Cherish your passion projects: they are worth it!

Anna Sarcletti is a 23 years old creative from Austria. Besides her versatile and busy client work, she realized her own Magazine “Salt & Wonder”:  a beautifully designed and written masterpiece portraying the culinary start-up culture of cities around the globe. We talked with her about successful passion projects and how to do them right.

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Everyone loves so called “own projects” or “passion projects”: your own blog, a magazine, a product, an event series… So many possibilities, so much space for personal development and creating your own things apart from the boundaries of corporate rat race or client’s deadlines. But most times, passion projects keep stuck as ideas and never get realized – because of the lack of time beside the daily job, lack of financial resources, lack of economic income… you know that, right?

But Anna did it. She brought her Magazine “Salt & Wonder” on the way and got the first issue launched in the beginning of this year. Apart from the 120 pages issue funded through a Kickstarter campaign, she setup a website, Instagram and built up a network of partners and creatives from Portugal, Austria, USA, Finland, Brazil and South Africa. And she did all that besides her busy full-time design job in a renowned agency in Vienna.

So we were quite interested about her experiences and learnings about how to actually get things done when it comes to passion projects. Especially because Anna presented her first mag concept and her kick-off on our Content Retreat in May last year. 

Hi Anna! Looking at your CV and portfolio, you seem to be a very busy designer. Beyond all your client work, how did you find motivation and inspiration for a passion project like Salt & Wonder?

When it comes to motivation and inspiration, there are two important points: First passion projects are not to be seen as a “task”, but rather as a way of living. I experienced that first during my time in Australia, when I was living with a group of creatives who started own projects almost every week: from airbrushing in a garage to wood-sculptures on an island. This experience was as one of my strongest creative impacts.

Second, my aim was to build a “box”, a personal space, where I could try all these various technics and styles I had in mind. Without being hold back by corporate guidelines. During a food photography shooting with a colleague we came up with the idea of designing an Austrian cooking book. Eventually this cooking book never happened, but in fact this was the beginning of my journey to Salt & Wonder.

Speaking of the “beginning of the journey”: Many people are having ideas for passion projects... but never finish them or even get started. How do you go about getting things done?

There were three fundamental steps for me: First, talking about it to others. Second, presenting a first concept and getting feedback. Third, focusing on one clearly defined first piece of work that is realistic to be delivered. It’s sure that not everyone can force everything. I think my recipe from turning a scratch into something real was a mindset of seeing the project as an experiment that expands my skills. Without pressure or bad vibes. But to make me happier I needed to take actions instead of just thinking about ideas.

Sounds great! Can you tell a little bit more about the three steps you mentioned?

Talking about it means that I told many people about my rough ideas, which shaped it and brought some social pressure with it. I made the project bigger than it was at this time, for instance when I was talking to entrepreneurs in Lisbon on events or in Facebook groups. Connecting and exchanging with people was the best way to get closer to my ambitions.

My second biggest milestone was the concept presentation during the Nomad Earth Spaces retreat. I visualized my ideas and got great feedback. So I made new connections to people, which definitely made up half of my support after returning to Austria. And the feedback on the retreat got me into focus on one first piece of work, which led to the third step: to create a first printed issue, which was an achievable first “product” – and I decided that all the rest, like videos or website, will follow.

And how did you manage your time after returning to Austria? As a full-time agency designer you might not always have much time to work on your own project?

It’s important to know that half of the magazine content has been created during my 6-months break in Lisbon. After getting back the first two months have been a struggle. Fortunately, my motivation to continue came back after looking at everything I had already done and achieved back in Lisbon. So I set up a working timetable: My working hours on the magazine were from 6–9 AM and then from 19-23 PM, as well as on Sundays if I was not too tired. Every second week I had a skype call with my friend and copywriter Thomas Rose from Boston. This way we motivated each other. There were also too many people on board already and I didn’t want to disappoint them. Things like the website and setup of the Kickstarter campaign were done at once in a 3 days focus session.

How did it work out in terms of the project timetable?

Of course I have miscalculated the schedule. At first I set the release date to September, then it shifted to November, and eventually it really happened in January. But I realized it doesn’t really matter. Good things simply take time.

It’s quite common to have good ideas when traveling  – but most times they’re gone when people are back in the rat race of daily life at home. How did you handle that?

Back home I have found motivation seeing other projects from the Nomad Earth Space community getting realized through Kickstarter. And through the social pressure with all the contributors who trusted me and spent their free time. I knew giving up isn't an option.

I would advise people to start a passion project (not too big) abroad, create all the content during your travel time and put it together back home. And get other people on board as early as possible.

Did you experience failures and throwbacks in the project? And how did you handle them?

There were two major throwbacks. The biggest was for sure when we got robbed on our road trip through Europe. We lost two stories, notes, photographs and all the gear and personal things. Afterwards I see this as one of the best weeks with having nothing and bringing time up for summarizing all the experiences so far. Also my boyfriend and family helped me out than.

The second challenge was the start of my full-time agency job: of course I was tired at nights and my mind got blocked. Just checking one thing after the other helped and brought my mind back to Lisbon, where things have just developed from the ground off.

Is there anything you would do differently or better next time?

The only thing I would do differently the next time is to put more trust in myself. Don't listen to all the negative comments and don't start everything at once. Taking small steps, one after the other until I reaching your final goal.

What would you recommend to other people for their passion projects?

The feeling of holding something in my hand that I created on my own is really hard to describe. Every element is carrying emotions and stories. I have built up a great network and I have learned so many things. So stick to your passion projects and make them happen. It’s absolutely worth it! Set yourself a personal goal not a deadline. Make a concept, give it a doable timeframe, talk about it, share with to random people and find like minded people on events like Nomad Earth Spaces retreats.