Why Every Freelancer Should Have a Personal Project

passive-incomeAs a freelancer, we are always looking for clients. Whether we are in freelancing for the joy and freedom of it, or to earn more than what we were being offered at our day job, a freelancer can’t always get by on the expectation of getting more clients.

If you want to succeed in the long run there has to be a back up plan–a plan that kicks in when all else fails.

Whether it’s a personal blog that earns income or a service that fills a void, whatever it is, it’s always good to have something that you can call your own…something that will somewhat support you just in case the river runs dry.

The Joy of Owning Something

Remember the first time you owned a car. Maybe it was your parent’s car first, but the fact you could call it your own was definitely something to be happy about. Back then it was just a fad, something to brag about to your friends. The story is different now.

Although many freelancers have regular clients, it’s also good to start your own personal project. If you don’t need to do it for the sake of money, do it for the sake of knowing that you own something that you built based on your skill set. (It can be discouraging to put many hours for a client and see their projects take off. Of course, you are getting paid to do it, but sometimes the joy of owning and knowing that you put your skills into something that’s yours can be a tremendous confidence boost.)

It Can Act as a Back Up Plan

Let’s say at the end of 2010 you are having trouble finding new clients. You have gotten all your old regular clients to a point where they don’t really need your help (sometimes being good has its drawbacks). What do you do? Just because the client work stopped doesn’t mean mortgage payments, bills, and the need to put food on the table will stop. This is when your personal project can act as a back up plan.

If you started a site or a service today, you would have an entire year to make something out of it. If you have clients willing to pay you to do something, you can also use that skill to make something that would pay you directly. Think about it. Whether it’s a blog earning revenue through advertisements, affiliate sites or a service, you start something now.

There is no guarantee that it will make you the income that your clients pay, but you will have something coming in if all else fails. And if it generates an income, soon you could be freelancing just for the joy of it and not solely for the money.

Think Passive

What if you could create something that could earn passive income? It’s possible. Although half the people that claim to earn passive income are spammers, there are quite a few who are legitimately earning passive income. Affiliate sites are a key example of how to earn this form of income. Setting up an affiliate site is not that hard (although you will have to do some initial work).

A few domain names, affiliate accounts, and a good sense of which market to target can start you on the path to earning a passive income through these sites. Some of the initial steps to take include:

  • Choose a niche
  • Test landing pages
  • Choose some affiliate products

If two weeks worth of work can earn you money for the rest of your life (even if it is only $500 a month) that certainly isn’t a bad deal. Give it a try.

I am not an affiliate marketer, but I do run a few sites and they do fairly well. What I earn through my sites is nothing compared to what I make through my clients, but if all my clients left for some reason, it certainly wouldn’t change my lifestyle drastically. Follow a few good affiliate marketing blogs and start learning how to do it for yourself.

The Confidence Factor

Your project is your baby. When it grows, matures and does what you wanted it to do, it is quite a good feeling. Of course, things aren’t going to happen overnight, just like a baby won’t grow up to be a responsible adult in a month. It will take time, but just knowing that you have something to look forward to can boost your confidence.

Knowing that after you get done with client’s work you have something of your own that you need to do can be quite fun. Working on my sites is something that I look forward to each day. After I get done with my client work, I spend about an hour or two on my personal projects before heading to bed. Although I work from home, I get a sense of “it’s time to go home” when I am ready to work on my stuff.

You Turn To Share

What do you think? Do you think a freelancer should have a project of his own? Do freelancers need a back up plan just in case there comes a time when clients aren’t all that easy to get?

It’s your turn to share.

Image by spilt-milk


  1. says

    I couldn’t agree more. My blog, which is now a network of blogs, started out as more of a hobby five years ago. Now it’s a very lucrative income source and brings in more per month/year than I do freelancing. In addition to the money, it’s very rewarding to be able to share ideas and know I’ve touched people’s lives.

  2. says

    I absolutely believe freelancers should diversify their income stream via one or more side projects. Having more than one income stream gives you peace of mind, more freedom to choose the projects and clients that are right for you (because you won’t be desperate), and more fun (if your income streams are related to something you enjoy). In fact, I think every freelancer should make this one of their goals for 2010 — to start developing a passive income stream.

    Nick Usborne has a GREAT book on this subject called “New Path to Riches” (Amazon sells it). Don’t let the title deceive you. It’s NOT about getting rich or making a killing overnight — far from it. It’s about developing a healthy income stream from your hobbies and interests. I can’t recommend it enough.

    Full disclosure: Nick is a friend and colleague, but I wouldn’t recommend the book if I didn’t think it was a top-notch resource.

  3. says

    Great post! Im just embarking the Freelance career and at the beginning its always tough so I have been looking into passive revenues to keep me going. Also its another learnign curve and string to your bow. Its great to know that other Freelancers are doing it as well!!

  4. says

    Although I usually back up my remarks with the fact that I’m in school, only freelance on the side when I’m able to and still have many hobbies and interests, I find that right now, photography is my “income” on the occasion I get asked to do a wedding or the like. Because I’m not freelancing full-time or part-time (per say), I still try to enhance hobbies to a point that I can make them into a small income. I have a blog and on it, have Google Ads, at this point, it’s still fairly new to the blogging world but the ad has done it’s job (but I wouldn’t rely on it as a source of income just yet).

    I have ideas for websites, I just need the time and money to put into them for the start up and than some of them would “take care of themselves”.

    I think because I have many interests, this helps me with doing more than just one “extra” project, but allows me to choose a few avenues to take.

    I agree that freelancers should have side projects for the reasons that have already been stated.

  5. says

    A very interesting post, Ritu, so many thanks. I am interested in finding some blogs as you describe, but can anyone recommend one or two that are not b******t and spammy sales? I already have plenty of those! :-)

    Also great to hear so many are already doing their (other) thing and making money at it, too.

  6. says

    Fantabulous Article. I was thinking the exact same thing last year. Why not do what we get paid to do, to create something that will generate income. Doesn’t hurt! Well written.

  7. says

    Thanks Ritu. To us Freelancers should always do what photographers do, and that is to always have personal projects. Photographers are always out shooting new things to see what will make it into their portfolio. Personal projects not only keeps you busy, but it also allows you to keep coming up with better techniques and tryout something new.

  8. says

    I couldn’t agree more that personal projects are incredibly important to any freelancer, and more so to any creative. My blog, while also serving as some passive income and stability, is also a place where I can do what I want, when I want, in my niche. I can be creative to my own standards, opposed to only focusing on clients needs for once. I’d say personal projects have a great way of keeping us freelancers sane too!

  9. says

    Hi Ritu. This is a good reminder and veritification that those side projects are worth spending some time on. Freelancing can be very up and down and so these projects would help to even out the earnings!

    Would also like some examples of affiliate sites that aren’t spammy and blogs that do actually make some money?

    Would be interested to hear from people who are operating out of smaller economies or in niche markets that have small target audiences and therefore scale challenges.

    Ed, thanks for the book ref will check it out.

  10. says

    That’s a great idea. I’m actually working on a couple sites right now with some designer friends to bring in some residual income, and help the freelance community at the same time :) The problem is making time to work on side projects when you’re slammed.

  11. says

    So true… I love staying awake at night, unable to sleep, thinking about how to go about completing my personal projects.

    Just like Chris said above, it definitely keeps your motvation level high.

  12. says

    Thanks very much for posting this article – it really has inspired me to get myself started on a personal project. Apart from broadening my work horizons and possible revenue income, I feel it’s also beneficial to set myself a goal that by the end of 2010, I will have hopefully achieved my aim of a new personal project. I’ll keep you all updated how it goes :)

  13. says

    Thanks for all the comments guys.

    One of the things that many freelancers point out is the time issue. It is understandable that you have to focus on client work, not just because you love what you do, but also because that’s what pays the bills. However, setting aside one day (maybe a weekend or a day you take off), or even 20 minutes each day to your personal project can benefit in the long run.

    It may not be as easy as said or thought in the beginning, but a personal project is one of those things that can reap huge benefit in the long run. It’s easier to get carried away knowing that our “present” is taken care of but we do need to think and plan for the future as well.

    Once again, thank you all for your feedback and sharing your thoughts on this. Wishing you all a very relaxing weekend (if you take days off that is ;-) )

  14. says

    You’re right, Ritu. Freelancers – well everyone for that matter – should have diverse income streams. The idea of earning a passive income is particularly attractive.

    Aside from the additional income, my personal projects allow me to interact with people from diverse fields and to pursue other interests. Personal projects help us develop our skills in areas outside of our freelancing field, and just keeps life interesting :-)

  15. says

    Tell me about it. I am learning that the hard way, no projects = no income. So, yes I think that every freelancer should have a contigency plan and as you put it can even be cool to do it.

  16. says

    I’m going all meta on this idea.

    I’m developing a website that will help me keep track of the websites I work on. It will have template tasks for affiliate/adsense type sites as well as the typical brochure or blog website.

  17. says

    This is a well written post. This year I’d like to launch my blog and hopefully build a community base. In the past time has been an issue but now I have the motivation to bring things together. Thanks!

  18. says


    I resonate with this post. Gotta say that I’m in the midst of waiting for my freelance payment to be cleared (the check was banked in late by the client)—I’m doing image-to-wordpress slicing since Dec 2009.

    In the 15 days since Jan, I’ve used the affiliate income from my blog and expanded out to create 3 new online businesses (2 which i have a 10% share of all increase, the 3rd was to help my parents’ grow their part of their home business — helped them with a online hair wig shop in Singapore), and now working on a 4th (a christian blog). :)

    You are right that not all will grow overnight, but have to say that thankfully, the 2nd site (a wholesale BBQ in Singapore site) has been receiving orders from the 3rd day since launch.

    There’s 2 reasons to why I started my own projects:

    a) I can get to implement my own designs

    I’m no designer, but it’s very fulfilling having to see that people are actually sending orders on the sites that I helped built.

    b) It’s part of my stress-free philosophy

    Imagine no one having to send the email with the subject header that says “: Changes needed”. :)

    Have a great weekend ahead!


  19. says

    I think your completely right… as a matter of fact… i started my personal project before i even started my freelance business… i do still get clients… simply word of mouth… havent put any effort… so i get money from freelance on the regular bases… i am planning on setting up a site and a blog soon for that though… im currently working on a virtual magazine which i have many ideas for… also a blog to go along with it… and a social network… i think ive picked my niche fairly well since its the main culture that has influenced my whole life… check it out… http://www.justfortheculture.com … let me know what you think…

    all the bast,

    the site isnt done yet ;)

  20. says

    This is good stuff. I love the part where you mention that the freelancer gets a sense of “its time to go home” when you begin to work on your own projects. That is so true that we really need to find that break between work life and personal life when you work from home. So, yes, having your own personal project is very important. As an e-Learning developer, it’s important for me to work on my own e-learning projects as well because I signs non-disclosure agreements a lot and often cannot display what I have done with my client’s work. So developing my own project as a portfolio item is often VERY useful to me, outside of what I do for my clients. Great topic.

  21. says

    I love the gentle pushes your article gave. “Me time” in business…what a concept…and how extremely important. Thank you for the reminders!

  22. says

    A great idea, especially for Graphic Designers is setting up a T-shirt shop and doing your own T-shirt designs. You can make the T-shirts yourself or get them printed or you can use an online service such as spreadshirt where they print them for you and do all the orders for you too so all you have to do is the designs and set the prices.

  23. says

    duh! I spend a load of time tinkering w/ personal projects and it never even crossed my mind that I could make money out of them.

    Right. Am off to sort that out right away.

  24. says

    Been working on a few personal projects for a while. Two are now live, one is under construction still.

    My first was Inspired By WordPress [http://inspiredbywordpress.co.uk] and the second AppFlow [http://appflow.co.uk]. With a bit of luck these will soon start to take-off a bit!.

  25. says

    Having personal projects is a must! Personal projects are great for generating some passive income as well as getting you away and doing more “you time” things. They can also help you learn more and keep up your skills.

    Thanks for the great article.

  26. says

    i consider that work to be done at home allows everyone to choose employment to liking. You choose the schedule of the work, time which you can give to favourite business, are not present is barefooted. Moreover you have an instructor. To me, for example, has very much carried with the instructor – I can contact it at any time and it always will help me council or will give the reference to a concrete site. Work in MLM – the companies to be pleasant to me.

  27. says

    I agree with you completely! Though I don’t think it necessarily has to be a $$ venture. Just having something to focus on when work is slow or when you just need to think about something else – something you feel passionate about – is an absolute must to staying sane as a freelancer. I would love if my personal project could turn into a cash cow at some point, but I think it’s more important for freelancers to have a project they can feel really good about. Thanks so much for the affirmation!

  28. says

    I started late last year developing an online accounting package. I was sick of using MYOB and all the problems and sharp learning curve it took to get everything right.

    So I set out to create something that I could use and wouldn’t take up so much time. It had to be easy to use. After I showed it to my accountant he asked if it could handle some of his other clients bookkeeping.

    I put it up as an early version and have had some great results. I’ve been working on an updated site and UI for the web app which will go live next week.

    Check it out KaffeeBreak (http://www.kaffeebreak.com)

  29. says

    My full time job is my backup plan but I’m trying to slowly ease into more and more freelance work. I can definitely relate to this post but as of now I’m still a bit hesitant about jumping right in. I know I’d have a lot more time to market my services but it would be a HUGE gamble from what I’ve learned so far. I don’t mean to imply that I’m not a gambling man but I need to find the best way to transition. Thanks for the insight.

  30. says

    I’ve been working on developing a personal project of mine for a while, which is starting a t-shirt line to support social causes and initiatives. I’ve partnered with a few friends and we’re in the early stages of planning and development. It’s definitely a great feeling to see an idea get off the ground. I totally agree that every freelancer should have a personal project, if not several.

  31. says

    Great post Ritu. I really found this post very true and informational for people like me. I just bookmarked this blog for future reference. Thanks and keep up the good works.


  1. […] Ich bin auf dem richtigen Weg – warum jeder Selbtstädige passives Einkommen haben sollte Jan 20, 2010  |  under Digitale-Infoprodukte, Geld verdien im Web  |  by mcarla Sie sind neu hier? Vielen Dank für Ihre Intersse. Wenn Sie wollen können Sie meine Artikel abonnieren.RSS feed. Vielen Dank für Ihren Besuch!Heute habe ich zwei interessante Blogposts gelesen – einen von Yaro Starak über sein neues Elite Coaching Programm und einen von Freelance Switch „Why Every Freelancer Should Have a Personal Project“ […]

  2. […] way, and sometimes fine-tune your skills. Freelance Folder has a great article on personal projects here. Basically, it lets you step back, find something you’ve wanted to do for awhile, and jump in […]

  3. […] Of course, passive income has worked well for some freelancers–especially those who have developed their own product such as a book, WordPress theme, or software program. Others will attempt to generate a passive income through affiliate marketing. Here is a Freelance Folder post that explains more about income-generating projects, Why Every Freelancer Should Have a Personal Project. […]

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