By Georgina Laidlaw

Fill Paid-Work Gaps with Your Own Projects

By Georgina Laidlaw

What do you do when work’s thin on the ground? Finding work can be hard, and it takes time to get momentum going. Some days, you’ll have combed the job sites, contacted all your contacts, and attended to your daily promotional and client tasks before 10a.m. What’s next?

Searching fruitlessly for clients can be demoralizing. It’s rarely enjoyable, nor does it give many of us the chance to use what we see as our true talents. So, instead of worrying daily about the future, why not stop the paid-work gap with a project of your own?

Do Your Own Thing

If I have a quiet period, I usually divide my time between pursuing paid work and undertaking a project of my own. To some, spending my time on an unpaid project for my own gratification when I’ve got a mortgage demanding to be paid may seem crazy, but it offers valuable benefits.

Experimentation and Skill-building

Pursuing professional interests through your own projects inevitably allows you to exercise the creative muscle — to experiment and try out approaches and tactics for which commercial projects may not allow scope. This experimentation will likely broaden your experience, perspective, and skillset. In any case, it’s likely to be fun.

Pay or Promotion Potential

Pursuing your own professional interests through slow-period projects can develop your earning potential in a few ways. First, as I mentioned above, it can build salable skills. Second, your project may open unexpected new doors, spurring you to pursue, or giving you valuable exposure to new markets, clients, or industries. Finally, your project may, of course, focus on creating a product or service that you can sell, so although it may not pay while you’re building it, you may see a return once it’s complete and you begin to market it.

Talking Points

When you’re talking to contacts or potential clients, you may find you have little to relate if all you’re doing is looking for work. Working on your own projects ensures you’ll always have something exciting on the cards — something you’re eager to talk about and explain to others. Your contacts are bound to be intrigued, to ask questions, and to gather the perception that you’re innovative, motivated, and that you really love what you do.


Dragging yourself out of bed each day to discover the inevitable — that there still aren’t any suitable projects for you to pitch on — can get a little tedious. Having your own project to work on once you finish the day’s prospecting activities can motivate you to get up, get out, and kick those goals as early and thoroughly as possible, so you can enjoy some guilt-free hours on your own project afterward.

I find that working on my own projects gives me a real sense of purpose and progress even in the quietest times. So much so that I try to always have at least one of my own projects on the go. What about you? When was the last time you did you own thing?

Image by stock.xchng user clix.

  • It’s a good approach and I practice similar even on the company level.
    Only downside is that when paid job appears you have to switch to it and due to this fact many internal projects are in not so good shapes I wish them to be.

  • What about you? When was the last time you did you own thing?

    I’ve been trying to find time to redevelop my own site since about February. Because I haven’t done very much so far, I often think the amount of work ahead of me is so large that even when I do have a couple of spare hours, I think it’s not enough to get anything worthwhile done, and so often find myself finding other things to do instead.

  • During any downtime I try to review the past several jobs and figure out what I could have done better and apply that to future jobs. A former employer once gave me the advice of “never be your own best customer”.

  • Anonymous

    I often work on my own projects during down time. Also, don’t overlook volunteering your time for local non-profits. Helping a local youth organization to draw volunteers with a new website or showing them how to use their existing site and software to organize themselves and streamline operations.

    Often I find that the small organizations which have no budget for such things have board members who are higher up in the business world. When you start to learn the community you can open up many opportunities.

  • Anonymous

    This is, without a doubt, a great idea and an efficient way to utillize your time.
    My only problem is, that I lose the motivation and passion for my private projects, because there isn´t anyone pushing me to finish them or waiting for a finished product. The projects end up becoming annoying must-dos instead of passion-driven activities – and eventually I end up doing other things.I have tons of ideas for creative private projects, but somehow I lose the inspiration along the way…

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