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Things I don’t want to do to grow my side project

By Lane Wagner on May 01, 2022

Working on a side project that aspires to be a real business has its ups and downs, especially after you’ve been at it for over 2 years. I’ve been hacking away at Boot.dev since March of 2020, and for the most part it’s been a ton of fun. However, at the end of the day, if you want your project to earn you enough cash that you can quit your day job, you have to work on some things that are less fun. For me, this means marketing, sales, taxes, content creation… basically everything apart from coding the platform and creating new coding courses.

With that in mind, I’m a big fan of trying my best to avoid the things I hate doing. That doesn’t mean they don’t need to happen - the business needs what it needs. In order to keep my sanity, I try to just figure out which things I truly hate doing, and hire people out for that.

You might be thinking:

“Yeah, every business owner delegates. You hire people to do the stuff you aren’t good at or don’t have time for.”

That’s close to what I’m saying, but it’s not exactly what I’m saying. When your business is a side project that doesn’t need to succeed on an accelerated timeframe, one of the most critical things for success is to simply not burn yourself out. I’m taking the tortoise’s approach to my project, I’m not too concerned with being a millionaire by next year. Rather, I want to continue to enjoy my work and grow the platform steadily over time. As such, what I delegate is less about what I’m bad at and more about what I hate to do.

So what do I hate doing?

Writing articles that I’m not passionate about

First, I really hate writing about things I don’t care about. This article, and many of the others I’ve written on the Boot.dev’s blog have been a ton of fun to write. I’ll continue to write. Organic SEO is very much a part of my tortoise-like approach to growth. The dividends continue to be paid at no cost once the content is created. What I’ve decided I won’t do anymore is write articles that are uninteresting to me, but that I’ve found have a good chance of ranking for keywords that are likely to be useful to the business.

I hire writers to write those articles.

Graphic design

I’ll use Canva to make a banner, but that’s about where I draw the line. We have some cool badges on Boot.dev for when learners unlock certain achievements, and that’s the kind of stuff that I just have no interest in building. I’ve found fiverr is a decent place to get some one-off artwork created.

UX design

So my approach to UI/UX has actually changed a bit over the last 2 years. At first, I hated designing websites when I started, and to be honest, it’s still not my favorite thing to do. I’m a backend developer by trade, so I haven’t had much practice. However, now that I’ve really taken to heart the old saying:

Good artists copy, great artists steal

it has helped a lot. I’m assuming many people are like me in that I feel like I have a decent eye for UX that works and UX that doesn’t work, but have a hard time designing great stuff from scratch. Two things have helped me enjoy designing a lot more.

  1. I always start from someone else’s design. Sure, I end up tweaking it to fit my site, but I search around until I find a version of the component I want online and then steal the design.
  2. I use Tailwind CSS. This one just helps me keep all my CSS classes clean and all my sitewide configurations in one place. It also makes stealing easier because I can copy-paste other people’s HTML and still get styling with my own colors and configurations.

Accounting

I did my own taxes a couple times. The stress of doing something wrong was torture. It’s not like I was doing anything even close to illegal, I had a w-2 job and made a negligible amount of income on the side from various projects. Trying to figure it all out myself was a nightmare, and I really don’t want to try that again.

I have an accountant now, even though you would probably look at how much I earn and tell me I should do it myself or use TurboTax.

YouTube

Whenever I talk to a friend about what I’m building and how I’ve been finding new students, they inevitably say I should start a YouTube channel. That may be good advice. In fact, I’ve noticed that it’s common for coding educators to have a channel. Of course, their courses are typically videos themselves, while mine are not.

However, all that remains beside the point. Creating videos might be the best way for Boot.dev to grow, but I don’t want to make videos. If I eventually get into the YouTube game, I’d probably start by sponsoring some channels that have related content that I like. Alterntively, I might try to start a channel where I don’t need to be directly involved in speaking or recording myself.

If I want to grow faster, I probably need to do more things I don’t like

Once Boot.dev grows from a side-project into a full-time gig, I might have to do more things I don’t like. It is comforting to believe that generally speaking, the more you do something, the more you’ll enjoy doing it if for no other reason than you get better at doing it.

Most people give up on their side projects because they get bored or it’s not growing as fast as they had hoped. I’m trying to avoid that burnout by continuing to work on my project and avoiding the things I don’t like. Basically, I’m trying to keep it fun.