For freelance writers, it’s easy to feel like we’re operating in a void. We do most of our work solo, often at home. That alone can be a sufficient reason to join a professional organization — but they do offer some benefits when it comes to marketing, as well.
There are professional organizations for just about everyone, from the very general, like the Freelancers’ Union, to the very specific, like the Professional Association of Resume Writers. Most of these organizations offer educational opportunities, access to benefits and other support for their members. They also offer a few opportunities for members to promote themselves.
Membership As A Selling Point
Having a logo on your marketing materials that signifies your membership in a professional organization can be reassuring for prospective clients. While not all organizations welcoming freelance writers set the same standards, most have at least a few requirements for membership. Those requirements essentially prove that, in offering you membership, the association vouches for your abilities. While that may not actually be the case, that’s the sense that many clients will get.
Memberships are kind of like testimonials. Your clients may not have even heard of many of the associations that focus on the writing profession (unless you’re dealing primarily with editors and publishers), but your membership can still be reassuring.
Promotion Through The Association
Joining a professional organization can offer you opportunities to promote yourself. Even a simple listing in the group’s directory can yield interest from prospective clients: many people aren’t really sure where to start when it comes to choosing a writer, so they run a couple of searches on general phrases. The results will likely contain a related professional organization, including a directory. A surprising number of people will just browse through that directory and find a writer who seems to fit their needs. As far as the client is concerned, the writers in that directory have already been vetted by the professional association.
Some professional organizations also let their membership know of open opportunities: for instance, the American Society of Journalists and Authors maintains a ‘Freelance Writer Search‘ board that lists open jobs and project leads. Your organizations can give you access to gigs that don’t show up anywhere else.
It’s not uncommon for professional organizations to offer networking opportunities, as well — both within the organization and with companies looking to hire individuals with the skills necessary to belong to such an organization.
Deciding On An Organization
There are more than a few professional associations that cater to freelance writers. Deciding which to join is often a two-part question: First, which organization most closely matches what you do? Which one matches your niche? That group is far more likely to help you find clients with projects you’re interested in taking on. Second, how big of a budget do you have for joining professional organizations? While a few, like the Freelancers’ Union, are free to join, most associations have enough of a membership fee to give you pause before joining more than one or two of them. Even though such fees are tax deductible, we’re in this to make a living, rather than support a whole list of writing organizations.
Luckily, membership in just one or two professional organizations is typically enough. I do suggest picking out one or two with a membership fee (although I also encourage you to join the Freelancers’ Union, if only to see their health insurance options), because the higher barrier to entry makes such groups a little more reputable.
What professional organizations do you belong to?
Just joining us? Check out where we started with Setting Your Goals!