If you’re anything like me, you have a list of side projects you’d like to work on. Maybe you’ve found the time to get started on a few, or perhaps you’re just keeping an endless “idea” note on your iPhone. A few items from my side project list looks like this:
- project: grow instagram account for new poetry book, in here, out there, utilizing a felt and plastic store sign and a polaroid camera,
- completion rate: wrote book of poems, purchased sign and camera, have yet to actually create instagram account
- project: develop cocktail bitters/mixers line with best friends/colleagues Brett and Ryan, utilizing spice mixtures for modern spins on classic flavors, made by bartenders for bartenders
- completion rate: got lunch with Brett and Ryan to talk about project, came up with flagship flavors, texted the name of the line to our group chat after Ryan came up with it while intoxicated at 3am, have yet to actually make bitters
- project: develop cocktail blog highlighting drink trends and new/innovative restaurants and cocktail bars
- completion rate: wrote “develop cocktail blog highlighting drink trends and new/innovative restaurants and cocktail bars” in “notes” on iPhone
While I’ve found the time and resources to move some of my projects from the “to-do” list to the “completed” list (book of self-deprecating but hilarious short stories, mobile cocktail club for weddings/events), it seems my list of ideas is forever growing. When I have an idea that causes excitement to swell within me, of course I want to get it done. The purpose of side projects is the joy we get from engaging them (and, okay, maybe the extra income doesn’t hurt, either). That said, there shouldn’t be anything to stop us when we really want to do something. Developing and completing side projects helps to build our professional confidence, too.
With so many good ideas floating around and the potential to do anything, it can be hard to pinpoint a target area to get started. I’ve developed this worksheet to help organize the process of bringing an idea to life
Step 1: Determine your project, mission, and end goal.
You have an idea, but what does the success of that idea mean to you? First, figure out what you’re trying to sell or build. For the sake of this article, let’s say my project is going to be finally building an instagram account for my book of poetry, in here, out there.
Because the purpose of the project is meant to raise awareness and generate publicity for the book release, not to generate a profit, my mission is simple: build an audience of readers who respond to and engage with written poetic expression. What does a successful end goal look like for me in that realm? Due to the nature of Instagram, I can put a number on it. I’d be happy with building a network of 100k real, engaging followers in one year.
Your mission and end goal can be sales, publicity or revenue driven, but regardless of its scope, it should be clearly defined. This way, you’ll be able to measure your success against your ideal goal.
Step 2: Build and maintain brand consistency.
Think about the voice of your brand. Since you’ll be building a new audience, you’ll want to maintain the same tone when engaging with them. What is the underlying message of your brand? Always keep your mission in mind when posting, sharing or selling anything.
Think about who you’re engaging with and what you’re saying to them. Be mindful when accepting offers and inviting others to collaborate. Networking can be useful to hack the time it takes to build your brand, but if you’re not being selective when deciding who you’ll work with, it can do more harm than good.
Step 3: Create daily to-do lists and self-imposed deadlines.
When working toward a goal, we have to be willing to hold ourselves accountable for our successes (and lack of them.) That means setting realistic to-do lists and deadlines. For instance, if I actually want to build an audience of 100k followers for my poetry account, I have to put in the work to make it happen.
Gaining 100k followers in 12 months means I have to get 8,333 followers per month. 8,333 divided by an average of 30 days per month equals 277 followers per day. If we assume that people follow at a rate of one follow per 10 comments or likes, that means I’ll have to engage 2,777 posts per day. It seems like a lot, sure, but if we factor in the amount of time we sit around aimlessly scrolling/commenting/liking posts of people we don’t know anyway, it doesn’t take much effort to target our efforts to curate a specific audience.
It’s vital to remember the golden rule: our results are directly related to our effort. Don’t expect to put in 10% work and get 100% results.
Step 4: Stick to your deadlines and measure your weekly successes.
Be consistent in your efforts, and once a week, at the same time on the same day, go over your work and progress. Where are you versus where you want to be?
If you find yourself behind on schedule, brainstorm ways to pick up the slack.
It’s not likely that I’m going to hit 277 followers on my brand-new instagram account today, but I can remedy this problem by making a list of ways to generate publicity for the account elsewhere:
- plug the account on my personal social media accounts
- plug the account on my website and Facebook business accounts
- reach out to influencers in poetry market to ask for help/collaboration
- utilize other skillsets to generate interest; i.e. a series of articles titled “How to Grow Your Instagram to 100K Followers in 12 Months,” tracking the success of project so others can follow suit
By going over our progress on a regular schedule, we’ll be able to see where we’re falling short in addition to what’s working. This will help to target our efforts on effective marketing moving forward.
Step 5: Participate in the community.
If you want to be a leader in any industry, you have to know what’s going on in the industry. You can’t expect to build a successful brand without participating in the community that surrounds it. That said, if your project is rooted in photography, attend photography events. Read articles about photography. Network with other photographers. Aim to learn the most possible and be the best at what you’re doing. In a world where anything is possible, you cannot expect to produce mediocre work and be recognized for greatness.
By positioning yourself as an active member and developer in your field, rather than an observant bystander, you will be on the leading edge of your industry. You’ll create trends. You’ll be sought for advice. You’ll become an expert. You can see from the edge what you can’t see from the center.
Never underestimate the power of a side project. They can grow beyond our wildest dreams and become our life projects. If nothing else, they can be an outlet for creativity in which we have complete control. We live in an age in which we can build a business with nothing more than a quality printer and a high-speed internet connection. Don’t take it for granted.
PS— I actually am doing a series titled “How to Grow Your Instagram to 100K Followers in 12 Months” for The Hub Highlight with the following account. Follow along.