Helpful publications, relevant industry groups, and close colleagues can make a huge difference in a freelance writer's career.
Blogs, Newsletters, and Publications for Freelance Writers
The following online resources have been enthusiastically recommended by Freelance writers with whom we have spoken and interviewed.
Mediabistro is one of the top resources for those working in the media industry, offering:
- Events, parties, and conferences
- Courses, online conferences, certificate programs, and self-paced classes
- Job boards for postings related to the media industry
- A network of blogs and news sites related to the media industry (of particular interest to freelance writers would be 10,000 Words, which addresses the convergence of journalism and technology)
Though targeted mostly at authors, Writer's Digest can also be of use to freelance writers. It provides:
- WritersMarket.com (the most freelance writer-relevant Writer's Digest offerings), a paid-subscription-based online publication (or an annually-updated print publication you may purchase) that features industry news, interviews with publishing experts, a pay rate chart, and information on various publications to which you can sell your writing
- Free articles (more targeted at authors than freelance writers)
- Community forums, weekly writing challenges, and creative writing prompts
- Several blogs addressing literary agents, publishing trends, common English language quandaries, and poetry
- Writing conferences
- Writer's Digest University, which features a multitude of workshops and guides (some of which are free)
Freelance Writer’s Report
Don't let the website's atrocious design turn you away- the Freelance Writer's Report is highly recommended by professionals in the field. Regularly published since 1982, the report comes free with membership in the Writers-Editors Network (which is discussed in greater depth below). Should you be OK with reading somewhat outdated content, you can also peruse the sample copy they make available and occasionally switch out.
The Freelance Writer's Report offers:
- Information on new markets along with contact information
- Information about contests
- Analysis of trends in the writing industry
- Guides and advice on the profession of freelance writing
- Warnings about magazines and publishers you may want to avoid
In other words, it is a slightly more freelance writer-centric version of WritersMarket.com.
Freelance Writing Jobs
Freelance Writing Jobs (or FWJ) offers a blog and newsletter featuring regularly-added content about freelance writing along with freelance job postings. While not written by a prestigious group or cohesive association, tips and advice shared in the blog's posts are helpful enough, and should you like to apply to job postings, getting regular updates on job opportunities through an RSS feed or newsletter won't hurt.
Groups and Associations for Freelance Writers
In addition to informational resources, many associations for freelance writers offer special membership benefits, such as discounted health insurance and supportive communities. The associations below are particularly popular amongst full-time freelance writers.
Only join a fee-based association if you fully intend to utilize its member-only services (and acknowledge that doing so will require concerted effort on your part). Associations don't make connections for you or run convenient job placement services; you must pursue connections and job opportunities offered through each association independently. Most members of professional associations do not extract sufficient value from membership to justify their cost.
The American Society of Journalists and Authors
With origins reaching back to 1948, the American Society of Journalists and Authors (or ASJA) is one of the longest-standing organizations for writers.
ASJA members receive exclusive market information, professional development services, discounts, meetings with others in the writing field, workshops, seminars, access to a supportive community, and an exclusive referral service. Not everyone is eligible to join: "ASJA membership requires evidence of a sustained professional career--that you have written, on a freelance basis, full-length bylined articles in major publications over a substantial period of time, or have had nonfiction books published by established publishers, or other equivalent freelance activity."
Fees vary from $70 to $210 depending on the time of year at which you apply for membership. First-time members are expected to pay an additional $50 application fee. Without joining, you can still gain helpful insights through the ASJA's Member Blog and grievances guide, review the ASJA Monthly, attend ASJA conferences, and sign up for mentorship from an ASJA member.
Founded in 1990, Copyediting has a modern feel and is fully integrated into the digital age (not something every freelance writing association has successfully done).
Copyediting offers one of the most popular newsletters amongst freelancers along with forums, job postings, events, courses, forums, and a store. Though the newsletter, which explores the evolution and usage of the English language, is available to members only (annual membership fees start at $79 and go up to $399), you can get a sample copy for free by sharing your name and email with the organization.
The organization's monthly audio conferences, in which top writers and editors in the field offer professional tips, information on different niches within the writing field, and research advice, can be attended by members or accessed (for a fee) a la carte. Without paying any fees, you can peruse Copyediting's article archive and use the site's forums to converse with other professional writers.
The Writers-Editors Network (also known as the Cassell Network of Writers or CNW) hosts job boards, informational resources, courses, conferences, seminars, and contests. Its value lies in a practical focus on industry information rather than recycled conventional wisdom. Information is focused around rates, specific employers, and noteworthy industry trends.
Membership benefits include access to the site's private member section, which features industry updates, average payments, and job postings, as well as a listing in the network's official directory of membership. Four membership levels are available, ranging from basic online membership ($29 per year or $48 for two years) to FFWA Membership ($90 for one year or $150 for two years).
The Editorial Freelancer’s Association
The Editorial Freelancer's Association (or EFA) is a volunteer and member-run nonprofit designated for freelancers who specialize in proofreading, translating, desktop publishing, indexing, writing, and editing. It offers a member directory, job listing services, helpful reference points, and member benefits such reduced tuition in EFA courses and discounted health insurance plans.
Full membership in the EFA costs $145 per year (though if you buy two years, you can get a discount). New members must also pay a $35 processing fee. Keep in mind that many of the EFA's resources are available for free; the association's website is an excellent resource even for those who do not intend to become members.
Members are said to benefit from maintaining an active profile in the association's member listings, as many individuals and businesses will refer to it when searching for qualified individuals. Whether the membership listing actually yields many job opportunities has not been verified by any of the freelance writers and editors with whom we have spoken thus far.
If you live in the UK, check out the EFA's across-the-pond counterpart, the Society for Editors and Proofreaders.
The National Writers Union
The National Writers Union is the only labor union that represents freelance writers. Its 13 local chapters serve over 1,200 members through one-on-one as well as national advocacy via legislative and legal action.
To members, the National Writers Union provides services (yes, actual human services) including contract advice and grievance assistance, along with membership in the AFL-CIO's Union Plus discount program, and access to group dental and vision coverage. Dues, which vary depending on your income, range from $120 to $340 per year.
Members and visitors alike can peruse the union's tools and resources, advice regarding contracts, freelance writers guide, and warnings about publications that have been unresponsive to grievances.
The Freelancers Union
Addressing all sorts of freelance professionals, the Freelancers Union offers its members access to a very supportive community as well as help selecting insurance and benefits plans and setting up a 401(k). The Freelancers Union is free to join.
The Freelancers Union also offers an informative blog and newsletter, a convenient contract creator tool, and a database of client reviews (to which you can contribute) that is well worth referencing before accepting a job with a new company.
The Society of Professional Journalists
The Society of Professional Journalists, which has been around since 1909, exists to improve and protect journalism. Members are given access to on-demand online seminars, a job bank, and discounted services.
Membership dues are contingent on your present status (student, retiree, or professional) and the duration of the membership you would like to purchase (ranging one year of membership to lifetime membership). Fees range from $37.50 (one year for students and retirees) to $1000 (lifetime membership, not including local chapter dues).
Without paying any dues, you can utilize the Society of Professional Journalists' extensive resources (which cover everything from ethics to freelancing) and The Journalist's Toolbox (a fantastic reference point- just check it out).
The National Association of Science Writers
Founded in 1955, the National Association of Science Writers (NSAW) boasts over 2,200 members and 250 students and may be an appropriate organization for freelance writers working within science-related niches. Members enjoy subscriptions to ScienceWriters, NSAW's quarterly magazine, as well as workshops, job leads, access to a funding sources database, mentoring programs, educational resources, discussion groups, annual awards, up to 10 MB of free hosting, insurance (for members in select regions), travel fellowships, and access to scientific journals.
Annual membership fees, which vary depending on membership status (student vs. regular) and location (US vs. Canada or international), range from $40 to $100. Without being a member, you can still access and contribute to discussions, attend events, and review free excerpts from ScienceWriters Magazine.
The Society for Technical Communication
The Society for Technical Communication (STC) is perfect for freelance writers who specialize in technical communication. Members enjoy technical communication education and training programs, career development and professional networking opportunities along with other exclusive member benefits. Dues range from $75 to $425 (this does not include fees associated with local chapters and print publications to which you may subscribe).
How Freelance Writers Can Help Each Other
You do not need to pay for membership in a special organization to get help from fellow freelancers (though industry groups can certainly help to facilitate introductions). Make a point of reaching out to others working within your field and special niches. The more strong, personal ties you build with colleagues, the better.
Good relationships with fellow freelancers can be great for:
- Trading valuable services: For example, you could provide editing services in exchange for a white paper
- Combining forces: By working with writers who boast complementary skills, you can offer a full-service experience to clients with varied needs
- Refer clients: Should you not be qualified to do a certain job but know someone who is, you can still offer value to businesses and individuals in the form of referrals (which might encourage them to return to you when they do have a job in your wheelhouse)
- Gain referrals: Good colleagues will refer clients to you when they find a good match or cannot accept a job themselves due to a heavy workload or mismatched skills
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