Side Hustles: What to Know in 2021

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The Importance of Side Hustles in 2021

Starting your own side hustle is something we’ve touched on in the past, but thanks to the events of 2020, the importance of building something for yourself cannot be overstated. This is for a few reasons…

  1. There’s never been a better time to build digital products. Yes, it’s one of our taglines, but it’s true! As the tech world presses forwards, building tech products has never been easier, or more in-demand. Product management as a discipline, in particular, has never been more in-demand!
  2. It’s important to stand out from the crowd. While the tech sector has been pretty robust against the disruption caused by the pandemic, jobs have been lost. In other sectors, people are looking to make the transition into the more accessible jobs in the tech industry (like product management!) so it’s important to set yourself apart.
  3. Remote collaboration just got easier. Finding support for your online project has never been impossible, but thanks to the new atmosphere of online collaboration, it’s easier than ever! Finding designers to help you with your homepage and finding copywriters to help you with your Product Hunt launch is only a few clicks away.

So now that you know you definitely want to build your own digital product, there’s a few things you need to know. You need to get ready to plan your project like a product manager, how to find the right people, and what tools are out there to get you started.

If you need a little inspiration for what to build, we’ve got that covered too!

Projects text on pink and orange

Product Manager Side Hustle Ideas for 2021

Sometimes inspiration strikes all on its own, and sometimes it needs a little nudge. You’ve probably already got an amazing idea for the thing you want to build, but it’s ok if you’re a builder with no project yet.

Here are some ideas to get you started. (Don’t forget to check out our original list from Part 1 of the series.)

1. Build something that serves your local community

Times like these are the times to pull together. Is there something that your local community desperately needs? Serving the people nearest and dearest to you gives you a noble goal, and you’ll be extra motivated to complete your project.

It’s also easier to conduct proper user research if you already know your users, as they’ll be your neighbours! You can get to know the problem you’re trying to solve or the need you’re aiming to fill more intimately.

2. Build something that tackles a global problem

When we asked product managers, ‘what’s your dream job?’ we found that many are motivated by large global issues, and that they want to work together to serve the common good.

Is there something big that drives you? Perhaps you’ve got an idea for something that will contribute to the fight against global warming. Or maybe you’re driven by social issues such as racial discrimination and gender violence. Think about the things that scare you, and try to think about what you can do to help banish them forever!

3. Build something especially for you

Often the easiest problems to solve are the ones hiding right under our noses. If there’s something that irritates you in your day to day, it surely irritates others as well! What can you do to rid yourself of that annoyance?

Alternatively, is there something you can build that would bring you joy? Something that would bring you closer to the things/people you love or make a daily task easier.

4. Build something stupid

You don’t have to save the world! Remember Desktop Goose? That’s hardly going to stop the ice caps from melting. What it does do is bring pure unfiltered goose-based chaos/fun to your desktop.

If you’ve got a wicked sense of humor and a great idea for something dumb but fun, build that! The world needs levity nowadays more than ever.

Desktop Goose for Mac: Free Download + Review [Latest Version]

The Founders Mindset

When you build your own digital product, you’re not just a product manager, you’re a founder. Even if your product is small-scale, you still own something, and getting into the founder’s mindset is key if you want to ever achieve growth.

To be a great founder, you firstly have to know your customer inside and out. This is because great product development is customer driven, and when you’re building something by yourself, you are the product development! There should be nobody who knows about your customers more than you.

You also need to be your own biggest advocate. Perfect that elevator pitch and learn how to sell yourself along with your product. You might need sponsors for your podcast, help from developers with your app, and interest from collaborators. To get any of that, you need to be as appealing to work with as possible. If you don’t believe in your product, nobody else will.

It’s easy for imposter syndrome to get in the way, but if you know your customers, know yourself, and know your product, you’re getting something right.

You might also be interested in: Lessons From a Startup Founder – Alumni Stories

How to Plan Your Digital Product

To build a robust product that can withstand shifting market conditions and world-impacting events, you need to start out with a solid plan.

It’s easy to get carried away with the excitement of building your own thing, and to dive in head first into the fun stuff. But you don’t want to trip yourself up by not starting out with a proper plan.

Start by building your user personas, with whatever customer research you have. Research may be difficult to conduct when you’re starting out by yourself with no database. 

No-Code Tools

Another revolution that makes 2021 the best year to build digital products, is the no code revolution. You no longer need technical skills to build something for yourself. While (obviously) the more technical understanding you have the better, you no longer need to be fluent in coding languages to build.

Of course, if you come from a software engineering background you won’t need to worry about these (although it’s always fun to play around with new tools!) and you can build whatever you want however you want.

What no code tools do is democratize tech for those who don’t have a CS degree, or who just can’t quite click with coding. Whether they’re a fad or they’re here to stay, the no code movement has made it easier than ever for product managers to build their own products.

turned on gray laptop computer

Finding Your People in The New Remote World

Sometimes it’s no fun to build things in isolation – and the best products are born from collaboration. The new culture of remote working has opened up more possibilities for collaboration than ever before.

Indie Hackers is a well loved and lively online community for makers looking to work together on projects. You can also join communities for different specializations (UX, software development, etc), and find the people you need that way.

Remote collaboration tools like Mural have made working together online not just functional, but fun! Online design tools such as Figma make collaborating with designers even easier.

So while you used to need to be in the same place at the same time to work together, that’s no longer the case. This means that, theoretically, you can work with anyone in any corner of the world.

Don’t Forget – You’re a Product Manager!

If this is your first crack at managing a digital product, congratulations, you’re a product manager! Just because no one is paying you to do it, doesn’t make it any less true.

As this is your first chance to flex your product management skills, put everything you’ve got into it. That means doing all the things that product managers do. Build user personas, create a roadmap, conduct user feedback surveys, and pay attention to your analytics. This might seem silly if you only have 50 users. But practice in product management processes, even at a small scale, will help to prepare you for large scale projects later down the line.

If you’re purposefully building a product to test your product management skills, make full use of all the tools and frameworks at your disposal. Think of this as your playground for learning how to build digital products.

If you’re looking for somewhere to get started, why not take a free masterclass in building great digital products? We have one right here!
If you’re starting out on building your own digital product, you’ll also need the best that the product world has to offer…and you can find all of that in our Product School Pro community. Join us!

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