Side projects are good. Vital if you want to create an identity and body of work that you can say is you; but it’s tricky. If you have found yourself a good stimulating job in a field of you’re dreams that keeps you busy, you have less inclination and energy to work those late nights on your own stuff. You do have however, an environment where you can learn and feed off the people who love the same thing as you. A perfect job to give you the impetus to do your own work is probably one you hate, preferably one that has nothing to with what you really like. Bitterness and dissatisfaction can be a very positive creative mindset. Extending that rationale would therefore make unemployment the perfect working condition. Time is after all, the holy grail.
You make these side projects because you have a creative urge and you are ambitious. Ambition is good, but it can lead you down some pretty deadening avenues. My advice (learnt through painful experience) is to start your side projects small. Be as ambitious as you like with them in terms of technique, content and execution, but start small, then work up. A lot of people want to make a grand project that will blow people away, it’s a good ambition, but if that’s one of your first projects the likelihood is that you’ll never finish it. Either through lack of time or through lack of confidence in how it’s going. You meet lots of people who are forever working on that one side project. If you look closely they’ll be a slight haunted look in their eye (and a nervous tic in the other). Each project you do you’ll learn more and you’ll get better and better. Also each project generates more ideas and sophistication. So when you do the big ones, you’ll be all over it.
One last thing is that no matter what you do, give it a title. If it’s a film for example, even if it’s 10 seconds, give it title and credits. It’s a way of saying that it’s done, that you’ve completed it, you’re serious about this. Then you can move on to the next thing that will be even better.