It’s Independence Day in the U.S., a perfect time to think about, well, independence. In this incarnation of my professional life, I’ve been out on my own for just over a year now, building a digital advocacy consulting practice which is chugging along nicely, thank you very much. But running an independent business is never easy — your ass hangs on the line every day, and you’re aware of it every minute.
A safety net helps, and one reasons I believe in social support systems is that they make entrepreneurship easier. Sometimes that means government: if you don’t have to worry as much about finding healthcare or slaving to save for retirement, it’s safer to climb out on that wire. My Republican friends seem to think differently, seeing social programs as a hindrance to business and drag on the economy. God bless ’em, but I think they’re nuts — the softer the potential landing, the more an entrepreneur can focus on the actual business he or she is trying to start. Obamacare helps make my consulting business possible!
Other supports matter, too. I spend much of my productive time now at WeWork, a shared professional space just down the Green Line in the Shaw neighborhood. There I’m immersed in a startup frenzy, with entrepreneurs (many of them young) throwing themselves into everything from organic fast food to fashion design, all renting room by the month. Plus, free beer! This place filled up in a matter of months, as did the previous DC location in Chinatown — clearly, plenty of us hunger to start out on our own but need a place to gather to do it. Alone together!
Independence is a powerful thing, and it’s allowed me time to write, edit and promote the site you’re reading today. But I’m aware of the paradox: I can be independent BECAUSE of the support of other people and institutions, whether they’re clients, communities, governments or family and friends. True independence? No thanks — a desert island sounds truly lonely. I’m just fine with the contradiction, as long as it lets me create what I need to create and live in a way that matches my (cussedly stubborn) inclinations. Thanks America, for making that possible. I’ll do my damnedest to pay you back along the way.