Pros and cons of a side project

It’s been two years and half that I started to work on Podmytube as a side project. This evening I want to tell you the good things I learned with this side project and the bad ones too, it’s more fair.

What is a side project

Listening podcasts I heard lot of things about side projects, so, to be sure we are talking of the same things, let me give you my version of what is a side project.

For me, as a dev, a side project implies some coding activity, I’m working on after work. As far as I remembered, since the beginning of my career, I have always worked on, some websites or some new tool (almost) every evening after work. I remember the first tries I’ve made with Symfony (I disliked), CakePHP (I liked it), Docker (fool, my first thought was “for sysadmins, not for me”) and some management project tools too.

Lastly, my main side project (Podmytube) started small to become a tiny tiny business. On the beginning, my only goal with it was to come back in the coding game after years of (technical) project management. I wanted to refresh my coding skills and to learn some new ones. I have made some huge errors with this project at first and now things are improving (but) slowly. I have the secret hope to get some pocket money with it someday (the sooner, the better). It’s still not the case…

Side project, the dark side

Time consuming.

To be fair, some evening, I would love to lay on the sofa to watch Game Of Thrones or another TV show after dinner. Noone will yell at me if I do so, but, if I’m not working on Podmytube during the evening who will ? Once a product has customers, you have to work on it. To improve it, to fix it, to develop new features. And if you want to get some (new) customers, you’ll have to learn some marketing techniques, talk about your products, try to sell it, check if it fits to some need.

Every task of it takes a lot of time for one single man. If you do those things after work your evenings will be really short. There is some techniques to avoid getting drown by all the tasks but it is still time consuming.

Everything has a cost.

Even if it not money, everything has a cost. Even if we are only talking about time, time is money too. Side projects have some monthly cost I cannot do without. Hosting, bandwidth, payment service commission … the list may be long.

Here are the main problems I have these days :

  • not enough time to work on it
  • deficit service

I hope one day Podmytube will get me some pocket money or become my main revenue but this time has not come still.

The good things about side projects

Hopefully, everything is not plain dark about side projects. There are good things that are helping to get work on it.

Usefulness

First quality of one side project is, for me, the usefullness. Knowing that my service is helping Youtubers to get a brand new audience without much more work. Knowing that some guys are (like me) discovering some new interesting channels thanks to me is a great thing.
During my job day, it happens frequently that I feel uncomfortable about the thing I’m coding. Will this be useful to someone ?
You rarely get some feedback from the customers, at best you get a mail talking about one successful launch but during my career, this happen rarely.

Feeling your usefulness is one great thing about having one side project.

Learning

If you love to learn new things, one side project is the place to experiment new languages, new techniques. With Podmytube, I learned technical skill like :

  • Laravel
  • TDD
  • Docker
  • Ansible
  • The single responsibility principle with PHP
  • and lots of small things

But, I also learned some soft skills like

  • selling, was the hardest part to me.
  • marketing, right after selling the hardest one.
  • organizing, hopefully I already learned to do that with my project management job
  • prioritizing,
  • being resilient (when you fail to explain the benefits of your service)
  • more patient.

I’m pretty sure that I could never have learned all that watching netflix 🙂

New relations

The last good thing of having Podmytube was to get in touch with some nice people. Funny part, I was once listening some podcast like Remy Bigot or wp-marmite til the podcast stop. No more episode were coming.

What a great thing to reactivate them with my service to allow previous users to listen to it again.

The adventure of Podmytube is not quite finished but even if there were hard time (docker migration and analytics for example) I’m glad to have one side project. It take lot of time, it takes my money but I love all the things I had learned with it.

The tougher part is to start, the rest will follow.

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Fred

Totally fluent in frenglish, what a gift !

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