Are Professional Organizations Worth the Cost?

My YEC headshot

In early 2011, I announced my big, fat master plan since deciding to drop permalancing from the mix. Part of that plan consisted of joining up with the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC), thanks to some urging from Ryan Paugh (a fantastic community leader who, several years before, had brought me on board at Brazen Careerist).

Then, soon after, this went up.

Behold, my very first time participating in a YEC post (well, that and 24 pretty fantastic tips for those who suck at networking). It was also my very first time on the aol jobs site and, for that, I had the YEC to thank.

Greater visibility was only one of the reasons I was excited about joining up with YEC. I was also looking forward to connecting with the other entrepreneurs within the group. A cursory glance through the list of members showed that I was in some damn fine company. (Um. I am still intimidated by everyone else’s awesomeness.)

So what does this have to do with you?

Some of you have already joined up with professional organizations like Freelance Success and the American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA). But there are others of you who have hesitated to join up with one of these groups.

Maybe you’re wondering if the high membership fees are worth it. Maybe you just can’t figure out how to choose one organization over another. Which have active forums? Is their newsletter useful? Do they have an annual conference? What about continuing education, discounts, and health benefits?

I don’t have all the answers, but I can give you the rundown on some of the most popular organizations out there:

American Copy Editors Society / ACES:

Annual Membership Dues: $55

Benefits: quarterly newsletter, inclusion in annual directory of members, access to discussion board, reduced fees for conferences, access to job listings, etc.

Testimonial from a Member: ACES membership opened up the whole community of copy editors to me. Before I joined, I really just knew the copy editors I worked with (and a few I went to school with). Sharing ideas and gaining another perspective on problems has been beneficial. And it’s just great to know people who think like me. Plus we’re a fun group at conferences. But from the start, I benefited from the online group interaction and resources as well.For the sake of transparency, I am a member of the board. I decided to run because I believe in the organization. – Gerri Berendzen

American Society of Journalists and Authors / ASJA:

Annual Membership Dues: $195 (plus a one-time, $75 initiation fee)

Benefits: professional legitimacy, inclusion in a member directory, annual conference, mentoring program, monthly newsletter, the Writers Emergency Assistance Fund, access to health and other insurance products, discounts on Lexis-Nexis, Publishers Weekly, PR Newswire, etc.

Testimonial from a Member: “Joining ASJA definitely boosted my bottom line. Connections I made as a result of being a member have led to a surging income stream I continue to feed off of year after year. However, while assignments and networking with people who might hire me are valuable, one of the most invaluable aspects of joining ASJA is the collegial atmosphere. As writers, we tend to be isolated. That’s why being able to connect with like-minded people, who get the elation of breaking in and the dejection of being rejected (and all points in between) is crucial. Having a place to land when you’re stressed, a friendly place to toot your own horn, and a group behind you working to fight for writers’ rights is as comforting as it is good for your bottom line. I’ve made life-long friends and beneficial professional contacts thanks to being a member of ASJA. In fact, one connection has paid for a lifetime of dues!” – Gina Roberts-Grey

The Association for Women in Communications / AWC:

Annual Membership Dues: $114 (plus a $50 application fee)

Benefits: inclusion in online membership directory, bimonthly newsletter, access to job board, annual conference, discounts on conference calling service, office supplies, etc.

Editorial Freelancers Association / EFA:

Annual Membership Dues: $145 (plus a $35 processing fee)

Benefits: inclusion in online membership directory, reduced tuition to EFA courses, access to a members-only blog, subscription to job listings, inclusion on email discussion list, participation in EFA’s Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn discussions, bimonthly newsletter, meetings and activities for regional chapters and networking groups, group health insurance, etc.

Testimonial from a Member: “I am a member of EFA and joined just because of the job board. There are frequent postings. I haven’t applied for many or landed one yet, but I joined just to access that and give it a thumbs up so far.” – Brette Sember

Freelance Success / FLX:

Annual Membership Dues: $99

Benefits: weekly newsletter, online forums, etc.

Testimonial from a Member: “I keep my FLX subscription because it’s affordable, because it gets me access to ‘inside’ information, and because it provides such a nice community of pro writers at a certain level.” – Roxanne Hawn

National Conference of Editorial Writers / NCEW:

Annual Membership Dues: $75 – $180

Benefits: inclusion in online membership directory, access to email list, quarterly journal, annual convention, continuing education, job bank, etc.

National Writers Union / NWU:

Annual Membership Dues: $120 – $340

Benefits: contract advice, grievance assistance, advocacy, continuing education, access to job listings, access to email discussion lists and events, health insurance, press passes, etc.

Society of Professional Journalists / SPJ:

Annual Membership Dues: $72

Benefits: national and regional conferences, continuing education, access to job listings, regional chapters, advocacy, various newsletters and publications, etc.

Testimonial from a Member: “Programming. Continuing education for pros and new lessons for college journos. I love doing it. I see membership as what I make of it. Some hand over their hard-earned $72 as a rite of passage. I choose to invest it. ” – Dori Zinn, on what she sees as the primary benefit of her SPJ membership

For links to even more organizations, check out this list over at mediabistro.

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