F* Yeah, a Side Project!


This post is heavily inspired by Tom Critchlow’s excellent article on how he got a job at Google with 276 lines of code.

Firstly, the side project. In a moment of divine inspiration (it has to be divine, because honestly I can’t remember the last time I had even a bad idea), I came up with an idea for a side project that will support the small batch coffee roasters of Australia who’re struggling in the post-pandemic way of life, as well as keep me in beans.

Small Batch Market

The small batch market is an online store where you can shop with multiple retailers for the best small batch roasts in Australia, from roasterys all over the country.

Initially I was mulling over the idea of starting a coffee subscription business. It was a good idea because:

  1. The margins are good
  2. It utilises digital skills I already have.
  3. I’m actually enthusiastic about coffee.

It was a bad idea because:

  1. I don’t know how to roast coffee.
  2. I don’t particularly have the inclination or time to learn.
  3. I don’t have the patience to go through branding and sourcing packaging.
  4. I don’t want to invest in equipment to become a manufacturer.

But then it struck me like a ⚡ lightning bolt.

  1. I can act as the go between for roasters all over the country.
  2. It utilises my digital skillset that these roasters can’t afford (and probably don’t have the inclination or time to learn).
  3. It connects them with with a market they’d never otherwise reach.
  4. It’s zero risk for them because they don’t have to invest in their own online presence.
  5. It’s zero risk for me because I don’t have to invest in equipment and education to learn how to roast.
  6. We can start tomorrow.

It took me a few moments to accept that this is actually a legit idea. And no one else is doing it already.

But that’s not what this post is about. This post is about side projects. Actually, it’s about doing things.

You must be crazy busy.

When people hear about the amount of stuff I do or the amount I’ve traveled or squeezed into a relatively short existence, they always comment about how busy I must be or question how I’ve fit it all in.

And while it’s true I possibly have a habit of taking on too much…

Most People Don’t Do Things

Just like in Tom’s article, through life experience and through running a consultancy where I’ve interacted directly with hundreds of businesses and been involved in hiring and interviewing tons of people, it’s incredibly rare for people to have actually done something.

Even amongst small business owners it’s incredibly rare to hear of people putting an idea – however simple or seemingly trivial – out into the world.

The SmallBatchMarket is a great example of that. It’s not technically demanding. The lowest of wordpress skillsets can achieve exactly the same thing. It requires no additional skill acquisition from me. It’s a trivial idea. And yet, it’s out in the world.

Be a Doer

You’ll never realise your capacity if you never simply do something. It may seem like I do a lot, that I must be busy, but I sincerely don’t feel "busy". I just do things. And that’s all it takes.

A byproduct of the networked age is the bullshit industrial complex – where talking about ideas is more common than the ideas themselves. Where the antidote to this is just to launch something. To build and make things rather than reposting others work.
Tom Critchlow

It doesn’t have to be complex to be put out into the world. Besides, what seems trivial to you (creating a wordpress site with a multi-vendor ecommerce setup sure seems trivial to me) is complex as all hell to someone else.

Your side project doesn’t have to change the universe. We can’t all get to Mars. As Tom says, ‘You don’t need to be technical … just find something you’re interested in and carve out a simple, tiny flag on a little patch of sand that says "I made that".’