretch your legs. It will do you a world of good and keep you healthy and happy.

Don't forget to live

Although it's tempting to work every spare moment you have, don't forget to enjoy life and make time for family and friends. There's no point spending every waking hour in front of your computer screen – it's not healthy and will only wear you down.

Recognise the stress signals

There are times when stress can creep up on you, and before you know it, you're exhausted. Don't burn yourself out. Set realistic goals and remember to keep work/life balance in check.

Know when to down tools

There will be times when you hit a brick wall and can't continue. Your productivity levels will fall, and you'll be making lots of mistakes. You're not a superhero; you're only human. Listen to your mind and body and know when to stop.

Post-launch tasks

When you finally finish your project, pat yourself on the back and reward yourself with a holiday or fancy treat. You've launched a side project, and that's something you should be extremely proud of. But the work doesn't stop once it's live. You've now got to keep making improvements, listening to customer feedback and seeing what you can do to iterate.