The power of side-projects for creative freelancers

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Late last year I made the effort to set aside time at least once a week to work on side projects.

During this time, I have learned and grown so much in my design career just from making the time to start.

I think you should consider doing the same!

Set aside time to work on your own side projects today!

There are many reasons for a self-employed creative to work on a side project. It’s a good way to stay excited about your work, keep your entrepreneurial skills sharp, and most importantly – it’s fun!

Life can get in the way and make it difficult to find the time to work on your projects, so you’re just going to have to make time whenever possible.

I recommend trying and setting aside time during your regular work schedule.

Small sacrifices can be made, like giving up TV time in the afternoon or that extended lunch you love to take every other day. However, try not to sacrifice time spent with family and friends.

“Family is not an important thing. It’s everything.” – Michael J. Fox

Don’t feel like you need to give up what’s truly important in your life. Again, just make the time to work during your regular work schedule.

You’d be amazed what you can accomplish devoting only 15 to 30 minutes a few days a week to something. And if you find yourself working more than the original allotted time, that’s even better!

If you desire to work late nights or weekends on your project, then that only shows that you’re working on something you love. Which brings me to my next point…

Work on what you love

An obvious statement, but important: you should be excited to work on your side projects.

If you’re excited to be working on your side project, then you’re only going to be more motivated to finish and show it off.

Work and fun don’t necessarily have to be opposites. Growing up it was always work then play, but as freelancers we’re capable of turning what we love to do into revenue.

Take something you naturally find yourself obsessing over and try taking it just a little more seriously.

Do you have an idea in mind? Need help getting it to generate income? Leave a comment and we’ll try our best to help!

Take one project at a time

It’s great to have multiple projects in mind, but don’t try to take them all on at once.

Trying to accomplish multiple projects at the same time will most likely result in you finishing none of them.

Look at your possibilities and limitations at the time. Are you limited in some way that may hinder one of your ideas?

Sometimes we over complicate things as a way to excuse ourselves from ever starting. Pick a small idea and start working on it. Don’t allow yourself too much time to think of all the things that could go wrong. You’ll never know unless you try!

If you’re producing a product: let’s say a t-shirt – order less than you think you’ll sell. Selling out in this situation would be a good thing and only make you look that much more popular! Johnny Cupcakes used to do limited runs of his products just out of sheer limitations, but he continues to do this to keep his designs rare and more valuable to his customers.

Finish what you start, and most importantly – have fun!

It’s very important that you desire to finish what you start. It’ll add motivation and it’s nice to show your final product off to others.

Using the tips above you should hopefully be ready to tackle your own side projects.

Are you currently working on a side project of your own? Feel free to share what you’re working on in the comments below!


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About Brent Galloway

Brent Galloway is a freelance graphic designer, founder of Your Freelance Career, and author of Start Your Freelance Career. Check out his blog and connect with him on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, and Dribbble.

  • Will

    Great article Brent. I need to start doing this!

  • Rhianna Weilert

    Last year I decided I wanted to amp up my illustration skills and found this website They Draw and Travel that combines my two favorite things: art and travel. I made a map of my hometown and had so much fun that I am working on another one this spring (slowly but surely). I love your suggestion about scheduling time to work on it. I am going to put this project on my calendar now! My map:

  • Tim Chilman

    I’ve just finished working on a side project and enjoyed every minute of it! I agree, it keeps you excited about your work and reminds you why you’re doing what you do – because you love it! I’ve just written, designed and illustrated my first book called ‘But sir, I can’t draw… only image’, which challenges the notion that you have to be good at drawing in School to be good at art – you don’t, just have a good imagination (i used to teach art). Check out a preview of my work at

    • Brent Galloway


      That’s awesome to hear! I wrote, designed and illustrated some books back in college. Definitely something I’d love to try again now that I have a bit more experience.

      The link you shared doesn’t seem to point to the correct place unfortunately, but I checked out your portfolio and I really enjoy your illustration work! Keep it up!

      Thanks for taking the time to share! :)

      • Tim Chilman

        Thanks Brent! Just starting out freelancing so am busy doing a few side projects – new one is a real ale label to go on a bottle for some of my home brewed beer. Just put some of my illustrations from my book on Pinterest, hope this link works ok

  • Lucinda Lions

    Hi Brent, thank you for this awesome article. It is SO timely for me! I really needed to be reminded that: ‘Life can get in the way and make it difficult to find the time to work on your projects, so you’re just going to have to make time whenever possible’. I plan to make time again. Thank you so much for the reminder and the shot of motivation! ~ Lucinda

    • Brent Galloway


      I’m glad my article could help remind and motivate you in the right direction. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment! :)

  • Baker Senatmu

    Thanks Brent for this article, am just gonna do that. ACTION!!!

  • Bill

    You’re so right. It’s good for the creative juices not to become too obsessed with design projects. Non-design activities tend to stimulate creativity. Returning to the design job following some physical activities often generates fresh ideas. My day tends to be divided into three areas: Main concern (a) Running my freelance website and packaging design business. (b) Gardening; a bit of digging, clipping, watering etc., and in wet weather (c) cooking. To challenge my little grey cells and keep them active I am currently studying responsive website design.
    I work from home and to avoid getting cabin fever I make a regular early doors appearance in my local pub. I’m not getting rich but at least I’m happy.

    • Brent Galloway


      It’s great to hear that you have other activities to help refresh your creative juices. It’s very important to have those, because it’s easy to get burnt out doing the same thing day in and day out.

      Thanks for taking the time to share! :)

  • John Hatherly

    Great Article! I couldn’t agree more. I also think working with your local community in a creative capacity is quite rewarding, and prevents burnout. volunteering is highly creative.

  • Jeff Kulinski

    Love the article. Side projects are also a great way to test out some of the out of the box ideas that a previous client may have balked at. I find it’s a great way to get me charged up and challenges me as I head into the next new project.

  • Surrey Web Design

    I am working as an internee in a graphic-design company. I will keep these tips in my mind whenever I become a professional graphic designer. I am sure that taking side projects will increase my professionalism. I request you to write something about how to get a powerful side project, which do not disturb your regular work.

  • Jackie

    Hi Brent – this is such valuable advice. Freelancers can sometimes forget how much they love to do what they do because they stop doing for themselves. You don’t need to sacrifice the things you love, like family and friends, in order to become a stronger designer. You just need to take the time to remember why you got started in the first place, and do something you love!

  • James English


    I am currently a dentist and I love reading your blog. I always craved the desire to become a designer, especially a web design but my parents never encouraged me to persue the arts and to focus on science.

    I was wondering, for someone starting from no design education or design skills, what would be the best way to start learning?

    sorry for posting this here but i really like your writing and you seem like a genuine person so I thought i’d try ask. anyone else is also welcome to answer

    thanks a lot

    • Natalie Curnow

      Hi James, Just wanted to say that a science degree can be an advantage in certain fields, scientific or medical illustration, science communication, some info graphics where you need to pull the stats from raw data. As far as learning design, look at what courses are available locally, or elsewhere. Decide whether you want to study part-time or commit yourself to full time study. Are there any short courses or online courses you could enroll in to see whether this is genuinely what you want to do? Goodluck.

  • Pyramid Pixels

    Hey Brent
    Thanks for this post. It reminds me that it is not all about money all the time. It will also help me be more pro-active and venture in other areas of expertise. :)
    Thanks once again!

  • Kerby Rosanes

    I totally agree of all the ideas you put in this article Brent. Just a year ago when I started to share my doodle and illustration work online, then more and more side projects keep coming. I am an online marketing specialist and working 8 hours a day, five days a week. Illustration has been my passion and never thought that sharing my work online and accepting side projects at night or over the weekends can bring me personal satisfaction and fulfillment of getting something useful done and earning while having a lot of fun!

  • Natalie Curnow

    Hi Brent, I’ve been enjoying reading your articles and have found them very insightful. I completely agree with this one, and wanted to share my experience. I work as a freelance designer and had not been gaining satisfaction or been inspired by much the work I had been doing recently. Drawing is my first love, and a few months ago I set myself a goal of doing one personal drawing a week. I decided that if I did not make the time, the time was not going to present itself. This been invaluable. My confidence in my skills and the value of my work have been restored. The time away from paid work has allowed me to look at my business and I’ve effected changes to guide it in to a more appropriate direction, and a number of doors have opened by showcasing this personal work. My only regret is that I did not do this sooner.

    • Brent Galloway


      That’s awesome to hear! :)
      Thanks for taking the time to read and share your experience.

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