Month of Learning

Please enter email and password to continue

What It Takes For A Side Project To Work

When the world around us becomes disorienting, the worse thing is to accept it and become comfortable. 

Taking a risk and pushing away the sameness is where reward lives.

One thing that saved me from the embers of the last recession was to start a side project (called You Are The Media). I was starting from zero, I had recently lost a large client that cost me £40k and the legal fees on top of that were crippling.

Let me highlight why finding a strand to what you do, by starting a side project, is propelled by taking calculated risks, where you are not left in a vulnerable place.

As well as taking risks, you find a problem you’re not going to stop, so people come to you.

A Side Project Reframes Everything

A side project is a gamble. You might not get anything back from it. It becomes new stimulation. I explain in exact detail in this article how to make a side project work. This can give you a good grounding in finding a space to build from.

A side project is something that sits away from your main source of income. It’s something that lives separately from what you do day-to-day and works best when it aligns with values you already hold and complements your everyday role.

With the unpredictability around all of us as we look into autumn, what I have recognised is that a side project, over the years, has helped to diversify my revenue stream. What was once reliant on one source of income, has now opened to multiple strands ie. sponsorship, paid events, partnerships and initiatives linked to the side project. 

It all starts at the very beginning by being willing to take that risk. For instance, you can either be like a cover band and do what everyone is familiar with, or you can do things that people didn’t foresee. 

It’s easy to deliver what has been done for generations, but sometimes you can take people to places they didn’t realise they wanted to go.

It all starts from making that step. This is about protecting yourself and remaining relevant whilst others could hide.

Back in 2013 (when YATM started), my marketing business was 100% on doing the work for others ie. branding (it’s different today, have a look). The side project centred on how an owned media approach can work. I had to become my own living case study and laboratory. This is what I mean where the side project is relatable to your main source of income.

This is how it shapes when you start, that gives you a grounding to progress:

✊ Taking that risk

✊ Figuring out a problem you want to solve

✊ Not waiting for the right moment

✊ Inviting people to join you

Let me explain more.

1) Taking That Risk

This is when you have the longing to do something, but you don’t know the outcomes. It’s a reasonable risk, for the sake of your business.

It is something you haven’t done before. It could be a meet-up that relates to your industry, where there is a central theme. It could be starting a newsletter that relates to documenting what is happening within your marketplace, but your own stamp as a commentator.

There is always a trade-off, meaning more time dedicated to the sacrifice of something else. However, nothing beats the will to make something happen, to make a difference, for the sake of your business.

Anything you start is a calculated gamble. In a recent article, on what isn’t working, ‘you might not even get it right when you start or see an immediate pay-off. What might not work, shouldn’t quell your appetite for progression.’ What starts to happen is that elements come together for you to take from and reshape. It provides clues and routes to follow.

2) Figuring Out An Interesting Problem

From making that first step where you are taking that chance, it becomes easier to build on a problem you want to solve. It’s figuring out something you know you are not going to stop. This is about getting the foundations right.

You Are The Media began with themes around content marketing/owned media, today it is around how we can build our own audience that isn’t always dependent on social media. What started to happen is that I moved away from a competitive place (content marketing) and looked to find my own area that I could grab (audience growth and community).

It all comes from working towards a goal and a curiosity, you know you can’t put down. You take the gradual steps to move towards the direction you want to head in. When you get over the hump, this could be zero subscribers to seeing people leave their email to hear more from you, you become rewarded with the buzz to keep going. It shows that you are constantly trying.

3) Never Waiting For The Right Moment

The right moment is never apparent to you.

Stopping yourself from not having a go, through the risks and fear associated of not jumping and staying put, is what holds you back. For the most part, what hasn’t worked, for me, has meant a bruised ego (it’s not a good feeling when people don’t want to turn up for an event) rather than anything detrimental to my main business. 

Waiting for the right moment means a lot of preparation and focus on one thing. The most difficult part is starting, but then you have to let go. For me, it was writing an email every Thursday and making my work public, without understanding if people would join in. What I realised was that it was the repetition of showing up, that was helping me practice every week and gradually become better at deadlines, writing and expressing myself. 

4) Inviting People To Join In With You 

People joining in with you is the by-product of taking that risk, figuring out the problem, and not waiting for a suitable time to start. From the work you share, you want people to see the effort and thought you put into your work. When they can see this, it becomes easier to join in. 

If all your work becomes press releases for what you do, no one is going to join. If people can see there is a place for them and what you share is of relevance to their efforts, there is a natural fit. 

The more people who join in, the more brave you become. The risks become less prominent as there are others beside you. For instance, we will relaunch YATM in Bristol in winter 2022 and we have our YATM Game Nite at the end of September (come and join us here, it’s free). This is about taking people to places they didn’t realise they wanted to go.

By nurturing a small, energetic network of your own, you start to find the support you always wanted. 

Let’s Round-Up

If you take a risk and it works out, you tell everyone. If you take zero risks, nothing becomes meaningful or noteworthy. We all move on and forget.

When the world around you feels uncertain, is when you do your best work. Being resourceful, rather than being blessed with plentiful resources, pushes you. It’s all you have.

A side project that relates to your values and how you generate income can start to branch out into its own separate space. This is where opportunity can be found and you have a place that people enjoy being a part of where you are continually striving to make better, whilst others are still waiting for the right time to start. It means you can weather storms as you have people around you and everyone is together.

You have to appreciate the freedom to give something a go that relates to your business acumen. It’s fine to get it wrong. It’s the risk you take, from a place you are curious about that is the constant driver. 


Get the
Thursday newsletter

The YATM Weekly helps you build a loyal audience so you become the leading voice in your marketplace. All yours every Thursday.

Find out more

    ‘You Are The Media is powered by We Are The Media. We turn your expertise into clear, compelling messages, then build those messages into the kind of content people value —and come back for.

    Visit We Are The Media