Professional Associations: The Best Way to Get High-Paying Freelance Work

Professional associations make it easy for freelancers to get high-paying clientsDo you belong to professional associations? If you do, are you active in your professional associations? The answer to both of these questions should be Yes!—because professional associations make it easy for freelancers to get high-paying freelance work.

Professional associations are where you’ll find people working for the companies you want to work with (a.k.a., clients), and freelance colleagues who can give you referrals to other clients.

Get Better Freelance Work through Professional Associations

Professional associations help freelancers get clients who will pay you what you’re worth and treat you right. By joining and being active, you’ll be able to:

  1. Get more referrals and clients
  2. Learn about your ideal clients
  3. Find ideal clients for your marketing.

Clients Want to Work with Freelancers they Know

Clients want to work with freelancers they know—or freelancers recommended to them by people they know.  When clients are looking for a freelancer, they’ll ask colleagues they know from their professional associations for recommendations.

Colleagues from professional associations, especially other freelancers, are a great source of referrals.

Get Referrals and Your Ideal Clients by Building Trust

But you don’t get referrals or your ideal clients just by joining professional associations. People need to know and trust you before they’ll refer work to you. Clients prefer to work with freelancers they know and trust.

Getting to know clients and colleagues and earning their trust takes more than casual interaction.

Volunteering and giving more than you take are the best ways to get to know clients and colleagues and earn their trust.

Volunteering is the quickest way to get to know clients and colleagues and earn their trust. If you’re like most freelancers, volunteering will be much easier than active networking. When you volunteer, you don’t have to “sell yourself.” Doing good volunteer work will do the marketing for you.

Look for information about volunteering on the websites of your professional associations. If you don’t find it, just email one of the officers and say you’d like to volunteer.

Network at Events

Networking in person at conferences and other events is the best way to impress clients and colleagues and start building trusting relationships. Make sure you create a positive first impression by dressing for success and giving more than you take.

Giving more than you take is an easy way to make networking less stressful.  Networking is about getting to know people, not “selling yourself.”  When you focus on helping the people you meet, you start to earn their trust.

And helping others is easy to do. Just listen to and learn about them. Then share relevant resources, knowledge, and ideas. Also connect them with other people they would benefit from knowing. By giving more than you take, clients will think of you first when they need a freelancer. And colleagues will think of you first when they have a freelance opportunity to refer.

Find and Attract Your Ideal Clients 

Also, you’ll learn more about and meet your ideal clients. Learning more about your ideal clients helps you attract them, because you’ll be able to focus your marketing on their needs.

Learn About Your Ideal Clients

Professional associations make it easy to learn about the industry(ies) you work in or want to work in and your ideal clients. You’ll learn by:

  • Talking to people at conferences, meetings, and other events
  • Taking webinars, courses, etc.
  • Reading newsletters/magazines, reports, and other web-based resources.

And you’ll stay updated on what’s happening in your industry(ies), with specific clients, and with opportunities for freelancers.

Use Member Directories to Find Your Ideal Clients

The member directories of professional associations are usually the easiest way to find ideal clients for your marketing.  You can quickly find:

  • Companies to target
  • The name of the right contact person/people
  • The email address for each contact person (usually; if the directory doesn’t list email addresses, there are other ways to find them).

Once you find your ideal clients, attract them through direct email. Direct email means sending each client a customized email that shows:

  • You understand the client’s need
  • How they can help the client meet its needs.

Learn how direct email helped 4 freelancers get 12 clients and how to write direct emails that work.

Some professional associations also have freelance directories where your ideal clients can find you. Always sign up for the freelance directory if the association offers this.

Types of Professional Associations

There are many types of professional associations. Some, like the American Marketing Association, are broad, while others, like the American Medical Writers Association, are focused on specific industries.

Some are national or international while others are local or statewide. National and international associations are best for freelancers, since their memberships are large enough to give you lots of useful contacts and resources, including:

  • Annual conferences
  • Other meetings and events
  • Webinars and other educational opportunities
  • Newsletters/magazines, reports, and other web-based resources
  • Online community
  • Member directory (all associations should have this).

And many national and international professional associations also have local chapters.

Benefits of Broad Associations

People who hire freelancers, especially freelance writers and editors, usually work in marketing or communications. So associations like the American Marketing Association and the International Association of Business Communicators let you meet and find (through their member directories) lots of key contacts in many industries.

Broad professional associations are best for:

  • Newer freelancers who don’t have a specialty(ies) yet
  • More experienced freelancers who want to explore new specialties and industries.

The Directory of Associations lists 141 national marketing organizations.

How to Find the Right Professional Associations

Ask your current clients and freelance colleagues which professional associations they belong to and would recommend. You can email colleagues one on one, and/or use LinkedIn or the online communities of your current professional associations.

Searching for the Right Professional Associations

Use the Directory of Associations to search for professional associations. You can search by hundreds of categories, including business, education, finance, health, and marketing. Focus on national and international professional associations.

Checking Out Professional Associations

Before joining a professional association, check out the website and available resources, and try to go to a meeting or conference.

Sometimes though, you just have to join for a year and see what you think. You can’t get access to the member directory, a key benefit of any professional association, until you join. So you don’t know how many of the members could be good prospects for you.


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Learn More About Networking through Professional Associations

Mighty Marketer Resources

Sick and Tired of Bad Clients? Here’s How to Get Your Ideal Clients

What Happens When You Play Nice (Give More, Take Less)

Why You Need to Use Direct Email: What 4 Freelancers Say

6 Tips on How to Dress for Success in Freelancing

12 Ways to Make Networking Events Amazing, Not Scary

Word of Mouth: The Best Way to Get Better Freelance Work

Want to Worry Less and Make More Money? Be a Specialist

Other Resources

American Marketing Association

International Association of Business Communicators

Directory of Associations


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