The Career Inbox

“How can I get my side project back on track?”

Maintaining momentum on a side project is a bigger job than the work itself.

Updated May 10, 2019

I often field questions from designers who are working through professional dilemma’s that don’t fit nicely into a textbook. Many have volunteered to open our conversations up to the public. Identifying information was removed for specific individuals or companies.

Designer I have a little design in my background, and high aspirations for, and frustration with, my ability to execute on small side projects. I’m hoping you may be able to nudge me into the right direction on a project I'm working on.

The project is a website for my church’s presbytery (basically a regionalized group of connected churches). I'm struggling... and hard! I’m finding it difficult to strike a balance between modern, yet grounded; clean, yet warm.

The exact requirements for the content are also semi-vague at the moment. There’s no primary point of contact for me, so I’m attempting to prototype a viable direction in hopes of getting the ball rolling, and proactively obtaining buy-in.

Do you have any thoughts on overcoming my “designer's block”? Any wisdom you care to impart would be incredible!

Stock photo of people celebrating Stock photo of a cluttered, frustrated designer mess. source:

Chris Working through a new design with any group can be difficult to tackle when the criteria haven’t been set but when communication hasn’t been made a priority it becomes quite challenging to get anything done.

Here are the next steps I would take to move this project forward and neither have anything to do with the visual design work you have done to this point.

1. Lockdown who your primary contact is for this project. Without that, you have a moving target that is going to shift anytime you get a new person involved.

2. Once you have the contact issue solved, work with your clients to determine what a successful outcome would be for this work. When having this discussion, try to steer clear of anything that brings the conversation around to focus on what the new site will look like visually. In short, spend as much time as possible nailing down what they want to accomplish with this project once it is done.

Your success or failure will likely hinge on whether you can uncover what your client really wants the project to accomplish. Is it increased newsletter signups? Longer engagement? More donations? Whatever they are going for, it has very little to do with type or color selections, and that’s precisely why I don't want you to focus any of your time on that stuff for now.

With those two portions of the projects sorted, you can really get to work and determine the next steps to take. Without having the specific outcome set, you’re really stabbing in the dark which is why I would halt all work until the items above questions have been sorted out.

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