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Importance of side projects for developers — A Comprehensive Guide

Updated: Jun 13

Here’s something for you to consider — ProductHunt, Groupon, Twitter, Craigslist, and Khan Academy were all side projects. Yup, every single one of those and so many more multi-million (sometimes, billion) dollar companies were created by someone who wanted to do a side project.

Of course, not all side projects result in millions of dollars. Actually, very few side projects result in ridiculous payouts. If you’re thinking of doing a side project just because of the money, the news isn’t that great, unfortunately.

However, if it’s something that you want to do to boost your skills and your job prospects, your thinking is absolutely right. Given that I run Simple Job Listings, I get to speak with a lot of employers. Having a good side project (or projects) is an incredible asset. It not only allows you to show off your skills to potential employers but it also tells them that you’re really good at what you do. It showcases the fact that you can build a functioning product from scratch.

This article is intended to be a helpful guide if you’re thinking of starting a side project. We’ll look at why you should do it, how to pick a great project, how to show off these projects, and a few success stories, as well.

Let’s get started.

Why you should take up a side project as a developer

Benefits of Side Projects for Developers

Skill Development and Mastery

One of the most significant benefits of working on side projects is the opportunity to develop and master new skills. By tackling projects outside of your day job, you can dive into new technologies, languages, or frameworks that you might not have the chance to explore in a traditional work setting.

This not only keeps you up-to-date with the latest industry trends but also helps you become a more well-rounded and versatile developer.

Furthermore, side projects allow you to focus on areas where you might feel less confident or inexperienced, helping you bridge any gaps in your skillset.

As you experiment, make mistakes, and learn from those experiences, you'll gain a deeper understanding of the technologies you're working with and improve your overall problem-solving abilities.

Portfolio Building and Showcasing Abilities

Another significant benefit of side projects is the potential to build and enhance your professional portfolio. By including these projects in your portfolio, you can showcase your abilities and demonstrate your passion for software development to potential employers.

Side projects can be especially valuable for those looking to transition into a new area of development or for those just starting in the industry, as they provide tangible proof of your skills and expertise.

When presenting your side projects, be sure to highlight the technologies used, the challenges faced, and the solutions implemented.

This will give employers insight into your thought process and problem-solving abilities, making you a more attractive candidate for the job.

Suggested: Game developer portfolio: How to create one and what projects to include

Networking and Collaboration Opportunities

Side projects can also open doors to networking and collaboration opportunities within the development community. By sharing your projects on platforms like GitHub or engaging in discussions on developer forums, you can connect with other developers who share your interests and passion.

This not only fosters learning from others but can also lead to potential partnerships, freelance opportunities, or even job offers.

Moreover, participating in hackathons, meetups, or open-source projects can help you build a strong network within the industry, making it easier to stay informed about job openings or other career opportunities.

Exploration of Personal Interests and Passions

Side projects offer a unique opportunity to explore your personal interests and passions outside of your regular work environment. This can be a rejuvenating and motivating experience, as you're free to experiment and create without the constraints or expectations of a traditional job.

By working on projects that genuinely excite you, you'll likely find renewed enthusiasm for your career and personal growth.

Furthermore, pursuing your interests can lead to the discovery of new passions or niche areas within the industry that you may not have been aware of, opening up entirely new career paths for you to explore.

Problem-Solving and Creativity Enhancement

Lastly, side projects can significantly enhance your problem-solving abilities and creativity. By tackling new challenges and working independently, you'll be forced to think outside the box and devise innovative solutions to the problems you encounter.

This not only sharpens your problem-solving skills but also helps you become a more creative and adaptable developer.

As you continue to work on side projects, you'll likely find that your ability to approach problems from different angles and develop unique solutions improves, making you a more valuable asset to any team or company you join.

Tips for Choosing and Managing Side Projects

Identifying Your Interests and Goals

When choosing a side project, it's essential to start by identifying your interests and goals. Ask yourself what you want to achieve through the project and how it aligns with your long-term objectives.

Consider technologies or languages you'd like to learn or areas where you'd like to improve your skills. By having a clear idea of your goals, you'll be more motivated to dedicate time and effort to the project.

Additionally, try to find projects that genuinely interest and excite you. Working on something you're passionate about will make the process more enjoyable and increase the likelihood of seeing the project through to completion.

Keep in mind that it's perfectly fine to start with a small, manageable project, especially if you're new to the world of side projects. You can always scale up as you gain more experience and confidence.

Setting Realistic Expectations and Timelines

When embarking on a side project, it's crucial to set realistic expectations and timelines. Unlike a traditional work environment, you'll likely be working on your project during your spare time, which can be limited.

Be honest with yourself about the time and resources you can commit to the project and create a timeline accordingly.

Break the project into smaller, manageable tasks and set milestones to help you stay on track.

This will make the project feel less overwhelming and help you gauge your progress over time. Remember that it's okay to adjust your timeline as needed; side projects should be a learning experience and not a source of unnecessary stress.

Balancing Side Projects with Work-Life Commitments

One of the challenges of managing side projects is finding the right balance between your personal project, work, and personal life. It's essential to maintain a healthy work-life balance and avoid burnout. Schedule dedicated time for your side project, but also ensure you allocate enough time for rest, hobbies, and socializing.

Prioritize your tasks and focus on what's most important to you at any given time. If you find that your side project is taking up too much of your time or causing stress, don't hesitate to reassess your priorities and adjust your schedule accordingly.

Remember that it's better to make slow, steady progress on a side project than to sacrifice your well-being and other commitments.

Utilizing Online Resources and Communities

As you work on your side project, take advantage of the wealth of online resources and communities available to developers.

Platforms like GitHub, Stack Overflow, and various online forums provide a treasure trove of information, tutorials, and code snippets that can help you overcome challenges and learn new skills.

In addition to online resources, consider joining local meetups, hackathons, or developer groups where you can network with like-minded individuals, share your experiences, and learn from others.

Engaging with the development community can provide invaluable support, feedback, and inspiration as you work on your side project.

How to Leverage Side Projects in Job Search

Including Side Projects in Your Resume and Portfolio

To make the most of your side projects during your job search, it's crucial to include them in your resume and portfolio. When adding side projects to your resume, list them under a separate section, such as "Personal Projects" or "Side Projects."

Be sure to provide a brief description of the project, highlighting the technologies used and the problems you solved. This will give potential employers a glimpse into your skills and expertise.

Your portfolio should showcase your side projects in more detail, providing visual examples of your work, links to live demos, and access to source code if possible.

By presenting your side projects in a professional and visually appealing manner, you'll demonstrate your commitment to quality and your ability to see a project through to completion.

Suggested: How to write a fantastic developer resume (with examples)

Discussing Side Projects During Interviews

During job interviews, be prepared to discuss your side projects in depth. Employers will often ask about your personal projects to gauge your passion for software development and your ability to solve problems independently.

When discussing your side projects, focus on the challenges you faced, the solutions you implemented, and the lessons you learned throughout the process.

In addition to discussing the technical aspects of your side projects, be prepared to explain the motivation behind them and how they align with your career goals.

This will show interviewers that you're proactive in your personal and professional development and genuinely passionate about your field.

Using Side Projects to Demonstrate Initiative and Drive

Side projects can be an excellent way to demonstrate your initiative and drive to potential employers.

By taking on personal projects outside of your day job, you're showing that you're self-motivated, resourceful, and committed to honing your craft. This can set you apart from other candidates who may not have such projects to showcase.

During your job search, highlight the ways in which your side projects have contributed to your professional growth, such as learning new technologies, improving your problem-solving abilities, or gaining experience in a specific domain.

By showcasing the impact of your side projects on your career, you'll position yourself as a go-getter who's constantly seeking opportunities to improve and grow.

Highlighting Specific Skills Gained from Side Projects

When leveraging your side projects in your job search, it's important to emphasize the specific skills and expertise you've gained through these endeavors.

For example, if you've taught yourself a new programming language or framework, be sure to mention this in your resume and discuss it during interviews.

Additionally, consider highlighting any non-technical skills you've developed through your side projects, such as project management, communication, or collaboration.

These soft skills are highly valuable to employers and can further demonstrate your well-roundedness as a developer.

By focusing on the specific skills and expertise you've gained from your side projects, you'll paint a clearer picture of your capabilities and the value you can bring to a potential employer.

Suggested: How to tailor your resume to any job — a comprehensive guide

Success Stories and Inspirations


As mentioned earlier, Twitter was actually a side project. A few employees of Odeo, a podcasting company, built Twitter during their free time. The press simply wasn’t interested in it, at all!

This is what an old TechCrunch article had to say about Twitter:

“If this was a new startup, a one or two-person shop, I’d give it a thumbs up for innovation and good execution on a simple but viral idea. It’s really a social network around text messaging – and is very similar to another service called Dodgeball.”

Have you heard of Dodgeball? Yeah, neither have I.


Craig Newmark, a former IBM employee who had recently relocated to San Francisco during the early '90s, came up with the idea of creating an email list dedicated to local events. This platform initially aimed to facilitate Craig's personal quest to connect with new people (hence the name "Craig's list").

However, it quickly gained popularity and extended beyond mere meetups, eventually prompting Craig to leave his job at IBM and transform Craigslist into a billion-dollar enterprise.


This one’s a proper cliche: Oculus was started out of a garage.

Palmer Luckey, the founder of Oculus, would spend his evenings in his garage, tirelessly working on shaping the future of virtual reality after his day at USC's Mixed Reality lab.

Following an incredibly successful Kickstarter campaign, Luckey made the bold decision to leave his job, abandon his studies, and embark on the journey of turning his vision into a reality. Remarkably, Oculus managed to attract the attention of Facebook, who acquired the company for a staggering $2 billion, all before the release of a consumer product.

Khan Academy

It all started with a backhanded compliment to its founder, Sal Khan. He was tutoring his cousins when someone said that they preferred seeing him online. Khan took it to heart and started doing just that.

While working as a hedge fund analyst, Khan embarked on a remarkable journey. He started creating concise 10-minute educational videos on a wide array of subjects, ranging from biology to art and shared them on YouTube.

As the popularity of his videos began to soar, Khan made the courageous decision to leave his job and dedicate himself fully to his educational initiative. Today, Khan Academy has grown exponentially, employing over 100 individuals who contribute to its mission.

So, there you go. People have made millions upon millions because of their side projects. You never know. It could just happen.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are side projects in programming?

Side projects are websites or applications that you create on your own time. No one's paying you for it, yet. It's just something that you do on your own.

There are a few reasons why side projects are useful for developers:

  1. Allows you to showcase your skills to potential employers

  2. If it's a great product, people might actually pay you for it

  3. If you're new to programming, it's a way to prove that you actually have the skills

  4. It's also a great way to show intent if you're moving from a different industry to programming

What are some side project examples for developers?

Here are a few side project examples for front-end developers:

  1. Login and registration system

  2. Redesigning an entire website

  3. A social media platform

  4. Data visualization tool

  5. A search engine

Here are a few side project examples for back-end developers:

  1. Develop a RESTful API

  2. Create a Chatbot

  3. Develop a job board

  4. Create a recommendation system

  5. Build a real-time dashboard

You can also read in-depth articles about back-end side projects and advanced full stack projects on our blog.

How do I get ideas for a coding project?

There are several things that you can do for inspiration when it comes to coding projects:

  1. Just try creating clones of existing websites.

  2. Create a different take on an existing website. For example, how about creating a FaceBook webpage but with a focus on sharing code rather than photos and posts?

  3. Build games. Start with simple games like Tic-Tac-Toe and build your way up!


Your side project may or may not make millions but the fact is that it can help you a lot when it comes to finding better developer jobs.

In the meantime, if you’re looking for a remote developer job, make sure you check out Simple Job Listings.

We only list remote jobs that pay really well. Each job is verified and most jobs that we post aren't listed anywhere else!

Check out Simple Job Listings and find your dream job. Good luck!

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