When you’re a freelancer, it can sometimes feel like you’re on your own. But with more than 40 percent of the American workforce set to become independent workers by 2020, freelancing networks are becoming more robust than ever before.
By joining a professional association, you can find creative ways to save money, while connecting with your peers and prospective clients. As you step out of the confinement of corporate career tracks, professional associations will play a key role in helping you stay plugged in, amped up and armed with the best benefits and relationships to craft a career you love.
Here’s a closer look at some professional associations that are paving the way for trailblazing solopreneurs — and the benefits they offer members across today’s fastest growing freelance industries.
Computers and IT
If you operate within the technology space, it’s safe to say you can probably work from anywhere — doing anything from web design to hardware repair. With more opportunities than ever before, many technology experts are turning to professional organizations — like CompTIA’s Association of IT Professionals (AITP) — for resources and guidance. Members get access to training, job boards, local networking and industry-specific discounts on certifications that can move your IT career forward.
Virtual assistants, meet your perfect match: the International Virtual Assistants Association (IVAA). The IVAA is a non-profit resource for the growing field of virtual assistants. This association offers trainings on different parts of running your own business, and provides a library of forms and resources to get your business moving.
Accounting and Finance
Nowadays, more and more accountants and other finance professionals are going freelance. If you work in such a specialized field, it certainly doesn’t hurt to have an organization to back you up. The American Institute of CPAs (AICPA) provides education, industry updates and insurance discounts for freelancers taking the CPA path. The finance arena is complex, so it’s worth looking for a niche organization — like the National Association of Tax Professionals (NATP) — if you need more specialized support and resources.
With companies all over the world competing to deliver a world-class customer experience to anyone and everyone who interacts with them, customer service agents are becoming a hot commodity. But you don’t have to go it alone: SOCAP International offers specialized resources to customer service experts across industries, and they have something for everyone. Sure, their services are particularly geared toward management-tiered professionals, but they offer a complementary level of access with “Friend of SOCAP.” This level is perfect for anyone who’s just starting out in the customer service field: It provides free access to a job board, industry information and monthly newsletters.
In today’s digital world, companies are creating more content than ever before. If you’re a freelance software development expert, you’re probably busy bringing mobile apps and new computer programs to life. But you don’t have to work for a company to get your content fix. Even if you’re freelancing in this space, you can stay connected to new opportunities, network with your peers and follow the latest trends by joining the Association of Software Professionals (ASP).
Medical and Health
The medical field is expanding rapidly, and the opportunities for freelancing jobs within this space are endless — ranging anywhere from nurses to medical writers. The American Medical Association (AMA), the American Nurses Association (ANA) and the American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) provide freelance medical and health professionals with a connection to resources, discounts and opportunities in their fields.
Freelance project managers can jump on the professional association bandwagon with the Project Management Institute (PMI). Members have access to networking (via local chapters and national events), as well as certification programs, continuing education and a well-respected job board focused on the industry. And if you’re a U.S. member, you’re in luck: You’ll get access to a credit union and money-saving discounts with participating partners.
Are you providing research services to organizations, writers or corporations? If so, the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA) may be for you. This association has an outstanding reputation in the field, and it’s known for helping researchers (and don’t forget all the proofreaders, editors and indexers) kick their businesses up to the next level. While they offer a wide range of services and benefits to members, their industry rates chart — which helps members price their services at market rates — is constantly referred to as the gold standard.
The American Society of Journalists and Authors (ASJA) provides a range of career-related benefits and business discounts. Take note, though: Applications are peer-reviewed, so you’ll need some clips under your belt before they let you in. But even if you’re still growing your business, it’s worth taking a closer look at this professional association. Their programs are diverse, and they contain special interest groups on topics including writing fiction, entering content marketing, attending annual conferences and understanding virtual client communications. Even better, the Pitch Slam program lets you showcase your portfolio to some of the country’s biggest agencies, publications and book agents.
To Other Industries and Beyond
Are you charting a course and building a business that doesn’t neatly fit into one of these (or any) industry categories? You may want to take a look at the National Association for the Self-Employed (NASE), which offers entrepreneurs and freelancers from a wide variety of fields access to expert information and a range of services — from insurance discounts to 401k plans targeting self-employed individuals.
You may be an independent professional, but you don’t have to go it alone. With today’s freelance-focused professional associations, you can find creative ways to save money, stay in tune with the biggest developments in your field and network your way to hot new client opportunities.