Is the answer to the “gig economy” patronage? I hope to find out using Patreon!
The Gig Economy
We’re moving more and more into what’s called the “gig economy”, where instead of a single, full-time, lifetime-long job, people engage in multiple activities. It’s certainly what I have been doing for the last few years; consulting on open source, serving on the boards of a variety of civil society organisations, arranging and conducting study tours, writing for several publications, writing on my own sites, speaking at events and more. Few of those have been paid work.
Along with the new economy, new approaches to “employment” have been evolving as well. Software developers are frequently familiar with the use of an umbrella or container company that handles their various consulting placements for them, collecting fees and paying taxes. Co-operatives like Snowdrift and bug bounty schemes like Hacker One are emerging. Open source communities are creating work tenders, as for example The Document Foundation has done.
Outside tech, Airbnb is allowing individuals to join the hospitality industry and a wide range of other (often more exploitative) “sharing economy” arrangements exist as well. We’ll see more and more of these new approaches to paying for work and collecting payment arising as people realise that the meshed economy — where every person is potentially connected to every other — opens up new ways to make a living from creativity without the burdens of the stiff command heirarchies of the passing industrial society.
The mechanism I’m trying next is the reincarnation of patronage. Artists, musicians, writers and others living by creativity were once sustained by commisioning of works and gifts of money, accommodation and other in-kind essentials by rich patrons. Freed from the need to seek payment work-by-work, creativity flourished.
A web site called Patreon is bringing that same concept into the meshed society, and doing so pretty effectively for many people. Fans of a particular creator can pledge to pay a fixed amount either each month, or each time a new deliverable is created. The pledge can be as small (or large!) as necessary, with the goal that patronage is shared among a wide group of supporters rather than all carried by someone rich. It’s the way Amanda Palmer and my favourite Morgan James are earning a living, for example.
So I’ve created a Patreon page, which some lovely people have already used to support me. I want to be able to write, speak and volunteer freely in open source and digital rights communities without needing to constantly seek new contracts or approval from editors. If you follow my work here, on Meshed Insights, at OSI, on FLOSS Weekly, at Open Rights Group, at The Document Foundation or elsewhere, I would be really grateful to have you as a patron at any level at all. If you want to try Patreon yourself, use this link which may give you extra credit.
My first goal is to be free from having to only write about things that the editors of commercial publications think are controversial enough to drive advertising clicks. Can you help?