Perks of Having A Side Project

This past three weeks have seen me working hard on my new project, Skeinly. While it has nothing to do with our web industry (besides being a web app itself), it’s pushing me far forward in terms of skill and knowledge. So far I’ve had to sit down and write up business plans and ideas, draw UI wireframes, help the designer make decisions and think in terms of UX and actual users….and we haven’t even gotten past the landing page yet.

In my every day work, I’m handed design mockups to code. There’s not much thinking beyond the code itself – and even though the code is what I really enjoy doing, I could tell I was stagnating. I tried to learn a few new languages and quickly lost interest. I already know the ins and outs of front-end development and WordPress. So I started asking myself…what else? There needed to be something new in my life, that wasn’t code (or just code) and that could marry some of my hobbies to my work itself. I wanted to push myself to learn something new, even if it wasn’t directly related to what I did every day.

I’m a big proponent of mastering a couple of skills that you really want to do, but to have some knowledge of a general amount of skills. People wonder if college was a waste of time because they’re not working in their field of degree, but I think getting a graphic design degree influenced my coding enormously. Not only is my code neater, but I have a better eye for matching the final product to the designer’s work. And that makes a big difference to clients.

So for the past several months I’ve been thinking hard on what it is I want to do. A new site, certainly, but what? Anyone who knows anything about me, knows I love knitting. Which means I love yarn. And I’m a bit of a yarn snob, too. I don’t like buying cheap yarn from some mega box store made of synthetic fibers. I like soft, squishy yarn from real animals. I like supporting the wool industry in England. And I really love supporting indie dyers and the gorgeous colors they can create with just a few dyes. (Ok ok, I’m nerding out on you guys here, but stay with me). There’s not really a central place to go if you want hand dyed yarn. Sometimes you can find some in your local yarn store, but they usually carry big names (although much higher quality yarn than big box stores). Usually the indie dyer has their own website – but you’d have to know of them to know that. Then of course, there is, Etsy. The only direct competitor I could find to what I’m trying to do. Etsy is one of my favorite sites and I’m constantly buying stuff on there. I love Etsy. I don’t want to hurt you, my dear Etsy (I don’t!).

But I want somewhere I could go to drool over and quickly buy (before my brain catches up) yarn from my favorite dyers, as well as a place to discover new ones. I don’t want to be distracted by patterns or tools or finished objects or reselling of yarn. I just want the yarn. Direct from the source.

So now you know my motivation from the site and can sit there bobbing your heads in laughter as I complain that I’m working till midnight for the next several months. But what am I hoping to get out of this?

  1. Additional income: I’d love to be able to make a little bit extra on the side for when business is slow. Heck, it would be awesome if this thing could make enough to support me some day!
  2. Additional skills: I’ve had to purchase a bunch of new software (hello Illustrator and Balsamiq!) Which means I learn both how to use these apps, and the skills that come with them. I’m a wireframing pro now! I’m also learning promotion, as I’ll need to “get out there” to events and craft festivals to get my name out there. New business skills are also coming in handing. Where do I get the best hosting for the best price? How much will I need to charge for these things? Will I have advertising? etc etc.
  3. New partners: I’m having to partner up with a designer (Paul Maloney) and backend developer (to be found soon) to take care of the skills that are way above my head (and would need years to perfect). I’m also meeting and talking with indie dyers themselves, to gauge interest and get pre-launch signups. This takes a lot of courage for someone (me) who can be shy around strangers. And it’s great that I’m making new friends along the way.
  4. A refresh: This project has gotten me excited again about what I do. I can’t wait until the designs are finished and I get to the coding part. This has spilled over into my client work as well!

Of course I really hope this idea finally works out. I’m tired of poring time into ideas that don’t! But even if it doesn’t, I’ve already learned so much in this past three weeks, it’ll all have been worth the trouble. And of course I have to poke you about telling everyone crafty you know about Skeinly. Come on, do it for the yarn!