How side projects can become the real deal

Side hustle words
Lisa Portolan
Tue 24 Sep

Most of us can’t devote our full attention to our passion project. There’s usually a 9-5pm job, and then a thought bubble, a fledgling idea which is stoked to life in the early hours of the morning pre-work, or the wee hours of the evening post-work. Fuelled by copious amounts of coffee, an insatiable appetite for success and a pinch of lunacy, sometimes those passion-projects, or the side-hustles, as they have come to be known become our raison d’etre. They infuse our lives with the energy and enthusiasm that our day-job might be lacking. They may also at some point in time supersede our day-job and become the real deal. In fact most tech start-up success stories, started in similar veins. Developed in the unglamorous bowels of someone’s garage, or in the vestiges of the local library, they often have threadbare beginnings - alongside an immense vision.

Increasingly, side-projects have become accepted if not encouraged by employers. Give or take a decade ago, employees were asked to declare side-projects or second-jobs to their employers lest they become a productivity issue. Today, employers are driving side-projects, with companies like Google providing staff with 20 percent of their work-days to pursue side-projects. In contrast to the antiquated notion that side hustles stifle productivity, they actually do quite the opposite, stimulating greater productivity, innovation and the cross-pollination of interesting and unexpected ideas. 

The side-hustle can be exciting, fulfilling, even liberating. Sometimes you can feel so very close to that break-through, and then on other occasions you can feel so very far away from it, which leads you to question, why am I doing this in the first place? Why am I spending time away from my family, friends, or even the latest series on Netflix, investing time in something that may never take-off? 

And whilst we could bore you with the positive benefits of the side-hustle (even if it just remains a hustle) like greater overall productivity; better engagement in other activities; and overall larger passion and zest for life, we wanted to share with you some passion-project success stories, so that you’re inspired to keep driving forward with your endeavour. Here’s three side-projects which became main projects to keep the pep in your hustler step. 


Aytekin Tank left college to become a programmer. He spent almost five years beveraring away on a series of side projects in the evening and early morning – in 2006 he created JotForm. A software tool which allows the creation of forms with a drag and drop feature and an option to encrypt user data. With virtually no seed funding by 2012 he had over 70,000 users. Today JotForm has over 4.5million users and 130 employees. 

What does Tank say about the side hustle? 
“It’s a pressure free playing field. And pressure free playing fields are where the magic happens.”



Slack, an American cloud-based series of collaboration software tools was created by Stewart Butterfield, Cal Henderson, Eric Costello and Serguei Mourachev. The four of them were actually working at a gaming company called Tiny Speck. They crafted Slack as a tool to communicate about the game, not an intentional product. But it soon became obvious that their side-product was actually the alpha in the mix.

Today, Slack is worth over $5 billion. 

in 1995 Craig Newmark was working at an investment company when he started an email list in his downtime to let him and his friends up-date each-other about things that were going on in town. By 1996 Newmark crafted it into a web-based application and started expanding it into other categories. Newmark’s list went onto expand to 2,000 areas across the states, and today covers over 70 countries. 


As Tank reminds us side-projects are often the place where we can allow our minds to wander, where we can be less focussed on outcomes and productivity, and more in-tune with creativity. Before you down tools on your side-project keep in mind some of these success stories, and also, that the destination might not be the only success story here, rather the side hustle journey might be having copious other benefits on your social, work and personal lives.