A month or so ago, I started another side project. I have this, some consulting, and now The Hustle, which is a Slack community for women journalists who consult in content-adjacent roles.
I started working when I was 14, bagging groceries. When I was 16, I started working at Barnes & Noble. A year later, I switched groceries for selling clothes at JCPenney. When I was a cub reporter, I started blogging about fashion. As a social media editor, well into my 20s, I worked for a pet food company, shilling at PetCo on the weekends. I’ve co-founded so many things I can’t really count them anymore.
Some of these things I did because I needed the money and journalism should pay better. But others I did because I always have a side hustle. I treat my side projects the same way I treat exercise. I know and admit my brain moves very quickly and sometimes my actual work can’t move that quickly. I tend to push out my frustration through workouts and stretch my brain through side projects.
It’s the best way to learn a new skill. There’s a lot less at stake if you learn to code by creating your own web site, or tinker with Alexa by making a meditation app.
You can pursue your passion. I know someone who loves their job, but they have an extreme passion for cooking. Another person is totally fascinated by the marijuana business. Another likes making skateboards by hand. Work doesn’t have to be your passion, and your passion doesn’t have to be work. It helps to explore burgeoning passions through side projects before you go all in by making a career switch.
It stretches your creativity. There’s no red tape to a side project. There’s no boss who needs to approve of your idea. The only thing stopping you is you. Just make sure your employment agreement allows for it (or negotiate for the right to your projects!)
But how do you do it? How does one have time? What if you miss your own deadline?
Meh. It’s OK. I was supposed to write a book this year. I was supposed to start a podcast about menstruation. But I have re-started this newsletter, and I started plenty of other things.
If you start a side project and it falls by the wayside, it’s fine. In the past I’ve had an accountability partner, which really helps. Just someone you check in with once a week and talk out what you’ll accomplish and what is blocking you.
But it does help if you find a space to do it in. I used to work on my novel every day from 8-9 am before I started work and for a couple hours on the weekend at a coffee shop. Carve out some time and get into a flow, if possible.
I’d love to hear how you get your side projects done. Also, here’s a good checklist for side projects.
By the way, I got some good ideas for questions to ask during negotiation, so I made a little page for other resources that may come up. I will build this out……very slowly.
I miss mixtapes. So much. They were the best way to find new music.
Noon Pacific is a sort of mix tape sent via the Internet, with themes based on cities. Los Angeles, New York, London and then a singles mix on Fridays. I don’t love every single song, but it’s getting me out of my music ruts!
Reading // Eating // Listening // Watching
Reading // Zen Habits on paring things down and doing less // An admirable way to prepare for a talk at a conference, from Jeremy Keith // Lara Hogan on advice for a new executive (I love Lara Hogan)
Eating // I’ve made a version of this chicken braised in milk recipe before, but I incredibly love this version, much much more. It’s a spinoff of Jaime Oliver’s chicken in milk recipe, but focusing on chicken thighs, which are really the best parts of teh chicken anyway. I highly recommend making the sauce into gravy and serving over mashed potatoes.
Listening // The CBC put out a really really great podcast about the cult/self-help group NXIVM. I have a weird obsession with cults and this was a wonderful listen. I have one more episode to go.
Watching // The Good Place (Netflix), after much guilt from others who watch the show and have said how wonderful it is. I thought it would be cheesy, but as a college philosophy fan, this really hits the spot.