20 year journalism veteran Jeff Koyen made the move from Brooklyn to Venice and launched Assignmint to help fix the relationship between freelance writers and editors, especially around the issue of timely and organized payment.
Assignmint could have chosen to provide solutions for writers or editors, but instead decided to stay in the middle. As a veteran journalist from both sides of the table (rather than a “startup kid” looking for a space to disrupt), Koyen argues that professional writing doesn’t need to be disrupted; it’s the frayed relationship between writers and editors/publishers that needs to be repaired. Central to that solution is fixing the disorganized and outdated methods of hiring and paying freelance writers – or pitching and getting paid, from the writer’s perspective.
As the internet changed the way written content was distributed, professional writing rapidly became a freelance profession – but it wasn’t a smooth transition, especially with the economic downturn. While publishers still have salaried editors on payroll, their freelance writers are treated more like vendors with haphazard processes like writing individual checks as they come up rather than an organized payroll system. This results in late and missing payments, and the beginning of a contentious relationship between publishers and the content creators they rely on.
Assignmint launched its beta for writers in February and it has grown steadily to nearly 1,000 active users with an astonishing 66 minute average session as writers use Assignmint’s platform for both pitches and invoices. The key, according to Koyen, is that the tools “speak writers’ language, so there’s no learning curve”, even when it comes to payments. This contrasts starkly with putting Quickbooks in front of a writer or trying to get one to set up a Dwolla account and use it to invoice. Assignmint decided to build their own payment gateway to keep their fees low, rather than trust extra middlemen and be required to charge less-than-competitive rates in order to keep some profit; Koyen hopes this will be a competitive advantage in the long term.
They will launch their beta for editors next month and it will include the fully functional payment gateway where the startup will apply its transaction fee revenue model.
Assignmint was recently profiled on the NY Times Bits blog, and though journalism is still very much centered in New York, Koyen says he “wouldn’t have launched this company in Brooklyn” as he would have been too much in the center of the flared tempers he’s trying to fix, and the attitudes of “me-first” and “NYC or nothing” wouldn’t have allowed him to take the path that brought Assignmint to where it is today. He said “it’s amazing” that the L.A. community has been so supportive, and being able to relax – Venice Beach will do that – has let him take creative pathways he’s afraid he would have missed out in his previous life in NYC.
Assignmint is currently seed funded by Koyen and one angel investor, and sees additional opportunities for the company to extend its tools to freelance professionals in industries other than journalism.