Starting A Project Vs. Starting A Business – The One Glaring Difference

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I’m sure you hear it all the time.

I’m the founder of (insert name of something)!

I know I’ve said it a lot. In fact, here’s all the things I’ve said I was a founder of thus far in my life:

  • Accelerated Frame
  • BroWTF
  • 30KMillionaire
  • Status Hero
  • Colipera
  • Brushfire
  • Magnet
  • Ignition Lab
  • Nomading Film Festival

If you recognize all these names then you’ve either been stalking me without my knowledge for quite some years now, or you’re a longtime friend who thinks that I either have commitment issues or don’t know what I’m doing. (This is not the forum to discuss whether each or both of those are true, thank you very much.)

Out of the 9 names on the list, only 3 were/are real businesses (2 of which made/make a profit), the rest were glorified projects. I just didn’t know it at the time.

Naming aside – things like The Middle Finger Project & The Downtown Project aremost definitely businesses) – there are gross differences between the mindset behind building projects and businesses that any new founder needs to think about and it piggybacks off the logic of last week’s “Meaningful Work” post.

A project is something you’re trying to make possible.
A business is something you’re trying to make profitable.

Friends and family support projects.
Customers and investors support businesses.

A businesses can be built around a blog, but a blog is not a business, it’s a project.

They’re called “Passion Projects” because we typically start them for intrinsic reasons. The passion behind the project is what makes the project interesting and we can move as slow and in whatever direction we want as we try to bring it to life.

You don’t ever hear about a “Passion Business” because the word “business” will suffocate “passion” if this thing is to eventually work. Remember, just because you’re good at something that you’re passionate about doesn’t necessarily mean someone will pay you to do it. When we ignore this point early on, we often find ourselves wondering when people are going to magically start giving us money for all our hard work.

A project doesn’t need a market.
A business does.

Your life will be filled with building both projects and businesses. It helps to know which one it is you are actually trying to build at any given time so you don’t confuse your expectations. On that note, what are you building right now, a project or a business?