Membership Has Its Privileges - Step Up: Transitioning from Associate to Professional Membership

In October 2017, ASJA launched a new Associate level of membership available to writers who don’t yet have the experience necessary to be a Professional member of ASJA. Independent writers who qualify for Associate membership are invited into special mentoring programs and can participate in many of ASJA’s benefits. Click here to apply for membership.

When Ronni Gordon attended her first New York conference in 2016, ASJA’s Associate membership program hadn’t yet been launched. So as a non-member, she could only go on Saturday’s public day events. Laid off from her newspaper job and a much-published freelancer, with bylines in The New York Times, espnW, Family Dog magazine and others, she was looking to expand into more markets and make new contacts. “I wanted to see what ASJA was all about,” she recalls. “I pitched, and got, a story on the joy of literacy volunteering and after that, wrote several others for NextAvenue/PBS” which also lead to a byline in Fortune magazine.

As a result of that experience, she applied for and was accepted as a Professional member of ASJA, which, among other perks, allowed her to attend both days of the New York conference. “During Client Connections, I met an editor at  and have done several stories for him,” she continues. Since then, she has been super-busy: “So I haven’t followed up on everything but hope to have more work to report.”

While Gordon already qualified for Professional membership, ASJA provided a vital stepping stone in her career. Associate membership is another method of widening your toehold into the freelance door. In its few short months of implementation, a handful of Associate members have made the transition to Professional. And like most new undertakings, “it’s a work in progress with tweaks and adjustments being made,” says Membership Growth and Retention Chair Jennifer Gregory. “We are also tailoring it to individual career plans.”

“Our pilot mentorship program is being restructured—after feedback from participating Associates and mentors—to a week-by-week guide to better help Associates land in outlets that match their ambitions and goals,” adds Associate Member chair Lynn Freehill-Maye. 

“We’ve tried to streamline the process by allowing previous applications to be re-opened so people don’t have to repeat the same effort,” Freehill-Maye continues. Once an Associate has accumulated the required qualifications, they can email membership manager James Cafiero and ask for their application to be reopened. Once that’s done, the application can be accessed via the application page, where they can easily add new links.

Qualifications for Professional membership include, among other considerations:

  • Six articles written on a freelance basis published in national publications.Regional publications do not count. If you submit shorter articles (fewer than 1,000 words or so), submit more articles. It’s best if they are from variety of markets, rather than all from the same place.
  • One nonfiction book with a second under contract. Book chapters don’t count here: they are considered roughly equivalent to long articles. Ghostwriting and collaborations do qualify, if evidence (such as a contract) is submitted to support your role as writer of the work.

Also, “Associates should provide information about distribution and/or page views of any niche publications as they may be national or widely regarded in a specific area that the committee is not familiar with,” suggests Gregory.

The Membership Application Review committee meets once a month. “We expect the review committee to continue to look heavily at whether prospective Professionals have national-level clips,” notes Freehill-Maye. 

Once they are accepted as Professional members, they can participate in Client Connections, a one-on-one appointment with potential clients at ASJA’s annual conference; Virtual Client Connections, an internet meeting with editors over Skype from their home office and/or Virtual Pitch Slam, an interactive conference call during which members get their story pitches heard live with feedback provided by a top editor.  Professional members are also given access to Freelance Writer Search, which offers exciting new job opportunities.

“Meeting many Associates at the New York conference, we were thrilled to get them connected to each other and to Professional members, and we’re looking forward to seeing what this new cohort accomplishes next!” concludes Freehill-Maye.