When I was first starting my freelancing career a few years ago the online advice at the time was to join professional associations for freelancers. This included editorial associations and perhaps even unions.
The idea here is that professional associations for freelancers give you access to things you may not be able to get otherwise – including health insurance plans and access to job boards.
At first, I was joining these associations like they were going out of style. After a lot of money wasted, I’ve become very picky on the kinds of professional associations I join. I’ve learned the hard way that they are not all created equal.
Here are some ways to tell whether or not you should pay for professional associations for freelancers. The good news is that there are really only two things you need to keep in mind here, and they both have to do with money.
Are there free options available?
It’s no secret that many professional associations can cost a pretty penny. Fortunately, there are a couple of options that are completely free for freelancers.
For example, The Freelancers Union has a free membership where you get access to content, networking groups and a directory. You also get access to health plans, dental plans and retirement options in certain states.
As for finding gigs, there are plenty of free options available for finding work as a freelancer. From job boards like ProBlogger to social media.
Do you get a return on your investment?
Sometimes the only way to see if a professional association is worth it is to spend the money and see if you get a return.
I don’t recommend going crazy and joining every association you can get into because it will cost you a lot of money, so stick to the ones you keep hearing good things about. Furthermore, you can join at a cheaper level (if available) and get a feel for it before committing to something like a lifetime membership.
For example, I’m a part of a professional organization for women business owners that I love. I tested it out with a free membership first. Once I saw that I was getting a bit of a return I signed up for an annual membership. That year I made my investment back many times over, so I committed to a lifetime membership.
When joining a professional organization for the first time, track how much money you spent as well as how much money you saw in a return. Numbers don’t lie so they will help you make the best decision as to whether or not you should stay.
I also attend the Financial Blogger Conference every single year. While it’s not technically a professional organization, I do have to spend some money to reap the benefits that are similar to those of professional associations for freelancers. This includes a job board, opportunities to speak and networking with some amazing people in my field. Every single year I track how much of a return I made, and every single year I make a profit just from attending this one event. The result is that I keep spending the money to go.
Professional associations for freelancers can be beneficial depending on what you are looking for. Just make sure to make decisions with your pocketbook in mind, otherwise, you could waste a lot of money.