We make a great deal out of saying how independent media is terrific. Independent media is the future. The usual stuff – and I don’t disagree, independence is a wonderful thing, the right and privilege to do pretty much whatever you want. No gatekeepers or superiors to answer to, no corporate bosses to kowtow to. As an independent media producer, you’re free, and that siren call lures lots of people to social media. Quit Your Day Job! and its ilk.
Look back at our history. There were a number of occasions when the United States of America very nearly didn’t make it. The Whiskey Rebellion. The War of 1812. The Civil War.
Independence is freedom, true. But independence also means the loss of a safety net. When you free yourself and leap off the cliff to freedom, you’d better be damn sure you’re strong enough to fly. You can have mentors and friends to help to some extent, but at the end of the day, you have to be strong enough to fly on your own.
The same skills that eventually helped America become more than just a rebellious British colony are the skills that any independent media producer absolutely must have. Fiscal discipline, strategy, planning, and a boatload of luck all head up the list, as well as having something worth fighting for. Independence for independence’s sake is not enough.
This is why I continue to happily work for a corporation, for the Student Loan Network. I know that there are people who value what I can do and believe I’d make a fine independent contractor, and if I had to play to only my strengths, I’d of course do that. But independence is a double edged sword, and I also know my limitations. I know what things I’m not good at, what things are weaknesses.
I am happy to exchange absolute freedom for the comfort of not having to deal with bookkeeping, personnel, accounting, sales, contract negotiation, object oriented development, high quality customer service, utility management, janitorial services, vendor selection, and the billion other things that I don’t do when I go to work every day, that you don’t see in my YouTube videos and other social media efforts, but are just as important to the well-being and functioning of a company.
Perhaps someday, I’ll consider making that jump, but if I do, I know for damn sure I’ll be ready to fly.
If you’re thinking about taking that leap, about declaring your independence, recognize that independence carries with it tremendous responsibility. If you don’t know your weaknesses and have a strategy to address them, it’s going to be a short, short flight.
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