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July 27, 2021

A Designer’s Most Important Tool? Free-Time and Side Projects

As a designer, you are always on the hunt for inspiration, new tools, and techniques. While your workload is never-ending, it can be challenging to find the time to try these out in a way that doesn’t eat into work hours. Fortunately, side projects are an excellent resource for nurturing creativity outside of what you do day-to-day without taking up too much of your precious time.

Are you interested in learning more about side projects and how they can help your career as a designer?

Read on for some insights into what a good side project is, the positives it brings to design skillsets, and why all graphic designers should have at least one or two running at all times.

What Signifies a Side Hustle?

Designing can involve so many aspects and elements that it’s often difficult to know where work ends and a side project begins. However, it's essential to understand how to separate your primary vocation from your side hustles so that you can truly thrive.

Here's a key to side projects that work: any new thing you undertake for your creativity be something that not only interests you but also teaches or trains your skills as a designer in some way. Just because something occurs outside your regular work doesn't make it worthwhile!

To help you identify potential side projects, here are two questions that will guide whether an undertaking is worth pursuing:

❓ What would you be able to do with this project that your day job doesn’t allow?

❓ How will the skills learned in this project make a difference when it comes time for your next design task or contract?

If these questions can be answered quickly, you may have found a side project worth carving out time to focus on!

The Unexpected Benefits of Side Projects

Designers are always searching for new inspiration, techniques, and potential opportunities to advance their careers. However, if you don't risk stepping outside your paying work to experiment and grow, you can end up facing a lack of creativity in design work and a lack of motivation.

With side projects that are pursued in their free time, designers can find fresh inspiration and learn new skills that they may not have time for during their day-to-day jobs. Here are just a few of the unexpected benefits of finding space in your day for a side project:

Side Projects Can Boost Your Career

Side projects can be a great way to boost your design career by providing new levels of expertise and opening up new opportunities. This is great for you and your potential design clients.

If you’re looking for more clients, side projects that showcase skills and experience in specialized areas such as coding might lead to exciting connections with potential partners seeking designers with those talents.

Side Projects Can Inspire Your Design Work

As a designer, your work is never done! There are always more sketches to draw up, more ideas to try out, and deadlines looming on the horizon. It can be difficult to find the time for these side projects, but they are essential in your design career!

Side Projects Offer Additional Skills Training

Side projects allow you to hone skills that might not come up very often daily and offer additional opportunities at jobs or contracts. They may even open doors for new clients.

Side Projects Let You Rest (and Stretch) Your Design Muscles

When you work on your designing full-time, it's easy to get stuck in a rut and neglect skills that may need more attention. Side projects can be the perfect way to avoid that! It's easy to forget how important it is for designers to keep their skills sharp, but side projects offer a fun way to do just that.

Side Projects Build Your Network

A side project is an excellent opportunity for networking because it shows other designers what you’re capable of outside of your day-to-day design work.

You may also find that side projects can lead to exciting collaborations with other designers or artists who share the same interests, which is an excellent way for you both to get more out of this shared passion!

Side Projects Keep Your Creative Fire Burning

If you don’t take some time outside of your design work to think about something new and different, you can end up feeling drained. Side projects are a great way to re-energize yourself!

How to Carve Out Free Time for Side Hustles

Knowing that side projects are great for your design career is good - finding time to engage in them is the real struggle. It can be difficult if you don’t have any time outside of your day job that isn’t filled with designing.

Finding the time might take some planning ahead, but it’s possible. Here are some tips for how you can find the time (and don't be shocked if they seem surprisingly simple!)

✔️ Take care of those mindless time-eating chores and errands during lunch breaks or immediately after work.

✔️ Consider setting limits to your smartphone apps. Don't delete those apps that help you network, design, and work with clients, but don't let yourself lose time in them every day.

✔️ Switch up your scenery for side projects. Allow yourself to work from home or a cafe, instead of the office. Working on a particular side project in a new place can help unlock creativity.

✔️ Identify a time during the day when you have downtime, and make this your side project time. Schedule this time in your calendar as you would with any other client.

How to Find Side Projects

Once you find the free time, it's time to start coming up with some side projects that can help you boost your design career. Here are just a few ways you can inspire yourself to discover a potential side project:

✔️ Take inventory of your skills and what you are currently working on with design, and any skills that may need a boost. Choose a side project that helps you increase your abilities in these areas.

✔️ Look for collaborations that might be a good fit for your current or desired future industry.

✔️ Find inspiration from the latest trends in art, technology, or other industries (it's essential to stay up to date!).

No matter how it works out, side projects can put your creativity to work, help you build your network, and can even lead to a whole new design career! Be willing to experiment and get risky - especially when you have nothing to lose!

Designers: Side Projects Are Essential!

Side projects are an essential part of any designer’s toolkit. They should be considered as necessary in your career as the mastery of Adobe tools or the ability to design in various styles.

Side projects can help you grow your career, be inspired for new work, and keep your skills sharp. So don’t get stuck at the drawing board or behind a computer screen! Start carving out some time for yourself to rest, relax, and most importantly, take on some new side projects that can help you unlock your creativity in new ways!


Wish you an amazing day and stay creative,
P.

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