Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
How to balance full-time work with creative projects (thecreativeindependent.com)
760 points by cookingoils 49 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 267 comments

I think side projects, software at least, are a lot like the Civilization games.

You can't wait to start. The first 10% is awesome. 10-40% is complex and the difficulty ramps up. 40-100%, all you can think about is starting over on something else. At around 80%, you just quit and actually do start over.

Speaking as someone who played the Civilization 2-5 to the point of obsession, and one that quit a full time job at $megacorp to focus on a side project of mine full time, this is so apt it's funny.

One of the reasons people do side projects is that they want to be free of other concerns that govern larger projects, like being able to make money, existing code, design or frameworks, or simply, existing paths of thought. But after the 80% point, the project has already created its own ways of thinking about certain problems, and that means you'll have to solve some problems suboptimally just to retain the existing body of problems being solved optimally.

Compromises. Boring-but-important bits, like designing, coding (HTML tables ahoy) and sending launch emails, which I did, the whole day yesterday.

I think as a society we fundamentally underestimate how much the average person yearns for freedom, all day, every day. Selling that freedom has its benefits, but it's not a free lunch.

Yeah, same. Left an awesome job to do my own thing after getting seed funding. For the first few months of doing that, I told myself that I could never go back to the 9-5 grind.

I am now very excited to go back to the 9-5 grind.

One thing doing a project full time teaches you is that the problems with full-time tech work in a company aren't problems because you're working for somebody else, they're problems of working on anything for a long period of time, regardless of who owns it.

Once you realise that, you also figure out that doing your own thing doesn't inherently buy you a seat in Valhalla by the virtue of being your own boss. You still have a boss, the fact that it is you helps with fewer things than one would think.

At least you got funded. I'm still bootstrapped, spending my own money for the privilege. :)

> At least you got funded. I'm still bootstrapped, spending my own money for the privilege. :)

The best move my founder and I ever made, by leaps and bounds, was to not take any outside investment. If you can manage your cash flow and not get over excited about rocket trajectory growth, bootstrapping has its benefits; for founders especially.

I’m making $200 a month off of it, and I live in San Francisco. Needless to say, I’m practically fully funding it out of my savings. It’s this, anyway, it was on the front page a few weeks ago: https://getaether.net

Basically, a passion product, something I want to see exist. It has the chance to sustain me eventually, but I think I’ll run out of savings long before it comes there, unless, I don’t know, I make a business version and sell B2B...

How do you make money off that? I always wonder what gives people confidence to make something new and untested vs picking an existing in demand product and improving it, sell b2b to people who actually pay for services.. don’t mean to downplay your project, just curious why you didn’t go b2b route?

The design and engineering challenge was interesting (I’m a product designer and an engineer) - and I had come out of a job I had not liked very much.

Honestly, I think that explains a lot of the side/full time projects here.

OTOH, if you’re looking for a ‘Slack, but for async discussion’ app for your startup, hit me up for the B2B pilot. I have not much time left on my savings, but I’m working towards launching a B2B version of the same app.

Researching Slack-Alternatives I actually at least subscribed to some newsletter of yours which arrived a few days ago.

I think to make money you need to focus on B2B, but it seems like a tough market right now. Anyways you'd have to focus your landing page on that.

Privacy? meh. Compliance stuff and no US servers or any 3rd party servers you'd need to make contracts with? Yay!

The 6 Month content limit feels off for B2B.

How does it differ from slack usablility wise?

Interesting - that might have been something else because I don’t market this as a slack alternative, and I did not send a newsletter a few days ago either. I sent one yesterday though.

For the B2B version the content limit can be set as a compliance thing, to however many months you want, or be disabled completely.

Compliance is even better: I can run it on premises, in any server you own, or in any AWS region you want, with no dependencies, no third party contracts, and I can guarantee I will see none of your data, you hold the content encryption keys.

Business version will have its own landing page, with its own benefits, etc. For example, that version isn’t P2P. It’s also not a Slack alternative, in that it doesn’t do chat, but longer form communication. In practice that means it takes place of email groups at your company.

Sounds really interesting. I just thought it's yet another slack/IRC, this time with p2p.

I just misjudged time and maybe timezones made it the day before yesterday for me :). I meant your recent newsletter.

> You still have a boss, the fact that it is you helps with fewer things than one would think.

Worse yet, you now need to satisfy customers.

Not that that's inherently bad. In hindsight, though, it certainly lets you appreciate the times when you had a boss and life was simpler.

You trade one regular issue boss with the biggest, baddest boss there ever is, the Free Markets.

It certainly lends credence to the saying that having to earn earn for a living is incremental indentured servitude, instead of buying your freedom outright, you pay for it in micro transactions and pay interest for the privilege.

It doesn’t matter who your immediate counterparty is, whether be it your boss or the board or the stock exchange, the ultimate counterparty is the market itself. Having a business I think just makes the transaction a little simpler, a little more obvious.

I left the 9-5 grind many years ago for freelancing then consulting and now hoping my side project takes off. I could never go back to a full time employee thing, nope!!

Curious to know if you'll repay the seed, or if seeds are refunded assuming it was a friends and family round.

It's more complicated than that. I'm not the only founder and funds were raised from small investors w/ a SAFE.

Paying money back especially money collected from friends and family and not institutions and VCs is not "complicated." Their "investment" never had a chance to make money you projected and you went on to work on someone else's investment. Given these facts I am sure your investors would have preferred to invest in the company where you work now versus the one you left.

It's not family and friends, first of all.

I haven't started working on anything else or for anyone else - I just no longer believe this venture is going to work out and thus have planned to exit. My co-founders don't agree with my assessment.

> coding (HTML tables ahoy) and sending launch emails

FWIW you should probably be using something like MJML rather than hand-coding HTML tables. (There are a few alternatives, that just happens to be the one we use.)

Thanks for the tip. I was using the ‘Salted’ template from Litmus as a base. MJML looks quite polished though.

This is how it turned out with Salted:


Not too bad for a first try, I think. If anyone needs help with Salted, happy to take a look.

Interesting. My creative outlet is music, as it has been for 20 years, and I can tell you that your timetable holds true there as well. I’ve written a boatload of material but released very little (at least as a solo artist) because I never felt that a song was complete unless it felt utterly orgasmic to listen to. It took me a very long time to come to grips with the fact that even my idols have very few of these “perfect” songs. They probably felt like me quite often, but the difference is that they released anyway. So now, at that 80% point, I release the song. The ones that are special and can go to 100% become obvious as the song progresses, but they are rare.

The point is that it’s better to share a lot of imperfect creative works than to never release anything because it’s imperfect.

Very true. I probably posted this before but I think thoughts like yours relate very well to one of my favorite quotes, by Ira Glass:

> Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.

Your idols will have been supported by creative contributions from tens of other people including uncredited co-writers, producers, session musicians, mix and mastering engineers, marketing people, and sometimes record company executives.

Even with all of that backup, they still can't produce more than solid one hit out of maybe thirty songs.

There are certain artists who are fantastic, but I guess it’s not easy to be objective with something g like music. What one person likes another hates. As for support, production quality alone is huge. Nearly everything I listened to today has sooo many vocal layers. Comparing a song I’m writing in the kitchen and recording on voice memos to a singer with his voice layered 4, 8, 12 times perhaps multiple background singers (very subtle) or heavily effected with vocoders/etc... of course your recording sounds like an average voice over mediocre instrumentation. The pros don’t sound polished on voice memos either, which is why you never hear of any pros releasing them.

I have been making videos with the same mentality. I know my footage is not perfect, but it is what I have and it will only get better if I keep working on it.

I’m right there with you, in a very sad way.

Huh. For me, the first 10% is boring. You’re not doing anything interesting, just looking for resources and laying the foundations for something new. The middle is where it gets exciting, you’re striking out in new directions, building, and expanding. The end is a bunch of tedious micromanagement.

Either Civ or personal projects.

Although usually with Civ these days I try to win before I get bogged down with micromanagement.

I think the first 10%, like civ, the excitement is in exploration of the different directions you could take the project. Some people right at the start will know exactly what they want to do, but for a lot of people it isn't clear until they look around and get the lay of the land.

At around 80%, you realize you'll never finish because there are always more features. This is the state of real businesses as well. No sustainable business is every truly finished.

You just have to hit minimum viable product and launch. Then you're adding features (or fixing bugs, doing maintenance) to that product.

This. Set quantifiable goals and when reached move on until you can't live without more changes.

Agree, this is where I am now. There are a ton of features planned but I can’t afford to develop them without first getting some customers to justify spending.

How do you know that it's 80% though, if there's no final state?

The point is that the imaginary % towards completion doesn't matter. You either have a viable product or you don't.

I've wanted to create a marketplace for "80% done" projects - a place where you can meet people who can help you push those nearly-finished projects past the finish line.

This is such a massive problem across creative and programming fields. I have a huge number of projects that are nearly there, yet not quite.

Interesting idea. There could be a lot of benefits for this kind of matching service. I imagine people who feel burned out at the 80% mark would enjoy working with others to complete their project.

Perhaps the person helping them is also at 80% on their own project, and the act of helping someone else motivates them to push through and finish their own incomplete projects!

Yeah, I envisioned this as a place to trade the remaining 20% of the project. Or at least find people who can take a dispassionate look at your project and take it to market. Too many times, the creators are too heavily invested and hesitant to take things live.

Heck, you could even buy/sell "nearly there" projects that the creator doesn't have the energy to launch, or doesn't want to launch because of other commitments. Creators make some money (and see their projects live), buyers get nearly-done ideas for cheaper than live projects.

This is a really good idea. I have often felt that someone has already done a project similar to what I need, and hoped I could use their code or assets. But it is hard to find those projects and hard to know if you can use the code and assets if the project is abandoned.

> I've wanted to create a marketplace for "80% done" projects

But you have stopped working on it when you were 80% done? :)

And this is why I don’t do side projects outside of work. If I’m not learning marketable skills at work, it’s time to look for another job.

I will spend extra time learning new-to-me technology by either doing a low priority side project at work or spend 50% more time doing a project than it would have taken me to do it if I knew the technology.

There is a certain forcing function knowing that others will look at your work and use it. It’s like a commitment device.

This sounds so true. I recently managed to get to 100% of my side project and now looking for customers. I got SUPER excited when someone responded to my cold email saying they are interested in my product. I gotta day, until I got that email I was super bummed out. Now I’m talking to another person and I have a feeling I’m into something in terms of outreach. Once I get my first customer I’ll aim for 5. Then 10, 25, 50, 100, 200, 3 , 4, 5 1k 5k etc. I think short term goals make the most sense for motivation and that’s what I did to get to 100% project completion. It was hard, I wanted to start on something sexier at 80%.

There was a post on HN a few days ago from someone who wrote a book called "The first 100" or something similar. Could be helpful? I'll try find the link...

Most strategy games, really. I occasionally played Civ, and others, and always had this "late game tiredness".

There's an excellent episode of the games design round table podcast (http://thegamedesignroundtable.com/2013/02/14/episode-14/) where Jon Shafer (designer of Civ 5) and Soren Johnson (designer of civ 4) discuss this problem - amongst other things.

If you're looking for a strategy game that doesn't suffer from this, try Age of Empires II. At least I don't find the game tiring at the end; in fact I find it more exciting. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that most online AoE II games are 1 hour long, whereas Civ, Factorio, etc. take dozens of hours and weeks to complete.

If you play strictly early game aggro, civ gets much easier to complete!

I can't remember the last time the game wasn't over (for me or my opponent) quickly when we both do composite bowman/crossbow rushes.

Well duh, but then you miss all the awesome late-game tech!

Anyway, play Vox Populi people, it's much much better, also in OP's regard.

I see tons of games with names including Vox Populi, could you disambiguate with a link?

The OP probably means a mod for CIV5 called Vox Populi: http://civ-5-cbp.wikia.com/wiki/Civ5_CBP_Wikia

Sir I didn't get on what topic you are telling

My experience is that if you can afford it, allow yourself 2–3 months sabbatical, and after some time (for me it is about 2 weeks), you'll start to produce creative projects.

I personally write down all ideas and when I have time to implement them, choose what looks the most interesting (and feasible).

With this strategy, in the last couple months, I was able to implement:

https://2018.bloomca.me/en – just a website showing how bloated web is

https://real-local-food.com/ – project about local food

https://nameless-hamlet-12227.herokuapp.com/ – check your allergies application, built for a hackathon.

Now, you can notice they are not perfect, and by no means are finished, but before I was not able to produce that much.

edit: formatting

Yes! The most important bit of this comment IMO is the "about two weeks" part. There's a trough of uselessness in vacations – 14-21 days is the minimum in my experience.

In week 1, I'm annoyed by my vacation. I don't care about sitting on a beach, I'm bored, I want to get back to solving problems.

In week two, I'm aghast at the mundane routines I've fallen into, bullshit hangouts, errands, and reddit.

Something weird happens in week 3 where all the books you read, all the ideas you have, start to take on this new lightness and optimism and interestingness. Hang out in that vacation mode for as long as you can afford to.

I wish I had more insight into that last state, but it's a very rare day that I take more than a month off work.

For me at least, vacations under 3 weeks are somewhat useless from a "recover your health" standpoint, and I'm much better off spreading a week or two of vacation around in a way that makes many 3 day weeks, giving room to run errands and make non-work life more relaxed across the board, rather than oscillating between tire fires and mandatory relaxation.

> There's a trough of uselessness in vacations – 14-21 days is the minimum in my experience

Can confirm. I haven't had more than two weeks off in one block in the last ~20 years, and the results have been exactly what you'd predict.

This Onion article from 2013 is depressingly accurate:


Probably what most people need to read rather than what they actually read :)

that link is great, thank you lol

Weeks 1 and 2 sound like how I am when I'm taking my ADHD medication but have nothing productive to work on.

At first it's irritating that I have nothing to do; then the irritation goes away and is replaced by enthusiasm toward the meta-work of fixing my life/habits (so I can be ready to be more productive later.) It takes quite a while of being in that "mode" before my mind is willing to switch gears into enthusiastic pursuit of a hobby.

I'm guessing that, for some people (people who are always a little bit hypomanic), this might be every vacation day for them.

For me, though, all I have to do is to not take those meds... and I'm instantly in a comfortable+complacent "vacation mindset", where my hobbies/passions seem like the only thing I could ever get excited about.

As such, a proposal for anyone having this problem: if you take any stimulants (e.g. caffeine), try laying off them the instant you go on vacation. Maybe you'll relax sooner!

Same for me. In weeks 1-2 I usually know what I want to do, and instead of doing it, I pick up a bad habit. Like obsessive news-reading. In weeks 2-3 I usually give up, and suddenly the bad habit is gone and I'm productive doing some great other thing instead.

> Hang out in that vacation mode for as long as you can afford to.

Negative. After about 4-6 months without outside pressure, stimulation or feedback, my creative drive goes away. It comes back after I start working again, and then goes away as I realize that I'm burning myself out if I continue doing this in addition to work.

> Negative. After about 4-6 months without outside pressure, stimulation or feedback, my creative drive goes away. It comes back after I start working again, and then goes away as I realize that I'm burning myself out if I continue doing this in addition to work.

I’m very similar with this regard. I strongly suspect that the „creative thoughts” while at work are just my brain trying to escape the pain of the job, by convincing me I should quit and pursue this interesting thing instead. However, when I quit, I’m overcome with doubt about financial viability of the path I had in mind, I pursue it only half-heartedly for only a couple months, and ultimately I end up finding myself another job. Once I’m there, the sneaky creative thougts come back and I inevitably end up quitting again some 9-18 months later...

This cycle goes on for 7 years now, and my conclusion is that I’m just super-conservative when it comes to money and I will only be free from my worries when I FIRE. My other conclusion is that it’s possible that I really don’t want to do those projects, and they are 100% fantasy I conjure up when sitting in a boring job. I’ll find out if that’s the case when I finally retire.

I am also like this. So far around 18 months things stop being interesting, and start being boring. Im starting to think its just working on s project for an extended period of time that is boring.

I bet 18 months put you in the upper engagement retention decile. Good on you.

This cannot be overstated. I've been working on a professional thesis of sorts, a capstone if you will, for YEARS.

I'm on a sabbatical now and in the past month I feel like I've gotten more done on the capstone than in the past 3 years.

In September I was so burned out that when my client abruptly ended our contract (meh, it happens) I didn't look for a new one. I've been coasting on my cash cushion for two months now. It was a little scary at first but in my downtime I sold a bunch of short-term high paying gigs that begin in the new year.


Here's my 20/20 hindsight. Fuck working in your spare time and getting little to nothing done on your side projects and taking time away from your family and your health. Figure out how to make as much money as possible and spend as little as possible so that you can take a few months off at some point. Maybe you can game your employers leave policy, maybe do some contracting on the side, maybe don't buy that new car or house and instead put that money into a sabbatical fund. I don't know what will work for you. We all have very different lives and options.

I wish I could have back most of that "spare time" I wasted getting little to nothing done.

Also, read Deep Work by Cal Newport. If I can't change your mind on how to approach this, maybe he will. Maybe you'll understand why you're not getting anywhere with your side thing and realize it's not you, it's your situation. Once you understand that, you can know what to do to rectify the situation. Seriously, this has been a game changer for me.

Oh, and don't be surprised if for the first month of your sabbatical you get absolutely nothing done. That's because you're burned out and you didn't take care of yourself for all those years. That's the price you're going to have to pay before you can sprint again. Knowledge workers are like athletes. Rest and recovery is as important as exercise.

Nice projects. I remember "Websites in 2018" showing up on here not too long ago.

I just came back from a two week "stay-cation", and I found something similar. Sure, for the first couple days I wasting as much time as I possibly could - happily so - and then I started knocking out all the major house projects I had pending (insulating the crawlspace, fixing annoyances, etc).

Around the two-week mark, my mind was swirling with ideas that I've been wanting to implement in my free time. And then it was time to fire up my email and slack and get ready to get back to work. It works out well for me And my clients as I'm refreshed, excited to get to work, and my house is warmer, but I would have loved to dedicate that energy to something of my own for at least some stretch of time.

Two weeks wasn't enough. It was an excellent start and I highly recommend two consecutive weeks of non-travel time off. But it's not enough.

> Sure, for the first couple days I wasting as much time as I possibly could - happily so - and then I started knocking out all the major house projects I had pending (insulating the crawlspace, fixing annoyances, etc).

It's amazing how many people in this thread are echoing similar sentiments. It's clear that the 2-day weekend doesn't seem to proffer enough time off for people to get "in the zone" so to speak.

Or maybe we've become accustomed to the 2-day weekend such that we don't value it's time as much. It seems like these "mini sabbaticals" some of you mention (2-week staycations) are the way to go.

But I know I have a lot of little projects I want to work on or explore, but knowing I won't have enough time or I could do something else (the opportunity cost), I often likewise waste time on nights and weekends.

So cumulatively, these nights and weekends add up to a greater time-length, but because they aren't in a contiguous block like your staycation, I end up with worse results than with the mini-sabbatical model, despite having more time overall.

I feel like three-to-four weeks may be a better minimum, but also clearly a luxury that most can't afford.

Not only are we accustomed to the two-day weekend, but there's also the rest of life to squeeze into a couple hours a day and then two days every week.

Due to strange sleeping habits, I have an extremely flexible schedule. I still put in an average of 40 hours a week, but sometimes it's nights, sometimes days, sometimes all within a couple days.

Even if I have four days left for a "weekend", I still have to account for all the things living in a modern society entail: paying bills, buying groceries, doing laundry, washing dishes, managing accounts, maintaining my house and car, mowing the lawn, shoveling snow, buying toilet paper and paper towels, etc. Sure, I can automate some of these things by way of a dishwasher, laundry services, and grocery delivery, but there's still attention required†.

Of course, and more importantly, there are the things I _want_ to do, like spend time with my wife, see friends and family, make fancy bread, tweak my home automation, sleep, and so on.

Even without a commute, all of these things fill my entire week. I think this is the source of time going by so quickly with age. The responsibility of maintaining a happy and stable life takes a good deal of maintenance. Add to that, the fact that I now require 6-8 hours of sleep when 4-5 used to be plenty for me, and the fact that we want to start a family, and I don't think 2 days a week will _ever_ cut it.

> I often likewise waste time on nights and weekends

Although it wasn't clear in my wording, I don't actually feel this time is truly wasted. The brain and body require time off and I'm more than happy to oblige.

† I have a note on my Instacart account that says "please use your best judgement - never call me unless you can't get to my front door"

Saying a 2-week is a mini-sabbatical reads like satire no matter how many quotes are around it. A term like that could work from the 3-month mark or something like that though, since it would be rare for even extended vacations to last that long.

I think taking this kind of sabbatical needs to become the norm in our field. I recently did so and, while I didn't end up with anything as viable as what you made, I'm 100% glad that I was able to make the effort and not have to deal with the 9-to-5 grind for a while. No. Regrets. It's also eye-opening how most people have difficulty comprehending the idea of quitting voluntarily to do something of personal interest.

Working on projects "on the side" was damaging to my health. I sacrificed way too much of my "recharge" time after work sitting in front of a computer doing more work, rather than going to the gym, hiking, cooking and relaxing. Most of the time, it's just not worth it to sacrifice those things.

Great advice. Side note:

To humor you, I clicked the bloated web expecting to see how large the web had grown with unimportant projects and whatnot.

After clicking through to disable adblock, I thought to myself, "What the FUCK is this guy on about!?" and then realized the point of the website.

Sincerely, almostWhooshGuy

> https://2018.bloomca.me/en

You almost got me at the notifications bit. I was about to close the tab but something told me to give it one more chance.


If you can afford it, get a less intellectually demanding job where you can automate your work; freeing up even more of your time.

This is one of products of this lifestyle: https://theymadethat.com

I worked in e-commerce marketing one time and I can confidently say 90% of my job could be automated or sourced.

What are some examples of jobs you can automate?

Everything Excel related. It's also a nice way to uncover niche opportunities depending on your industry

Edit: For anyone wondering what differentiates my project from crunchbase and Wikipedia: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18545122

Change that list from code to regular text (no 4 space indent) so we can click them!

the experience you have described that occurs after about 2 weeks is a very distinct state of mind. I find that I can to a certain extent reliability reproduce it (1) whenever I have a deadline and I'm procrastinating, (2) occasionally after smoking some marijuana (3) and on long distance runs.

4) after extended meditation

I wonder if there is a word for this state of mind. Kind of a relaxed, unhurried creative state. I think John Cleese referred to this as the 'open state' but it almost seems more of a subset. Perhaps the buddhist texts have a word for this, although I'm thinking of a more general state of mind, not necessarily just after meditation.

It's a dawning of mind, grateful state. It's like peeling one layer off the onion.

Give me 6 weeks or 2 month spare time and I will not even start because I know it's just holiday and my job awaits me.

Working on weekends with a plan helps me getting things done.

what do you do with insurance if your employer doesn't cover it while you are on sabbatical.

Get EU citizenship somehow and move to a civilized country?

Which EU country? In Germany, if you quit, you have to pay insurance while you get a new job (unless you're in unemployment benefit, which you don't get for a few months if you just quit)

> Get EU citizenship

I am from the 'third world'

You can get short term insurance. I’m not too familiar, but I have a few friends who just quit their jobs and move out to where I am to take some time exploring and find new jobs here, and they both have temporary insurance. I don’t know what the costs are or any details beyond that, but it exists.

Even if you subscribe to the viewpoint that private health insurance is the way to go, why dont they give people the money and then let them buy their own insurance? For the reason you just mentioned - people need a way to be free of an employer even if it costs them a lot in insurance bills.

Can you pay for it through COBRA?

Dollars are effective to purchase goods and services in human civilization

COBRA, last time I checked, can be activated up to 90 retroactively.

I tried to balance, but months would go by and I wasn't making progress that satisfied me.

I quit my job last month, and so far, it seems it was the right decision.

What really pushed me over the edge was just realizing how bored I was at work, and it wasn't just a slow period - it was systemic. The projects I'd fantasize about spaced out commuting home genuinely excited me, but then I'd snap out of it as soon as I got home and realized I had 4 hours to eat, bathe, and maintain relationships with friends and significant others. I was scared to think about losing my paycheck, especially because I'm not pursuing these projects as potential revenue streams - really just for the sake of exploring and learning new things. I'm fortunate enough to be in a position where my only financial obligation is rent, and as a software engineer, a few hours of freelance work per comfortably covers that.

I'm not advocating everyone go quit your jobs, because I realize everyone's situation is different. But life is too short to be bored as shit.

Same here, except it's not friends, it's kids. I spend a fair amount of my work day completely bored by the grind of software development and thinking about my hobbies (which right now is mostly screenprinting and music). But by the time I get home, cook dinner, clean up, and put the kids to bed, it's between 8:30-9:30, which means I have 1-2 free hours to do anything else. Having a creative outlet helps a lot, both because I have an urge to create, and nobody else gets to tell me what to do or how to do it. It's much more rewarding than video games or TV.

Not sure quitting my job is in the cards at the moment, but my son's preschool is closing down for the summer in June, before he starts kindergarten in the fall. I've considered taking the summer off to stay home with him for a few months and just do creative projects.

I have the same urge to make music.

The problem is that music isn't something you can just pick up and create, especially if you're past the point of "just write a song" and want to actually produce something. The latter requires too much immersion to do in the 30-60 minutes of free time I get each day.

If you took the summer off, would you possibly work on a creative project with your son? It can be so nice to share something you love with someone you love, and motivating too.

I don't know about something big...he'll only just barely be 5 then, and his attention span is pretty limited. But I can see trying to something that we can work on where we can make small amounts of progress every day.

That sounds lovely. I wish you the best.

Just curious, what kind of freelance work do you do and how do you find clients? I always felt like freelance sites are too saturated for me to make a living out of.

I've done a similar setup, working part time remote doing freelance web development for the last several years. My one paragraph answer:

The book The E-Myth makes the point that people fall into this trap: I've been doing a technical skill as an employee (coding). I could just quit my job and do that skill myself! Problem is once you go out on your own, you have to become the CEO, manager, and coder of your little enterprise.

In short, you have to learn business skills. Specifically, marketing, positioning, negotiation, people skills, etc. The more you know about these the easier freelancing is. Coding chops are absolutely necessary, but not sufficient.

The reason sites like Upwork are saturated and pay low rates is because everyone on there is basically acting like an employee and Upwork is serving as a stand in for the boss. People on Upwork are "PHP developers" and "Wordpress developers" and "Javascript developers". These get commodity prices because in many ways they _are_ commodities. Valuable commodities yes. In demand commodities yes. But commodities nonetheless.

Don't compete on Upwork, build your own pipeline. This will require selecting a target market, going out and actually speaking to them, and finding out what their business problems are. Nobody needs a "Wordpress site". But lots of people need a site to sell their product, market their service, etc.

I'm relatively convinced that any person who can combine competence in programming with competence in sales can do anything they want.

One of my favorite really accessible introductions to this idea of selling something that isn't a commodity is Sean D'Souza's The Brain Audit. Read it in one sitting and then change all the copy on your website to be targeted to solving the client's problems instead of what technologies you know.

Happy to chat with more about this - my email's in my profile. Cheers!

To offer a different perspective, you can get good rates on Upwork. You need to know how to sell yourself.

hey I am considering doing this for the same reason. What did you do about health insurance?

I live in Chicago and get my insurance through the health insurance marketplace. If you have a qualifying life event you can get insurance even if it isn't the open enrollment period, which is usually the end of the calendar year.

I haven't had any troubles with it so far. I paid about $350 a month for a silver plan and this year am upgrading to a gold plan that is about $500 a month. I don't know if this is a lot but it seems reasonable for just me (a single 31 year old non-smoker male).

I really miss working on personal projects. Having young children at home makes it pretty impossible. The only time I have to work on personal projects is after the kids go to bed, and by that time my brain is done.

I have pretty much resigned myself to not doing any personal projects until they are older. If only I realized how much time I had in the before-time....

In the past I tried creative night shifts too, sometimes till 3AM but in the morning I was wrecked. So what works now: I go to sleep same time as my kids and wake up much earlier.


1) kids get good habit going to sleep at the right time

2) you get a proper sleep

3) at least my morning mind is much more fresh after some exercise

4) your creative wandering is time limited by how early you wake up - that is most difficult especially in the winter, but it is just a matter of habit and doesn't sacrifice health so much.

5) I am unlikely to procrastinate in the morning if I wake up with a planed task in mind

While I agree with you here, but if you're doing a 9 hour work day with an hour on the shoulders for your commute, then you're looking at 19 hours dedicated to work alone.

Say, 30 minutes for dinner (if you're not the one cooking), 15 minutes for shower/grooming, 30 minutes for exercise plus whatever time it takes to get ready and cool down...so...an hour? If you're rolling solo, that probably rounds out your daily commitments. With kid(s) and a partner, you're down to 3 hours in which to help/bond with kids, spend time with your partner, plus whatever travel/wind up/wind down time those things take. Maybe 30 minutes a day you could really commit to these things?

I dunno, there are a lot of variables, but I find that prescriptive articles like these essentially dump the demands for your <insert here> project upon the shoulders of your family. If you want to make it really uncomfortable, consider the demographics of people here and in the software industry at a whole. Now it's just more of men offloading the work of family, house and home, etc. on the women in order for them to get their own projects done.

Sounds great, but don't expect much.

You’re right, with a full time job you have to sacrifice something, especially if you have kids. I found some balance by working from home so I get to spend a lot of time with my kid, though I still frequently work late into the night - often till 1 am. My goal is to make enough on the side gig to quit the day job so I can dedicate 100% of my time to my projects. I have a feeling it won't be easy but I gotta plow ahead, there is no other choice.

I have to try this. But how does it work out for you when you "have to" be up late, e.g. at social activities? I imagine yawning my way through a late dinner, falling asleep at the cinema.

Realistically, that sort of thing suffers. My wife keeps an early schedule and anything past 7 or 8 is iffy. She can usually do it, but there's a non trivial chance that she'll be too tired to function properly.

This is spot on and have started this two weeks ago. I get up at 5am and start work at 9am. Solid productivity time with no little ones.

Yeah, sadly 5am is when my kids like to wake up :(

Same here :) isn't it just lovely? :)

That early time for me is to focus on my body with exercise. A lot of time in this industry we forget about the body because our mind pays the bills. It's not sustainable.

I started doing this a month ago and it's been working well for me.

I'd always end up dozing off if I tried to get anything done after the kids went to bed. Now it's asleep by 8:30PM and up at 4:30-5AM for a few hours of personal work time.

I have to ask - where is in that schedule the time to bond with your partner, or to do household chores?

Bonding time with the wife is after the kids go to bed. We both enjoy vegging out on the couch or in bed watching TV together. Chores are done mostly on weekends.

I do the same, but sleep at 4am and wake up at 12 (I work remotely and that's when I start work). Late night is the best time to be creative, for me, since there's absolutely nobody to distract you.

Love this approach and points, thanks. I'm fully deep into the am routine, and at 8am when they wake up I'm a piece of meat that barely walks.

Who looks after your kids in the morning while you are awake and the kids are awake?

Seems you must have an amenable partner?

They love to sleep. We need about 1 hour break in the morning to help them prepare for school. My partner teached me to wake up early.

Depends on how old they are. At 4+ they're fine to be on their own a bit with you near by.

> If only I realized how much time I had in the before-time....

Funnily enough, I feel like I get more done with kids. Before I had them I was a huge procrastinator. Now I have the focus and time management skills (because I HAVE to) to actually get stuff done on my personal projects.

But, yeah, if I had all that free time, with my current focus, would have been nice.

> personal projects

> young children

young children = personal projects

The best way is simply not working full-time. Work part-time. I know you'll now come up with all sorts of excuses why it's hard/impossible. But hey, you want to do a creative project. That implies you are a creative person. So get creative. I assume the partial loss of income is not a problem. Can't be in our industry. So go negotiate with your boss. Negotiate hard. Your boss can't agree because he needs someone to occupy a desk - work half a day. Trade other benefits. Get your colleagues on board. No luck - change jobs, become a freelancer. Hack, you could even become a freelancer at your own former employer. There are plenty of options. Get creative!

YMMV, but:

My previous employer told me part time w/ benefits was impossible. When I found a new job that offered part time w/ benefits, my previous employer made me a counter-offer: part time w/ benefits.

How did you find the job that offered part-time? Is there a list somewhere for this?

HN Who's Hiring thread ~4 years ago.

Did you take it?

Took the new job. Wanted the chance to learn from new people.

It was the right choice.

Yep, I got this and I love it. Alternating one week on, one week off at about half my previous salary. I just released version 0.1 of a passion project, and now I think I'll take a break to practice bass guitar and play video games.

It does sting a little bit to be saving so much less for retirement. On the other hand I wouldn't mind working part-time forever. I just hope age discrimination in tech isn't as widespread as some people say...

Can you tell me more about how you did this? Would love to chat about this option because it's very appealing to me.

I was the entire IT department at a small company. (Maybe 50% development; the rest management, sysadmin, and support.) I was pretty sure I could convince my bosses to allow it, since I perform well and am hard to replace. The only hard part was finding someone to share my job with me, because my bosses didn't want to increase my budget. Luckily someone in my network liked the idea, and now we share a job.

I think it's incredibly hard to do this.

But it's not impossible. I managed to do it; that's how I can afford to be a musician and play paying gigs.

I had to negotiate a position at a very small firm, but I get a salary based on a 30h week and I've been doing that for several years now.

yes, this. I'm doing this and negotiating firmly is the key, but stick to your guns, be prepared to not get as much money as you could if you're full time, but if you have valuable skills then in the current market its certainly doable. They'll grumble a bit at first but once its a fact then life is smooth.

How much did you lose from your initial compensation?

I am looking to do this, but I'm ~1 year in. How viable is this?

oh nothing hourly - just pro rata. But a lot of higher paying jobs are less flexible. The one I have now is a good balance - for me anyway.

> The best way is simply not working full-time

I would LOVE this, but I can't get insurance or benefits this way (in the US).

If we do love this, I think we will eventually find a way. Just prepare for this.

Move to a better country.

You can buy your own insurance and save for your own retirement.

> You can buy your own insurance

Depending on where you live in the US, this can be more costly than it's worth (compared to group coverage).

With group coverage you are paying much more than you think. The cost to your employer could have been paid to you as wages. The best option for buying your own insurance is to buy the absolute minimum coverage with high deductible and HSA option. Then put money in the HSA and save on income taxes.

> The best option for buying your own insurance is to buy the absolute minimum coverage with high deductible and HSA option.

It's probably the highest expected return, but the greatest exposure to downside risk (conversely, buying the near maximum coverage HMO plan is probably the lowest average return, but least exposure to downside risk.)

So this is a stupid questions but, what's the importance of buying insurance? Is it mandatory or something? PS. I life in Australia

It is mandatory in the U.S. as of a few years ago. There is around a $2,000 annual fine if you don't purchase insurance.

Why not? Make it part of salary negotiations.

I'm a person who can't sustain my mental health if I'm not building things. Quite literally. And I know there are plenty of others like me who face the idea of a typical 9-5 life with crushing existential dread.

I appreciate the article, and I'd also caution anyone who opened it looking for magic tricks or simple solutions. There really aren't any. I work part-time and make substantially less money than I could working full time. I say no to friends who want to hang out. And sometimes I start to hate my creative work or get burnt out on it.

But I do it; I keep doing it.

I'm in a band, I make my own music, I built an art car for Burning Man this year, I write and design things. And it keeps me happy and keeps me going.

All I'm really trying to say is that it's like health. The trick to being in good health is that there is no trick. Eat well and exercise. The trick to having creative pursuits is to sacrifice the time to sit your ass down and get to work.

  - I work fulltime  
  - I commute 30 minutes each day during the week  
  - I am a fulltime dad  
  - I exercise 5 times per week 
  - I walk my dog 2x daily  
  - ~10 hours/week on chores/yardwork/construction 
  - I still manage to have a side project.  
Its definitely doable, I think you just need to be a little bit mentally ill. :)

I'm sorry but I'm going to have to call bullshit on that. First of all, 'I work fulltime' and 'I am a fulltime dad' are incompatible.

It is indeed doable, as you say but not at all common. Either your job is very low stress (no on-call, no live services, etc..), you're on meth, you're half-assing most of that or have an exceptionally large spoon [0] but there's no way in hell a regular engineer would have the mental energy to deal with all of that and do a great job at them.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spoon_theory

Its a misleading statement, so calling BS is fair :) I am not juggling babies while programming.

By "fulltime" I mean I spend about 40 hours/week in my day job, and about 40 hours per week taking care of my daughter. Breakdown: 1 hour per morning getting her to school, 2.5 hours after work. That is 17.5 hours during the weekdays. I spend probably at least 20-24 hours on the weekend with her on average. (Note that there are 112 waking hours in the week)

However (!) note that I can multitask many other things while taking care of her, particularly chores and yard work (she often plays outside with me while I am doing construction work or yard work). She is also often self-sufficient, and often entertains herself by drawing (we try to minimize the amount of TV she gets). Also (as mentioned in another comment) my wife simultaneously watches her during some of this time so its a bit easier (although as long as she is awake it is near impossible for me to work unless I am out of the house).

About doing a great job: you are absolutely correct. I do not excel at my day job (in terms of putting in overtime), but I am performant enough during my shift to keep them happy. And I do not excel at being a dad, but I consider myself a better dad than many I know, FWIW :)

> but I am performant enough during my shift to keep them happy

That's great. Seriously, good for you. Finding this balance is not easy. To tell you the truth, I was a little envious and that was probably the cause of the acidity in my original comment.

No worries, I understand where you are coming from (really). More than once I have found myself in the position where my day job took too much out of me to do anything else (even before I had a kid). It really comes down to finding a job where working 40 hours per week is acceptable, and you will not be guilt-tripped into working more hours, and ideally reducing your commute if you have one.

A 'full-time dad' must mean different things to different people. To me, it's incompatible with working full time.

Making them breakfast, seeing them off on the bus, picking them up from school, shuttling them off to activities, helping with homework, making dinner, cleaning up, helping them when they have nightmares ... &etc.

It's healthy to think of raising children as a creative, meaningful project on its own merits.

Yep I suppose by "fulltime" is open to interpretation here - in this case I mean during the hours my daughter is not at school, I share half the responsibility of my wife in taking care of her. In spite of this, I still feel like I could do more and feel a bit guilty about that.

I would call this being an engaged parent.

It’s good, your family sounds great!

But it’s definitely not being a full-time dad.

How many hours of sleep, nightly?

Lately I've been meeting many "hustlers" who are swearing up and down I only need 6 hours, or even less, which I thought would be obviously absurd, but this stupid meme keeps cropping up. The 80s sales gurus were teaching us this in highschool with their pep talks, and now the new-rich millenials are devouring it and sending it straight down the line on their instagrams.

I often do 6 hours, but not by intention, just because I get in the zone, but then my next day is totalled (have to go to bed early). I shoot for 8 or even 9 hours when I can get it. I also drink coffee in the evening sometimes but try not to exceed 300mg of caffeine per day, but I am weird in that I can sleep even while caffeine is running through my system. Mostly, I try to compact time as much as possible to free up a contiguous chunk to work on my own stuff, which is usually about 1 productive hour per day if I am lucky.

In the 80s they had cocaine. One is forced to wonder if modern "hustlers" are omitting something in their advice.

Adderal, its everywhere, and not much in the way of side effects. Taking it while you are in the thick of a task is the way to do it; once it sets in you are working at 150% pace with undivided focus. This is the drug of the future. Much more sustained focus from caffeine, and no stomach discomfort or nausea that you might encounter with high caffeine doses. This drug, along with ritalin, are designed such that you can't get a high enough concentration of the drug in your blood to trigger any physical dependence or tolerance. Plenty of my friends have prescriptions, and doctors generally prescribe enough to be on the drug every waking hour for a month, whereas they might only need to take it a couple times a week for focusing on a specific task, so people whose ADD symptoms are milder tend to build up a surplus.

I don't agree that it's the miracle drug you're indicating.

First off, the effectiveness in diagnosed add / ADHD people vs people just using it doesn't seem to be 1:1. For example, it gets me focused on relevant tasks, whereas my non ADHD friends could easily get sucked into the infamous "clean the entire house" funnel. Or, it just makes them anxious.

I also suspect it dramatically reduces my emotional reaction to things, including art. I feel like it robotocizes me. Sure, I'm more effective, but time seems to just slide by without having any real impact on me. The weeks I don't take it seem to automatically be more "colorful" in my long term memory.

It's certainly made my life a hell of a lot easier as someone with ADHD, but I wouldn't sing its praises as a side-effect-less drug. If anything, the side effects are insidious in a dangerous (emotionally) and undetectable way.

Yes, modafinil. The majority of the people I know use it. (So do I, but that's because I work an overnight shift... maybe once I finish this side project I'll be able to land a nice 9-5 software job.)

That still making the rounds? I remember in the coding bootcamp kids were going on about it, so I asked my psych about it as an alternative to adderall (always willing to explore treatments to my adhd), and she was surprised to hear people were taking it thinking it was like adderall. She said "people with narcolepsy take that, it doesn't help focus at all." This was early in days of it, looks like it's a known thing to try to use modafinil as a cognitive enhancer, though there's little data to support it actually works like that:

Modafinil, sold under the brand name Provigil among others, is a medication to treat sleepiness due to narcolepsy, shift work sleep disorder, or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA).[3][7] In OSA continuous positive airway pressure is the preferred treatment.[3] While it has seen off-label use as a purported cognitive enhancer, the research on its effectiveness for this use is not conclusive.[8][9] It is taken by mouth.[3]


It does help in my experience. Less so than Dexamphetamine, but also feels like it's doing you less damage. I tried Ritalin, but got headaches. We can't get adderall in .au so I don't know about it first hand. The problem is you can't get Modafinil subsidised if you have ADHD, only if you have Narcolepsy, so while Dexamphetamine is probably doing long term damage, it costs me $20 a month where Modafinil is > $200.

"Adrafinil is a precursor to modafinil, meaning the body converts adrafinil to modafinil, and are often discussed together for this reason. Adrafinil is a mild stimulant designed to fight off sleepiness and fatigue."

You can buy it online, legally in the US anyways, probably in Aussieland too.

Sounds like your psych wasn't familiar with off label uses. I know a lot of people who have tried or regularly used Modafinil. It eliminates brain fog and improves focus, like many stimulants do.

It helps if you're tired. I'm not sure if it helps with focus or if most people just have dismal sleep quality.

I've found caffeine to be sufficient, too scared to try anything "harder" - but I suspect many hustlers do not have wives and children, or if they do they are crappy fathers/husbands - I personally know some people like this.

Could it be the aggressively over prescribed amphetamines?

I've been getting about 4 hours a night for the last 5 years and feel fine. I used to swear by 8 hours, but as I've gotten older I just don't need as much.

Well, you must be an outlier, because that "as you get older you need less sleep" meme is not supported by scientific study: https://www.sleep.org/articles/aging-need-less-sleep/

Do you have time for friends? Friends seem to be the last priority these days yet there have been several studies that link having close friends to long-term health and happiness.

I do not have time for friends, as one might expect (unless you count my wife and/or her friends as friends, or "twitter friends"). Which is ok by me, since I am pretty antisocial in the real world. :)

What is your current side project sir?

WOW. Thank you. This is really a nice Creative project. So inspiring.

glad you like it. :) As expected, progress is slow these days but you can see my most recent work on my twitter account if you dig through my RTs.

Hey, I came across your site a few times and it looks cool, but I was always discouraged by the lack of recent updates ):

There will be more updates coming soon. My current rate of work is about 1/10th to 1/20th of what it was while I was working on VQ full time, and I took about 1 year off from VQ for other side projects, but I am currently back at it with all my spare time.

Glad to hear that :)

Sure, I'll look for your recent work in your twitter.

How do you have time in your day for this? I'd really like to see your hour by hour to see if I can make more time in my own day.

I wake up for work before the sun rises, and by the time I get back home this time of year, its been set for about 2 hours. Work in preparing dinner, errands or chores, and trying to get in 8 hours of sleep, I'm left with maybe 2-3 hours where I don't have to be doing something or going somewhere in a given weekday. Sure, I could have a side project or a hobby in that time, but then my day would be entirely occupied without any flexibility for if something comes up.

All through college I told myself 6 hours of sleep was fine, that I could catch up on the weekends, but now my sleep schedule seems to be wrecked so 8 hours is nonnegotiable until I stop feeling so exhausted all day.

Times around rounded to the nearest half hour, and give or take for a given day.


  - 7:00am or 7:30 am: wake up .  
  - 8:30am i've prepared breakfast, packed daughter for school, packed myself for work and working out, daughter is brought to school (school is conveniently 3 blocks away) . 
  - 9:00am I have commuted to work . 
  - 5:00pm leave work . 
  - 5:30pm-6:30pm workout . 
  - 7:00pm I have arrived back home . 
  - 7:30-9:30 dinner (if I am hungry), chores, get daughter to bed . 
  - 9:30 - freedom!  
  - 11:00 or 12:00 - go to bed . 
Weekends are not generally that free for me, but sometimes I trade off with my wife to free up some time. Usually I am busy doing work around the house (i.e. I recently built some fences, installed a sprinkler system, leveled out and graveled a side yard to put in a shed, etc).

Without caffeine I feel exhausted. I get almost exactly 300mg every day, and also try to time eating such that I don't get tired (food coma).

I think what people should be doing is rethinking "full-time" work. 40-hour weeks don't make sense in today's society. Start negotiating the "standard" 9-5 contracts that are out there today, instead of just blindly agreeing -- ask your employer if you can do 4 days a week for the appropriate amount of pay.

In addition being on-call (thus sacrificing even more freedom and your time) and required to manage operations is cool only if your company pays you extra for that extra time you're losing. Since this is a more contentious issue I'll elaborate - in the past, companies hired night-shift employees and split the work, not giving a ~10k bump in pay to the day employees and expecting them to keep laptops close to them while they were off-premises.

BTW, if you think you're underpaid as a tech employee, you're almost certainly wrong -- don't forget that the big tech firms colluded to keep wages low not too long ago.

Time is the one resource you never get back (well so far at least).

Anyway, nerds/engineers never think of this stuff, it's why CTOs are the least paid of C levels [0].

[0]: https://www.comparably.com/blog/what-the-c-suite-earns-a-loo...

You mean overpaid, right?

Yes, I meant overpaid -- apologies for the typo.

From what I can tell, despite the enormous amount devs are being paid, It seems like we're still on the underpaid side of the balance, especially depending on where you are.

I agree. Otherwise the biggest capitalists who claim to love competition just s'damn much wouldn't have created a cabal to keep salaries down.

Yes, also somewhat anecdotally if you look at the value being generated at these companies versus what they're paying out it's astronomical.

I know we're way past piece work economies but the ratio has to be off.

I've found it to be very hard. Very, very hard. It got to the point for me where my "creative projects" took over and started to become what I spent most of my mental energy on, so a fulltime job became extremely difficult. These days, I only work 10hrs a week doing independent contracting, which while it's not much time, it's been surprisingly exhausting considering the time crunches and other strange pressures that come with it.

That said, my "creative projects" are a pretty involved - two of them include FOIA lawsuits.

ok there's no part of this comment that I'm not interested in you expanding on if you would!

Does the 10 hours a week support you financially? Is that because your cost of living is low?

Tell us about the creative projects and the lawsuits!

> Tell us about the creative projects and the lawsuits!

He was on HN FP recently: https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=18257867

Don't try to make money with your creative projects and they'll be a joy. If you're trying to make money with them then have a plan in place to turn them into your day job so you can make time for fun creative projects eventually.

Which of this suggestions is your case?

Edit: formatting.

I honestly don't know how people can produce something decent while working fulltime.

I am usually home at about six. I then cook, do dishes and hurry to get to sports training, am back at 22:00, hit the shower and go straight to bed.

I also have a buttload of stuff I want to learn, and so many projects I want to do that I never get to really work on anything.

I stop by the grocery store and grab cooked food from the deli counter. It takes about 5 minutes. I eat my food on paper plates, and workout in my room. I'm probably gaining 1.5 hours per day on you. It's more expensive this way but time is money. If I consider it time I paid myself it's worth the expense.

>I honestly don't know how people can produce something decent while working fulltime.

Since getting funded, I work well beyond full time, I rarely walk through the door before 7:30pm, and then I cook dinner for my wife who gets home later than I do.

And yet...I do have in between hours that I need to decompress and explore.

My strategy is to employ radical focus and boundaries on one or two extracurricular activities at a time, and be absolutely ruthless with my expectations of how much time I have to give to them.

I've got two projects I'm doing now. 1) Build a website for my wife's brick and mortar retail business, and 2) Continually use new dApps.

For my wife's website, I've set a humble goal of having its main job be only to build her email list at first, and keep it minimal to set up and maintain. I'm using a Shopify template so I can easily transition to online commerce later, but for now I want it to grab emails, and I'm giving myself a MONTH to do it.

Tonight, my goal might be to simply choose the font for the main text on the site, allowing me a bit of time to google best practices and then implement. A few days from now I might simply download a collection of viable stock images to deploy later. An hour here, an hour there.

Bottom line is that a month from now, her business will have a website that will begin adding value to her business. Stage 2 will be allowing her to sell/checkout items from her Instagram page, and Stage 3 will be a full blown online storefront which will effectively be an entirely new business separate from her brick and mortar, but I'm nowhere near thinking about those now.

My other current project is to have a cursory familiarity with various crypto dApps. It's pretty easy, I've just got a list of applications that I'm signing up and trying, one by one. This Saturday, I'll work on my company, but later on in the afternoon or evening at some point, I'll sign onto Augur and place a bet, poke around a bit, and decide which dApp I'll look at next.

None of these projects will take meaningful time away from my main work, but I'll be filling the "in-between decompress" hours with productive fun snippets of learning and doing. These are things that I used to occupy more with reading or gaming back when I had more time. It doesn't seem like much, but it will add up. 1-2 years from now I'll be able to easily knock out and maintain online stores, and will be fluent (and have opinions on) a number of decentralized crypto applications. I think that's pretty awesome, and totally doable! Biggest caveat: I don't have kids, haha.

>I also have a buttload of stuff I want to learn, and so many projects I want to do that I never get to really work on anything.

I say you choose ONE, set a RADICALLY humble goal for what "Phase 1 success" of your project looks like, then imagine how much time you think it will take, multiply that time by FIVE, and just begin :)

Technology is supposed make human work less. Ironically as the technology advances the working hours has also increased. Bertrand has written nice short summary http://www.zpub.com/notes/idle.html in the 1930's which is sadly very much relevant today.

I'm sorry but it's not possible. When you work full time, you have little time left, maybe 4 hours a day. These are not prime working hours, they are leftovers. You make very little progress which discourages you even more. You feel guilty about watching TV. You try to do something on the weekends but let's be real, the five days in between are really going to break your flow.

I feel like the idea of a "side hustle" is selling false hope.

Maybe people call something a "side hustle" just so that they can brush of criticism with "it was just a side hustle".

I've convinced 3 people (2 friends, one person on hacker news) to quit their jobs to work on their ideas, pursue self-study and figure stuff out. They've all been very thankful and the progress on their respective journeys has been much faster.

You can't build something cool without devoting yourself entirely to it.

I couldn't disagree more. I started two side projects while working a full time job. I also have a family and coach my kids sports team. I enjoyed working on them in the spare time I could find, enjoyed seeing the progress I made (no matter how slow). Because I couldn't dedicate a ton of time working on them, I had plenty of time to -think- about it. Driving, grocery shopping, in the shower... when I did sit down I knew exactly what I needed to do and was very productive.

After a couple of years they both had grown to a point where I was able to comfortably quit my job to pursue them.

Becoming a parent had made me more resourceful too. If I get half an hour to code I'll smash it out like a rabid animal.

That said been doing renovations recently and there is definitely pent up energy for physical work after a day of coding.

Any tips on pulling that off? You make it sound very easy(couple of years seems pretty damn fast to me), so maybe you, like the author, could share what you think led to your success?

One project was pretty lucky; my wife’s employer had a manual process that was very time consuming and inefficient. My wife mentioned it and I told her I could help solve it. It was a huge risk because we had no way to get infront or anyone that could sign off, and being a huge company it would have been a horrible process. I decided to develope a solution first and pitch it. Luckily it worked out for me because they easily could have turned me down and I would have spent months developing it for nothing. However; I enjoyed making it and looked at it as a learning experience so I wasn’t too concerned either way.

Now they pay monthly and it’s been a good recurring source of income for me.

Another project was something I built for myself a few years ago (macvendors.com) and made available. After about 4-5 years traffic picked up and it started to grow. Now I receive about 350 million API request per month and growing. We recently introduced paid plans but the income from them is pretty much irrelevant, under $100/m. The site makes a little bit of ad revenue though which helps.

I second this and also, what is your creative project?

You can make the opposite tradeoff, work on side projects very early (I start working on mine at 4am) and work at normal hours after.

The tradeoff is you might be less enthusiastic at work, but I've not suffered from this yet (big yet, remains to be seen). Also, you need to be more of a lark to do something like this.

I've started doing this, noticed I'm ridiculously more productive in the two hours before work than after.

I disagree. Some days you’ll be beat, sure, and you won’t be able to be creative on those days. But that’s fine, if you accept it.

Other days you’ll get a lot of creativity done in your spare hours, and if your hobby is computer science, then you can certainly get a side project done. Because if you have a few hours to watch Netflix or browse hackernews, then you have a few hours to do other things, and once you get into the habit of having fun with your hobby, it will feel nothing like work.

Granted, that last bit isn’t as easy as it sounds, and it’s probably impossible if you don’t like your side project. Like if your side project is to build x because y will be good for you, then x may not be what you want, and it’s almost impossible to do that then.

Disclaimer, I’m Scandinavian. Our work week is 37 hours. My work week isn’t though, and I still had time to build a password cracker for DES encrypted passwords in c the other day, because it was fun.

Of course, if your goal is to start a business, then it’s perfectly possible that this won’t be fun, and I do agree that it’s often a good idea to give it a shot instead of trying to do it on your spare time. But creative side projects? That’s like going for a run or watching a movie.

I disagree and actively disprove of this. I have four hours at home.

Hour1: Eating / TV / Hanging out with wife

Hour2: Development, studying, cultivating

Hour3: Gym

Hour4: Relax, mental health, maybe some more development

While I agree that my progress is significantly larger on the weekends, the five hours from the weekdays gives me a good amount. Keep in mind too, this is about side projects, creative ideas. Not about "starting a business" or some startup venture

I'm insanely curious how can you spend an hour at gym. Showering alone takes 30 mins. There is also time commuting to and from gym. Do you work out for only 20 mins and is insanely efficient doing this task? Most people work out ~1 to 1.5 hours and combined with inefficiencies, commute and showering it's a 2 hour commitment.

I have a gym in my apartment, so typically a 45min workout and a 15 min shower

30 minute showers are a waste of water. What are you doing in there? It shouldn't take you more than 15 minutes to shower unless you have 6 feet of hair that you have to wash and condition.

a Starting-Strength or Greyskull LP program only takes about 30-45 mins. Faster if you've been doing it for years...

You seem to have zero friends.

Plenty actually, but time is lacking. I wouldn't mind being your friend and talking about if you'd like

OK. I live in Petaluma, CA.

After rereading my comment I would like to clarify that it was not intended as an insult but rather an observation that time for friends was not on your list. Several recent studies have linked maintaining friendships with long-term health and happiness.




No worries :) I didn't list weekends as they are not apart of my schedule. As much as I find routines to be beneficial to me, I am not a robot and enjoy my social times and lettings things happen as they go. Also the majority of my "free hour" during the weekdays is often goofing off with my friends online. It is also worth noting that my wife is my best friend as well

I'm in New York, if you ever in my neck of the woods send me a message, I'll buy you a beer

Awesome. Used to live in Washington Heights. Same goes if you're in Petaluma.

do your wife and you work different schedules? You only spend 1 hour a weekday with your wife? and spend more time working on the weekend?

We go to the gym together and spend a lot of time in hour 4 together. The first hour is just exclusively for us. Often she will visit me while I am coding and I (typically) don't mind :)

Per weekend day, I normally find four~five hours of development time and the rest I typically spend with her.

It's also worth noting that this schedule isn't law, there are days were I don't develop or go to the gym to hang out with my wife more

"The person who says it cannot be done should not interrupt the person who is busy doing it."

I'm afraid Kurt Gödel did not receive this note.

Maybe in your experience. personally, I've not found it to be too frustrating to maintain a side hobby/business doing and selling woodworking items.

Potentially, if you view "full time" as being 10+ hours/day, then yeah, it would be hard, but, if you can manage 8/day on work +2 per day for commute/errands and 1 for relaxing, you still have 13 hours left. I like to sleep 8 hours/day, so, 5 total that can be allocated to hobbies/side projects. even if you lose 2 more hours to inefficiencies/task switching losses, then you still can spend 3 hours on the project, and if you do that with dedication it works pretty well.

I take it you don't have a family? Because I don't see any time carved out for spending quality time with a partner and kids (if you had one or more).

I'm not entirely sure why the person you replied to got down-voted so heavily. Yes, it's possible to do stuff on the side, but it is exhausting and hard, especially if you are juggling a full-time job and family life.

As a husband and dad to two, there is a lot less free time available on any given day to pursue side projects and hobbies. I prioritize time with my family, and I prioritize time to take care of my health (work out), and that leaves very little time to devote to hobbies. Even with an understanding spouse who is okay with me spending my nights after the kids go to bed on study/hobbies, I get 1-2 hours on weeknights at best. I still build things, learn things and tackle new things, but it is hard, and it can be very exhausting if you try to sustain it over long periods of time.

But I like my job, my co-workers, and I like where I am at life, so I have no complaints. If I wanted to switch careers or build something substantial on the side, I would definitely recommend doing what the OP suggested, even though it seems riskier and harder.

I have a wife, no kids. My wife and I will go to the gym together, eat dinner together, and spend time together, but her work and mine have different schedules so I am done much earlier than her each day. (I usually start at 5-6am and finish at 2-3 since I am in CA, but work mostly with ET and IST)

Do you cook for yourself? Cooking is one of my biggest time sinks. It takes me like 45 minutes to whip up some eggs and pack a lunch for the morning. Dinner is around double that between cooking the dish, eating it, and cleaning.

What is your commute like? I can bike to work in 15 mins but now its too cold and icy for that, and it takes 45 minutes to drive through rush hour and park (and I'm bent over with the parking pass situation near work). Lately, I've been using the bus, which is hundreds of dollars cheaper than maintaining the parking pass, but no faster. Somehow, I live only 1.5 miles away.

Yes, I cook for myself, and for my wife. I don’t have a commute (or more properly, I work from home, or fly somewhere to do on site work with clients). My wife does commute so I do all our cooking.

I keep the time down with a combo of simple meals, batch prep, and Costco.

Have you considered meal prep? The majority of cooking work is duplicated across meals so if you can batch it up on the weekend it saves a lot of time during the week.

Pity about the snow. 1.5 miles takes about half an hour to walk.

This works well if you are in your early 20s or otherwise have no real obligations, but otherwise it becomes very untenable unless you are ruthless about carving out that time, and the other people in your life are accepting of that prioritization.

The best I can do is try to carve out a couple of hours late at night or early in the morning, when everyone else is asleep. But you end up robbing Peter (sleep, chores, exercise, cooking, time with loved ones) to pay Paul.

Not quite sure why you're being downvoted even if people have different views it situations.

For me side projects are generally just too large and all consuming to run alongside my contracting. I've had the odd smaller project but that's the exception rather than the rule.

Maybe things are different for people working on different types of side projects or who don't have the three kids I do, but I can empathize with the feeling that it's impossible.

Maybe you mean "not likely", because "not possible" is objectively false.

Personally, I think the “burn the ships” strategy is probably more viable for a serious endeavor, if you can afford (financially or otherwise) to do it. Save up 6-12 months of living expenses, make a plan, launch a barebones version, then make the jump and quit your job.

Speaking only personally here, but I think trying to just schedule in productive creative time doesn’t really work. There is no real enforced urgency and it’s too easy to think, “Well, I worked hard at my day job today, so I deserve to relax.” There is no “survival” mental state. But YMMV. I think it depends on whether you’re a “disciplined slow-but-steady worker” or if you thrive on being obsessed with what you’re working on.

This sounds like a good recipe for disaster. There's no buffer room in this plan. You've got 6-12 months to make your company profitable or it either fails or you get into massive debt.

I don’t know, worst case scenario you learn a ton and...go get another job? Life is short and time is valuable. There is a very real cost to not putting your 100% into something.

There's also a cost to putting yourself 100% in to things, that's why they have this whole "moderation" concept.

Meh, there's risk involved, but saying it's a "recipe for disaster" implies that you think the outcome is nearly set or that the odds are against you. I challenge that line of thinking.

You don't necessarily "got 6-12 months to make your company profitable or it either fails or you get into massive debt." A counter example could be that if your company's net begins to converge towards profitability, your burn rate would decrease and it's entirely possible that your 6-12 months becomes 18-24 months. Bail if you don't see that convergence and you'll still be able to re-enter the workforce without wiping out your savings. It's not an all or nothing game.

Alternatively, just get to profitability in 6-12 months :)

> that you think the outcome is nearly set or that the odds are against you

Stats on most startups would agree.

I would argue that personal circumstance is significantly more indicative of success than a generalized statistic.

As with everything, your milage may vary with these suggestions. I am not the writer, but am just a man with a side project, which is getting more and more of my time.

Change “I can’t” to “I don’t.” -- This section bugged me. At first, I thought it was great. Looking back, this is great advise for a smaller project, or someone just starting. However as your project gets bigger and larger you need to have time for mental health. By saying "I don't do anything Tuesday evenings" can isolate your friends or family. Sometimes after a hard day of work you just want to play a game or two with your friends, but it can be hard to make that push knowing you're actively "sabotaging" your progression. Having a routine is nice, and I find it the only way to progress myself, but sometimes it feels good for your friends and family to "bug" you. I personally believe breaking a routine for your mental health will be beneficial in the long run.

I do love the words about finding creative peak hours, building slowly and in general good habits. For what it is worth, I am using a "circle development cycle". You can imagine it as a circle progress wheel, making initial progress on several things and going back to improve them several times. The initial pass may be an uncolored landscape, where by the fourth pass there are natural mountains, cities and ect... This way I am cultivating new creative ideals while progressing on things as a whole. My "done" state will arrive sooner, but by delaying the "perfect" state's date.

Anyways, this is a great article and just wanted to share my smaller findings while I apply what the author suggested to myself

Wow, the comments in this post are timely. I'm considering taking a month off to move to an unfamiliar, non-destination area to work on my creative project (songs) for 8+ hrs a day with no other commitments.

I've done this a few times. Never for a full month, but for weeks at a time. Remember to be kind to yourself. Take walks, keep up your exercise schedule and eat well.

When I've done this in the past, I've really focused on maximizing and would generally work well over 8 hours a day. Usually 12, sometimes more. Exhaustion is its own creative juice. But not for a full month. :)

Will you have a support network of friends or other people to regularly and daily spend time with? A month might not be enough time to slip into a loneliness caused depression...but set yourself up for success if you do this.

Hey, what happened to rivalseek? Is it not going to be continued? I never tried it, but comments said it was very good - maybe you can share your method if there is no plan to continue?

(sorry for offtopic)

I won’t. I plan on visiting a church every Sunday, perhaps a couple volunteering days too.

This is hard until you really got hooked into something very different from the day job. I have been working for banks for more than 10 years. Tried many side projects. One that really got me in is entirely different from computers, Leathet crafting. 3 months. From 0 to 1. Now I have a design and a successful Etsy shop called tauruscamp.com

Your wallets are really cool, congrats!

I'm stuck in the first paragraph: "What type of work or situations might you seek out that wouldn’t leave you in a bad mood after working?"

I would go work in many menial jobs, but the problem is that this jobs pay very little and then you're worried and stressed and can't move on with side projects. If you go to a nice corporate job (not as a career but just as a source of income) you're usually left grumpy as he describes.

Can only do this if able to build up a state of flow around it. Start small, as small as possible. Not everything good has to be big.

All the comments like "dump everything and dive in head first for X months" sound like some weird cult of extreme heroism to me.

Everything is a process, not some abstract form that can magically be reified into existence by wanting/trying harder. We are animals and have to build up the habit and curiosity in tandem, else risk burnout.

Re: the "go easy on yourself".

I think it's hugely important to set aside relaxation time and, though it may seem counterintuitive, be active during that time about being relaxed. To me, that's usually a visit to the zoo, a walk by the ocean, or sitting in a coffee shop reading. Having the mindset of "I'm going to disappear for a bit" lets you focus on unwinding.

At the same time, rather than beating myself up or getting depressed when I'm not doing as much on the side as I would like, I've found a "healthier" approach is a more heated, angry frustration, similar to when you keep dying on the same level in a game. That kind of stimulus brings out something competitive in me and as a result I become more determined to overcome and "beat it". It's similar to the restlessness other commenters have described on the 3rd week of vacation, except it also continues to build while I work 40 hour weeks.

We have time for what we prioritize. That doesn't mean it's easy, but it is possible.

I'd argue that this has a lot with to do with set point theory.

As humans, our curiosity arouses around novelty. The object will tend to lose its novelty over time, and we'll tend to progressively lose interest in it up to the point where we go back to 'set point'.

Hint: look for mechanisms in your side projects to add novelty to the system so that your interest doesn't plateau.

When we built https://sametab.com as an internal side project, we used to constantly brainstorm new ideas about how this could eventually become. The more ideas we were founding the more the project looked new and appealing at our eyes.

The advice in this article is very on-point. I would add that a creative project can also be done at your current job. If you have the freedom to take on new responsibilities, it will be generally seen as a positive (who doesn't like employees that work late and on the weekend?). You might even get a promotion. How that compares to doing something on the side is up to you, but I would recommend not seeing work as just work, but a place where you can experiment in an existing enterprise.

Hard to do if your job workload is elastic and/or has on-call. Unfortunately these days, most employers are looking to squeeze 110% of your time and energy.

These days? That's how it always worked so far.

I consider freelance as a side project (miserable, I know) and I'm able to devote ~15 hours per week to it. Plus I take several hours for English, coursera and functional programming exercises.

My next goal is to leave my job (it takes 11 hours per day including commute and lunch time) - it will free ~2.5 hours a day! So actually freelance is a side project which should help me to say goodbye to my full-time job.

The article and all the comments seem to assume work and creative projects are mutual exclusive, that we have to find a balance. I am wondering if it is possible to have a job that allows people to be creative? Like, as happy as doing side project? If no, what kind of experience did you have that suggest it is not possible?

Since many(if not all) of this comments are completely empirical and based in personal experiences, all I can take from this comments is that one of my 2019 resolutions is to start a plan and save money to quit job and focus on a project of mine.


Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact