The term “passion project” refers to a project on something that you are passionate about, something that is outside of your normal 9-to-5 routine.

This concept is used in schools with young learners, but applies equally to people of any age. It’s easy to make excuses, claiming that you can’t balance work and a passion project – but this is neither true nor a good strategy to live by. It is important to make time to do things that inspire you.

The aim is not to be perfect, but to learn to do something that you’ve always wanted to try. Whether it’s travel writing, skydiving, or DIY, the New Year offers the incentive to get you started. Here are some ideas to get you inspired for your own 2013 passion project.

1. Learn to use a digital SLR camera (properly)

Whether you just want to take better family photographs or want to explore photography as a career, photography can be a great passion project. Taking a step up from your point-and-shoot camera and exploring how to use a digital SLR camera can be a liberating and enjoyable hobby. While pocket-sized digital cameras are convenient to take along, the quality provided by a camera that allows you to adjust the settings to refine the focus, depth of field and shutter speed will get you hooked. Awards aren’t won with a point-and-shoot, and if you’re passionate about photography, it is worth investing in learning how to use a digital SLR.

2. Learn how to edit your photos or do basic graphic design

Perhaps you’re already comfortable with your photographic skill set but would love to learn how to enhance your photographs and create photo albums or calendars for your friends and family. Or perhaps you just want to be able to design cards, posters, brochures and invitations like a pro. Learning Photoshop skills can be empowering for the creative individual and can open up opportunities for creating a portfolio and potentially even making a career change.

3. Start a small business

Some people are born entrepreneurs. If you can remember selling cookies to your parents or negotiating toy swaps with friends, perhaps it’s time to give your natural talents a chance to shine. Starting a small business could range from anything from baking cupcakes to sell at a market to creating and selling customised furniture. Think small or dream big, but don’t keep putting off your ideas until it’s too late. It is possible to start an entrepreneurial business and still have the time for your 8-to-5.

4. Organise an events like a pro

Perhaps your real passion lies in throwing the most amazing dinner parties, organising fun activities for birthday parties or helping pal your best friend’s wedding. Organising an event can be an incredibly rewarding project. Put your people and organisational skills to good use by taking a short course in events management and plan the parties all your friends want to be invited to. Who knows what career path this passion project could lead you down!

5. Write a memoir

Everybody has a story to tell. Often the biggest hurdle preventing people from putting pen to paper is self-doubt. The more you write, the better you’ll get ¬– and joining a course or writing group will boost your confidence and allow you to get support from fellow enthusiasts. You have nothing to lose.

You might find a hidden talent through carrying out your passion project – and who knows, it might ultimately lead to a career that you love.

If you are looking to start a passion project this year, consider an online short course from online education company, GetSmarter. Choose from topics as diverse as feature writing, digital photography, events management, creative writing or guest house management.