This side project enabled Alfred to level up his skills and now he can even commit changes to Buffer code:<\/p>
Playing around with my personal blog design in Sketch again. Sharing a *very* early homepage design here. Thoughts are welcome! ? pic.twitter.com\/oBJfDd05gn<\/a><\/p>— Alfred Lua (@alfred_lua) July 25, 2017<\/a><\/blockquote>
Without taking on this side project, Alfred may not have had the opportunity to learn about design and development. But through a side project he’s picked up some skills that are invaluable to our team.
No matter what stage of your career you’re at, side projects are a great way to learn and level up your skills.
When it comes to thinking about a side project, I love the three rules Hiut Denim co-shared on Medium:
- They don’t have to provide you with a living. You can still eat if they fail.
- They don’t have a deadline. And as there is no time pressure, you don’t revert to your usual formula. You try new things. You experiment. You take risks.
- This is a Labour of Love. You provide the ‘Labour.’ And you provide the ‘Love’. So when you spend time on it, it is because you really want to. That keeps you coming back and pushing it on. That’s important. This thing will require you to keep plugging away at it, maybe, for years.
And across the Buffer marketing team we still embrace side projects that help us to level up our skills in marketing and other areas:
5. Embrace the industry
“I truly believe that to excel in a specific industry if you are a creative, you need to live and breathe the industry.” — Helena Price, photographer
Marketing is an ever-changing industry. The platforms we use to reach our target audiences, like Facebook, Instagram and Google are constantly evolving and the tactics that deliver results one day, don’t the next.
Often, the most successful marketers succeed because they love what they do and always keep on top of the latest trends, news and developments.
Marketers at all stages of their careers can benefit from following industry blogs, publishers and leaders.
Here’s a quick list of sources I’d recommend following:
Marketing industry blogs
- AdWeek: a leading source for news and insight for marketers
- AdAge: daily news and updates from the marketing and media landscape
- CMO: insights, expertise and inspiration for and by digital leaders
Individuals to follow
6. Help others
“Figure out what you’re good at and start helping other people with it — give it away. Pay it forward.” — Naval Ravikant, co-founder of AngelList
One of the best ways to progress in your career is to help others. When you take the time to help others solve problems and offer feedback, you get the chance to showcase your skills and build your network at the same time.
I scoured through online forums and communities to find questions that I could answer, and when I did answer them, I’d go into great detail.
Keep your eyes peeled across social media for opportunities to help people in your niche, too. Often individuals will turn to Twitter and other online communities when they’re looking for some feedback or help.
Creating content is also a good way to help other marketers. For example, Kevan shares frequent insights about marketing at Buffer in his Medium publication, Crumbs:
And SEO consultant, Dan Shure, takes people behind the scenes of life in the SEO world with his vlog:
Always be on the lookout for opportunities to help others.
7. Think like a journalist
“The most important thing about being a good journalist is the ability to think critically. A good journalist asks the right questions, finds the truth in a story, and tells the reader what matters.” — David Ewalt, author of Of Dice and Men
With the above quote in mind, marketers and journalists are much alike.
In marketing, it’s important to always have a critical eye and question everything. For example, if traffic on your blog has increased, you might ask yourself:
- What’s caused the increase?
- Where is the traffic coming from?
- Why has this happened? And can we repeat this success?
It’s also important for marketers to find the truth in what we’re sharing. Often, marketing content will reference data or studies and it’s up to us as marketers to fact-check what we’re sharing and ensure we attribute the correct sources.
Smooch Editorial Director, Dan Levy, explains on Moz:
“I once had a blog post queued up and ready to go live first thing the next morning until our eagle-eyed social strategist recognized one of the case studies cited in the post and noticed that the author had completely misinterpreted the results. In a small industry, examples and stats often get recycled from one blog to the next. The result is a case of broken telephone where the facts get muddled in transit. Proper attribution makes it easier to track where the breakdown occurred and to set the record straight.”
In marketing, it’s a good practice to approach everything with a curious eye and look for the “why” and “how” behind every piece of data.
As Brian Balfour shares on his blog: