I have been an ASJA member since the early 1990s. Through good times and bad, renewing membership has been as essential as paying taxes and feeding the cats, although the consequences of not doing either of the latter two might possibly be more dire. But not by much: In my more-than-25 years as a member, ASJA has been a lifeline, not only in helping me find work, keeping me up to speed on the latest trends but perhaps more essential, providing emotional support and invaluable advice.
In a perfect world, ASJA membership might come with a guaranteed six-figure income and endless supply of clients. “But it doesn’t work by osmosis,” observes membership chair Jennifer Goforth Gregory. “You get out of it what you put into it.” And in no particular order, here are some things about why it’s a good thing to join ASJA (Certain benefits only available to associate/professional-level members are so indicated).
- ASJA Direct (Podcast) (formerly Shop Talk): ASJA Direct: Inside Intel on Getting Published and Paid Well, is a recently launched podcast curated and hosted by longtime member Estelle Erasmus and represents a deep dive into the craft of writing and pitching and all it takes to be a successful freelance writer. Recent guests include independent writer Donna Talarico, founder of Hippocampus magazine, books division and annual conference and Michael Zam co-creator, writer, and producer of FX’s “Feud: Bette and Joan.” Nonmembers can download the podcast for a fee. Members can also get good intel from its predecessor, the now-defunct Shop Talk conference calls with industry insiders. Evergreen topics include how to negotiate better contracts and pay, side hustles, and more. “So if you feel stuck in your career or want to learn about something new, these can be invaluable resources,” adds Gregory. Access recordings of the Podcast and Shop Talk on the ASJA website.
- ASJA Annual Conference. For nearly 50 years, the Annual Conference, held in New York City, has attracted top editors, agents and other markets needing writers, serving as an incubator for new ideas and helping keep attendees at the top of their game. 2019 is no exception: “Collaboration Nation,” held on Sunday, May 5 and Monday, May 6, includes several new innovations such as small, intensive group-coaching mastermind programs, along with maintaining popular standbys, like pitch slams. Members can also sign up for Client Connections, as can non-members and Associate Members but only if they apply for Professional membership by March 31, are accepted, join ASJA and pay for the conference by April 22.
- Client Connections/Virtual Client Connections (VCC) (Professional members only). Members meet one-on-one with editors, content managers, literary agents, publishers and others looking for writers. There are two types of Client Connections: the ever-popular one-on-one, nine-minute “speed dating” appointments with potential clients at ASJA’s annual and regional conferences and Virtual Client Connections (VCC), remote meetings with potential clients over Skype (sometimes phone) from your home office. Client Connections has helped cement many a career. Time slots are limited, so are determined via lottery to ensure everyone gets an equal shot.
- Virtual Pitch Slam (Professional members can make direct pitches; associate members have access to recordings) These one-hour, interactive phone conference calls during which a moderator hosts a client and ASJA members give live pitches from their homes/offices can also be heard via recording shortly after they have taken place. The client provides constructive feedback on each story idea. Recent guests included editors from Preservation, Sierra and YourTeen “Along with their email addresses, these editors are practically hand-feeding you ideas of what they are looking for,” says Gregory. These are first come, first serve and fill up quickly. Recordings of past calls are also available on the members-only portion of the website.
- Special Interest Groups (SIGs): These four-week online discussion groups with a maximum of 12 ASJA members focus on everything to pitching to writing for specialized marketing to content writing. Lead by an expert in the topic, SIGs members get insider tips, share information and make connections.
- Mentoring (Associates only) Designed to develop skills, networking tools and the confidence needed to grow their business and thrive in a competitive freelance writing landscape, individual mentoring with an experienced professional member can also assist associates in gaining work experience needed to transition to professional membership. Associates participate in an eight-week program with exercises and a guidebook, with the option of continuing for an additional month. Content marketing and book writing modules are also being added to the program.
- Freelance Writer Search (FWS) Connects members with clients in need of writers. Any ASJA member can peruse and respond to the active listings, which range in pay and scope. I have gotten many excellent clients here, and it has paid for my membership many times over. I make a point of checking FWS at least once a week.
- Strictly confidential, this online community covers jobs, tech tips and everything in between. Along with the usual subjects of books, magazine articles and content writing, topics include First Amendment and other rights, upcoming events (a great resource for not only ASJA but other writer-related happenings as well) and Water Cooler, a discussion catchall for everything else. “’Jobs, Jobs, Jobs’ is another discussion group that can help you expand your client base,” points out Gregory.
- Discounts. These include reduced fees for travel from Delta Air Lines, AVIS Car Rental and others. ASJA members also have free access to the Authors Registry, which can facilitate royalty payments for database and electronic reprints as well as discounts on some magazines, Publishers Weekly and more.
- Paycheck. Members gain exclusive knowledge of payment and market information, about potential clients through these confidential listings contributed by other members. Such insider knowledge helps them negotiate from a position of strength. “I check these regularly to see who is buying what and get leads there as well,” adds Gregory.
But wait, there’s more! ASJA Magazine, ASJA’s glossy, highly designed publication, is mailed to members six times a year. (Electronic versions are also available for download, search and archive purposes.) This electronic newsletter, ASJA Weekly, which comes out every Tuesday, keeps members and nonmembers updated on upcoming events and news about the freelance experience. Members are always welcome to contribute ideas to both of these publications.
There’s a press card to provide access to people and places that you’re writing about; query and proposal databases; peer-to-peer mentoring; writers’ emergency assistance; a writing awards program… the list goes on.
But if you really want to get the most bang for your ASJA membership buck, “the best thing you can do is volunteer,” advises Gregory. “You get to know the other members, the organization and can make those all-important personal connections.” So if a job falls through or you’ve
hitting a professional brick wall, “you can get the word out and a colleague can pass along a lead or reference.” And vice versa when the time comes, as it undoubtedly will if you stick with ASJA.