Four Steps To Starting Your Side Project

As exciting and educational as school gets, it might not be providing you with the creative outlet that you need. Every young, driven student has a passion. With that passion comes the desire to do something on your own. Whether it’s starting your own business, developing your own software, or encouraging a social movement – you have an idea and you want to make it real.

And now is the time to. In today’s competitive industry, recruiters are looking for young ambitious students to excel at something outside of just pure academics. Your side project will define you as someone with an innovative vigor that’s not afraid to take action on the things you’re passionate about. In our interview with Google’s University Program Coordinator Jessica Safir, she states that recruiters “don’t just stop at your resume where it says education, and then stop looking.” They are always looking for more, especially involvement outside of a candidate’s studies.

So stand out from the crowd, explore your passion, and attack your side project today. Take these four steps to get you started.

Step 1: Brain dump your ideas, and stick with one.

 You may have a series of ideas in your head just waiting to come alive. To filter out the good from the bad and the realistic from the fantasies, start brain dumping.

Open up a word document and begin writing down ideas. Jot down anything you’ve ever wanted to do, any problem you’ve ever wanted to solve, or anything you’d like to see exist in the world. As students, we have plenty of thoughts bouncing around in our head. Brain dumping will give you the ability to flush them out.

Once you have this list of ideas, you need to figure out which one of them you’re actually passionate about. Remember that it’s not about ideas, it’s about making ideas happen. Steve Job was an advocator of passion, calling it a critical component of success.

 “It has got to be something that you’re passionate about because otherwise you won’t have the perseverance to see it through” – Steve Jobs

Did you find an idea? Stick with it, refine it and move on to the next step.

Step 2: Determine what you need.

This is where you need to tap into your network and find a way to utilize your existing resources. Here’s a Beginner’s Guide on How to Network if you need a little help. Your idea cannot be made into a goal without determining the steps to get there and what you need in each step.

Are you trying to start your own blog?

You should probably look into which hosting site you’d want to buy your domain name from, or which free website builder to use. You can start networking with your friends who have had publishing experience, or work at your school’s newspaper. Maybe you’d like to start connecting with fellow peers who are knowledgeable in the topic you want to blog on. Either way, remember that a blog can be a powerful tool in both spreading your ideas and getting you noticed. In fact, you can use a blog to apply for an internship. Just one of its many perks.

  • To get you inspired, Thomas Frank, a recent college graduate of Iowa State University, started building websites for local businesses when he was in high school. He decided to found a blog called College Info Geek to share the knowledge he’s gained through college,and after. Now he helps thousands of students learn the essential to personal branding, finding a job, and more!

Are you trying to start your own business?

Most university have a vibrant student entrepreneur community. Check if there’s an on-campus incubator or if there are scholarships being given out to students trying to fund their next big idea. Connect with other people who specialize in the area that you need for your business. For example, it’d be a good idea to on-board a student graphic designer to get your logo branded. You may be the brains behind your project, but there are always other resources you can utilize to get your project in solid form.

  • For example, Phil Michaelson was a student at Harvard who founded his website, KartMe, as a side project. He wanted an easier way to view recommendations from his friends of places to visit, books to read, movies to see, hotels to stay at, and more. To solve this problem, Phil worked with freelance designers he found on Elance to prototype his website. Upon graduation, he launched the site into full force!

Whatever the case is for your project, figure out who and what you need to get that idea of yours up and running.

Step 3: Have a goal timeline.

Now that you have a project idea and identified the resources you need to make it a reality, it’s time to fill out your goal timeline.

In one week, how much progress will you have gotten on your project?

In one month, how will your project look?

In three months, will your project be completed or will it only be a quarter done?

Think of goals you want to hit and ask yourself WHEN you want to hit it. Pick up a calendar and note the dates when you’re suppose to be done with one part of your project. This is a way to keep yourself accountable. Remember, be realistic. While you’re juggling school with having a social life, it can be difficult turning your attention back to your side project. Give yourself enough time on your goal timeline to work on your project, and also do other things.

Step 4: Experiment and never give up.

A point to remember about a side project is that it’s an experiment. It’s a playground outside of school where you can let your innermost creative beast rampage the slides and swings. Sometimes things can go wrong that you don’t expect and that’s completely ok. The most important thing about working on a side project is that you’re learning, creating, and doing something that you’re passionate about.

Who knows? Your side project can turn into a full-time business, or get you recognized and hired by that company you’ve always wanted to work for. It can gain you media recognition, or make someone’s day better. Whatever it may be, a side project is your passion being put to work.

And the time to start is now.


**Here at InternMatch, we recognize students who’ve produced awesome side projects. Is that student you? E-mail with who you are and what your side project is and get a chance to be featured on Internmatch!

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