Why Side Projects are Important to Developers

Featured on Hashnode

Subscribe to my newsletter and never miss my upcoming articles

Listen to this article

As a developer, you've probably heard of huge apps like Twitter, Trello, Github, daily.dev and more. They all started as side projects. In this article, let's discuss why side projects are important to developers and how you can get started getting into the habit to build them.

The Benefits of Side Projects

1. Escape Tutorial Hell

One of the reasons why developers can get stuck in tutorials is because it is easy to just follow the instructor's code. There's a sense of progression and belief that you learned something.

And when you tried to code something yourself, it becomes overwhelming. And so, you will go back to watching/reading tutorials. Eventually, you are stuck in a loop aka the tutorial hell.

If you are learning something new and can't seem to leave the chain of tutorials, then you need to build a side project because that's how you get to practice, make mistakes and actually build something yourself. It helps you practice and gain confidence writing your own code.

2. Fosters Creativity

Side projects are not only helpful to build confidence in writing your own code, it also helps to foster your creativity. Why?

Because you can build anything you want. If you have interests outside software development, you can build awesome stuff that synergizes these interests. You get to explore possibilities, things that you believe you can make and test your limits/capabilities as a developer.

image.png

It is both a challenge and an adventure to build side projects. Have a look at my recent ones like my Image Classifying Pokedex and Trading Bot. These are projects I didn't know I could build until I tried and tested my limits; all while having fun, of course.

3. Extra Income

Ever thought of earning some extra income with a side project? It sure is possible. If you build an app/software/website, there's a chance to make it into a side gig that earns money. It may not be a huge sum, but it's always great to make a little income from something you build yourself.

image.png

And if it works out well, that's how side projects can evolve into the successful products we know today.

4. Expand Skills/Portfolio

Another great benefit that side projects can give is expanding your skills and portfolio. It helps you to stay up to date learning the latest technologies and pick up a new programming language.

Whenever I want to learn something new, I'll build a simple and small side project to get my hands dirty with code and it really just help me learn faster. I always believe that practice is the first step to mastery.

5. Helping Other Developers

Side projects do not only mean building your own products. You can also contribute to open source as a side project. Open source is a great way to not only meet and learn from other developers, but also helping them with your skills.

If you are new to open source, there are many helpful articles that can help such as:

How to Start Building Side Projects

Yes, we are busy people. Starting and building a side project is definitely easier said than done. It will take a lot of time out of your free time.

But if you are willing to make some time to reap the benefits of building side projects, then here are some ways to get started.

1. Attend a Hackathon

Hackathons are coding competitions that usually last 36-48 hours, where developers can team up to build something in that time period. Of course, there many types of hackathons. Even those that last for a month.

image.png

It may be difficult to start building a side project on your own. Perhaps you don't know what to build, or you need more motivation. A hackathon is a great way to get started. You will work with other devs to brainstorm an idea and build it together in a short period of time. This gives you accountability to start building and you just need to set aside a weekend to finish the prototype for the competition. Plus, you get to learn a lot from working together with other developers.

To find some hackathons to attend, I like to explore devpost.com/hackathons because this site hosts several hackathons every month and it is free to register.

2. Contribute to Open Source

Once you are comfortable building small side projects through hackathons, contributing to open source is an incredible long-term and sustainable way to keep building side projects.

It takes only a few hours of your time to help others and contribute to open source. And you are not expected to contribute continuously, so you can just do it whenever you want to practice and learn from the community.

3. Build Something You Want To Use

If you want to build a side project of your own, you can start with building something you want to use. This will be an effective initial motivation to get started.

  • What kind of tool you wish existed to help you in your work?
  • What can you build that can help someone in your community?
  • What is that one thing that you have always dreamed of building?
  • Is there an interest that you are passionate about that you can build something with?

Once you have some ideas, you can explore the tools, frameworks, libraries or whatever ingredients you need to make it happen.

If you are building a side project to learn something new, make sure that you are building something a little more challenging. Use a new technology/language/library/framework so you can practice while building the project you want to use. Facing challenges and coming up with solutions to solve them is how you can grow from building side projects.

Conclusion

At the end of the day, building side projects is a good habit to practice your skills and improve as a developer. It is not a must to-do, but an important addition to your routine.

They help you improve not only programming skills but also soft skills like creativity, communication and time management. I hope this article is helpful in emphasizing how important they are and how easy to get started building one. Thanks for reading and cheers!

Rutik Wankhade's photo

Once you start building side projects, there is no going back. 🙌 Totally agree with all the points. Thanks for writing such a nice article.

PS - Your non-technical articles are the best ones. 🤩 Keep them coming.

Victoria Lo's photo

Thanks Rutik Wankhade! Appreciate the PS haha :D

P.S. Your side projects are the bomb 🙌

Saumya Ranjan Nayak's photo

Totally agreed, learnt it the hard way. 😀

Tapas Adhikary's photo

Victoria Lo,

Excellent points. Completely agree. Side projects are significant for developers, and one may not know it until trying out one!

Luiz Filipe da Silva's photo

This is an amazing article. It have the power of motivating anyone to build a side project today! Thanks for sharing such a relevant content (as always 😁) 👌🏻

Anita Ihuman  's photo

Amazing write up Victoria

Dany Tulumidis's photo

Very great article. The best i read this week! Your Pokedex is super nice :D

Keep up the great work!

Victoria Lo's photo

Thanks Dany! I'm glad you enjoyed reading my articles 😊😊

Oluka Isaac's photo

This is nice victoria, i've always loved the idea of working on side/person projects even while working for a client/company. but your few point inspired me more.

Anshuman Padiya's photo

definitely try this while learning new things, I have been stuck in that tutorial hell for while now, thanks.

Omotola Shogunle's photo

Thanks been looking for where to find hackatons I can build stuff in and found the link you put in this post helpful.

I want to get into a routine of building stuff outside work

Victoria Lo's photo

Sure you can! There are many hackathons to choose from! If you ever want to collab, shoot me an email/DM, I'm down Omotola Shogunle :)

Omotola Shogunle's photo

Yayy Great, I would keep that in mind Victoria Lo

Bhargav Ponnapalli's photo

For sure. For me personally, side projects are crucial to expand my skills as you said.

I feel that's one of the best ways to stay upto date.

Good one Victoria!

Victoria Lo's photo

Thanks Bhargav Ponnapalli! Feel free to share any side projects you've built! Would love to check them out :)

Priya Mondal's photo

I really learned a lot. Thanks for this article. Bookmarked whenever I need a revise.

Rohil's photo

Very informative article