How to Tell If Your Side Project is Worth the Effort

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Photo by @CLTLately

Exactly 22 weeks ago, one of my best friends on this planet and I sat down to record a podcast. We decided to call it The Margarita Confessionals, because we were covering the topics we always talked about over margaritas: dating, relationships, guys in general, and friendships. We were in her living room, sharing one microphone and praying that her dog wouldn’t see the mailman and start barking, thus ruining our audio. There were so many technical questions we didn’t have answers to, and we weren’t sure if anyone would even care about what we were about to record.

Since then we’ve invested hundreds of hours working on the 21 episodes of The Margarita Confessionals that have followed. This comes in the form of planning the shows, learning about how to improve our podcasting technique, promoting the show, and finding business partnerships that make sense for us. We’ve both had to shift energy away from other side projects.

Despite all that, starting The Margarita Confessionals has been the best thing I’ve done lately, and I think my bestie/co-host/business partner Ali would say the same. I always look forward to recording it. It’s a creative outlet. It’s gotten me more involved in my community. Our listener base is growing. We get e-mails from awesome people from all over the place who tell us they enjoy what we’re doing. And ultimately it lets me hang out and spend time with my friend. There are very few pursuits in life that check so many of those boxes.

Our generation is full of people who want to be entrepreneurs. We want to chase our side hustles and find cool, new projects. That’s awesome. But picking those projects requires some thought. There are a lot of people who will tell you that you should focus on the venture that will make you the most money in the shortest amount of time. Zero in on that ROI, then go buy yourself a boat or something. Based on my podcast experience, I think exactly the opposite is true.

When you’re starting your own thing, whether it’s a boutique or a consulting business or anything in between, you’re putting in a lot of energy, brain power, and cash to get the project off the ground. If you don’t absolutely love what you’re doing, you’re going to stall out.

A few years back, a friend and I tried to get an online-based business going, but we realized we were both “meh” about the concept at its core. The first few weeks were fine because we had the excitement of this shiny, new project to focus on. Eventually though, planning meetings became a major chore and the whole thing quietly fizzled. It’s great to throw your energy behind a project that you know can make you money. You deserve to be paid for your efforts. But you should also pursue the thing that makes you feel fulfilled in some way. If you never earned a dollar in profit, would you still feel good about investing your energy into this project? Does it bring you joy?

So much of life is about what we have to do.

We have to find some way to support ourselves.

We have to pay taxes.

We have to respond to annoying “please advise” e-mails.

When you’re focusing on a side project, do it because you truly want to. This way, even if you don’t make a single dollar off of it, it’ll be a way to relax, learn something new, meet new people, and/or express yourself.

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