How to Pick Your Next Side Project.

Understand why you want to build a side project.

Your side project should depend on your goals. Some goals you may have are:

  • build programming general experience
  • learn a specific skill, tool, language, framework, or technology
  • build a portfolio to show to employers.

Metrics for considering a project.

Once you understand why you want to build a side project to learn or get a job, you can start weighing your side project ideas against the following metrics:

  • Marketability: The ability to leverage the project as proof of your ability. Does the project appeal to non-developer types? Is it visually cool? Does it have any wow factory?
  • Learning: Does the project teach you want you to want to learn? Can you build it using the tools you want to learn?
  • Interest: Are you excited about building it? Does the idea energize you, or is it a chore?
  • Scope: How long will it take? How difficult is the project to complete?

Match the benefits to your priorities

Depending on why you are building a side project, you’ll have to decide which metrics matter most for you.

Aspiring Developers.

If you are new to programming and still building basic programming knowledge, you might consider prioritizing maximizing interest, learning, and minimizing scope.

New Developers.

You have some basic experience programming but little to no work experience. You are in the middle of the hardest phase of programming, getting your first real job. Before you get your first job, many companies consider you a risky investment. The barrier to entry is high in software. But once you’re in, finding work gets easier.

Experienced Developers.

You know what to do. You’re busy working on real projects. You’re using spare time to work on the side. Match the metrics with your goals. Most projects will probably focus on interest. If you aren’t interested in it, it will be tough to find the motivation to work on it outside of work time.

Final Thoughts

You now understand some metrics you can use to measure the value of a side project. By taking the time to understand why you want to build a side project, you’ll be better able to prioritize which metrics matter to you. Therefore, you’ll be better able to choose from which side project best suits your goals.

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Brooklin Myers

Brooklin Myers

Software Engineer. I create educational content focused on technology for mobile and web applications.