3 Ways to Grow Your Side Project on Nights and Weekends

Here's How to Put Your Limited Time to Work on Growing Your Side Project

3 Ways to Grow Your Side Project on Nights and Weekends
Matthew Henry

When you're working to grow your side project, whether the goal is to eventually quit your day job or just increase your income, the most difficult challenge is often a simple one—finding the time to actually work on the business.

Instantly, it becomes very important to make the best possible use of your time in the hours you are able to free up on nights and during weekends. Before you can even think about getting into complex growth strategies, making endless tweaks to your website, obsessing over product photos, you need to have a very clear focus for how your time will be utilized.

First, let's talk about how to create focused groups of hours for working on your side project, and then we'll dive into how to best leverage that time.

1. Create More Time and Protect It on Your Calendar

Start by taking inventory of how you're spending your nights and weekends today. Your goal here is to isolate pockets of non-essential activities where you can afford to reduce your time investment on a weekly basis—in order to shift more time over to your side project.

Ask yourself questions like:

  • How often do I go out and socialize with friends?
  • How many hours do I spend watching television, scrolling through Instagram, reading for pleasure or otherwise?
  • How much can I safely reduce these activities without over-working myself?

Once you're able to commit to certain cutbacks in terms of where your time is going, it's time to protect those crucial hours you just created. Next, let's open your calendar and physically schedule those blocks of time to work on your side project—from the hours you just freed up.

Even more importantly, you need to view these scheduled side project hours as a commitment you've just made to yourself. Look forward to this time, show up, put in the work, treat these hours with respect and the investment will pay off one day.

2. Find a Mentor in Your Industry

A big part of getting quick results with your side project is cutting down you're learning curve.

Finding the right mentor who can help you speed up your learning process, side step common pitfalls, help you make the right connections, build relationships, get introductions to your first potential customers, will be a major growth lever.

Sure, just about anyone building their own SaaS startup would love to have a mentor like Mark Zuckerberg, Elon Musk or Bill Gates, but that’s not realistic. When searching for a mentor, keep in mind that you should be looking for someone who’s been where you want to be—achieved some of what you want to accomplish.

In an ideal world, your mentor will be someone you’ve already met or at least have a connection to—that way you’re not starting out the relationship just asking them to be your mentor (who does that anyway?). They’ll need to be someone you can either capture the attention of, or have a mutual connection with. Then you’ll need to slowly test the relationship out, ask for some advice that they’d be excited and qualified to give, and most importantly keep things casual. Don’t force it into being a formal arrangement—mentorships are best kept as organic relationships without a label.

If you want to find a mentor, but nobody immediately comes to mind, start with these three places first:

  • LinkedIn. Run a LinkedIn search for local people who hold the job title you’re hoping to reach yourself, and keep an eye out for potential mentor candidates that have shared connections, interests, groups, schools, employment history, or other connection point that’ll give them a reason to want to reply (and help you out). Keep in mind that you may need to go through a mutual connection to get an introduction.

  • Other Social Channels. Who’s vocal on Twitter within your niche? How about the admins of the biggest Facebook groups on topics related to your industry? Look for people who are actively sharing advice, giving feedback, and clearly wanting to help others who are more junior. 

  • Industry Publications. If you want to build a relationship with and learn from someone who’s accomplished in your space, look for the people who are actively building their brands by contributing to relevant industry publications and blogs. If they’re investing time into crafting their online image and creating thought leadership for themselves, chances are high that they’ll be receptive to interacting one-on-one with people who reach out asking to learn more from them, especially if you find a way to provide value to them first.

    3. Get an Accountability Partner.

    It's easy to lose track of your greater objectives with a side project when you're only working on it for a handful of hours per week. Distractions come along, and failures along the path to closing your first deals will be discouraging.

    Sustaining your motivation and enthusiasm for the project is going to be hugely important for making meaningful progress, which is why having an accountability partner that you speak with weekly is crucial.

    Ideally, your accountability partner will also have a side project of their own, or be able to otherwise relate to where you're at and what your motivations are. Share your goals for the week, update each other on progress toward key initiatives, ask for objective feedback (emphasis on objective), and regularly step aside to look at the bigger picture around your side project.

    Do these three things, show up, put in the work and you'll be well on your to growing your side project.