Side Project Success | Chris Fredricks | Skillshare
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11 Lessons (48m)
    • 1. Welcome

    • 2. Picking Your Side Project

    • 3. How I Got Started

    • 4. Stay Motivated

    • 5. Selling Online

    • 6. Selling at Markets

    • 7. Pricing Products

    • 8. Not a Lawyer

    • 9. Show Your Work

    • 10. Brand That Side Project

    • 11. Get Going!


About This Class

This is the story about how I started an apparel line while working a 9 to 5 job. Grow Up Awesome started as a creative outlet and a way to design and print cool shirts for me and my family. Eight years later I sell at about twenty markets a year and my side project accounts for about 30% of my yearly income. 

It didn't really happen on purpose and I think there are a lot of people out there that could achieve the same success. I wanted to create a realistic guide about how I started and how you could do it to. As well as share some tips on how to avoid some of my mistakes.

Follow along and brainstorm what your side project could be. Want some tips or advice? Just post a question or project. I look forward to hearing your side project ideas.

Want to learn more about branding and telling your story? Checkout my "Brand First" series

1 / Find Your Focus

2 / Find Your Voice 

3 / Keep it Consistent

4 / Tell Your Brand Story


1. Welcome: Hey, I'm Chris, I'm a designer, a professor, and the founder of Grow Up Awesome, My Side Projects. Welcome to my studio. Today, we're going to talk about side projects and why I think you should always have one. There's a lot of motivational videos out there by really successful business people who start something small and grow it to something big and become millionaires. I am not a millionaire, and I thought it'd be cool to have a slightly more realistic video about starting a small project and growing it into something that makes you some extra money on the side. There are plenty of people out there making thousands of dollars a month on side projects that they started while they're working a full-time job or when things are slow for them. I want this to be an honest look at what a side project can be and what it can grow into. Sometimes, you can turn your side project into a full-time gig, and you can do what you love all the time and not just when you get home from work. This is something that's achievable. Will it take a lot of work? Yeah. Do you need an interesting, unique idea? Yes. I'm going to share my story about starting a side project when I was working a nine to five job, how it's grown, how it has saved my ass when things were slow and doing freelance work. I started Grow Up Awesome about eight years ago. This is a story about how I made it work and advice on how you can do it too. Let's talk about side projects. 2. Picking Your Side Project: A side project doesn't necessarily need to be something that makes you money. I think most importantly and to start out with, you need to find something that is a good creative outlet for you. Sometimes you have a nine to five job, that's boring. Sometimes you don't have enough work coming in and you need to keep yourself busy. A side project keeps you active in practicing. You can start a side project with a skill you already have, or you can use it to develop a new skill. This is not a get rich scheme. I admittedly did not work very hard when I was starting out and still today could work a lot harder. The amount you can earn off of a side project is often directly related to how interesting your project is, how much time you put into it and how well it connects with people. When things work out, you can build yourself a steady side income, check out the project worksheet and follow along with my story and start brainstorming side project ideas of your own. Already have an idea, great. Then start thinking about your focus, your audiences, a product you can make, pricing, and all the other things that we're going to talk about today. 3. How I Got Started: I really just thought my kids needed cooler clothes than what I could buy at the store. I started grow up awesome because I wanted to make sure it's for myself and my family. The inspiration for the whole line is the same today. My wife and my kids are big readers. My wife is really into outer space and anything space related. One of my first designs was for my son Kash and it was just a onesy that said," don't worry, my dad has a beard", I thought it was a silly phrase. A little bit dumb. I thought it would look funny on my newborn son, so I printed that up. I posted it on Etsy. My kid wore it, but no one really bought one for about a year. Eventually a few of them sold on Etsy right around the holidays in 2011. As he featured it on e-mail newsletter. The couple years following that, it started to pick up quite a bit at its peak I was selling about a $1000 a month worth of, "don't worry, my dad has a beard" onesies. Sales of that onesy have died off a lot. It's been ripped off by other people, which we'll talk about how you deal with that later. Beards just aren't as cool as they used to be. There's also an over saturation of stuff like that. So it just doesn't sell well anymore. But since 2011, I've sold over a 1000 of them, which is over $20,000 worth of stupid onesies that say don't worry, my dad has beard on them. Overall it was definitely a success and it really launched what became, grew up awesome. It gave me the opportunity to make a lot of other designs which weren't just dumb and silly, but represented the interests of my family. In what I wanted to make, I'm a designer and I love minimal design, minimal illustrations. Even though the subject matter I'm covering in my designs aren't always completely original, like they'd been done before. My style tends to be more minimal, more simple than what a lot of people are doing. Someone who I'm competing with might have a design that has five colors in it. It's very graphic in elaborate. My visual take on is often more minimal and more simple than what other people are doing out there. So that's how I differentiate myself. Remember when picking a side project, often picking something that comes from a passion of yours is the best bet. Do it for you, do it because you enjoy it. Make things that you yourself want. Trying to guess what other people want. In my experience, never works. Money is often a good motivator. If you're designing things just because you think they will sell, in my experience, you will be incorrect. I made those things a few times. Sometimes they sold okay, for a second and then no one bought them ever again. Other times they just didn't sell at all. I'd recommend picking things that you like, picking things that inspire you, picking things that you're passionate about, that should really be the subject matter of your designs. I know my story is an odd one. Not everyone is going to buy thousands of $ with the screen printing equipment. Learn how to screen print by an inventory of blank apparel, print on that apparel. Start doing markets, etc. My path was along one and it was a very gradual one. I started with very little equipment. I built it up since then and now I have this whole studio full of screen printing equipment. So I'm aware that's not an obvious path. Not everyone can finance that sought of project even if it's a few 100 bucks starting out. I'm also going to share no cost ways of starting something like this in testing out product ideas that you could start selling to people without putting much money into it 4. Stay Motivated: How do you stay fresh, how do you stay motivated, and how do you come up with ideas? There are two reason that I keep saying that you need to do this for you and that seems to be something that you love doing. First reason, a lot of times you don't make any money right away or you may give very little money. The second reason is if you make things that are for you, a lot of times they're more unique, they represent your personality and that just makes your story better, it makes it easier to differentiate you over someone else that might be designing something similar. Brainstorming, how can you do to effectively, I can brainstorm all day and I do and I don't write anything down. I think that's a bad idea in general. I think every day to try to sketch something and this is really a case of do what I say, not what I do, because I don't do this. I've gotten months without drawing anything, which is bad practice when you are doing illustration based teacher designs, I could work a lot harder at this. I could probably [inaudible] 5. Selling Online: I want to show you my current online presence. Like I mentioned, I started on Etsy and I'm actually going to get rid of Etsy within the next month because sales have dropped so much. It's not really worth the time to maintain it and to make sure that I have everything up to date on this in my actual website. Online sales are not my primary source of sales, most of my sales come from doing in-person markets like street fairs, art markets, music festivals. That's where the bulk of my income from Grow Up Awesome actually comes from. But as you can see, I've had a lot of success on Etsy since 2011, but the past few years, those sales have dropped off pretty drastically, so it's not really a place worth being for me at this point. My other website is my main website which is I recently just went through, did a good update on it. It's a lot easier to make one website up today all the time than it is to manage your products across multiple platforms. I'd recommend sticking with something that you can maintain by yourself. My website is built in Shopify. There's a monthly fee of about $30 to have a Shopify website. My premium theme was a one time fee of a $180 but I think it makes the website look a lot better and I don't have to code anything. It's really easy to add my content and obtain things when I need to, so that's what I like about it. When you're developing a product, so that's based on your work or your designs, you can do it the old-fashioned way where you design something, you buy inventory or you have it printed by a printer, you stock that in your apartment or in your garage or your basement and you post it online and you start selling online and you package things up and you ship them out, etc. It's really a pain. That's how I've been doing it since 2011. The good news is you don't need to do all those things and you don't need to spend all the money that's associated with doing all those things because there's a lot of print on demand services now that you can use. I have never used any of them personally, but I'm always following them and I always keeping an eye on what they're doing because I think it's really interesting. I think a lot of the sites get really over saturated with a lot of stuff that's not great, which means a couple of things. One, it can mean that it's hard to find your work on there. The other thing is your work might stand out on there, so don't be discouraged by looking at this market place like Redbubble or Etsy and just seeing way too much stuff because it's not always bad and maybe you'll stand out amongst all the noise that you can experience on sites like that. What's great about some of these sites is, they take all the work out of your hands. You submitted design, when someone orders, they print it and you get paid. Let's look at a couple of those right now and just talk about how that works. One of them that's pretty popular is Redbubble and again, I haven't used any of these personally, I know people that have used them, but I followed them for a long time, so I know what they're up to, I know how they work, I know what they're doing and I think it's an interesting option for those that don't want to spend any money and wants to try starting in art based business. I think Redbubble and Printful which I'm also going to show you are great resources for that. The way Redbubble works is pretty much, you just upload your artwork to their website and choose what products you want to sell it on. We'll talk about pricing a little bit more in detail later on but you're going to want to consider things like, how much you want your shirt to be? How much profit you want to make? Typically these websites have a base price, you add your profit on top of that and that becomes your retail price. But first you're going to look at what other people are charging to be sure you're in the ballpark that you want to be with your pricing and again, we'll dive into that later in the pricing section a little deeper. There are other sites like Redbubble, another other big one is Society6 and I'm sure there's a hundred more, so just look for the one that suits your needs the best. I'd recommend choosing a more popular one because there's already a built-in audience there, where if you choose something that's relatively small, it might not work out as well for you. Another nice option for print on demand is Printful. The difference with Printful and Redbubble is, Printful doesn't offer a platform for you to sell your shirt on, but they will connect to other platforms that you might be currently using or that you want to use. For example, you could set up an Etsy shop or a Shopify website, create your own mockups using Printful and then connect your store to Printful. So whenever you get an order, it sends that order to Printful, they print that order, they ship that order, and you have to do any of the work. You just get paid a royalty, again based on whatever you want to make over their base cost. That's another option for starting a business, really low cost. You can set it up on Etsy, Etsy doesn't cost anything upfront except for maybe like $0.50 to post something or you can set it up on something like Shopify, you pay the $30 a month for the Shopify hosting, but you don't have to do any of the work of actually printing things. I think Printful are nice option too. If you want a little bit more control over the platform that you're selling on and how that looks from a brand standpoint. 6. Selling at Markets: Next up I want to talk about selling at markets. That's where I've had a lot of success, where I sell most, more so, than online. Partially, I think because apparel is like a tactile thing. You want to feel it, you want to see what it looks like. You want to have a pretty good idea that it will fit you. So and I sell really well in person, at markets. I do street fairs, I do art markets. In Michigan, we have a lot of really good ones around Grand Rapids. I go to the Detroit side of the state, sometimes, and recently, I started going to Ohio and Indiana, and I might explain that in the future. Markets, for me, usually start around May and they keep going all the way through December and the holidays. So it takes up a decent amount of my time, it's mostly busy in the summer and in December. It's something that I can do as much of or as little of as I want. The past two years, I've done about 20 markets each year. So I have a lot of experience, so definitely I've done like over a 100 of them at this point, probably. Markets are cool, they can definitely be scary when you start. You have to talk to people. I'm an introvert, for sure, and talking to people, especially about what I do and what I make was nerve wracking at the beginning. I've definitely got used to it now, and way more comfortable with it. I don't even really think about it, it just becomes natural, becomes something that you're used to doing. What I love about doing markets is you get immediate feedback. Like if you make something and people like it, and you start doing markets; like how cool is it to go do something and have people tell you how great what you do is, like 20 times in an eight hour period. It's pretty rewarding. I like it. You get immediate feedback based on what people buy. So when I have a new design and I go to a market, I pretty much know on that first market whether or not a design is going to sell or not. I'll usually let the design stick around for at least a month or two. Not many of them have flopped completely with a couple of half, for sure. Not everything I do is completely awesome and adored by everyone. Believe it or not, going to a market and selling a shirt is like a really quick way to see if people like that design that you made. You find out really fast, and I love it. It inspires future work. People always comment on things, people often suggest things. Do I take those suggestions? Not usually, but it's cool to hear people's ideas even if I don't like them or sometimes it's just something I would personally never do, because of my inspiration for my work that I previously discussed. The downside of immediate feedback, you can call it that, is that sometimes you fail miserably. Something doesn't sell or you have a market that is terrible. I've had markets where I've sold $50 worth of things in like an eight hour period, and it costs $50 to be there. So I made $0 or most likely negative $ because it cost me money to get there too. But I've had way more markets where I make 1000's of $. So, it works out really well most of the time. After you do it for a few years, I'm on year 5, I think, of doing markets. When you do it for a few years, you start to learn who your audience is. I teach a lot of classes about branding, and I talk about figuring out your audience, especially before you start selling a product. That is not how this side project work for me at all. With this side project, like I said, I started making stuff for me. So my audience looks like me, mid-20's to mid-30's, sometimes up to mid-40's, People with children, mostly women. Mostly women buy my things. You get to know who your audience is. I totally know whom my audience is, I also know the markets that I liked the best and I know the types of people that go to those markets. So now that I know that, it helps me pick future markets way easier. I can also see other artists and other vendors, and other makers that are at these markets. I can tell by looking at what they're selling, is that something that I would like? Is that something my wife would like? Then I know I'm at the right market. If I go to a market and I want to buy everything, then pretty much I always know I'm in the right place. So if you want to venture into markets, I recommend giving it a shot, honestly. Start with something small or start with something big. Getting into a market can cost between $25- $500- $800, for bigger markets. They can cost a lot. There's also a ton of local markets that are between $50 and $100, in most places. I would check those out first. Try it out in your neighborhood. See if people like what you're selling. See if people like what you're doing and get that immediate feedback. See what works, see what doesn't. You're going to always stress out about like, how to set up your booth right? When I set out my first booth, it look terrible. I have pictures of it still. I will show them to you. I'm sorry that I'm going to show them to you, but I'm going to show them to you. My booth looked terrible when I first started, my booth is still not great. I would love to improve on it. I just haven't had time, because like I keep saying, this is a side project. I do not spend 40 hours a week on this. I spend in the summer, maybe 20,30 hours a week on it. But when I'm doing my regular job, which is teaching, I'm spending maybe five hours a week on this, on a busy week, not very much. I don't have time to make the sweetest display ever, so I use what I have more. I use recycled materials to build my racks for shirts. People really don't seem to care. People go to markets to explore a little bit. So as long as you have stuff displayed decently, and people can see what you have, and people like what they see, they will walk in and they will check things out in more detail. They will ask you questions. Again, it can be scary, but you'll get used to it. Another thing I love about markets is the people that are next to you. I've had other vendors that I didn't really talk to, I've had other vendors who became my friend. So when you're at a market, most of the time you can assume one person on one side of you will be your friend. So if you don't have help, they will often help you; while you use the restroom or while you go grab some food. They are also the people that you should talk to, to learn about what other markets are worth doing. There's a lot of markets out there. It's a little bit over saturated feeling, depending on where you're at am sure, especially in large metropolitan areas. There's a lot of options. So learning about which ones are reputable? Which ones have decent crowds? Which ones have your audience? Find the people that are like you, that are doing similar work to you, and that might have similar customers to you, and go to the markets that they're going to. You'll learn that by talking to the people that are selling next to you. Talk to people. People love to talk about what they do. You'll find out, even if you feel uncomfortable talking about what you do, eventually, it will grow on you and you will also love it. Real quick, just some ideas of what to do when you're at a market? How to like not feel super awkward? Number 1, just say, "Hi", to people when they walk in your booth. Say "Hi" to them. I usually will say "Hi", and pretty much nothing else, unless they start to seem interested in something. I'm selling apparel, so I can do things like offer to help them find a size. A lot of times people will ask me, "Hey, do you make all of these things yourself?". I'll say, "Yes," and I'll elaborate a little bit. Like I have a studio in Grand Rapids, I screen print everything myself. I also design everything. I just give them a little bit of information. I do not ramble. I had been to markets where there are people selling things and they sound like telemarketers or aggressive salespeople. Those are not my people. I am not that person. I want to be really casual. I want people to feel like I'm their friend. I do not want to be aggressive. I just want people to check out my work, and if they like it and want to buy something, that is awesome. So I'm very casual with how I do it. I do not push. I just talk to people. When it comes to the look of your booth, in like your overall presentation, try to stay visually consistent. A mistake I made in my second year is, I decided to change my word mark, my logo, and my business cards for really no reason. There is nothing wrong with it. There's nothing like not working about it. I just decided to change it for some reason. So the first year, I use my typical aqua color. I wrote "Grow Up Awesome in a slant, and that was my sign, and that was my business cards, and I did really great that summer at markets, especially here in Grand Rapids. The next year, I made like this cobbled together design that was based on some mountains I illustrated, and it's completely different. I had someone in my booth, like midway through the day who's like, "Oh, I think I bought a shirt from you last year. Was your logo different though? Something is different. I thought this was a different place, but I think I bought the shirt before." It made me realize, this one person is saying that, but everyone else that has walked by has not recognized my booth because it looks different than it did before. So I think that's important to stay visually consistent even when you're starting early, try not to stray too far from whatever original visuals you put out there. Unless it's like a hard change like, this isn't working, I need to change it, let's do it right now and do it well. So either commit and be ready to commit or stick with what you got. My current word mark is a slight variation of my very first word mark. I switched back to the aqua color. I switched back to the slanted Grow Up Awesome. I think that's where I'll stay, probably forever. I used to worry that if I changed up my display, my sales will drop, that did not happen. So I move things around occasionally just because I think it might work better, and generally, nothing changes. So don't worry about it too much, don't overthink it too much. Just make your booth easy to walk into and walk out of, so people don't feel uncomfortable walking in or pressured to hangout. Just make it an easy process for your customer. I also real quickly want to talk about signs. I have a sign. It is completely handmade, it is not even that pretty. I hand wrote on it, but I feel like it works; and I hear people comment on it when they walk by. So my sign just says "Grow Up Awesome," on it, and underneath it I hand hand printed in Grand Rapids. Most of my shows are around Michigan, so people know where Grand Rapids is. A lot of times, vendors signs at markets would just have the person's logo. I'd recommend, if there's a little bit of text you can put on there to start telling your story, do that. Because maybe for t-shirts, sometimes people just assume that it's just mass printed, like mass manufactured crap. So if I put on there that I'm hand printing it, immediately, before I've even said anything to them before they've even looked at my shirts, they know that there's a handmade element to this shirts, and they know that by reading my sign. So that might get them to walk in and check things out closer. I feel like it's just a really effective way to start telling your story without even saying anything, which is perfect for all of us introverts out there. Also, I'm terrible with names. I feel bad about not remembering people's names. I've been doing markets like I said, for five years, so I have repeat customers. You'll start to have repeat customers. If you start keep doing the same markets in the same neighborhoods, people will remember you because they only talk to a few vendors, whereas you talked to 100's of people. I feel bad, but I realize you don't need to feel bad, if you're nice to everybody, people will not treat you badly for not remembering them. I try to have conversations with people when they're buying stuff from me. So a lot of times that helps it click, to just be a friendly person, be yourself, and don't worry about the other stuff too much. 7. Pricing Products: On the subject of pricing. There's, a few ways to think about pricing. One is a more traditional kind of retail model. I worked for a sun care company called Sun Balm for about four years. I really got a good understanding of how products are wholesaled, how products are retailed, and what the costs associated with those things are. There's a pretty easy breakdown for that. You have your retail price. In this case, let's say I'm going to sell a shirt for $24 because it's a nice even number. If you have a retail price of $24, a lot of times you're also going to want to consider wholesaling that product. In this case, you're making the product yourself or you're having someone make it for you and you're kind of stocking it. That's really the only way you're going to be able to afford to wholesale things ever. Print on demand services aren't going to allow you to do that. Your prices won't be low enough. Let's say I'm making a shirt and I'm selling it for $24 directly to people. That means if I'm going to wholesale that, I'm likely going to wholesale it for half of that. So $12, I would sell those shirts to stores. The ideal situation for that would be that your cost to print that shirt would be half of that wholesale price. So $6. If you can print a shirt for $6, wholesale it for $12, and sell it at retail for $24, then you're making a pretty healthy profit regardless of which avenue you sell it through. This may be way easier to do with something like a paper print, like an eight by ten inkjet print. That's something that you can produce on your own or you can produce at a print shop for a relatively low cost. In that case, maybe you're getting something printed for 4 bucks. You're wholesaling it for 8 and it retails for 16 or something like that. You kind of see how that model might work out for you. If you can produce something on your own. If you're using a print on demand supplier, usually there's a base praise. In this example, you use a service like red bubble. That shirt might cost you $18. Then you add the amount of money you want to make on top of that. Say you want to make 10 bucks. That means you're sure it's $28. The amount of money that you want to make on each of those is totally up to you. If you want to be cheaper than everyone else, you make a little bit less money. If you want to be a slightly higher end product, you make a little bit more money. My suggestion to you would be to research pricing. See what people are selling eight by ten prints for, see what people are selling screen printing shirts for, and then price accordingly. Do you want to be more than them? Do you want to be less than them? Do you want to be exactly the same as them? All of those are totally fine options is just where you want to fall in the marketplace. So consider those things. The main thing is price things high enough so you make it worth your time. It's harder to raise prices than it is to lower prices. For example, when I started selling shirts at markets I sold them for $24, which felt really risky to me. I was printing it myself, so I'm making a pretty good profit margin on that. But I'm also printing on premium shirts, like really high-quality shirts. At the time they were always American made shirts. That's harder to find these days, but that's what I was doing. I felt like $24 is a fair price. Now I sell T-shirts for $28. I've considered selling T-shirts for $30. I have people that do similar stuff to me that are selling their T-shirts for $35. Again, the game is where do you want to fit in that. You have to start thinking a little bit about. What you represent? What your value is? If you're using a print on demand service for a T-shirt, you want to make 2 bucks each time you sell T-Shirt or 10 bucks each time you sell a T-Shirt. I think a lot of that depends on the quality of your design, the uniqueness of your design. If there's 40 other designs on red bubble that look a lot like yours, the chances are you're going to have to compete on price. If your design is unique, no one is ripping you off yet, then great. I would get a couple more bucks for your shirt in that case, because it's unique. People might want it. If they want it, they're not going to care if it's $22 or $28. They're probably going to buy it. 8. Not a Lawyer: Disclaimer, I am not a lawyer and I never will be a lawyer. I have had people steal my ideas. I have had people directly steal my designs and it made me angry. So I asked the lawyers some questions. If you need legal advice, talk to a lawyer. This is just how I personally dealt with things, is not necessarily the correct way to do it. I just want to tell you my story. Sometimes people will steal your work, sometimes people will steal your ideas. This is what I've learned about that. If someone legit just steals your idea directly, takes your design and posts it again on a site like Redbubble or Etsy or any of these other sites, ask them to stop, ask them to take it down. I would just send them a message and ask them. If they don't, most of these websites have some way to report them. So you can report them. I've reported multiple people in Etsy and it has resulted in their stuff being taken down. Where there is gray area is when someone steals your idea. For example, "Don't worry, my dad has a beard," was popular, and on Etsy, you can get an idea of how many things a person is selling by looking at their profile. So people could tell that my onesie was selling a lot. They could also search for the phrase, Don't worry, my dad has a beard" and see that there was only one. So a business minded person might see that and say, "Oh, hey, I can make a onesie that says the same thing and I'd probably sell some, especially if I made it cheaper than his." I was selling them for $20 at the time. So people totally did this. What I found out talking to lawyers is that you can't really copyright a phrase, or at the very least, you can't protect it. A phrase is not really something you can own unless it's trademarked. That means it needs to be the name of your company or it needs to be a tagline for your company to really, honestly protect it. Just saying something doesn't really make it yours. Where I was successful, getting people to take things down, it was more so when they really directly copied my design idea. They copied the way I laid out my text. They copied where I put the beard on the, O, it's all very silly to talk about because it was a silly onesie. But it was very obvious that they saw mine and they stole the idea. So with those people, I pointed that out to them really nicely most of the time. They usually listened and took it down. If they didn't respond at all, I reported them to Etsy and those postings came down. Some people took them down and left and down forever. Some people change the design so it wasn't an exact rip off of mine and re-posted it, whatever. It made me angry at the time, I'll admit to that. I don't care anymore, one, because I don't sell very many of that onesie at all, and I don't think it's because I've been ripped off. I just think it's not as cool or as desired as it once was. So I'm cool with it. But what else can you do? What if you have someone who is like, "I'm not going to take it down, I don't care about you"? There's some gray area there too. There have been big companies that have seemingly stolen from people, from designers. I've seen companies like Hot Topic and Urban Outfitters take the shirt designs of independent designers and make something that looks very similar to it. Whether or not they directly copy them or they just started this coincidentally on their own, is not up for me to judge. But it happens, a look similar. The artists, the independent artists pointed this out in a blog post or a social media post, and a lot of those times, those posts get a lot of attention. So honestly, if all else fails, most of us don't have a lot of money to pay lawyers. So really you could just complain about it on the internet. That is probably not good legal advice. But in America we have the First Amendment which allows us to pretty much say whatever we want. So if you think someone ripped you off and you're not worried about them arguing with you about it, you can totally just post about it on social media. A lot of people have done that. A lot of people have gotten a lot of positive attention for doing that and a lot of people have probably sold a few extra t-shirts for doing that. Whether or not it resolved their situation is completely another thing, and I don't know the answer to that. Part of my point is though, is there's some gray area on what is actually stealing and what can you actually do about it is also pretty limited to asking them to stop unless you have a bunch of money to spend on a lawyer. I had people ask me all the time, "What can I do if someone steals my work?" My answer is usually, "Yeah, not really much, what can you really do?" If a large company steals your work, you can complain about it. But most of the time, you probably don't have $10,000, $20,000 to hire a lawyer and fight someone. Keep that in mind when weighing the positives and negatives of protecting your work. My understanding of copyright is there's not really anything legal you need to do to copyright your work besides create it and prove that you created it. That proof can be just posting it on the internet or posting a picture around social media. So having that documentation that shows that you made something and you made it first can be valuable even if not in a legal sense, when you are talking to someone who seems to have maybe ripped off your idea. So keep that stuff around. Document your work, show your work anyways, promote yourself and try not to worry about it too much. I know it sucks. I know it will make you angry when it happens. But I like to say try to make stuff that's hard to copy. If I make a minimal solar system, sure someone can copy that, but I've seen a lot of minimal solar system designs and none of them really looked like mine. So I don't feel like I have been copied, and there were minimal solar system designs before I made mine. So just do something in your own style and make it simple. Avoid phrases. Honestly, the shirts with text on them that say things, they're going to get copied if they're popular, if they pick up, just keep that in mind that you can't really protect a phrase. So maybe avoid them if it really bugs you and just stick with graphics or illustrations or things that you can do in a unique way. 9. Show Your Work: Show Your Work. A Big part of starting a side project and having it be successful is having people see it. Number one, like on social media, this is not a social media class. Please go take social media classes. But number one, on social media, is show your process. That 30-day challenge that I mentioned is by far the most successful thing I've ever done on social media and that's because it showed my process. It gave people a daily thing that they could check back on; that they could look for. I also was setting a public goal for myself so people could cheer me on. They could see what I was doing, they could go back and look at it, and they could participate also. Had all of the little bits of a successful social media campaign, and I did not plan it at all so it worked out great. Do that. This is another one of those things where I would say do what I say, not what I do because I'm pretty bad at social media. I recently hired my friend Gabby to help me out with social media and that was a solid move because she's way better at it than me. She's on it a lot more than I am, and she posts something every day. I think these are all super important things to do if you want people to recognize your work. I think it's important to post something on a regular basis. Show your work, show when you're making things, show when you're drawing things, show the tools you use, whether it's a pencil or it's an iPad. Just show yourself doing stuff on a regular basis. Show work in progress. Don't worry about just showing solid, polished, finished things. Show stuff as you're doing it. Tell your story, talk about why you're doing it. If you're not actually printing the products, so when you're using a print-on-demand service, use the mock-ups that they provide you. You can also purchase mock-ups of a shirt, for example, or a poster in a frame. If you're making something people can wear or hold, get them to do that. Take pictures of that, show people using your stuff that it's the best and also ask people that buy things from you to send you photos of them using it. That stuff is super valuable and there's nothing better than having someone post something and saying like, "Your product is great. " That's by far the best advertising you can have. Just document things and share those things as you go about this process, asserting your side project. Also, if you're going to start a side project, announce that to the world. Not only will it maybe hold you little more accountable to practice on a daily basis but it will also be a way for people to get on your side and start rooting for you and cheering you on along the way. Just don't be afraid to share what you're doing in sharing your process and sharing your passions. 10. Brand That Side Project: Let's talk real quick about brand strategy and how you can apply that to a side project. Like I said, I grew my side project very organically and I did not think about any of these things in the beginning. As a professional brand strategist and someone who teaches brand strategy that's the exact opposite of how I would advise anyone to do it but that's just how side projects work. Side projects should be more organic, you don't have a ton of time to put into them. You don't really have time to develop a strategy for marketing and branding upfront. Don't worry about that stuff, just worry about making things and pushing them out into the world and seeing how they do. I think that's way more important. Just make stuff, get it out there. Don't worry about the other stuff, you'll figure it out later. That goes against everything I believe in on almost a daily basis, but it's what I believe when it comes to side projects. I think a side project should always be experimental especially in the beginning. You should not be worried about failing or coming up with an idea that doesn't work out. If that happens, just move on to the next one. That is the beauty of it. It's that it's a side project. It's not your main thing. You don't need it to survive hopefully. Just try things out because it's really the only way to figure it out. You can really figure this stuff out as you go, but understanding the fundamentals of brand strategy I think will help you start to put that together and start to know your audience. Start to know your focus as you go. You'll be better at articulating it as you keep growing this thing. When you need a web page of your own, when you write your "About" page on your Etsy shop or your Redbubble shop. When you start telling your story on social media, knowing what that story is, knowing what your focus is, you got to tell people about that because that is how your brand strategy starts to get fleshed out. This could very well become a pretty solid business for you. If you see that happening or if you're a planner, unlike myself, most of the time, start thinking more long term about what this business could become. That will help you develop that brand strategy even a little bit more as you go, and you start experimenting, and then as you start learning who your audience is. Here are the three things to think about. This is how I frame brand strategy when I teach it and when I work through it with clients. Number one is your focus. What makes you different when compared to your competition, or people just doing similar things in this case? Your focus is all about differentiation. It's the value that you're providing that someone else isn't providing. In my case, like I mentioned, my subject matter might not be completely original but the fact that I am very minimal in my design style, the fact that I focus on nature, and space, and reading, and other stuff that my family inspires me to do, that immediately makes me different. I find very few people doing work that even looks remotely like mine. My difference is built in because it's based on my personal passions. Yes, people share a passion sometimes, but a lot of times our motivations and our styles are what helps set us apart. Second is your audience. Learn who your audience is. In marketing we talk about a target market. Who's that person? What do they look like? How old are they? Male, female? Do they have kids? Do they not have kids? Think about all these things. Who are they? What are their motivations? What are their goals? Why would they buy something from you? Just knowing who your audience is is helpful. Not just when it comes to knowing when you're making something that it will probably sell to them. I'm pretty confident most of the time I make something new that it will sell to my audience because I am kind of my audience but second of all, when it comes to doing markets, so you know what that audience looks like, and you know who the audience is, and you can go to markets in places where those people live. Like I mentioned, Eastown Grand Rapids, those are my people. I love you Eastown, I love you. I know people in my audience are people around my age, they're actually usually female, they're young parents and those groups tend to overlap, so young parents, female, my age, etc. When you're sharing your work, you can always have this audience in mind. It's always good to know who you're talking to. Also keep in mind that your audience is not everyone. There's a phrase out there that, if you're trying to talk to everyone, you're kind of talking to no one. If you're trying to talk to everyone most of the time your message is pretty bland because you're watering it down to really connect to everybody. Knowing who I'm talking to tells me like the language I can use, tells me how I can talk to them, tells me what sorts of visuals that they would like to see. I know that because I am that and it makes it really easy. The third thing to know about branding is voice or personality. The beauty of a side project is the voice of your brand. For your side projects, is typically your voice. That makes it really easy. You can check that off. It's really that simple. If your side project blows up and becomes a full-time job for you, eventually, someday you have to hire people though, it's good to formalize that. Even if it is your voice, there are exercises you can do to formalize what your brand voice looks like, what it sounds like. This is how we say things, this is how we do things, these are the visuals that we use. Having that voice is important. The beauty of the side project, like I said, is that it's your voice and you already know how you talk about things, so keep doing that. The last thing about brand is just keep it consistent. Like I mentioned, it's your thing, so the way you do things is probably good and just keep doing them consistently. Visuals like my business card situation, try to avoid that. Voice. Keep talking in your own voice, talking about things that way you would talk about things. If you ever need to hire on somebody to help you out, just make sure you have a way to formalize that or write it down so you can share it with that person that's helping you out. 11. Get Going!: The best advice I can give you is to always have a side project, especially if you're a creative professional. I've had really cool jobs that were really boring sometimes. A side project gave me something to do when I wasn't at work, it gave me something that you do outside of my 95, it gave me something to think about, it gave me things to draw, things to make, it gave me something to be passionate about outside of my work that I could connect with my family on and it just grew into business on purpose, but also it grew into something that I could not have foreseen coming. I wanted it to be a business. That was the point right after I made that first one, that's why I posted it on Etsy, but I had no idea that five years later, eight years later, it's been a long time. I had no idea that I'd be doing 20 markets a year, and I had no idea that part of my income would be coming from printing shirts based on things that my kids like and my wife likes, inspired by my family. I just wanted to do something and it turned into a business that I'm really proud of and I think that everyone should try it out. It's way easier now than it was eight years ago with print on demand services and you can test things out with social media and I find that everyone that's even slightly younger than me already has a huge social media following. So there's tons of people out there that would love to support what you're doing and it will definitely cheer you on as you go. Remember to keep be experimental, just try things out. Also, remember to do it for you. Make sure it's something that you're passionate about, make sure it's something that you want, make sure it's something that you want to do and just keep doing it. Again, however much work you can put into it is enough and if eventually you have more time you can put into it and you can make it bigger. But just don't put a lot of pressure on yourself, just try making something and putting it out into the world to get some immediate feedback and just keep going. That's the beauty of a side project, it's completely scalable, it can be as small as you want. When you want to grow it, you can put more time into it and I think a lot of people out there have the potential to make a side project that makes them a decent amount of money and also makes them a much happier person than your typical 95 work. So go do something and have a bunch of fun. Always have a side project. Thanks a lot, I'm Chris. You can check out my side project at If you want to learn more about brand strategy, you can check me out at You can also check both of those out on the Instagram and you can follow me on Skillshare, you can follow me on LinkedIn. Thanks a lot for watching, go start the side projects, talk all about it.