The site is called the 99% (www.the99percent.com) and, of course, the first thing a person wants to know is: What happened to the final one percent?
Founder Scott Belsky, who previously worked at Goldman Sachs and has a Harvard Business School degree, took the site’s name from a classic Thomas Edison quote that says, “Genius is 1% inspiration, 99% perspiration.” In view of that nugget of wisdom, many of the articles on the 99% aim to empower artists, encourage working hard (the perspiration part), and find a job (reality strikes).
The web site 99% is part of Behance Network. Belsky started Behance Network in 2006 as a business that offers job postings to creative people, provides a place for artists to associate with other artists, and offers resources to help make them more effective. Its mission is to “put control into the hands of creative professionals.” About 40% of its subscribers are freelancers.
The 99% editor, Jocelyn Glei, says the idea behind Behance is to “help professionals become more organized and productive. The network provides a place for creative people around the world to showcase their work, connect with other people, and generate leads to employment.”
Behance has several revenue streams including an annual conference, workshops, consulting, a subscription service (ProSite) that builds web sites for subscribers costing around $100 annually, and the 99percent web site. Founder Belsky also wrote the book Making Ideas Happen, which is sold on the sites.
In order to maintain a certain caliber of professionalism, creative people must apply and gain admittance into Behance Network but there’s no fee for joining. “We’re not elitist, but want to make sure someone is a professional,” Glei says. Behance and the 99% web site appeal primarily to visual artists such as designers, photographers, fashion designers, and graphic designers, though others may find it appealing as well.
The 99% site serves as a resource itself but is part of a profit-making business dedicated to expanding its customer base. Glei resists the idea that the site’s function is to generate business for Behance, though. She views it as more of a “think tank or research arm to Behance.”
Though Behance and the 99% are located in SoHo in New York City, the audience is 50% domestic and 50% overseas, mostly from the UK, Canada, Australia, and Brazil. The audience consists of creative professionals, small business owners, and entrepreneurs, split evenly between men and women.
The site is organized into sections on articles, tips, video, conference, and advisory. It publishes about three new articles a week. Many articles focus on “the how side of the creative process,” says Glei. The stories offer assistance on “making things happen, explaining what you’ve learned, translating advice, and applying it to work,” she says. One of the site’s goals is to demystify the creative process and explore the nitty gritty of how artists accomplish the work and execute a project.
In many ways the 99% functions like a magazine devoted to creativity. One recent article, “Required Reading: Creating Cults, Finding Randomness & Maverick Geniuses,” written by Glei, focuses on how MIT inspires genius, creativity, and inspiration.
Links on the site suggest its how-to approach: Passion, Contrarianism, Self-marketing, Prioritization, Cross Pollination, Bias-to-Action, Recharging, Prototyping, and Perspiration. In addition, readers can hit tabs and search for articles on a bevy of creative fields including performing arts, social media, storytelling, motion graphics, industrial design, web development, fashion design, and consulting. Most articles offer tips about how to get started, generate business, and become more efficient.
Why focus on these topics? “If you can’t focus on prioritizing, how are you going to channel your energy? If you can’t work on a team or get people behind your idea, what are you going to accomplish?” Glei asks rhetorically.
In “Battling the Half-Life of Idea Execution,” Michael Karnjanaprakorn writes a first-person article on where he went wrong opening an online network and email newsletter in one year. He has too many ideas and can’t seem to follow through on any of them. His advice includes “know where you’re going before you get there” and “plan your life in five-year blocks.”
Another article by Glei, “Don’t Overthink It: 5 Tips for Daily Decision-Making,” recommends establishing adequate solutions over optimal ones and making decisions with limited data because too much information can overload an artist. Her summary: Stop obsessing, make a decision, and get on with it.
Many readers offered feedback on the “don’t overthink” article. One reader, Jergen Sungot, noted that as he has matured he’s been able to make faster decisions. He no longer considers countless alternatives that “offer a relatively small percentile of improvement.”
The article “9 Awesome Interviews with Creative Visionaries” excerpts interviews of how creative people work including Ernest Hemingway from Paris Review, Steve Jobs from Rolling Stone, and Patti Smith from her memoir Just Kids. Glei says George Plimpton’s Hemingway interview demystifies how he worked and shows how he set target goals of how many words he wanted to write a day.
Many colleges teach students to become graphic designers or take photographs but often overlook showing these creative professionals how to make and carve out a living. The 99% “motivates people to show up every day and feel like they have a responsibility to make things happen,” says Glie.
Gary M. Stern is a freelance writer based in New York City.