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3 reasons why having a ‘sidebar’ project is good for your personal brand


DATE: 16 August, 2016

I’m on a plane as I write this, on my way home from the Gold Coast where I attended (and presented at) Australia’s first podcasting conference, We Are Podcast.

During the course of the one-and-a-half-day event, I got to meet a lot of fine folks; a broad range of people attended, all different ages and from varying professional backgrounds. But I found it interesting that, despite their differences, many of the participants had one thing in common: They either had a meaningful side hustle going, or at least were in the process of getting something up.

More often than not, these ’sidebar' passion projects straddled personal and professional — on the one hand they were projects that carried personal meaning; on the other, they also drew on the individual’s professional knowledge and expertise.

Now, given it was a podcasting conference, naturally many of the attendees were thinking of producing a podcast and distributing it via the likes of iTunes, SoundCloud and Stitcher Radio. And why not? Podcasting is exploding in popularity, but more than that it provides individuals with a brilliant platform to potentially reach a global audience of millions for virtually no money down.

Sidebar niche

Again, something else I found interesting was that many of the people I spoke to (and I chatted with quite a few) didn’t just want to produce a podcast and leave it at that. They were keen to use a multitude of owned, earned and social media channels to build visibility and reputation in their chosen sidebar niche.

This got me thinking: Why don’t more business professionals commit publicly to an online publishing project on the side? I’m talking about a ‘branded’ web-based passion project, something that not only gets noticed publicly, but also lights you up personally, an online publishing play that will help you build an audience and grow relationships with like-minded people, potentially from around the world. Whether this sidebar project is directly aligned to your current gig or is focused on something entirely different, it doesn’t matter — what does matter is that you build and connect with an audience, that you create an impact on people’s lives … and if it becomes a journey of self-discovery for you, that’s all good too!

Side guru status

Of course, launching a project like this means putting yourself ‘out there’ on the world wide web, and this can be a roadblock for many people. Fear of criticism, fear it might harm your professional standing in some way, that you won’t be taken seriously in your day job if you’re seen to have ‘side’ guru status in, say, Matchbox car collecting or 18th Century baroque music or global urban hipsterism!

But while I understand these roadblocks, I simply don’t buy them.

We work in a creative industry – marketing and communications, advertising, digital media. If we can’t (or don’t) show we have the chops for really cool projects over and above our day gig, then there’s something seriously wrong, yeah? If we can’t build our personal brand through external creative self-expression via the social web, how one-dimensional are we becoming?

So for all the excuses for not kickstarting a multimedia passion project, here are three counter-arguments as to why you should seriously consider building a ‘sidebar of substance’, whether it’s via a blog, podcast or YouTube.

Okay, here we go – an online publishing side hustle will show the world you:


1. are not a one-dimensional drone

The business world does not need more mindless drones who become so self-absorbed in their professional career they lose sight of the big picture, of what’s really important. A meaningful sidebar project will put a spring in your step; you’ll be more fulfilled, balanced and fun to be around.

2. have creative chops

Again, given we work in a creative industry, we need to continually show (not tell) the world we have a quiver full of skills that can be transported from project to project. Rather than detract from your day gig, a sidebar with substance project should add to it — if you can prove you can build an engaged audience, that’s a pretty big thumbs up in our world!

3. are a generous soul with an abundance mentality

Publishing content online requires a mindset anchored in generosity. Share your thoughts, ideas, knowledge and expertise without the expectation of getting anything in return; collaborate with others to create an even bigger impact! Think ‘law of reciprocity’ – it sounds a bit ‘woo-woo’ but it can become a powerful and positive force!

I remember once presenting a workshop to a group of childhood development centre managers; one of the participants informed the group that one of the senior executives of their organisation had, on the side, carved out a reputation as one of the world’s leading bluegrass music bloggers, so much so that record companies flew him to the US to cover new record launches by major bluegrass acts. Now that’s pretty crazy (in a good way)!

Another similar recollection:  I was consulting to a global design and architecture firm. Some people in head office kept raving about one of their international employees who was a gifted visual artist with a unique style – she produced a series of cool YouTube videos that showed how she created her art; these videos attracted millions of eyeballs, which the senior managers I dealt with were pretty stoked about!

So what about you?

Have you got an online publishing project you want to share with the world? Don’t wait for anyone’s permission — there is no better time to get it off the ground than now!



Trevor Young is founder of PR Warrior, a consulting practice specialising in content-driven social PR. Trevor hosts Reputation Revolution, the DIY personal branding podcast for business professionals, and is author of the book, microDOMINATION: How to Leverage Social Media and Content Marketing to Build a Mini-Business Empire Around Your Personal Brand, published through Wiley. Trevor’s popular marketing blog PR Warrior, which he started in 2007, has been listed by both Smart Company and Search Engine Journal as one of Australia’s top business blogs. In 2014, Brand Quarterly included Trevor on its annual ‘50 Marketing Thought Leaders Over 50’ list; more recently, Sydney Morning Herald named Trevor as one of eight ‘heroes of Australian content marketing’.