Why Every Programmer Should Have a Side Project

Why Every Programmer Should Have a Side Project

So you’ve finally landed a programming job. Just the ideal one that you have always dreamed of doing since you were young. And now you can forget about looking for any other job, and just sit back, relax and progress in your new job, right?   

Well, it is true that programming jobs pay well and offer such great opportunities for advancement in the field of IT. Even so, it is always a good idea to find another side project besides your main programming job. Why do we say so? Consider these seven benefits that you stand to gain as a programmer with a side project:

1. Enhancing Your Skill Set

In your day job, you most probably are confined to working within a specific framework or technology stack. Also, you spend most of your time working on regular projects that only require you to use existing skills and do not really challenge you to develop new skills. Hence, simply focusing on your programming job does not leave any room for you to learn something new.

On the contrary, having a side project gives you the opportunity to learn new skills. It allows you to explore new programming languages, tools, skills and techniques. Also, with a side project, you will be able to take on new challenges, test and experiment different ideas through trial and error. In turn, this learning process will help to broaden your knowledge in the field. And it goes without saying that the more you enhance your skill set, the more adaptable and versatile you will become.

2. Practical Application of Knowledge

Theory alone does not really make you a great programmer. To become an expert in the field, you need to put that theory into practice. Yet, most formal professional jobs allow programmers to work only as a team, or work on just a part of the project. This means that, in your day job, you only get exposure to just a part of programming  and miss out on many aspects of developing products.

On the other hand, side projects provide a real-world context for applying all the concepts and theoretical knowledge that you’ve gained. You get to create your own project from scratch, test your coding skills, solve practical problems, and see firsthand how different components in programming interact. And with such hands-on experience, you will not only learn to take responsibility for all parts of a project, but also cement your understanding in the field and gain more confidence in your abilities. 

3. Building a Portfolio

As a programmer, you can definitely agree that having a portfolio of projects will set you apart from the competition and put you high in the market. Almost all employees and clients prioritize  programmers who have tangible evidence of their skills and creativity. Hence, having a well-maintained collection of side projects makes you a more attractive candidate as it demonstrates your great passion and dedication to programming.

However, with most organizations and companies, the projects you work on are considered private; hence, you can’t use these to show other clients your skills and expertise in the field of programming. This is why having one or more side projects besides your main job is crucial, as they will provide you with legit proof of work that you can use to advocate your knowledge and show off just what an awesome developer you are. And who knows, these side projects could just be the door to your next, better-paying job or new freelancing gig!

4. Problem-Solving Skills and Creativity

The regular day-to-day job of a programmer usually focuses on common problems that require common solutions. On other hand, side projects tend to present unique challenges that require more creative solutions. For example, when you work on any side project, you will need to implement it from scratch, decide the features, test the edge cases and deploy it to production. And as you do so, you will undoubtedly encounter new errors and problems that you are not used to solving; problems that will challenge your creativity and problem-solving skills. 

As you tackle these solutions, you will have the opportunity to experiment, test out ideas and even fail and learn from your mistakes. Such challenges will encourage you to think outside the box and sharpen your problem solving skills. In fact, some problems will even require you to follow entirely new rules than those that you adhere to in your current work project. This is an advantage that is not usually available in most professional settings where there is less room for risk. 

5. Passion and Motivation

Let’s face it, programming can be quite stressful sometimes. The tight deadlines, the intricate and challenging codes to solve, the long working hours and the constantly changing frameworks; all these can cause you tremendous stress and burnout. And the more stress you go through, the less motivated and productive you will be in your work.

Fortunately, working on a side project gives you just the motivation you need to keep pursuing your main programming career. After all, side projects are usually things that you are genuinely passionate about, such as developing mobile apps, video games or managing a personal blog, just to mention a few. These projects provide you a personal space where you can pursue your passions and interests. In turn, the motivation that you derive from doing projects that you love will reignite your enthusiasm for programming and help you stay committed and inspired.

6. More Networking Opportunities

When you work for a company or organization, you only interact with the same employees, colleagues and even clients on a daily basis. Rarely do you get the chance to reach out, meet new people and network with other professionals. Such limited exposure limits you to other opportunities that could have helped you make great advancement in your career.

On the contrary, side projects outside of your normal programming field are a great tool for networking. When you share your side projects with the world, you gain more opportunities to network with people and companies from different communities. You will connect with like-minded individuals who share your interests and professionals who appreciate your work. Most importantly, these side projects will help to get your name out in the market, in turn opening more doors to collaboration, mentorship, and even exciting job offers you wouldn’t have encountered otherwise.

7. A Worthwhile Investment

Do you ever dream of launching your own startup or tech business? If so, side projects would be just the perfect training ground. Unlike with your regular full-time or part-time programming job, you may not get payment for the effort and hours you spend on these side projects at the end of the month. 

Even so, a side project will teach you how to manage a project from start to finish, including undertaking sub-projects such as planning, development, marketing, and maintenance. This experience will undoubtedly be invaluable if you decide to pursue entrepreneurial endeavors. It will be like the perfect payment you get later in life for all the extra work you put into the side projects. 

Indeed, having a side project besides your main programming career is like having a hidden superpower. A side project offers you numerous opportunities to challenge your skills, increase your knowledge, build your portfolio and make yourself stand out from other programmers. 

Better yet, with a side project, you will create a worthwhile investment that will bring you numerous benefits now and in the future. So whether you have just started out in your programming career or are a seasoned coder already, don’t miss out on the chance to embark on a fulfilling side project adventure!

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Abigail Cerrone

Technical Content Writer

Abigale is a technical writer with background in QA and marketing. She is passionate about learning new things in technology and enjoys sharing her insights through her blog posts