How to Launch a Side Project from Zero

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Since 2017, I have launched several projects including Spider, Pretzel, Stitches and Dribbble color palette.

At first, it wasn't clear which steps of the launch process were more important than others. But after my third launch, I had hatched a plan and started tweaking it. In this article, I will share the lessons I learned and walk you through the process of making a product. Hopefully you can take this as a starting point or inspiration, and make something tailored for yourself.

Start by checking out this checklist that I've developed over a number of side projects. Feel free to run with it and adapt it for your own projects.

1. Keep a Problem Notebook


Many of us keep an idea notebook, but I would advocate keeping a “book of grudges”: one with problems and wrongs you find intriguing to solve. Mine is a kanban board with different labels — design, social, security, etc. With these labels, I know what problem could be easily solved with a post-it note, and what could be solved by a clever app. I stare at this board often and maintain it diligently — it tells me what my current priority is, and what the next long term goal is.

2. Know Yourself First

If you’re like me, your book of grudges is extensive. To figure out what is worth spending time on, let’s start with why. Why do you want to create a product?

For me, there are two reasons:

  1. I like helping people and listening to their daily struggles. It gives me different perspectives on life.
  2. Nothing brings me as much joy as making things. The satisfaction of creating something of my own is far greater than any shiny new job or huge paycheque.

With the two causes combined, I noticed I’m drawn to smaller and refined issues. You can spot a trend among all the products I've made — they are utilitarian and focused.

So, ask yourself why to narrow the field of selections. If new technologies and the possibilities they bring fascinate you, maybe an open-ended, AR powered camera app would excite you. Whatever you choose, starting by understanding your cause will help you feel less overwhelmed.

3. Ideation and Design

Once you have a problem to tackle and you’re armed with enough knowledge regarding the problem, it’s time to ideate the solution. During ideation, the only goal is to generate as many solutions as possible without being judgmental. I write my ideas out in a Markdown file and keep the session around 30 minutes.

What is “launch process”; is it what is commonly called “implement” or “deploy” or “promote”?

What is a “Side Project”?

Is a “Problem Notebook” specific to the project or is it general?

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