Fast Company

How Assignmint Will Change Freelance Journalism

A new startup hopes their integrated freelancer workflow and financials system will change the media industry.

New startup Assignmint has an ambitious goal: To change freelance journalism as we know it. The company, headed by former New York Press and Forbes Traveler editor Jeff Koyen, will offer a complete pitch-to-payment cloud workflow system for freelancers and their employers. It helps digitally manage work assignments, editorial calendars, invoices, pitches, expenses, contract information, and payment. Freelance journalists, meanwhile, will be able to have access to all their outstanding invoice and payment information in one place. The startup also plans to implement a clip and algorithm service to match freelancers with potential new clients.

While Assignmint will only handle writers and editors when it launches in late 2012, the firm plans to open their doors to freelancers and employers from the rest of media--along with financial services, academia, IT, fashion marketing, and other fields in 2013. The company's profit model is based upon their payment system: Assignmint will handle freelance payments on an company's behalf in exchange for an employer-paid service fee. Other revenue streams will include premium subscriptions for editorial teams, white-label enterprise installations, and custom services such as tax form fulfillment.

Assignmint's team also includes CTO John Engstrom (CoreByte), ex-New York senior editor Aileen Gallagher, Viacom Corporate Communications director Neena Koyen, who is married to Jeff Koyen, and US Weekly assistant managing editor Michael Quinones. For Assignmint, one of the major challenges will be taking on e-payments--traditionally a dicey area, but even more so in the financially unstable journalism industry.

According to Jeff Koyen, the firm's product is targeted at specific problems within media: “Last year, I went in-house as an editor at a well-known magazine [Travel & Leisure – ed.]. I came up through alt-weeklies, where we never had much money for bells and whistles. But even at this huge operation, the systems had not changed much since the 1990s. Editors still cut-and-paste job details between Word docs and freelancers still put contracts in the mail. (Some even faxed them.) These inefficiencies do more than just waste time: They pit freelancers against their employers. So, I decided to build a network that solves all of these problems, from pitch to payment.”

Payments and contracts are still a major issue for many freelancers, as any look at media industry bulletin boards will attest. Assignmint seems to be aiming for that niche with proposed cost savings for both freelancers and editors. Rather than offering an entirely new concept, the firm's product cuts-and-pastes existing services for the 1099 independent contractor market. The media industry--both digital and print--currently relies on a mixture of custom-made management applications and conventional products modded to fit freelancer work.

More than 10 million Americans currently work as 1099 freelancers. Assignmint recently concluded their first round of funding and expect to launch a closed beta this summer.

(Full disclosure: The author has worked with Jeff Koyen in the past.)

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[Image: Flickr user Travis S]

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