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.