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How to Choose a Professional Editing Organization

New editors often wonder about joining a professional editors organization: Is it worth the cost? What will I get out of it that I can’t get from Facebook groups and other digital water coolers?

When I started editing, I was fortunate to work on an editing team. I received hands-on training, asked questions of my colleagues, and generally avoided the feeling of isolation common among editors.

Then I become a freelancer.

Working solo from home meant I chose my own projects and had a quiet space to work in. But I also had no one to ping with a quick question, no in-house training, no colleagues to get a quick lunch with. The isolated feeling was real.

So I joined the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). I immediately regained colleagues to chat with and opportunities for training, as well as access to a job list to help keep the work flowing in. A professional organization is invaluable for keeping your skills and knowledge updated and for growing your network with likeminded people.

A little searching will turn up dozens of editing organizations, large and small, to join. You can join a national organization, like ACES or the Chartered Institute of Editing and Proofreading (CIEP), or a regional one, like Northwest Editors Guild and San Diego Professional Editors Network. You might join one that focuses on a particular subject, such as the Board of Editors in Life Sciences or the Christian PEN.

As my business developed, my training and job opportunity needs changed, even as my need for colleagues stayed constant. The EFA was still a worthwhile organization, but it didn’t fit my needs any more. I looked for other organizations to help me along. What did I need?

Start your search by creating a list of what you want to get out of the organization.

Get more support for your editing career on our Resources page.

Do you need training? If so, what topics do you need and what style of training suits you best (webinar, conference session, books, online courses)? Members usually get discounts on training done by the organization and some training is even free. Review the organization’s training and pricing.

What kind of support do you need? Some organizations offer mentoring. Others have robust online forums. Many have newsletters. What support does the organization offer and what communication methods, both member-to-member and organization-to-member, do they have?

Who do you want to network with? What type of editors do you want to get to know? Check out the member directory, if possible. Or research some editors you’d want to network with: which organizations do they belong to?

What kind of discounts would most benefit you? Be sure to run the numbers: compare membership fees and discounts to see what the best deal is for you. For example, you don’t have to be a member to attend an organization’s conference, but a registration discount might be the difference between attending and not. Keep in mind that some organizations offer discounts to other organizations’ conferences.

Would a local organization or local chapter benefit you in some way? This might be the case if you want to see people in person (pandemics not withstanding) or if you live in the same area where many of your clients are.

What else is important to you? Certification? You don’t have to be a member of Editors Canada to take its certification test, but you’ll save money if you are. CIEP has tiered membership based on experience. Being a professional member might give you some bragging rights.

There are a lot of reasons to join a professional organization, and everyone is going to have a personalized set of reasons. What works for me might not work for you. I’m currently a member of ACES and CIEP. Both give me visibility with directory listings and discounts on resources I need, as well as a nice discount on their conferences. I’m an advanced professional member of CIEP, which increases my visibility in the directory and offers me bragging rights. The member fees are money well spent.

Think about what you need and what’s offered. Run the numbers: will your membership fee return that value? Then join one and check it out. If membership doesn’t work for you, you don’t have to renew. It may work for a while and then your situation may change. Do your homework. Do what works for you. And be OK with the fact that what works may change over time.

10 thoughts on “How to Choose a Professional Editing Organization

  1. I’ve been looking into editing organizations, and CIEP is high in my list. Would the training and client base be British (with British conventions in punctuation and spelling)?

    Does CIEP have many members based in the US?

    1. Hi, Eowyn! Yes, currently CIEP’s training uses British conventions. I’ve heard it’s not that different, but it would follow UK spelling and punctuation rules. The clients I’ve gotten from being listed in the CIEP directory come from both the UK and elsewhere (though not yet the US). Those clients recognize that I’m a US editor and are using American English in their documents.

      There are quite a few American and Canadian CIEP members. There’s an online “branch” that covers our area of the world (including Central and South America) that meets weekly and at least pre-pandemic there was a mini-conference held in Toronto that attracted a 30-50 people–and that I hope is revived at some point. It was a great event of learning and networking with lovely folks.


  2. What Erin said! I’m a CIEP member in Canada. The CIEP has a significant and growing number of international members. The Toronto mini-conference is very likely to be revived, when it is safe to do so, probably at a time of year when windows and doors can be wide open. Like Erin, I’m a CIEP Advanced Professional Member and I get a lot of work through my directory entry, as well as through colleagues and word of mouth. I really appreciate the international nature of the CIEP, especially as I have clients all over the world, and many clients outside of the UK recognize and appreciate the tiered membership. All CIEP courses will be revised in due course (it’s not going to happen overnight!) to provide for a variety of Englishes, though that said, as I understand it, most (all?) tutors are cognizant of the differences. Joining the CIEP was the best thing I ever did for my career. (On a personal note, it’s a very friendly, supportive, inclusive organization, with many exciting plans for the future.)

    1. Thanks for your enthusiastic response, Janet! I’m so glad to hear the mini-conference will come back at some point. It’s one of my favorite conferences!

  3. I’m finding it difficult to compare EFA and ACES in the most important area (for me): job listings. Anyone can view the ACES job board, but EFA’s is for members only. Do you have any insight into how their listings compare?

    1. I haven’t been a member for EFA for a while (it’s an excellent organization but the benefits don’t fit me), but the last time I was, jobs were generally books and academic projects, and especially fiction if I recall correctly. You might reach out to a current member or to a board member to ask about the general mix of jobs on the board.

  4. Thank you for the helpful article. Right now I’m mainly looking for entry level work, with degrees in English and Creative writing and over 20 years experience teaching university and experience editing a few books. Which organization would be best for finding entry level jobs to get experience and get my name out there? I don’t have a portfolio, because I’m not sure the writers of the books I edited would want me to use their work. I’m also looking for how to find freelance work more readily. Thanks

    1. I’m glad the article was helpful, Rachel! As you’ll find with so much in editing, the answer of which organization would be best for finding entry-level jobs is: it depends. The best would have job listings that fit what you’re looking for: not just experience level but also level of editing (e.g., dev editing, proofreading), type of content (romance novels, blog posts, etc.), media (journals, books, etc.), client, and so on.

      My forthcoming book, The Chicago Guide for Freelance Editors: How to Take Care of Your Business, Your Clients, and Yourself from Start-Up to Sustainability, will help you discover what you need to do to structure and launch a freelance editing business. You can read free extracts here on the blog and preoder the book from the press or your favorite book retailer.


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