I’ve enjoyed joining the ranks of all the independents who are their own bosses. America has made this, not just possible, but glorious — at least until somebody screws it up.
After working for companies continuously for 33 years — since I was 23 — I left my job two years ago. Since then I have been an independent.
I gathered my resources — my knowledge, my reputation, my social media following, and the financial stability I have gained after 33 years of working hard, saving, planning, and living well within my means — and leapt into the void.
It was remarkably easy. I work out of my home. All I need (other than my brains) is a computer, broadband, and a phone. Things have gone well. I support two children in college and my wife, an artist. I’m in the midst of a major house renovation. We’re doing fine.
While I loved working for Forrester Research, that meant working on projects that furthered the company’s agenda. As an independent, I work on projects that further my own agenda. I choose which clients and projects I’d like to take on, which I’d prefer not to, and how much marketing I do.
I decide what days to take off (and yes, I’m blogging on Independence Day).
Independents make America great
I’m better off, but you are, too. If you like my brand of analysis, you get to read it, every day. I can pursue it wherever it leads — into the corporate world, politics, government, or media. And I get to spend significant time as a volunteer CEO on a project that’s worthy of my effort.
There are lots of consultants just like me. Some of them did what I did and consulted to cap off a successful career (that’s what my Dad continues to do, and he’s 84). Some of them became consultants when they couldn’t get a job — and stuck around because they loved it.
But it’s not just consultants. There are lots of us independents.
There are the people making extra cash as Uber drivers or using AirBnB to rent out their bedrooms. There are carpenters and massage therapists and jewelry makers and singers and videographers and speech coaches and people with trucks who will move your furniture. My oldest kid has embraced this idea — while in college, he’s doing photography gigs and video internships and has even found a niche cutting and dying hair for an group of people who aren’t comfortable with traditional hairstylists. He’s got an entrepreneurial mindset, which will serve him well regardless of what he ends up doing after college.
America is built for corporations. But it’s filled with independents, now, too. We have talents, and we’re contributing. We fill every available niche. In a Darwinian way, we evolve to meet demands. Independents are the fulfillment of the American Dream, pure capitalism based on hard work, talent, guerrilla marketing, and word of mouth.
In my tiny little business, I’m supporting lots of other independents. An independent built and hosts my Web site. Some independents are doing the work on my house. I pay independents to drive me from airports to hotels on my trips. They help me with PR and teach me to do events on Facebook Live. These people are nice, smart, and really customer-focused — because they have to be. We like to help each other out. It’s a crew I’m happy to be a part of.
If you want to preserve this resource, don’t screw up our health insurance
I’m 58 years old, the only financial provider for a family of four. I pay over $20,000 per year for health insurance and I get no subsidy. My family needs it. Despite paying careful attention to my health, I’m overweight with high blood pressure, a thyroid deficiency, and joint problems. Members of my family have recently seen orthopedists, gastroenterologists, dermatologists, dietitians, therapists, physical therapists, endocrinologists, and surgeons. This is not because we are profligate health care consumers — it’s because our bodies have flaws. When you turn 58 (if you haven’t already), you’ll need help like this too.
If I were employed, nobody would say a word about this — because it goes without saying that employers cover health insurance. I know my salary at Forrester would have been higher if they didn’t have to pay for my insurance, but because that’s the way it’s always been, we all don’t even think about it.
But as an independent, I count on public infrastructure. I drive to clients on public highways and use a regulated Internet and phone system. I fly. Police and firefighters protect my home. I pay taxes and I buy health insurance — both are expensive, and both are essential to empowering me to be an independent that contributes to America.
Let me be clear: without access to health insurance, my life as an independent would be impossible. If insurance companies rated my costs by age or pre-existing conditions, I’d be out of business. I would be forced to find a job in which my health insurance costs would not be rated because I happen to be a 58-year-old, overweight man whose wife and children have a variety of random health needs.
I don’t know whether the Republicans’ health plan will screw me over. I believe that the Republican governor of Massachusetts, Charlie Baker, who is the former head of a health insurance company, will protect the system here and maintain some semblance of the status quo that we’ve had even before Obamacare (remember “Romneycare?”). So I’m probably safe. If you live in Vermont or California or Washington or New York, you’re probably safe, too.
But there are plenty of independents in states that are eager to try out the Republicans’ plans. Will the 58-year-old consultants in those states be unable to afford health insurance? Will they be forced back into corporations, or have to marry people with solid corporate jobs and health insurance plans? What will happen to the Uber drivers and massage therapists and carpenters in those states?
Independents make America great. Affordable health insurance is as important to us as roads, airports, and police protection. Please don’t screw it up.