By Adam Pash, Lifehacker
I took one (bad) computer science class in college, and I'm not a Web developer. So in early 2008, when I decided I was finally going to build a Web site I'd been fantasizing about for years, I was starting from scratch.
It's Back to School week here at Lifehacker, and while we've been focusing much of our attention on the college-bound, we consider education a life-long endeavor. With that in mind, here's a rundown of how I went from zero to a fully functioning, semi-successful Web site in one year.
The site I had been dreaming of making ultimately became MixTape.me, a Web-based music player where users can quickly create and share playlists with friends (see video above). This post isn't about how great MixTape.me is (I love it, but it's probably not the Next Big Thing), nor is it a snake oily, magic-pill-style guide to making your dreams come true. It's more about how to make something you love in your spare time, even if that means you're going to have to—*gasp*—work for it. It's also just my experience. Your mileage and preferred path may vary. So let's get started.
Actually, rather than simply a good idea, what you really need is an idea you're passionate about. (Presumably you won't be passionate about a bad idea.) For my part, I wasn't happy with any of the online solutions for making and sharing playlists online, and I had an image of one in my head that I was in love with. I was really excited about the idea, so spending time learning, researching and working on it in my spare time was almost always a lot of fun—even when I was banging my head against the wall trying to figure out why something wasn't working.
I had wanted to build MixTape.me years ago, and I even started a couple of times but ran out of steam. (It's not always going to be easy balancing a full-time job with a side project, no matter how excited you are about it.) By January of 2008, starting and finishing the web site was my number one long term goal for the year. Not for the month. Not for the first six months. For the year. I knew this was going to take a lot of time, and I gave myself plenty of time. (Setting a goal a year in advance is serious business, but if it's a goal that you consistently work toward through an entire year, reaching that goal by the end is seriously rewarding.) 2. Set Apart Some Time
It's not rocket science; if you don't set apart time to tackle your project, you'll never get anything done. Rather than wait for free time to show up, schedule time into your week where you know you can dedicate some time to your project. If more free time crops up, that's great—take it and use it to make a little more progress that week. Just make sure you set aside a minimum amount of time for your project every week.