Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Finding Freedom through Work

While there’s a case to be made that [DIY] is an art movement, or an
ideological movement, or a shopping movement, it is also — and probably
fundamentally — a work movement.
-Rob Walker, "Handmade
New York Times

In revisiting this New York Times article for yesterday's post on craftonomics, I started thinking about the term "indiepreneur." The moniker suggests a desire to live outside the mainstream, produce more sustainably, etc, etc.

For many crafty entrepreneurs, these goals are no doubt important. Yet I am wondering if other motivations are not more powerful in driving the explosive growth of Etsy, craft fairs, and so forth.

For one thing, it's not exactly a dirty-haired youth movement. The article quoted above points out that the average Etsy seller is 34. There's a lot of Obama craft on Etsy, but there seems to be a sizable apolitical demographic as well.

Could it be that the key motivating factor is a desire to support oneself on one's own schedule and terms, without having to choose from the existing universe of employee opportunities? To have the flexibility to build your work around your life, not the other way around? To trade-off an hour of work for an hour of earnings at will? To escape the choice between a 40 hour per week career (or 60 hours, or 80) and a job that pays $8 an hour? To be yourself instead of being whatever variant of yourself you think plays well in Cubicle Land?

If control over one's own time and money (also known as "work-life balance") is a key goal of the movement, that might explain why so many women are at the forefront. Ladies are leading the charge both in the crafty small business world - over 90% of Etsy sellers are female! - and in other arenas, within and outside of corporate structures.

This blog devotes itself to indiepreneurs. Maybe now's a good time to have a look at other folks who are shaking up the possibilities of viable work. Let's call them the "intrapreneurs."

The Intrapraneurs: Results-Only Work Environment.

Six years ago, two women working at Best Buy's corporate headquarters started a stealth movement to work whenever they felt like it and be judged only on their work product, not the amount of time they spent in their cube. They called this a results-only work environment, or ROWE. The idea caught fire and other groups and departments at Best Buy began to implement the ROWE system, under the radar of senior management. By the time the CEO heard about it, most of the corporate HQ was quietly following this protocol. The system turned out to dramatically improve productivity and employee turnover, and has now been embraced by the higher-ups at Best Buy.

Now these ladies -- Cali Ressler and Jody Thompson -- have a book out called Why Work Sucks and How to Fix It. Check out a nice interview with the authors at Tim Ferriss' blog, AKA the guy who gave us a book on The 4 Hour Workweek.

Crafty small business offers a way to create your own schedule, live authentically, and connect more personally with the people who benefit from your work. But it's interesting to think that there's no reason why corporate life couldn't offer the same benefits... if thoughtful people started an underground movement within their own company. Let's end where we began, with a quote, dedicated to my fellow cubicle dwellers:

The foolish man seeks happiness in the distance; the wise grows it under
his feet.
- James Oppenheim.


Carrie said...

This topic is so relevant to me. I want to be an entrepreneaur, but at the same time I do not want to grow my company into a towering office building with thousands of drone employees. There has to be a better way and I am working towards it, along with everyone else on Etsy and the others in the indie movement.

sandy said...

Thanks Carrie. I see you are well on your way!