Start-ups focus on getting freelance writers paid

Last week we told you about Contently, a company that matches freelancers with brands and publishers who need writers. One of their tools allows writers to collect their fee instantly, as soon as their work has been approved. We had a comment from a Story Board reader confirming that the system works. Instant payment. No waiting by the mailbox, no following up on late invoices. A freelancer’s dream, really.

Now there’s another start-up dedicated to getting freelancers paid. Assignmint sees itself as a middleman between writers and clients, helping smooth the logistical elements of freelancing for all involved. The company offers tools for pitching, keeping track of deadlines, and, of course, invoicing.

1000 writers on board

We called up Assignmint this week and spoke with founder and CEO Jeff Koyen about the company’s goals. He says around 1000 writers have registered with Assignmint since they launched their beta version in February.

“At first you see people in the contacts section. That’s where people are adding their editors and their outlets. But by and large the most activity is in pitching and invoicing,” says Koyen.

Although Assignmint’s invoicing system is operational, they’re still testing the incoming payment system. Once that’s up and running, publishers will be able to pay invoices through Paypal, from a checking account or through Assignmint’s own payment system (which is how the company, currently financed with seed funding, will make money).

“We charge a maximum $2 fee per payment and that’s cheaper than Paypal and it’s cheaper than other payroll services. And the writers don’t pay anything, the publishers pay that fee,” says Koyen.

Koyen, who has worked on both sides of the freelance fence, says many publishers have a need for this kind of payment system.

“Right now, if you don’t have a system in place you’re getting invoices emailed, you’re getting them in the mail. I was at Travel and Leisure and they were still getting faxed invoices in from people, which was crazy to me,” he says.

“And there’s the question of formatting, there’s the question of on-boarding your writers and getting all their details. We take care of all that. You don’t have to chase down bank accounts, just go to your dashboard and there’s the invoice waiting for you.”

Tools to fix the relationship

As Assigmint works on recruiting publishers to the soon-to-be-launched editorial side of their operation, Koyen hopes his system will ease frustrations on both sides of the desk.

“I’ve been on both sides, I’ve been the writer and I’ve been the editor. I’ve been frustrated as the editor because there’s no system and then a couple of years later I’ll find myself as a freelancer frustrated by the exact lack of system from the other side,” he says.

And freelance frustrations, in Koyen’s experience, don’t usually stem from the creative side of the job.

“I don’t have problems with editors hacking my work, I get mad when I don’t get paid for 90 days. I had a nationally-known magazine lose my invoice and I got paid 120 days later. So we’re trying to fix that,” he says.

“The whole idea from day one has been to create a system that sits between everybody and fixes the relationship.”

The pitch dashboard

Ultimately, Koyen would like to see the pitch-to-payment lifecycle of an article managed through Assignmint, but freelancers are welcome to use the system in whatever way they want.

“We never intended Assignmint to be a monolithic part of your process. You don’t have to start on the pitch section to work on Assignmint. If you just want to use us for invoices, that’s great. You can step in at any part of the process,” says Koyen.

Koyen is confident, however, that some publishers – tired of having their email inboxes clogged with an ever-increasing number of story queries – are looking for a better way to manage pitches.

“It may not be universal, but we will have several publishers and editors who are going to prefer to get their pitches this way, because they can manage it. So that, ultimately, will give the writers a leg-up if they pitch through this dashboard. Right now, to be honest, the pitch function for some people is just a placeholder, but ultimately it will be adopted by more and more people.”

Koyen says his insight into the freelance industry has allowed him to create a set of desperately-needed tools.

“I’m not trying to make the business bend to my will, I’m going in with deep career knowledge of what’s messed up and what could be fixed and can be made better. And that’s been my approach,” he says.

“Freelancing is very difficult and I really do believe that half the problem is logistical. I really hope we’re going to be able to solve that.”


Posted on May 23, 2013 at 9:00 am by editor · · Tagged with: , ,

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