I do not use freelance writing organizations as a part of my writing career. I’ve never had the need. However, that doesn’t mean that it can’t work for you. I’ve been a member of several professional organizations in various industries throughout my life. Unfortunately, I’ve found them all to be overly cliquey, like an extension of high school. There’s a small core group of fanatical members, many people out on the fringes, and then an even larger group of inactive members. That’s not my scene.
Will You Get Better Work Through an Organization?
The most common argument you will hear from freelance writers is that you will get better work through freelance writing organizations. The idea is that when you join and become active, you will network with other freelance writers. From there, you will get more referrals, more clients, and higher-paying jobs. This gives you a chance to learn about your ideal clients and find clients that have the right fit for your writing style.
I’m not saying these things won’t happen. I’m just saying you don’t have to go this route to have these benefits. These arguments are all very old school and a traditional way of looking at business. Dare I say, antiquated? If you like spending hours and hours networking with people who may never refer you to a client, then, by all means, have at it. Those training and educational webinars may be nice, but all that information is free. Just know that there are other options.
When Joining a Professional Writers Organization Is Useful
There are certain circumstances where I would say that joining professional freelance writing organizations could be useful. As a full-time freelancer offering writing, copywriting, or public relations services, you want to find work and clients within your niche. Every business these days uses content marketing so that you can have your niche in virtually anything. The trick is finding the clients within that niche.
There are professional organizations for individuals who focus on an obscure specialty. For example, nonfiction writers have incredible research and referencing skills because they need to verify what they are writing about. Grant writing is a detailed and tedious process that not just anyone can do. Perhaps you only work with nonprofit organizations that don’t have the budget to advertise on job boards. Highly skilled fields, like medical writing, can also benefit from joining a professional organization. This makes it easy to connect with others that are in these highly specialized niches where it would otherwise be difficult to connect. If you’re interested in self-publishing, a professional organization focused on this can also be beneficial.
Some freelancers join a specific professional organization for its benefits. Health insurance is always a hot topic, with individuals finding it tough to find providers willing to sell health insurance directly to individuals. I think it’s wonderful for a professional organization to provide this assistance to people. Unfortunately for me, it wasn’t helpful. The health insurance offered was no more affordable than me going through the Marketplace. Thankfully, I have health insurance through my husband. This makes it a not very enticing benefit for me to join an organization.
There are several other benefits that you’ll hear:
Let’s go through these. My resume these days is my website. I maintain my resume, but I haven’t actually sent it to anyone in several years. Do you know what clients want to see? My writing samples. Not my resume.
Training and Education
Access to training and education. Ok, I can see the benefit here. If you are new to the freelance writing game, these can be useful to help you learn about SEO and best practices, especially if you don’t have a marketing background. However, all of this information is available for free online. Hubspot, Moz, Search Engine Journal, and Neil Patel all have plenty of learning material that you can read for free.
Promising exclusive job listings is a slippery slope. What exactly does this mean? I’ve checked out a few professional organizations, and there was no specific “job board” that you can browse and apply to relevant opportunities. So what are they promising you? Exclusive job listings if you network with the right members and get a referral? That isn’t a concrete promise or benefit. Perhaps there are professional organizations with exclusive job boards? I’d be curious to know the opportunities’ quality and consistency.
Getting discounts could be great, but only if the discount is for something that you are already spending money on and the discount is enough to make the membership fee worth it. For example, some organizations offer a discount on office supplies. I spend very little money on office supplies. All I need to do my job is a laptop, so the benefit of office supply discounts isn’t compelling for me. Magazine subscription discounts are another common one. However, I don’t get any magazines, so this represents an additional cost that I don’t need. Before you get sold on discount benefits, sit back and think about how often you will realistically use them.
The Drawbacks of Professional Associations
The biggest issue I have with most writers organizations is that they are thinly veiled businesses formed to make money. They make all of these promises and then charge you a membership fee to gain access. I’m not saying that all organizations that charge money are predatory. What I am saying is that you need to do your research before you plunk down a couple hundred or even a couple of thousand dollars.
Some organizations are located in specific cities, so if you aren’t in New York, DC, or California, you aren’t getting the full benefit. In addition, it would cost too much for you to fly to attend the in-person networking events. This gets even more challenging when you join an international association.
How Do I Find Freelance Work?
So now that I have discussed all the reasons why I wouldn’t join a professional organization, let’s talk about the alternatives. How do you find freelance work if you aren’t sourcing them through a professional network? Checking out job boards can seem daunting, but there are plenty of quality, high-paying freelance writing jobs on them. I’ve secured clients that I have worked with for years and make 25 to 50 cents per word from them. This gives me an hourly pay rate of $250-$500.
I dedicate time to professional development by maintaining my own WordPress website and social media. This keeps me connected with other bloggers and what’s happening within the industry. In addition, this keeps me up to date on best practices. I also connect with industry professionals through social media and with current gigs. From there, we send opportunities to each other as they come along. I’ve connected with writers from all over the world this way, and it didn’t cost me a dime.
How Do I Join Freelance Writing Organizations?
Throughout this article, I have argued why professional freelance writing organizations aren’t useful for me. However, I want to stress that whether you join or not is a personal decision. You may find that joining one is useful for you, and you enjoy the supportive community they offer. If this is the case, I fully support your decision to join. However, make sure you join one that is reputable and not predatory.
I’ve included a list of some of the more well-known organizations. I’m not endorsing or recommending any of them. Take your time, check them out, and decide for yourself if one is the right fit for you. I suggest checking out their website, membership requirements, and