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  • Diana Schneidman

Geographic choice: another great reason to solopro

Internet gurus love to tout the benefits to the individual of self-employment, especially the freedom and lifestyle it allows the individual.

(I myself have pointed out these benefits in past posts. See the end of this post for links.)

However, we give scant attention to an aspect of solproing that benefits the public: Freelancing and consulting can often be done at a distance, enabling people with professional, technical and administrative skills to remain in their current, economically depressed communities. This can be a win-win-win for the individual, extended family and society.

An interesting article in the January / February 2010 American Prospect contributes to the discussion about soloproing and its potential for rebuilding communities in decline.

The article focuses on Richard Florida, a big name in economic development who made his reputation in the early 2000s. He consulted with decaying cities in the Eastern U.S., providing locally customized recommendations on how to implement his three secrets for the 21st century—Technology, Talent and Tolerance—to attract young professionals, which he labeled “the creative class.”

More recently he has reversed his views (but as the article describes, in a manner that veers back and forth to accommodate two opposing outlooks). In general, he now contends that some communities on the decline cannot be saved and should be allowed to fail. People just may need to relocate to more “productive” areas.

However, advocates for sinking communities refuse to leave. Some of these individuals have a lifelong attachment to their home towns. “There is a remnant of people who aren’t going to leave,” one critic of Mr. Florida is quoted as saying.

The end of the article briefly discusses how freelance work arrangements can enable people to continue to reside in places like Detroit (specifically named in the article).

Soloproing benefits our larger society by enabling people to participate in the service economy while maintaining residence in less successful locations.

Many skilled solopro projects can be done anywhere there is access to telecom and overnight delivery services. In the U.S. that’s just about everywhere. Indeed, some of these locations have lower costs of living, making them desirable bases of self-employment where it is easier for start-up incomes to meet or exceed living expenses.

I don’t mean to sugarcoat the situation in certain urban areas—the article’s author, Alec MacGillis, certainly doesn’t. In fact, he comes down hard on Florida for his glib suggestions on urban solutions.

I’m just saying that freelancers and consultants with skills that are in demand can create a worklife that does not depend on where they live and can benefit their communities in the process.

Originally posted 1-11-09

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