Drew Conley
Drew Conley as pixel art

Drew Conley

Front End Web and Indie Game Developer

Unsolicited Advice for Finishing Big Side Projects

Glenn and I are in the early stages of our next massive project, so I thought it would be cool to share these principles here. These are the things I try to remind myself when working on a big project:

There are no big steps.

The effort behind any big achievement is composed of tiny incremental bits of effort. Do one thing today, no matter how small or insignificant it seems in the moment. Do another thing tomorrow. Whether it's writing a little bit of code, sketching a piece of art, picking up the guitar, writing down random ideas, it doesn't matter. All of these tiny actions build up to the big picture. Keep it up, and you'll look back on massive leaps of progress in a week, a month, a year, two years. The day to day tasks will never feel huge. Celebrate small wins and keep marching forward.

Try not to compare yourself to others.

Other people you know or see around the web might be working on their own thing, too. Watch out for the sneaky tendency to compare your quality, design, art, music, progress, timelines, numbers to theirs. You are a unique person with your own story arc. Your project will evolve over time in its own way. Try to keep a pace that works for you and your life. Make the thing for yourself, not for anybody else. If you fall out of love with the project, it's okay to stop.

Have a buddy to keep yourself accountable.

You'll have days where you're 110% fired up about the project and days where you just don't care that much. Having an accountability buddy will help get your mind right when you're feeling down. This person doesn't have to be as invested in the project as you, they only need to provide quick feedback on what you've done and where you're at. Surround yourself with encouraging and hard working people who want to see you succeed. Also, related, try to cut out negative people from your life.

Share your work.

Blogs, YouTube videos, Twitter posts, whatever you want to do. [link]I used CodePen[/link]. These updates provide context for where you've been and what you're working towards next. In my case, I was mostly the only person writing code for the project. CodePen Blog posts were a medium for me to share some behind the scenes coding stuff with peers. Talking publicly about your work can also function as "pre-marketing". It's nice Coming Soon exposure to your project so you have an audience ready and waiting for whatever you're creating.

Define milestones

Danger Crew was a 3.5 year project, but we released many demos over those years - usually every 6 - 9 months. The demos feel like little launches. Each milestone wasn't nearly as big of a deal as the full game being done, but they provided releases of tension to get something out there for people to play. I get crazy and anxious if I go too long without shipping something. You don't necessarily need to know all of the milestones, just have the next milestone in your sights. (High level roadmaps are good, though)

Keep up the great work! And tell me what you're working on! drewconley[at]gmail.com

Back to all posts

Join my Email List

It's a casual, monthly-ish email newsletter including game dev content, my project updates, and bonus videos. I send out early access to projects through this list. We’d love to have you in the community! No spam, ever.

Drew and his brother, Pat

Me and my brother, Pat... probably after writing up one of these emails.