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Posted on Jun 12, 2020

Editorial Freelancers Association: Is It Worth It to Join?

Working as a freelancer can be daunting, especially when you’re just starting out: you have to manage everything, from the work itself to the administration side of things. So it follows that you might find yourself searching for support and mentorship by joining societies and organizations.

If you’ve looked around at the communities of the publishing industry, you’ve probably come across the Editorial Freelancers Association (EFA). They boast an array of resources and plenty of networking events that members can benefit from. Should you pay for this membership? The short answer is yes — if you’re focused on building connections. But if you’re hoping to find an abundance of job opportunities, it’s probably not worth it. Let’s dive in and see why this is the case.

What is the Editorial Freelancers Association?

editorial freelancers association logo

The EFA is a society of freelance writers, editors, designers, translators — basically anyone who works in the publishing industry — headquartered in New York City. It shares resources and organizes events to help freelancers in the book industry find jobs and succeed at them.

If you visit the EFA website now, you’ll find a good amount of useful information freely available to the public. Even if you’re not a member, you can consult their sample contracts and a table of rates for different editorial services.

Of course, the EFA isn’t the only source that can help you with setting rates. And there’s no such thing as a free lunch: there are still a lot of perks hidden behind the “member access only” label. So how can you join this association and get access to its supposed treasure chest?

Becoming a member

It’s simple: pay the yearly membership fee of $180, and you can be part of the EFA. The Board welcomes those who are new to book production, although it advises that members should have some experience in the industry (even if it’s just in one aspect of the publication process, like proofreading).

What exactly does this price get you — and is it worth paying? To answer, we need to examine both the pros and cons of becoming an EFA member.

The advantages of joining the EFA

An EFA membership comes with certain perks that many freelancers, particularly those who are looking to build connections, will find appealing.

Resources for freelancing

For many freelancers, this will probably be the most important benefit of all. Paying $180 a year gets you access to:

  • Workshops on editorial crafts, productivity, and worker-client relationships
  • Blog posts and newsletters updating the latest developments in the industry
  • Job postings from publishers and authors
  • Networking events that connect you with experienced professionals
editor freelancer mentor
Meet fellow freelancers and share your experiences.

The networking benefits may speak especially loudly to freelancers — after all, the relationships you forge through this organization can turn into valuable mentorship if you regularly attend events. Indeed, many seasoned professionals join the EFA in the hopes of helping newer freelancers. They can shed light on how to deal with difficult clients, chase up invoices, and acquire various projects — all of which can be inspiration for your own system.

Service discounts

As with most freelancers associations, the EFA provides some insurance for freelancers who don’t get company-paid insurance and fringe benefits as full-time employees would. Many other associations provide this incentive as well. Specifically, the EFA offers discounts (around 5-20%, depending on the plan signed) for medical and dental services across America, with the exception of Vermont and Washington.

Establish your credentials

Being a member also puts you on the Member Directory on the EFA website, which has two major benefits. First, clients browse such directories when they look for an editor, proofreader, or designer, so having your name in this particular directory is good exposure. Second, the size and prestige of this association will enhance the professionalism of your profile. Finding your name here is much more legitimate to an author or publisher than on a personal website.

The limitations of the EFA

While joining the EFA can give you insurance, mentorship, and credibility, there are limitations to what the membership offers. Sometimes you need to find out what you don’t get to decide whether it’s worthwhile to pay the price.

High membership fee

Sadly, while a membership opens the door to an array of resources, it doesn’t give you access to all the organization’s products and services. Among the things that the $180 membership fee won’t get you are the various booklets, the active courses, and the webinars written and taught by experienced instructors.

In other words, if you’re hoping to gain knowledge about the freelancer trade beyond the information given through sparse networking events and newsletters, you’ll have to pay more. While members do get discounted prices for all of the courses, you might find that the extra amount you’d pay for the non-member price doesn’t really add up to a full membership fee anyway — and that you save more by not being a member. Of course, that’s assuming that you’re only interested in the courses and not the networking.

You may be interested in this selection of the best proofreading courses, which is available at a range of prices. 

Many perks are limited to the US

Another disadvantage is that if you’re not based in the US, you probably won’t be able to reap the most substantial benefit of the EFA: the opportunity to attend its live events. From workshops to networking meetups, all events are organized in the US. Active classes also take place only in America. And even though we live in a world where Zoom seems to solve all the problems posed by distance, there’s something unsatisfying about getting a membership just for online events.

editorial freelancers association chapters map
A map of the Editorial Freelancers Association’s chapters. (Source: The EFA Facebook page)

Few job opportunities

While the EFA advertises high-quality job postings, it doesn’t offer a high quantity of opportunities. And that’s not to mention the fact that you’ll have to compete with hundreds of other members for what they do post. As you know, freelancing is not about finding just one job — the aim is to constantly take on new projects. Which means you’ll be needing a bigger job board than what the EFA offers. But here’s the good news: there are better places than the EFA to find job opportunities and gain clients.

Solution: join several organizations and platforms

If you really want to invest in your network and find decent jobs to move your career as an editor forward, you can’t just depend on an EFA membership to solve all of your problems. Consider some other organizations and platforms before making any one decision — and don’t be afraid to join multiple, if your budget allows.

Below are some suggestions of other places that you can join to find a more well-rounded solution to your editorial freelancing problems.

A publishing marketplace

There’s no better place to find publishing jobs than a site that specializes in connecting publishing professionals with clients! Marketplaces like Reedsy give editorial experts exposure to thousands of self-publishing authors who are looking to polish their books. Best of all, it costs nothing to become a professional for hire on Reedsy.

Create your Reedsy freelancer account

And become part of a community of 'rock-star' editors.

Learn more about how Reedsy can help.

Associations for niches

On the other hand, if you work in a niche — like business documents, for instance, or medical recordings — try diving into more specific societies such as:

  • International Association of Business Communicators
  • American Medical Writers Association
  • ACES Society for Editing

You can also search for groups that are based in your locality to take advantage of live events.

Ultimately, the most important thing in deciding whether to join the EFA — or any other editorial society — is to consider your needs, and whether you think the society is built to meet them. If you prioritize building a strong network in the US, it may be worth it to join the EFA. If, however,  you’re searching for jobs and training courses, you’re probably better off not paying for a membership and trying out other sites and organizations.