#Journo100 Profile: Daily BR!NK

From left: Gary Goldman and Jeremy Allen

As part of the Ebyline/E&P 100% Journalism Challenge, we’re profiling examples of 100% journalism to find out what challenges, mistakes and triumphs come with the responsibility for covering a topic completely. Enter the 100% Journalism Challenge by Oct. 12 and win up to $35,000 to spend on your 100% journalism idea.

Jeremy Allen and Gary Goldman were undergraduates in college when they decided to launch their own web publication, Daily BR!NK in 2010. The inspiration came from their love of reading feature stories with innovative up-and-comers that were sometimes included in their favorite magazines. Two years later, the entirely volunteer-run Daily BR!NK has shone a spotlight on over 260 rising movers and shakers in every industry from fashion design, to politics, to biotechnology, writing, and green grocers. Their 100% journalism niche? Innovation solely from those you probably haven’t heard of… yet.

Ebyline caught up with Daily BR!NK co-founders Jeremy and Gary for a joint interview about their “little website that could.” The following is a transcript of that conversation, edited lightly for clarity.

Where did your idea for Daily BR!NK originate and how did it develop?

Jeremy: The idea was that we both love magazines so much, and our favorite part of the magazines we’d read was the small blurb on an up-and-comer. And we thought, ‘wouldn’t it be so cool to have a publication that was just up-and-comers? That just focused on the people that you haven’t heard about yet but that you will?’ [These are] people that are going to be affecting the world in a variety of industries; and that’s where the idea began. Gary thought that the web would be the best platform for it.

Gary: [I steered us toward the web] because of the frequency of posts. I really wanted to have one person [featured] a day, five days a week. And that seemed pretty impossible because we had no resources, we had no contacts really to start this. But from a very selfish point of view for me, I just saw this as such an incredible opportunity not just to build my own project, but to meet these people… get inspired, get contacts and find out about the great things going on in a specific industry.

Describe the accomplishments of some of your “BR!NKers”.

Gary: The first two people we featured: one of them went on to compete in the trials for the Olympics for boxing, the first ever [such] trials for women. And the second one, he’s an electronic violinist and he’s currently on tour with Madonna. So it’s been really rewarding to see these people and really promote them. And for most of them it’s their first media opportunity.

What are the challenges of your focus on up-and-comers who haven’t previously hit the limelight?

Gary: I think what was hard was [creating] a consistency of voice across the diversity of people and topics we featured. How do we always have this twentysomething voice that’s eager and curious and enthusiastic and so accessible, even for people who do things that may not necessarily be accessible to a layperson? Consistency of voice for a variety of topics is something that I don’t think a lot of websites do. The voice is what is niche for us, it’s not the industries or what we cover.

Does the diversity of topics affect your audience or help build it? How have you identified and targeted your audience?

Jeremy: I read Vogue because I love fashion but, you know, we’re targeting every industry possible so how do you keep people interested? And you do see that, depending on the person, it’ll get spurts of readership depending on who they are and what industry they’re in.

Gary: We have a built-in audience that’s pretty consistent. However, we definitely want to grow that. I know there’s a big potential in there that’s untapped. A lot of people don’t know about the site and the big question is, without resources what’s the best way to promote yourself? How do you do that?

What advice do you have for others looking to create their own 100% web publication?

Jeremy: If you have an idea, the only thing that’s stopping you from doing it is just yourself. With the tools that are available online, you can make it happen. I think the first step to making a publication like this is surrounding yourself with people who believe in it so much that they’re not going to let you sleep until you’ve gotten this thing live.

Because [Daily BR!NK] is not any one of our full-time jobs, there are times where we’ll go on hiatus for a couple of weeks and then we’ll come back with a new lineup for another month. But even so, the amount of consistency that it’s kept without any form of monetization and only a volunteer staff is just so amazing. So again, it’s just about believing in an idea enough to see it through. Even if that means doing it after you come home from work, doing it after you come home from classes, surrounding yourself with a group of people who believe in it equally enough to help you do it as well, and help share the burden of the workload.

Gary: And to add on to that… always remember that you’re just one brain. You should always have a little bit of space for critical thinking. We are the co-founders of the site, but it never would have happened if it weren’t for the input of the dozens of people that have worked on it.

5 Main Differences Between Employees and Freelancers

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The flexibility of freelancing is appealing to a lot of people, but I don’t think many fully understand what that means until they’re actually doing it. Here are five major differences to consider before making the switch from cubicle-dweller to card-carrying freelancer.

1.      Freelancers buy their own benefits.
Salaried employees typically get employer-sponsored health and dental insurance, as well as retirement plans. Freelancers are on their own. And if they go without insurance, it could wipe them out financially. Fortunately, organizations like the Freelancers Union offer health, dental, disability, and life insurance to its members, but these plans may be more expensive than one you’d get through your employer.

2.      Freelancers set their own hours.
If you’re someone who’s highly driven, then setting your own schedule may not be an issue for you. But if you need structure, you’ll either have to create it for yourself or make peace with working for the man. Those who don’t meet deadline don’t get paid, which is a pretty powerful incentive for most freelance writers. The flexible vs. fixed hours thing is an important distinction for clients, too, because if a client treats you like an employee without providing employee benefits, it could get them into hot water with the IRS.
3.      Freelancers take responsibility for professional development.
If you work in an office, you’ll usually get periodic performance reviews. And if you’re really lucky, your company might pay for you to attend a conference or training program. Freelancers don’t get those perks. Clients are often too busy to offer in-depth feedback on your work, so you may want to seek out a mentor or critique partner. And you’ll have to pay your own way at conferences or professional seminars, but you can often deduct it as a business expense on your taxes.
4.      Freelancers pay self-employment tax.
Uncle Sam splits the burden of Medicare and Social Security deductions from each paycheck between employers and employees. But freelancers are on the hook for both portions of Medicare and Social Security thanks to a little thing called “self-employment tax.” In 2011, the IRS gave freelancers tax-payers reprieve a little, so they owe an extra 13.3% (10.4% for Social Security and 2.9% for Medicare) instead of the usual 15.3% self-employment tax. Still, that’s extra money that your corporate counterparts don’t owe the IRS, so you need to account for this when they set your rates.
5.      Freelancers don’t get holidays or sick days.
Salaried employees usually get paid for federal holidays, sick days, and vacation time. In general, freelancers only earn money when they’re actually working (and remember, administrative tasks like invoicing or marketing are not billable hours). The exception is freelancers who’ve created passive income streams like ebooks or webinars, which can generate sales even when they’re not at the computer. But most freelancers operate on a per hour or per project basis, which means they need to build a little extra into their rates to compensate for the lack of vacation time and holidays.

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