About a year and a half ago, I started tinkering with a framework for PHP called Laravel. The PHP community was really loving it, so I gave it a try. What resulted with my tinkering is this site (or rather, a rudimentary CMS powering this site). Now, there was really no reason to build a blog platform from scratch when there’s such a popular and free open source alternative.
No really – this was a dumb idea. I expected that I’d be up late at night, writing code to solve problems that have already been solved multiple times. But hey, it’s my life and my free time and I’ll decide what I want to do with it.
What resulted was pretty much what I predicted: late nights and a lot of frustration. But I did learn a lot from taking this route so I would like to share some of it here.
Side Projects Teach
This is the obvious one. Running a side project teaches you something new. For me, taking on the challenge of writing this platform for five writers forced me to level up my programming ability.
One reason why I wrote this platform was because I felt stuck supporting software I didn’t want to support anymore. The idea behind building this site was to practice my OOP, show off the source, and then find projects and clients more suited for my liking. That never happened because I ended up taking on a different opportunity, but the learning was still worth it (and this site is still around).
Side Projects Relieve Stress
I was an independent contractor, running my own small consulting business. It was a pretty sweet gig. A lot of clients needed sites built on WordPress so finding work wasn’t always difficult.
But to be honest, client work is stressful. I found that 90% of the business is just the back and forth between the client and 10% is building the actual site. That’s not to say designing and developing is easy. It’s hard work – dealing with the client is just harder.
To be able to set aside that work and build something I wanted to build, just allowed me to explore and be creative. The irony is, this side project came with its own stress. But it was fun, liberating and really addictive.
Side Projects Are Confidence Boosters
I actually started hating developing WordPress sites. I wanted an opportunity to build web applications and write Object Oriented code. The problem is, I kind of sucked.
I didn’t think I had the chops to take on the projects I really wanted. I’d look at some of the work people in my field were doing and feel inferior. I didn’t think I could write code like they could.
Unfortunately, there’s really no conclusion to this and I still have this insecurity.
But the confidence boost comes when I reflect on what I’ve learned. I’m a better developer today than I was yesterday. And that’s because I practice what I want to get better at, and learn everyday.