So here we are. It’s been a long, fun yak-shave. Two years and a couple of hundred thousand words exploring the world of gig work and indie consulting.
Some housekeeping items before I share my closing thoughts.
First, if you’re a subscriber, and have paid-up time remaining in your subscription, there’s no need for you to do anything. Sometime in the next few weeks, you’ll get the refund for your remaining months. I’m working on the mechanics of it with Substack support. It’s a bit like putting toothpaste back in the tube.
Second, if you’re subscriber, you can grab the rough-cut draft ebooks (in pdf, epub, and mobi formats) of the Art of Gig archives at this subscriber-only page (edit: since refunds are already being processed, this page may not be accessible — email me if you’re a subscriber and didn’t grab the files in time). I had to break up the material into 3 volumes since it was 217,466 words and Google Docs was choking. The link will go away in a week, so grab the zip now. If you’re not a subscriber, you’ll have to wait for the published Kindle versions, probably out in Fall. Look out for the announcement on my main blog, Ribbonfarm.
Note that this newsletter will get deleted at some point from the Substack site, so the ebooks will be the final archived form of the content.
The Art of Gig is winding down, but the gig economy and the indie/creator economy are just getting started. Obviously bigger, crazier things will continue to happen. Here are some newsletters you may want to check out and subscribe to, to keep up. For more recommendations, follow @yak_collective on twitter. The account tweets out writings from many indies.
From Tom Critchlow: The Strategic Independent is a book, published free online, for indie consultants looking to carve their own independent path. It covers topics such as how to roll your own frameworks, how to navigate the theatre of work and the latest explores the idea of Kairos and Chronos for indie consultants. Subscribe to the newsletter here: https://tomcritchlow.com/strategy/
From Rowan Price who publishes a newsletter called Second Opinion. His blurb: When I started it 2 years ago, I imagined that my schwerpunkt was ideation as a business skill. But 190,000 words later, my wahrerschwerpunkt is definition-ownership – "owning" definitions of words and terms that are important to one's enterprises. To model this, I publish a dictionary that cross-references the blog-archived newsletter, where I've rhetorically asked, What's Your Dictionary?, posited that Words Are Muscle Memories (or should be) and discussed the 1.5 million year history of Thinking Outside The Box vs Productivity.
Paul Millerd has a great newsletter called Think Boundless. “Unexpected takes on the modern world of work. Paul explores our obsession with work and the default path of success and tries to imagine new possibilities for how we can conceive of life, work & what matters.”
Patrick Hollingworth has been working as an indie consultant for the past decade, using complexity, network and ecological sciences to help large staid organisations become less, well, staid. His focus has been on the development of ways to visualise and reconfigure the dynamics of organising within these large organisations. He has been railing against management consultants for some time, which makes him kinda unpopular. He writes sporadically on his personal blog. Here are two recent pieces: this one and this one.
The Overlap by Tim Casasola is a newsletter that helps change agents (indie consultants and internal PMs) foster experimentation loops in their respective organizations. Product management meets adaptive organizational design. It comes out every other Wednesday morning EST. Check out: “Strategy vs execution” is not a helpful distinction, Organizations as bounded systems, and See the problem before you so.
Finally, I’ll boost my own main newsletter project, Breaking Smart. It doesn’t have much to do with the gig economy, but I serialize several longer projects there, including the book I’m working on, and a couple of evolving essay collections. As a special thank you for joining me on the Art of Gig journey, you can get 30% off your first year if you subscribe via this link in the next week (by May 6).
The Yak Collective
One of the best things to come out of this 2-year journey was the Yak Collective, which I helped start last year. It is a network of indie consultants and creatives organized as a leaderless, peer-to-peer decentralized collective. It is slowly turning into a truly special place for you to network with other indies, find leads for gigs, work on your professional development with the support of peers, and get involved in bleeding-edge experiments and projects that we think push the boundaries of what it means to be indie.
Over the last year, we’ve produced a handful of collaborative reports, and are working on several more. I’m part of one active project to design open-source rovers, which we hope will actually end up in space one day, and in the meantime, get us gigs in robotics. There is an active Discord, featuring both live chats on various topics and asynchronous conversations. There is also a newsletter which is currently undergoing retooling, featuring links to writings from members, and outtakes from internal shenanigans.
Whatever I do in the future, by way of being active in the indie consulting community, will be via the Yak Collective (in fact, one of the reasons I’m shutting this newsletter down is to free up time to do more with the Yak Collective). There are dozens of others actively helping build it up into something really unique, and there’s plenty of interesting ways to get involved. So join up.
The world was a very different place when I started this newsletter in May 2019. I was living in Seattle then, and was preparing to move to Los Angeles to take up a nine-month fellowship at the Berggruen Institute. And just as the fellowship was ending, Covid hit. Now, one pandemic, one city move, and two apartments later, I’m wrapping this up.
It feels like I started this newsletter on one planet, and am wrapping it up on a whole different planet.
Looking back at what I’ve written, there’s a surreal space-time-warp quality to the archives. This newsletter has been something like a personal wormhole for me. It was also one of my sources of sanity through some crazy times. Not least because it allowed me to connect with so many others on similar journeys, and swap notes, jokes, insights, superstitions, and learnings.
Thank you all for your companionship on this interplanetary journey we’ve all been on.
Somewhere along the way, I marked my ten-year anniversary as an indie consultant, but the world has been changing so rapidly, I felt like a newbie for much of the time I was writing this newsletter. And now that I am wrapping it up, I feel like a total rube again, in the best possible sense. Writing this newsletter has helped me defeat a sense of jadedness that was looming for me in 2019, and find a beginner mind again.
New planet, new life, new mind.
Obviously, I’ll be continuing my own adventures in the gig economy for the foreseeable future. Yet the very act of reflecting on, and writing about, the journey so far, has changed how I see my own road ahead. My new adventures will be different from my old ones, in large part due to this newsletter. I’ve run out of things to say for the time being, but perhaps I’ll have more to say in another ten years.
There is much to learn yet in the art of gig. Especially now that we’re all on a new planet.
Thank you for reading. I’m sure we’ll be seeing more of each other in the future.