Side projects can do more than simply pad your portfolio. They can give the outside world a sense of who you are and what you do. Not only that, they can differentiate you from colleagues and competitors alike.
Here are some specific thoughts on how to tell the world who you really are!
Share Who You Are
A large part of building your brand is sharing who you are. Your personality, quirks, and experiences that make you, well, you!
Don’t be afraid to share that side of you along with all the technical and design mumbo-jumbo. Jessica Hische, for example, has a great sense of humor. That comes through crystal clear in her side projects.
Find a way for your personality to shine forth!
Share What You Do
We all have our own skills and talents - as well as own unique experiences and perspective. You may not be the only front-end coder out there, but there's only one you. Have you solved a problem? Offered a more efficient solution? Have a design sense the world hasn't seen before?
Take those items and use them as a basis for a side project. Become known as "the person" for whatever that thing is.
Share What You Create
Did you create a nifty technical solution during your last project? Something other designers or developers could totally use? Build a small site to showcase it!
Sure, those items will also live on GitHub or Behance. But those sites have design limitations. Creating a one or two page site, with purposeful illustrations and dialogue, will explain your solution in a more user-friendly way. And, more importantly, it will provide a little oomph! to your brand.
Share What You've Overcome
The truth is, every project we complete - whether large or small - has its own goals, challenges, and triumphs. In addition, there are a multitude of aspects to each project including (but not limited to): coding (front and back-end); UX and UI; general design considerations; project management; client relations; pricing and proposals; etc. Maybe not all of these aspects will be present for each project - or reside in your area of expertise - but some of them will.
As you complete projects (whether they're side projects or work from your day job), make a habit of jotting down the most notable challenges and successes. What did you struggle with the most? What things did you overcome? What things are you still challenged by? What valuable lessons did you learn? Etc. Then take those topics and share them with the world through a special side project.
You'll quickly see yourself emerging as an authority figure as a result.
Create a Resource Only You Would Think Of
Who we are can come out in how we help others. Do you see a common need among clients that you could solve? Or a need in the design community? You could be the only person who sees it. Or, maybe you can offer a slightly different solution.
Either way, providing a resource - as only you can do - helps others while also helping to solidify your brand.