Pittsburgh Bedouins

Bedouins were the name given to nomadic Arabs in days of yore. These days, the name is finding itself more and more associated with freelancers parked behind laptops in coffee shops, typically Web workers – wire caller workers, if you will – doing design and development. This article says it quite nicely, though I can’t be sure that San Franciscans should be given the credit of starting this movement as it’s been growing for years around the world in places like Brighton, England and our very own Pittsburgh, PA.

Particularly appealing, to me, is the idea of young freelancers or business startups who choose to work in small, local cafes, a symbiotic union in my mind where caffeine-doling baristas produce sustenance, shelter and – most importantly – WiFi access in exchange for the continued daily and long term patronage of these roaming freelancers. Indeed, think about your average advertising or new media agency – they’re striving to do all they can to make their lobbies and meeting rooms seem like hip little cafes, but the average freelancer on the street sees that it’s more conducive to just find the real thing and free themselves from the trappings of agencies; namely, long hours, little credit and the feeling of being just another cog in a terribly malicious wheel.

But as a free agent you can run your own show: at a bare minimum you can set your own hours and sleep late if you’d like, in the best of circumstances you can find yourself able to pick and choose between clients based on some higher moral ground. Having been living this very life for the last few years I can personally attest to the beauty of a career that affords me a decent chunk of financial security while at the same time has no qualms about me taking the afternoon off to take a walk with my family or skip out on Fridays if Thursday night ran a little long, and I can only hope that this is a trend in the American workplace where the idea of the blue collar worker punching a clock twice a day in the factory or the white collar worker stuffed in his cubicle for all long hours is replaced by the wire collar worker, an idealism that money and career is simply a supplement to the rest of life, a means to a continuity, not simply a means to an eventual end.

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