Professional development organizations for writers offer many benefits for both beginning and experienced freelancers.
Why Should I Join a Professional Organization?
Although the membership fees charged by professional groups may seem like a large expense when you're just starting to make money as a freelance writer, it's wise to look at this as an investment in your career. Common benefits offered by professional development organizations for writers include:
- Another credential to add to your resume
- Access to continuing education classes
- The ability to attend networking events
- Exclusive job listings
- Discounts on resources for writers, such as office supplies and magazine subscriptions
- The potential to purchase more affordable health insurance
Popular Professional Development Organizations for Writers
When looking for professional development organizations for writers, it's important to think about the type of freelance work you're already doing, as well as your future career goals, to make sure the organization you wish to join best suits your needs.
The National Writer's Union
The National Writers Union represents freelance journalists, as well as technical writers, Web content providers, poets, and authors. With nearly 2,000 members, the NWU works with the United Automobile Workers to improve working conditions for freelancers across the United States. Some of the benefits of this organization include contract advice, grievance assistance, a job hotline, health insurance discounts, and access to NWU press passes for those who qualify. Membership dues are based on your annual writing income and unpublished writers can join if they are actively looking to market their work.
The Society of Professional Journalists
If the bulk of your freelance work comes from writing for newspapers, magazines, trade publications, or news Web sites, consider joining the Society of Professional Journalists. Founded in 1909 as Sigma Delta Chi, SPJ works to promote the free flow of information and protect First Amendment rights. There is a special section of the group's Web site devoted exclusively to the needs of freelance writers.
The American Society of Journalists and Authors
The American Society of Journalists and Authors is a professional development association for nonfiction writers. Membership benefits include several product discounts, the chance to attend exclusive educational conferences, the ability to compete for organization awards, and access to the organization's annual salary data. However, keep in mind that ASJA has fairly stringent criteria for membership. For example, they do not accept members with clips from small regional or special interest publications.
The Public Relations Society of America
The Public Relations Society of America is an organization for communications professionals who work in consumer affairs, employee relations, corporate advertising, community relations, marketing communications, government relations, media relations, or public relations management and administration. With over 22,000 members, this group focuses on providing networking and professional development opportunities. The group also assists members who are interested in earning the Accredited in Public Relations (APR) certification.
The Association for Business Communication
Freelance technical writers, public relations specialists, and those who write for the in-house publications of large corporations may be interested in joining the Association for Business Communication. The goal of this group is to promote excellence in business communication scholarship, research, and education. Members have access to exclusive publications, job placement services, and the ability to compete for organization awards.
Special Writer's Associations
In addition to the groups mentioned above, there are also a number of organizations specifically for women and/or minority writers. For example:
- The Association for Women in Sports Media
- The International Association of Women in Radio and Television
- The National Association of Women Writers
- The National Association of Black Journalists
- The National Association of Hispanic Journalists
If you meet the eligibility criteria, joining one of these groups can be a great way to connect with writers who share a common background.