Working on side projects: Mistakes & Lessons

Nilesh Mahajan
2 min readNov 10, 2021

I let my side projects fail.

For the last 10 years, I have worked on 10+ side projects. I worked on many of them for months. Lot of them were good and had real users e.g. I had built a privacy friendly transliteration keyboard app — Minglish for Android in 2015. It had 1M+ downloads with average 4.3/5 rating in 10K+ reviews.

But then I ignored them. I launched and left them. They got outdated and died. I did this with many projects. I feel terrible now because I failed my users who showed so much love and support. I also lost some good opportunities.

My side projects failed because I was not persistent. Relying on motivation is the biggest mistake while working on a side project.

You are extremely motivated when you begin a project. But motivation is perishable. After a while, it will diminish significantly and if you don’t persist, the project will die.

Here are few things you should do make sure you don’t run out of steam -

1. Build habit

This is the biggest lesson. Consistency beats motivation. Build a habit to work on side projects. Show up and work.

2. Don’t share early on

Ideas are fragile and imperfect during the early stage. If you introduce them to the world too early, people are just going to poke holes in them. That’s very demotivating.

3. Write it down

As we research ideas, we get distracted with too much data. So before you research, write down the exact problem in one page. Come back to this write up whenever you feel lost.

4. Share at right time, with right people

Once your idea has gained strength, talk with real potential users early on. They will be your true motivators, guiding you to the right solution.

5. Don’t build everything by yourself

You lose motivation when you work on things peripheral to the core work. Defer or delegate such things.

A successful side project is extremely satisfactory. It’s a feeling like nothing else. Keep going at it !

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