I think side projects are great. They let you experiment, scratch and itch, and learn in a safe and low pressure environment. They can raise your professional profile too and are great fodder for a blog. Of course, they also take precious precious free time.
These all mean that it is entirely okay to shut down a side project when it is no longer serving you.
The side project could be:
- less fun than it used to be
- taking more time than you want
- an area you used to be interested in but are no longer
- related to a job you have left
In all of these cases, you have NO obligation to keep doing something simply because you used to.
So, shut it down.
How you do so depends on what the side project is. A blog should be treated differently than a webapp which should be treated differently than a library.
There are some things you can do for any side project:
- Set an date to end your efforts–this is something for you internally.
- Run through the finish line–keep up the good work.
- Announce the end and what it means for the project.
- Thank everyone who helped you.
- Optionally make it available for a while longer.
What a “while” is depends on the effort and money required to make the project available, as well as how useful it is in the end state. A library can live on GitHub forever, especially if you archive it so it is clear that it won’t be getting updates from you. It’ll still be available to fork and may be useful to others. A directory of local restaurants offering patios, on the other hand, will decay in usefulness pretty quickly as businesses start and close.
Ending a project is just as natural as starting it. Make sure you do it right.