Knowing the right people is helpful in any business venture, but possibly especially so in freelancing, where you often feel isolated and alone, especially at the beginning. You can turn to your Facebook community, of course, but most freelancers need some professional associations, places to network, places to get help, places to feel like there really is such a thing as a virtual water cooler.
In no particular order, here are a few you might want to consider joining. Some are official organizations, with membership fees and perks; others are email lists and other more informal groups. Take a look and see which ones might work for you!
- Copyediting-L: This was the first group that I joined when I went freelance, and I’m still an active member. Take that the way it’s meant: this is an amazingly helpful and supportive community. This is where you can get questions answered, answer some yourself, learn about usage and grammar and vocabulary, and turn when you have a tricky business situation. Unfailingly generous, these people will soon become a second family to you.
The following editing-oriented organizations all offer similar tools and support systems, so be sure to visit their websites and determine which ones will best suit your needs. There’s a strong impulse to join every organization out there—it bolsters your sense of yourself as a professional and gives you something to put on your website—but not only does that get expensive, it’s a time drain to keep up with so many options. Narrow it down to one or two for starters.
- Editorial Freelancers Association: Based in the United States, this organization is extremely popular. There’s a jobs board, the group sponsors local events, and offers education, resources, and more.
- Society for Editors and Proofreaders: Based in the UK, this organization also offers events, networking opportunities, trainings and education, publications, and opportunities for work projects.
- Editors and Proofreaders: Part of the Research Cooperative and therefore with a slant toward science, this group offers discussions of editing practices, standards, ethics, training, costs, and job descriptions.
- Editors' Association of Canada: This organization “sponsors professional development seminars, promotes and maintains high standards of editing and publishing in Canada, establishes guidelines to help editors secure fair pay and good working conditions, helps both in-house and freelance editors to network, and cooperates with other publishing associations in areas of common concern.”
- American Copy Editors Society: This organization provides training (including affiliations with the Poynter Institute and NewsU), conference scholarships and reduced fees, and a job bank; sponsors events; and offers contests and prizes.
Specifically for the self-employed:
- Freelancers' Union: While an excellent attempt to offer union-type benefits (medical insurance, retirement plans, advocacy, contract help, etc.), this is most relevant and helpful to those living in the New York City area.
Believe it or not, this is not a particularly exhaustive list; I’ve in fact really just skimmed the surface. What you need to take from it, though, is the understanding that none of us can really work alone. We need support, encouragement, and resources; and these organizations and groups are a good place to start looking for them.