What Makes a Good Side Project?

All developers have had this offer at one point.

> > I have this idea, if you code it - I’ll give you x percent of the company. > >

If you have an online presence or have a good network of idea-rich people, this happens so much, that you say no to more than you agree to.

Sometimes you even get an offer to do some work, and get paid. - This is usually a good sign, it means the idea-person believes so much in their own ability to execute, that they do not want to give away equity to get stuff done.

But what makes a good side project? When should you say yes? (Short answer - almost never).

The project would be fun to do

Developers do what they do because they love to do it. But if a side project is boring or too much like your day job - always say no. It is a waste of time.

The project is a great learning experience

Do you get a chance to work with a new technology, programming language, framework, database, architecture, customer segment, whatever… That is a good sign.

Learning by doing is a great reason to do side projects - you will have a chance to try new stuff. A chance you seldom get in your day-job.

The pay is great

Are you getting paid? Great! Are you getting paid 3-4 times more than your hourly rate at work? Even better.

Are you getting equity? Great! Are you getting equity in something that is not just a presentation, a marketing site, and your hard work? In other words, is the chance of success high? Even better.

When to say no?

For me, all three criteria must be met, before I say yes. Otherwise my time is much better spent playing on the floor with my kids.