Work on Side Projects for Success and Happiness

Editor’s note: This is a guest post from freelance video creator and podcaster Steve Folland. He runs a podcast: Being Freelance – that discusses the freelancing life with a range of creatives.

Want to work on dream projects?

Then do it yourself.

I’m talking side projects.

In making the Being Freelance podcast (itself my own project on the side), I’ve come to realise that very often,one of the main driving forces behind my guests’ success and happiness is work they do on top of their paid client gigs.

A place where they can create the work they want to create, to create the work they want to be known for.

For animator Fraser Davidson, it’s a no brainer.


Fraser Davidson
Fraser Davidson


“You go to university and study design or animation, photography or anything and to then only spend your time working on professional paid work is just crazy; you’re 90% of the way to doing exactly what you want and to get paid for it and it seems crazy not to try and go the rest of the way.”

For Fraser, creating his own style of sports based animation off his own back led to him working on BBC projects, winning a BAFTA and setting up his own animation studio devoted to his style.

“Side projects… to my mind it’s just essential. Things that I would do for free, people would then come and say okay, can you do that for me… that’s the dream, you’re doing what you want and people pay you for it”.

A side project is a chance to collaborate, to demonstrate; to experiment and expand.

Photographer Jordan Green regularly does ‘test shoots’ with models. Both those behind and in front of the camera are working for free but it’s a win for them both.


Jordan Green Photographer Freelance Interview Podcast (1)
Jordan Green


“We’re doing it to get fresh images for our portfolios or just to try things out, to test ideas… to keep relevant”.

Jordan feeds these to his image-hungry social networks: “people keep on seeing my images, keep on seeing my style, keep on seeing my name and it will eventually get in people’s heads”.

And man, does it work. Without this approach of creating and sharing on social, he wouldn’t be working with some of the coolest brands and bands around. He created the work he wanted to be known for, for free… and now gets paid to do it.

Data Designer Stefanie Posavec wouldn’t have exhibited at top galleries, spoken at conferences around the world and designed book covers for her heroes if her ‘passion projects’, as she calls them, hadn’t got people’s attention.


Stefanie Posavec
Stefanie Posavec


Her latest was a year-long side project, collaborating with a New York designer. It’s a lot of work – about 8 hours a week, but “the publicity that we’ve gotten for this project, across so many major media sites in the US and UK… I find that more people are getting in touch with me for commercial work because of it.”

Presenter Olly Mann wouldn’t be on national radio if he didn’t create his own podcasts.

Developer Remy Sharp showed his skills so brilliantly in the coding he creates and shares online that he’s never had to pitch for work. People see what he’s capable of and come to him.

“My wife pointed out that I do pitch my work, I pitch it through my side projects or my blog. I’m publishing my work and that’s what my portfolio is”.

This very site, Red Lemon Club: this is a side project of an illustrator, who alongside his work started writing blog posts, books and courses – he also has another site devoted to contemporary illustration and is still expanding with his new side project Mansimian.

Red Lemon’s slogan is ‘Make An Impact Doing Your Thing’.


You might think, ‘but I’m running a business! I have to bring in money! I can’t be distracted by wooly little things I ‘want’ to do’…

Scriptwriter Tim Clague points out that you can view this as a healthy thing for your bottom line:

“Side projects aren’t bits of fluff. It’s about investment in the business. If you were a hoover manufacturer you wouldn’t call ‘inventing new hoovers’ a side project. It’s what you do. I’m a film-maker and a storyteller, so making new stories, getting them out there and getting them in front of the public is what I’m about”.


Tim Clague
Tim Clague


Sure, some of these side projects might start to bring in an income of their own, but that’s not why any of the freelancers I’ve spoken to started them.

Creating your own work without any client or commercial restraints dictated from above, gives you creative freedom. In fulfilling that side of you, you’ll take new positive energy not just into your client work, but into your life in general. You’ll be fulfilled in a way paid work alone may not always achieve.

Now that people are seeing that work, who knows where it will lead?

After all, as Fraser Davidson discovered for himself, “you’re known for what you do, people don’t come to you and ask you to do things they don’t think you can do”.

So show the world what you want to do. Do it because you love it and you’ll love what you do.

Listen to these guests and more talk in detail about being freelance over at Steve’s podcast, here.

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