All Articles

4 Deadly Traps That Have Killed My Side Hustles That You Can Avoid

In the past, I’ve been notorious for declaring that I’ll do a side hustle and never actually following through with it.

Examples include:

  • A shirt company that would combat bullying
  • A digital card game
  • My personal site (not this one)
  • A digital marketing agency
  • A drop shipping specialty dice company
  • And many, many others

I failed at all of these projects because they aren’t around today. If I had followed through with my word that I was going to finish these then my life would be very different today and I don’t want you, dear reader, to be in the same spot.

The 4 deadly traps

Let’s examine the 4 deadly traps that killed my digital card game.

1. The project scope was never defined.

When I would work on this I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. I just knew that I wanted to create a card game. I didn’t define what success would look like or when I would be “done” with it. When I would work on it I would get overwhelmed with all of the stuff I still had to do and I’d give up and go play League of Legends.

2. I didn’t create phases for the project.

I never defined a scope for the project so I wasn’t sure how I should go about creating it. I would spend hours on writing the game in Javascript, then go into Photoshop to concept a character, then I’d go into Evernote to create cards, I was all over the place. I would work on different parts of the game every time I’d sit down to work on it so nothing was getting done, I was just chasing different rabbits. If I were to start this again, a really simple overview of the phases would probably go something like this:

  1. Concept
  2. Prototype
  3. Art

If I had a road map like this then I would have known what to work on at the given time. When I was writing the game in Javascript I didn’t even know what the game was yet! I was just slinging code to make something work.

3. I didn’t take it seriously.

I didn’t take the game as seriously as I would a project at work. Since this project was something that I created on my own I figured that I didn’t have to do it and I only worked on it when it was fun for me. When it wasn’t fun for me I would play League of Legends instead.

4. I didn’t have the skills.

When I started working on my game I had very little experience in the skills I needed to make the game come to life. I was still in college for web development at the time I was making the game. I had very little experience in game design, digital art, sound design, and programming. When I would work on the game it would be very difficult for me since I had no experience making games. If I were to tackle this project again I would dedicate time to learning these skills as they relate to the simple phases I defined above. I would read books and go through tutorials for the phase I was in while I was actively working on the project. I would read a book on game design and then apply what I learn there to the concept of the game. I would avoid JUST reading the book on game design. If you learn something but don’t apply it then you’ll lose the knowledge you gained rather quickly.

I’ve gone through countless tutorials on stuff that I’ve never actually applied. For example, I’ve gone through about 3 courses on how to use React but I haven’t applied anything that I learned in them. I know I’m using Gatsby for this blog but I’m honestly just using it because it’s the most in-demand static site generator at the moment and not because it’s React. It being in React is a plus for me though since I can work with React on an actual project so I can learn it better.

How I’m avoiding these traps

I fell into these deadly traps over and over again and they killed my side hustles. With this blog, I hope to break the cycle. Here’s how I’m tackling the three traps above.

1. The project scope

When Tim Ferriss started his podcast he did it as an experiment. He decided to only dedicate his time to doing six podcast episodes and then after that, he would decide if he would continue doing it or not. With this blog I’m going to something similar, if I hate doing it and I believe it isn’t going anywhere, I’m going to stop writing for this blog after three months of writing one blog post per week. If I really enjoy doing it I might write more but I do want to stick to a consistent schedule.

After reading the 12-week year I now define my goals at the beginning of every quarter. My goal for this quarter was to just get this blog started. I defined my goal for this quarter like this:

  • Choose a domain name
  • Choose a Gatsy theme
  • Edit it a bit to fit what I want
  • Get a Netlify account
  • Push it live
  • Write one blog post

Next quarter my goal is to write one blog post a week (13 posts in total) that is at least 500 words. I’m keeping it simple so that I don’t get overwhelmed and I start making forward progress with this blog. I also learned about consistency over intensity recently. I would rather have a blog that has a decent amount of content on it then no blog at all. If I were to set my goal to have 100 10,000 word blog posts by the end of the year I would get overwhelmed and go play video games instead.

My blog is mostly going to be about what I’ve learned the past decade and what tools past Richie could have used to achieve his goals. I hope that it helps you as well dear reader.

The overall goal for this project would be to help as many web developers as I can to increase their productivity and help them achieve their goals while being 100% transparent with them. The side-effect would be that I have an audience that trusts me that I could tap into to create a side-income for myself (through courses and affiliate sales) and it will set myself up as an expert who could get hired to speak at conferences. I will sell stuff to my audience but only stuff that I believe in 100%, I’ll never peddle bullshit to them.

2. The phases for this project.

The phases for this side hustle are:

  1. Create the site
  2. Start writing blog posts to build an audience
  3. Define the brand for this site is and what the overall theme is
  4. Keep writing blog posts based on what resonates with my audience
  5. Build a course based on what my audience likes
  6. Sell the course to keep this blog going
  7. Then repeat steps 4 through 6 for eternity

You might be thinking that phases 2 and 3 should be flipped and you would probably be right. My goal right now is to get into the habit of creating posts for you guys and to see where I land with the niche for this site. Right now I’m thinking that I’m mostly going to be writing about productivity for developers but that might change in the future. Once I figure out the sweet spot of what I like to write about and what resonates with my audience, I’ll build a brand around that.

3. Not taking it seriously.

I’m viewing creating this blog as life or death. I have this blog post out here saying that I’m going to create at least 13 blog posts so I’m going to do it come hell or high water. I’m going to dedicate at least 30 minutes a day to this blog, probably in the morning. It will be in my calendar and I treat my calendar like a north star, I will follow it.

I’m also treating this blog as a business and creating a business for yourself really is life or death. If you’re working at a job and you solely rely on them for your income, then you’re exposing yourself to catastrophe. If you’re not producing more income for your employer than they’re paying you, then you’re putting them in a tough spot. I’m not saying that all employers will immediately fire you (they are human after all), but you never want to be in a spot where you only have one source of income because it can disappear. Not only could you get fired but the business could go under, they could experience hardship and have to lay people off, or there could be a black swan event that takes out the industry that the business you work for is in.

4. I don’t have the skills.

I don’t have any experience creating a blog or even writing outside of the assignments I had to do in high school and college. I have bookmarked articles and I have many books on how to create a blog but I haven’t read most of them. Instead, the approach I’m going to take is to learn one day and then write the next. My schedule is going to be something like this with the 30 minutes I’ve allotted myself every weekday:

  • Monday Wednesday Friday are doing days
  • Tuesday and Thursday are learning days

The only materials I’ll permit myself to learn from are materials that I can apply immediately to my blog.

Conclusion

And that’s how I’m going to make this side hustle a success despite my long list of failed side hustles in the past. If you like this material and you feel that it helped you please share it with someone who you think would benefit from it and also subscribe to the email list. I’ll send out an email every week when I release a new blog post and I’ll also have links to other resources that I enjoyed and I hope you’ll enjoy them too.