Can a Freelancer Have a Side Gig?

Why yes, yes she can.

And in my case, that side gig is something I’ve been working on with my friend Laura Paglione since July of last year. Who knew it could take so many months to get a ‘simple’ idea off the ground?

This all started when I threw open the virtual doors to everyone in my network and said, “you are all interested in this thing I’m working on (web browsers, cookies, and federated identity). Rather than try to have a million one-off conversations, how about y’all join me on an informal call and I’ll share what I know and we can all talk about it.” I expected fifteen to twenty people to actually show up, and I was entirely fine with that.

Seventy people later, the session was a smashing success, I enjoyed the informality of it, the participants learned a lot, and my sweetheart said, “you just had an identity flash mob.”


Why yes, yes I did. And the idea for Identity Flash Mob (IFM for short) was born. A way to share information on technical topics like digital identity, standards development, and anything else we think relevant to people *not* in the industry.

While the original flash mob event was absolutely by and for techies, when I brought the idea to Laura, we agreed that it would be so much more fun (and potentially helpful to the world) to focus on a much bigger audience. People like my mother, who likes to call me with questions like “what is the metaverse?” Or Laura’s daughter, a digital native who likes to learn via infotainment. And maybe even my techie friends will learn something (or send their parents, neighbors, and kids to me so they can stop acting like an all-things-Internet help desk).

Great idea, fun name, excellent way for me to spend time learning things I need to know more about anyway… and really intense in getting off the ground.

About fifteen years ago, I would make lovely handwoven scarves and try to sell them online. What I learned from that experience is that to be a successful seller of handwoven goods, you have to be at least as good if not better at photography as you are at weaving. Similarly, kicking off a business about making tech-topics more consumable to the world means you have to be at least as good at marketing, branding, video production, writing, and social media management as you are at the tech topics.

Working with Laura on the ideas and a fabulous group of people at SimplyBe Agency on the marketing and branding has kept all my spare hours pretty busy. And we’re so close to making this a Real Thing that people can subscribe to on Patreon so they can be a part of a Slack community, follow on Instagram, and even watch video clips on TikTok. Blog posts are going up every week, and maybe someday we’ll even have a podcast.

Everyone should have a passion project. It might be something you do that builds on what you do for a living. It may be something you do entirely outside of work. IFM is my passion project. It gives me the creative license to do all sorts of crazy things with what I learn from my consulting and contracting work. It also makes me better at my regular gigs as I bring back what I’m learning from my tech topics to my work.

So, if you miss my blog posts, head on over to IFM. You’ll find a lot of my writing there. Or, for giggles, go find IFM on Instagram or (soon) TikTok and see what silly things I do when given an idea and a video camera. And if you have a passion project you’d like me to follow, drop me a note on Twitter because I’d love to see what other people are doing.

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