16. März 2020

Why you should start working on a side-project right now!

Yes I mean it, start your side-project now. For several years now I have been working on personal side-projects in my free time. In most cases, the ideas for those side-projects came about rather spontaneously. No matter where I am, I always keep a small notebook with me. I use it to write down ideas of this kind so that I can come back to them later. The side-projects I have worked on in recent years were all digital products. This is the most obvious in my case. Some of these projects never saw the daylight.

This is because I want to challenge my creativity and my skills in general with projects like this. Because of these challenges, I am getting better at what I do. My basic idea behind these side-projects is that I try to acquire new skills. But also to further strengthen and expand existing ones. If you are still thinking about starting a side-project, then this blog post will give you the necessary motivation to finally start.

Ways of approaching a new side-project

There are various ways to approach a side-project. On the one hand, it can be used as an opportunity to learn new skills. As an example, a designer designs an app and then wants to program it. Now, the designer is using this project to teach himself how to program. However, it is also possible to start such a project with the ulterior motive that you want to solve a personal problem. An example of this. You lack ideas about what to cook every day.

You now program a tool that, based on the ingredients on your shopping list, suggests dishes that you can cook with your groceries. The third option, you not only solve a personal problem with your side-project but in the course of your work on the project, you conclude that it can also solve general problems. With a little luck, an actual business use case develops from a concrete idea and your side-project. Of course, you can also work on side-projects to simply promote your creativity. Or because you enjoy implementing creative ideas in the form of projects.

The freedom of side-projects

Side-projects allow you to work on a very specific topic without establishing the pressure that might be felt during work or at the university. This creates a feeling of freedom. It is precisely this freedom that causes many people to turn to a creative topic alongside their job. If you think that your brain is already a bit rusty because you swing from one job to the next every day and don't do the creative work you want, then a side-project can get your head moving again. As we already know, side-projects can also be very useful in many ways, even if this is not apparent at first glance.

Brainstorming your ideas

If you have no idea where to start, that's not a problem at all. There are different techniques to brainstorm and generate ideas. It is easiest if you select a certain area at the beginning and try to narrow it down. For this, I will now refer to an example already mentioned. You have now decided to design an app as a side-project. To further narrow down the project, you have selected the cooking/food sector.

Now you ask yourself which problem you have personally, which concerns cooking and/or food and can be solved by an app. You now realize that you struggle to find ideas about what to cook. Also, you don't just want to go shopping for a recipe over and over again, because you think it will be very expensive in the long run. When you go shopping, you always buy fresh fruit and vegetables without knowing what you will ultimately prepare.

Developing an idea

Your problem is slowly developing into an idea that you could solve with an app. You always write your shopping list on your mobile phone. Maybe you could design a grocery list app (well my girlfriend and I are using Basecamp for this, but if you built the ultimate grocery list app, let me know). So far so good. But your problem that you will never find ideas about what you should ultimately cook with your purchase has not yet been solved.

Therefore you could now design a shopping list app that suggests different recipes based on your purchase. Then you don't have to worry about what you should ultimately cook with your groceries when shopping. This would solve your problem. You would record all your groceries on your mobile phone before you shop. Just like you've always done. The only difference is that you now create your list in your app. Logically, the more foods you put on the list, the bigger the recipe suggestions.

Solving a problem

This is one of many approaches to generate ideas for a side-project. However, an important part in my eyes is the question "Does my idea solve a problem?". While dealing with the solution of a personal problem in the course of a side-project, a direct relationship is created. Since the person repeats the problem daily, weekly or monthly, you get new impressions and insights, which in turn can be directly included in the project. If I deal with the first best idea that occurs to me but does not solve any of my problems, I never make this connection.

At some point, it will happen that you don't want to develop the project anymore because the knowledge is missing. Another huge plus factor of a side-project is the fact that you can explicitly learn new technologies or tools. It is always better to voluntarily adopt new technology than to be more or less forced to do so by work or study. Have you always wanted to design an app with Figma even though you use Sketch at work? Has there been a specific framework for a long time that you wanted to test extensively? A side-project creates the best outline conditions to address these and other topics.

Share your learnings

Many people, including me, write on a personal blog or sites like Indie Hackers about the progress and developments of the side-project. In this way, you not only do marketing quite easily but also take the first steps to create a brand around its name. The people who read this blog post will always link the project with your name in the future. Anyone who undertakes to always share experience reports will subsequently gain new followers and perhaps also users for the side-project. I can confidently answer the question of whether it is still worth starting a blog these days. A blog is a big win either way. Because you are doing an incredibly creative activity, namely writing. However, if you cannot find readers for your blog, you still have a collection of useful insights about your project.

No matter what purpose you pursue with a side project, it is the best way to create and learn something new. It is incredibly important for personal development to break out of everyday work. Various companies support their employees in this project. The most prominent example of this is Google. Because Google has a so-called "20% policy". This allows employees to spend up to 20% of their working week on Google with their projects. This is how Gmail, Google Talk, AdSense, and Google News were created.

Be active – join communities

Being active in communities such as Indie Hackers also has many advantages. The indie hackers community helps each other a lot. If you need advice, are in a tight spot with your project, or just want to get feedback on a pure idea, then you should visit Indie Hackers. With a side-project, you can sometimes "get lost", no longer find the motivation to continue working on the project, and ultimately leave it at the far left. If two, four, or even six additional eyes examine and analyze the project on Indie Hackers (or in another community such as the subreddit r/sideproject), this can lead to new insights and new motivation.

It is very valuable in every respect to exchange ideas about a project with like-minded people. This is a challenge for many people, as most feel that when they publicize their idea that someone else will snap them away. No idea is unique. It takes exchange with others so that an idea can be evaluated. In this respect, feedback is mandatory.

Summarizing

In summary, it can be said that a side-project does more than just help you learn new skills, develop yourself and build a community. If you solve a problem with your project that is also a problem for many other people, a side-project can also develop into a business. For starters, however, it is important to start small. Try not to push yourself too hard, so that after a short time you will no longer have any motivation, because the project is not developing as you had imagined.

Besides, you should keep the project as simple as possible at the beginning. Concentrate on the main problem that you want to solve and continue to build on it. One after the other. Even if some side-projects have blossomed into large companies, one of the main reasons why such a project starts is that you have no pressure to make money or monetize the project. If the project fails, that's the way it is. However, you have no obligations, no deadlines, but complete creative freedom to set up the project as you imagine.

Even if it is a side-project, do not simply stamp it as such. Because at some point it can develop into something that makes you happy and satisfied. So a side-project can eventually develop into your main project. Just start small, be patient and develop your project step by step. You will have fun, learn a lot and develop yourself.


Disclaimer: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a penny more, but I'll get a small commission, which supports this blog and also my side-projects. So considering buying something through my links. Thank you!

You are a forward-thinking creative mind and you are interested in new apps, tools, software, resources to boost your workflow and productivity? Well, you should definitely consider subscribing to my weekly digest Creativerly. Every Sunday I drop you a nicely and carefully curated email, packed with useful tools, apps, software, resources, books, blog post, for creative folks. If you want to get a taste of it, you can scroll through the archive or just go ahead and subscribe.

21. November 2019

How I started to build designsupplies – a collection of design resources

In my first blog post, I have already announced my latest side-project, designsupplies, a collection of design resources and tools for creative people. In this update, I'd like to go into a bit more detail on how the idea came about. Likewise, this blog post is also about the status quo of the project.

The idea for designsupplies came from my love for Content Curation. Through my weekly newsletter, Creativerly, I'm already following that love. I collect tools, apps, software, design resources, books, podcasts. Those may not only be of interest to me but to creative minds in general. Creativerly is a medium through which readers can increase their creativity and productivity. Every Sunday, the newsletter reaches 55 subscribers. My goal is to generate 100 subscribers within 12 months. I only have four months left for this goal. The number of subscribers stagnated recently. Therefore, I had to think about what tactics I use to still crack the 100 subscribers. Read more about this in my separate blog post "Growing my Newsletter to 100 Subscribers - my journey so far". So, back to designsupplies.

Building up an archive of design resources

Through the constant collection of design resources, I created a huge archive over the years. I used several resources from that archive in the course of various projects. Now I want to make this archive public. Designsupplies aims to support many designers and creative minds in their next project. I'm aware that there are already many websites that provide design resources. However, I noticed that most of those websites display the same resources over and over again.

My archive contains different categories. Apps, tools, and software. Plugins, browsers, and extensions. General design resources (like UI kits, templates, vector graphics, themes, etc.). Books and blog posts, as well as podcasts and lectures. In addition, technology continues to evolve. More and more apps, tools, and software coming onto the market. So one of my main intentions is to keep designsupplies up to date. I want to make sure that always the latest resources are available to users.

Before I start a new project, I start with thorough research and evaluation. As part of designsupplies, I took a closer look at other resource sites. What interested me most was what these other websites did right. But also what they dig wrong. On top of that, I wanted to know what design resources they advertised. What social media channels they represented. What marketing strategies they followed. How they monetized their website. After this evaluation phase, I decided for myself that it is definitely worth the time and energy to plunge into the new project. The analysis of the "competitors" turned out to me that there are some points that I could improve.

Securing the domain

Another important step for me was to secure the domain as well as the username on social media. I opted for designsupplies.xyz. because .xyz domains are quite cheap and the internet is overflowing with .com domains anyway. Through an offer from Namecheap I got the domain for a price of € 1.16 for the first year. After that, it renews itself for a price of 11,75€. Compared to my .design domain (for my portfolio website philipptemmel.design) it is 30 € less. In most cases, I will decide in the first year if I will continue a project. So, of course, I try to keep the costs as low as possible, so a domain that costs me 1.16€ in the first year is very convenient for me.

How to build a MVP

Next, I had to think about how to finally implement the project online. The CMS WordPress would be obvious in my case. Why? Because I have been working with WordPress for several years. For many of my projects, I have been using WordPress. I am familiar with the setup. Therefore, I am able to not lose any time during the launch because I do not have to learn a new CMS. From the beginning, I can concentrate straight on the content. Of course, I also need a web server/hosting to use WordPress. Because I recently shut down another side-project (read more in my first blog post "Time to kill my side-project and start a new one") I already had a web server. The webserver I currently own at World4You. Their packages start at 4.90€ per month and go up to 14.90€ per month.

Themes or complete custom?

At the time of writing this blog post, I am working on the final Webdesign of designsupplies. I'm still undecided about whether I should actually use WordPress for the implementation. WordPress has a huge number of users. Thus, the community keeps developing the CMS through themes and website builders.

A good example of this are the guys and girls from Elegant Themes and to be more specific, their product Divi. It's one of the most-installed WordPress themes, as it has a distinct advantage. Divi installs like any other WordPress theme. However, you do not use the customizer of WordPress to design the individual pages. But you will have a dedicated website builder from Divi within the theme. Thus, you get your own backend within WordPress. This allows you to create dynamic and modern websites without having to write a single line of code. A particularly large selection of different themes for WordPress is available on Themeforest.

Webflow: the best option to build a website in 2019

Another tool that has been attracting attention for some time is Webflow. Webflow offers users an amazing all-in-one solution. CMS, hosting and one of the most advanced and innovative website builders. Although Webflow has a certain learning curve, you can sign up for free and work on two projects as long as you want.

However, as soon as you want to link a Custom Domain or get more out of your website, you have to switch to a paid model. These start at as low as $ 12 per month (if deducted per year) for the Basic Site Plan. It is impressive to see so many creative minds breaking the barrier of code. Webflow's user base continues to grow. There are resource sites such as Flowbase, which specializes in providing only Webflow resources. The projects can then get cloned. So even inexperienced Webflow users can start with their website project. Webflow itself also provides some user-generated resources. You can use them to get you started in Webflow.

Steep learning curve

In the beginning, I was a little skeptical about Webflow. It seemed like it has a steep learning curve. Because of that, I decided to create my first MVP in the form of a landing page with WordPress. The landing page I created was solely for the benefit of informing interested users of what designsupplies actually is. The user who came to the site for the first time already read in the Hero section that this page is about design resources and tools. Driven by interest, the user was able to move around the site to get more information. To stay in contact and inform interested users I set up a mailing list.

Subscribers to the newsletter will be the first to hear about new blog posts and updates. At the bottom of the landing page, the users found a little description of myself. I also wrote some words about why I started designsupplies. Here I also linked to my blog again, as I am posting updates on my projects. This was my (first) MVP, which I applied to win users before the official launch.

Get early feedback

These then have the added value that they can take part in the entire creation process, as I always inform them in the course of updates. So it is also possible for me to include direct feedback in my project. It is important for me to get to know other perspectives of my project early on. Users usually see the project in very different ways than I do. Sharing with users is therefore essential.

However, this MVP did not last long. I soon discovered that Webflow is definitely the better solution. Not just for the MVP, but for the entire project as well. After a few Youtube tutorials and blog posts, I felt fit to work on my first designs in Webflow. A weekend investment was enough and I released the second version of my MVP, which is still online now.

The status quo of designsupplies

The status quo of the project looks like this: The MVP is online and available in the form of a landing page. Likewise, I have also set up a mailing list or a newsletter. For this I use Mailerlite. I started at Mailchimp with my personal newsletter Creativerly. After several newsletters sent, my account got closed. No warning, neither instructions from Mailchimp how to solve this problem. After several attempts to contact the support, I decided to leave Mailchimp. So I made the switch to Mailerlite. Mailerlite is easy to use and offers great possibilities using blocks and a Drag'n'Drop Editor. So you can design and edit emails to your preferences.

The move from Mailchimp to Mailerlite was as easy as there is an import function. The first 1,000 subscribers, as well as 12,000 emails per month, are free. Great and sufficient for getting started. Through this mailing list, I would like to notify prospects directly if I have updates regarding designsupplies. In addition, I will also prepare special news about apps, software, tools, and design resources only for newsletter subscribers.

Focusing on social media

I also focus on social media. Twitter and Reddit are my go-to's. But also Instagram seems to be a good fit. You wonder why these three channels and why not Facebook? I use Twitter because the design community (especially in the tech sector) has a strong presence on Twitter. That's exactly what I want to achieve in the first place. Instagram has strong creative and design community too. Although a lot of content seems to be generic. More and more sites grew an incredible user base by only sharing user-generated content. Nevertheless, I saw some good engagement rates from previous projects while using Instagram.

Facebook is useless

Facebook turned out to be rather useless for me a few times. Even if a page has collected a certain amount of "Likes" and built up a user base, you can reach only a very small part of the users. If you want to reach all users you have to take a lot of marketing budget into your hands and place ads. At least on Twitter, as well as on Instagram, there is still the possibility to win organic new users. Reddit is somehow an underdog. There are some design related subreddits with a large active user base. Posting a project or blog post to Reddit has also positive effects on SEO. With my newsletter project Creativerly I have made some good experiences posting content to Reddit. If you haven't focused on Reddit, you should definitely try it out.

How to monetize a side-project

In addition, I also wondered what ways exist to monetize the project. While this may not be the first motivation when working on a side project, I like to consider the possibilities right at the beginning. So I know what steps I can take as soon as I reach a certain number of users.

If I realize that the project is well received and therefore there is traffic, I will consider advertising on the one hand. However, I do not want any irrelevant ads, but those concerning the topic of the page. This is possible with carbon ads. Because they aim with their ad network exactly on designers and developers. Another option would be Affiliate Networks. Since domain and hosting providers are also part of designsupplies, I can use affiliate links. A third option would be partnerships. However, this possibility is likely to be an option only when traffic has increased significantly.

The next steps

The next important step, as already mentioned, is to finalize the web design in order to start the implementation in Webflow. Working with Webflow has also brought me into greater contact with the entire no-code movement. A true pioneer in this field is definitely Ben Tossel. With his website makerpad.co he has created a true Eldorado for all makers. Tutorials, templates and a large community. Everyone can learn the skills to implement ideas without code.

I will soon write a blog post about the whole no-code movement, which is growing faster thanks to people like Ben Tossel. The fact that anyone can make a website, a web app or even a mobile app without any technical understanding and without the help of a programmer to design and build is just terrific. But as I said, that's another topic for another blog post. So much to say, I, as a designer, will definitely benefit from the many no-code opportunities that exist now, as I use them in every one of my projects.

On this blog, I'll keep you up to date on the status of designsupplies. You can also subscribe to my newsletter, where I share status updates from time to time.


Disclaimer: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a penny more, but I'll get a small commission, which supports this blog and also my side-projects. So considering buying something through my links. Thank you!


You are a forward-thinking creative mind and you are interested in new apps, tools, software, resources to boost your workflow and productivity? Well, you should definitely consider subscribing to my weekly digest Creativerly. Every Sunday I drop you a nicely and carefully curated email, packed with useful tools, apps, software, resources, books, blog post, for creative folks. If you want to get a taste of it, you can scroll through the archive or just go ahead and subscribe.

26. Oktober 2019

Growing my newsletter to 100 subscribers – My journey so far.

Anyone who has read my first blog post will notice that I'm a fan of content curation (and curating my newsletter). That is the reason why I am working on my latest project. I introduced it to you in my first blog post. Desingsupplies is a curated resource website for designers and creative minds. Read more in my previous blog post.

Using my newsletter for content curation

This blog post is also about Content Curation. Before I started working on designsupplies, I already curated a weekly newsletter. »Creativerly« is my personal weekly digest. Every Sunday I send an email to currently 40 subscribers. The newsletter is about the design scene, as well as other creative areas. It features apps, tools, resources, books, and more. Moreover, creativerly is about boosting your workflow, your creativity, and productivity. I spend a lot of my free time on Twitter, Product Hunt, Medium, Gadget Overflow, and so on. It is a great feeling gathering all the useful stuff and sent it out to fellow creative folks.

Without doing a lot of marketing, I already had 40 subscribers since the launch eight months ago. Over the past few months, I have not focused on gaining new subscribers. I focused on the content and the look of the newsletter. Overall, I am satisfied with the look and feel of the newsletter now. Therefore, I would like to return to my subscriber target. Four months to go to reach 100 Subscribers. This blog post will focus on the tactics and strategies I use to win new subscribers.

Growing a community around my weekly newsletter

One of the first steps was to be active in the Twitter design community. It's not about leaving any comment on any postings that have a design reference. Moreover, it is about to leave a relevant comment that not only fits the topic, but also provides a certain value. This tactic works well in any social network. I keep hearing that some big accounts are using comment bots on Instagram. They leave generic comments on posts that use certain hashtags. Such comments definitely do not have any special added value.

I focus on social channels, especially Twitter, Reddit, and Indie Hackers. Twitter? The design community is quite strong there. Reddit? There are big subreddits with a constant exchange between designers and creative minds. Indie Hackers? I can inform like-minded makers about the status of my side projects. Some of them may not work for one. For another, they might be the solution to an unsolvable problem.

Likewise, my blog is another measure of subscriber acquisition. It is also a reason to pursue my passion for writing again. On my blog, I will write about my side projects. But, also more general articles on very different topics will find their place. Writing is a creative process. That's why I love it so much to put my thoughts into words. Because that's exactly where I have to pool my creativity. On the one hand, it may be that a blog post gets finished in a few hours. On the other hand, there are also topics that concern me so much that I sit for several days in a blog post. In the end, though, it is a great feeling that I take the time to switch off and concentrate on my written words.

Road to 100 newsletter subscribers

I have set myself the goal of reaching 100 subscribers within a year for the following reasons. With Creativerly, I've created a product that I'm convinced of that definitely one or two creative minds can benefit from. Therefore, I will also post regular updates and insights here on my blog.

My most recent step is the rebranding of my entire project. Until a few days ago, Creativerly was The Creative Abstract. My original access was also quite different compared to now. At the beginning of the project, I had the idea to pack everything I find throughout my week into the newsletter. Hence the name The Creative Abstract. Because it was a summary of the week. In the meantime, however, I place much more value on the content of the newsletter. Both the apps and the blog posts focus on qualitative content.

The newsletter's intention is to provide readers with added value. The apps, tools, resources, blog posts, which are in the newsletter should help the reader, by giving value. I'm always looking for a variety of tools that boost my creativity and productivity. However, when choosing these tools for my newsletter, I make sure that they not only help me but also many other creative minds.

Creating a brand

Another tactic is, that I wanted to create a brand around my newsletter. Therefore, I bought a domain and set up a landing page. I love how easy it is nowadays to create things like this. Namecheap provided me with a domain. The .xyz costs 1.16€ for the first year. After that, the renewal will cost around 11€. A crazy good deal. As a next step, I bought a Pro Standard license from carrd.co. I love carrd as it makes it super simple to create and launch a landing page literally in minutes. With the Pro Standard license, you can publish your site to a custom domain and get a lot of customization features.

What's next?

Now it is time to focus on everything mentioned above. I really want to build a community. So being active on twitter, reddit, and indie hackers is really key for me. Also I want to constantly improve the content of the newsletter. I love working on this project, and it is just a great feeling that there are already 40 people who are enjoying it.

Photo by Stock Photography on Unsplash


You are a forward-thinking creative mind and you are interested in new apps, tools, software, resources to boost your workflow and productivity? Well, you should definitely consider subscribing to my weekly digest Creativerly. Every Sunday I drop you a nicely and carefully curated email, packed with useful tools, apps, software, resources, books, blog post, for creative folks. If you want to get a taste of it, you can scroll through the archive or just go ahead and subscribe.


Disclaimer: My posts may contain affiliate links. If you buy something through one of those links you won't pay a penny more, but I'll get a small commission, which supports this blog and also my side-projects. So consider buying something through my links. Thank you!

22. September 2019

Time to kill my side-project and start a new one!

In order to constantly challenge myself and my creativity, I spend a lot of time working on various side-projects. One of these projects was dyfemgazine.com. Yeah, you've read it right, it "was" dyfemagazine.com, because now it's time to shut that side-project down and start a new one.

Read more