How To Start A Project


(Photo by Marten Bjork)

Many of you will know that earlier this year I launched This North Works, a project focussed on celebrating and championing interesting and successful careers in the north. It was an idea that had been on my mind for months, and after lots of hard work during the summer period, I finally released it into the world in September.

One of the questions I got asked most when I launched This North Works was how I managed to find the time, energy and motivation to launch a new project. Lots of you got in touch telling me that you had a cool idea that you’d like to do something with, but that you just didn’t know where to start.

So today I thought I’d share some tips on how to start a project. Because as scary and daunting as it might seem right now, you have totally got this!

How To Start A Project

1) Make a list

You all know I love a good list, so it probably comes as no surprise that this is my first tip. However, I think when it comes to starting a new project, a list is absolutely vital. Set half an hour aside and grab a piece of paper and a pen. Write down everything you’d need to do to make your idea a reality. My top tip is to get super specific here, so rather than writing down “email podcast guests”, break it down into smaller steps like “make a list of dream guests”, “source guest email addresses” and “draft copy for email pitch”. By getting clear on the specific actions, you’ll feel less overwhelmed.

2) Start small

Now that you’ve got your detailed list of actions, you can make a start! It can be really difficult to find the time to work on a new project or idea when you have a busy schedule, but even carving out just half an hour a week is a step in the right direction. Try and tick off one or two of those small actions from your list every week, and before you know it, the momentum will start to build.

3) Make a commitment to your idea

While your idea only lives in your head, it’s easy to keep putting it off and procrastinating, so one of my best tips is to make some sort of commitment to your idea. It might be making an investment in a domain name, or even just telling your friends or audience what you’re working on - any sort of accountability will keep you on track. This was something that really helped me get This North Works off the ground - I briefed the very talented Donut Press to work on some branding, and by the time I received the beautiful logo and graphics, I knew I had to get a wriggle on and share them with the world.

4) Done is better than perfect

I think the biggest lesson I’ve learned when it comes to starting a new project is that the age old saying, “done is better than perfect” couldn't be truer. It’s so tempting to want to keep your idea to yourself until you’ve figured everything out and perfected every last strand - I know this because I’ve been in that position so many times. But really, just getting your idea out there into the world is the best thing you can do, and then you can mould and shape your next steps based on the feedback you get. You’re never going to get everything 100% perfect, so take a deep breath and just get on with it - you can figure out the next move once the idea is out there.

5) Learn on the job

Which leads me nicely onto my final point - it's totally okay to figure out the intricacies of your new project on the job. Let me give you an example - when I published my very first This North Works podcast, I knew very little about the world of podcasting. In fact, my podcasting knowledge is still severely lacking, but I’m learning on the job. If I’d waited until I’d had the answer to every question buzzing around my brain, someone else would have come along and executed the idea before me. Plus, I really do believe that the very best learning happens when you need it - you can never anticipate everything you’ll need to know in advance, so there's no point in trying.

What do you think of these tips? Have you ever launched a project from scratch? What tips would you add?