As a professional writer, you’re always on the lookout for ways to improve your game. Whether your business includes product descriptions, blog posts or even a press release writing service, you know it’s important to maintain your contact lists, keep your resume up to date, and even sharpen your business acumen. But time is money in this business; if you’re not writing, you’re not earning. Is joining a professional association worth the time it will take? Read on and decide for yourself.
Professional writing organizations offer their members a lot of perks. Simply belonging to one can add an air of professionalism to your resume or online profile, for instance. Pro associations are also a good place to make contacts, sharpen your skills and pick up valuable tricks-of-the-trade from seasoned writers willing to share their own experiences. Some organizations even have job boards and member directories, and offer their members access to internships, fellowships and online libraries.
There is a downside, of course. Setting up an account and maintaining a profile can take time away from writing. Most writing associations also require dues, which can be quite high. And, while their forums offer a wealth of valuable information, they can also become treacherous time-sinks. Some less-reputable writing associations are really wolves in sheep’s clothing. These thinly veiled marketing ploys offer “members” classes, how-to seminars, books and certificates—all at a cost, of course.
The Best of the Best
A search of the Internet quickly reveals literally thousands of groups vying for the attention of writers of all kinds. Here are a few of the most reputable.
- The Authors Guild – The AG, established in 1912, advocates for its members’ effective copyrights, “fair contracts and free expression.” Members must be published authors or prove an income from writing of at least $5,000 in an 18 month period. Dues, after the first year, are based on the author’s income. Members have access to low-cost website building services, free book contract reviews and domain-name registration.
- The American Society of Journalists and Authors – To join the ASJA, a writer must prove a “sustained, professional career.” For freelance writers, this means a minimum of six, bi-lined published articles. Member benefits include the legitimacy of having “ASJA member” on a resume, access to job leads and the opportunity to join a personal mentoring program and work one-on-one with a writing professional. Yearly dues are $210 plus a $50 application fee.
- Writers Guild of America – The WGA offers a cornucopia of valuable tools to its members. These include downloadable contract forms, legal services, a credit union, a health insurance program and even a pension plan. Membership requirements, however, are steep. A writer must earn 24 units of credit based on the WGA’s own unit schedule. Three units can be earned, for example, for a 30 minute radio program, while a short-subject screenplay earns eight. New members must also pay a whopping $2,500 initiation fee, but a more reasonably priced associate membership is available for $100 a year.
While joining a professional association can be a savvy business move, if you simply don’t have the time—or money—don’t hesitate to prowl through these websites anyway. They offer dozens of free resources to anyone who visits.
Kate C is a freelance writer available on WriterAccess, a marketplace where clients and expert writers connect for assignments.