How to start a project

How to start a project

Crazy Projects have become almost the norm lately. What with the Red Paper Clip guy (my nemesis), Supersize Me, and any number of small-time, local projects where people don’t use electricity or sign a pledge not to buy anything unnecessary for a year, it’s almost as if everyone but you has a crazy project going on.

How to start Your Own Crazy Project

1. Think of a premise. Do you want to spend a year avoiding sugar and write about how it made you feel? Do you want to do something funny? Or serious? Or world-changing? Whatever it is, make sure it’s something you think you can remain interested in for an entire year (at least!). My crazy project is called bARTer Sauce and the basic idea is that I trade for art and odd objects. Whatever I get, I trade for something else. And then I trade that for something else entirely. And on and on and on.

2. Make up some rules. Everything needs limits. Everything needs structure. Your crazy project is no exception. The rules for bARTer Sauce:

  • a. Everyone who trades with me has to submit a story. It can be about the item they are trading or something else entirely. It doesn’t have to be true.
  • b. I will never trade for an accordion (don’t ask).

3. Tell your friends. The first stop in getting the word out is to gather all the addresses of friends and family and tell them what weird thing you’re planning to do for a year. Then ask them to pass the word on to people they know who might be interested. You’d be amazed at the connections you can make just through the people you already know.

4. Advertise. A crazy project is no fun if you’re doing it in a vacuum. Let people know about it. Get others involved. Either set up a budget (if you’re some kind of millionaire! Humph!) or check out ways to advertise for free. Some ideas:

  • a. Craigslist Craigslist Craigslist . Lots of people go there. It’s free. It’s awesome. Just make sure that you abide by the community rules
  • b. Myspace. Blog consistently to get people’s attention and keep them interested in your progress. Keep blogs short and sweet (advice I have a hard time with myself) and put some pictures in there. Here’s my Myspace page.
  • c. Independent Weekly papers. In Seattle, we have Seattle Weekly and The Stranger which both offer free online classified ads. Find the Indie papers in your area and post some ads.
  • d. Blogger. Google’s free blog is a great place to start posting information about your project so people can follow along. I use mine to talk about everything going on in my little life including bARTer Sauce, Shower Art and whatever I happen to be making at the moment. And here’s my blogger blog.

5. Build a Website. If the blog isn’t cutting it for you – build your own website that highlights your project and allows people to participate. My husband was kind enough to build for me. And he did a bang up job. He’s cute. Sign up for Google Analytics to track the traffic that comes to your site and how people found you. This is a great way to find out if other people are blogging about your project and what advertising methods are making the most impact.

6. Keep people informed. Once you have a good mailing list, sign up for an account with Constant Contact. For about $20-$25 a month, you can use their service to send out e-newsletters about your project. Some things to keep in mind about e-newsletters – make sure you have great, compelling content, some engaging pictures of your project and make sure you send it out consistently.

7. Get some publicity. Write a press release about what you’re doing and send it out to your local papers, TV and radio stations. If you have an angle that they could use in their story – don’t be afraid to suggest it.

8. Stay motivated. A year is a long time but keep at it. There have been times where I didn’t think bARTer Sauce was a whole lot of fun – and when that happens it’s good to…

9. Re-evaluate your project and make changes. Early in bARTer Sauce’s infancy, I learned about the Red Paperclip Guy (my nemesis) who was doing a similar project to mine and getting a huge amount of press. That’s when I changed the focus of my project to trading for ‘Art and Odd Objects’ instead of just any old thing. And by doing that I ended up re-motivating myself to stick with it. It’s been almost three years now and I’m not even thinking about ending it. If you’re feeling like the project’s got you down, take some time to think about what could make it exciting for you again and implement those changes.

10. Don’t be afraid to break your own rules. If something isn’t working for you any longer or you think of a better way to get where you want to go, don’t worry about breaking the rules you set up in the beginning. They’re your rules. It’s your project. Do whatever you want.


An exmaple of the art on trade at bARTer Sauce!

swap items on barter sauce

An example of Rosalie’s Shower Art!