Is it Worth Joining a Professional Editing Society?

Editing is a great career choice – an editor can be independent, have variety in their day-to-day to routine, use their expertise, and contribute to the development of interesting and useful documents. However, working as an editor can also be isolating and it can make you feel powerless.

Editors often work from home or in small teams. And clients can be large companies who seem to possess all the bargaining power in terms of budgets and scheduling. And although you might be drawn to the job because you have a way with words, that doesn’t mean that you’re ready to handle all the ins-and-outs of running your own business, including unrelated skills such as marketing and accounts.

You’re not alone! These issues don’t have to be insurmountable problems. Editing societies exist around the world to inform, promote, market and educate their members. Whether you specialize in proofreading, development editing, copy-editing, subediting, or any combination or variation of these, you will be welcomed by an editing society.

List of professional editing societiesFigure 1: Editing societies around the world

The rest of this article shows how editing societies can help you with:

  • Training and professional development
  • Industry news
  • Online forums
  • Personal networks
  • Accreditation and enhancing reputations
  • Marketing
  • Discounts
  • Value for money

Training and professional development

Societies recognize the need for editors to be well trained, and to keep their knowledge and skills up to date through continuing professional development. Some societies include training provision as part of their remit, whether that is mentoring, regular annual conferences, or individual events such as seminars and webinars. Many editors join simply for the training discounts offered to members.

Industry news

Societies keep their members informed of developments in the industry through bulletins, magazines and/or journals. This is how editors find out what is happening in other sectors of the publishing industry that might come to affect their own sector in the future (and so be ready to adapt if necessary). These publications also have articles about particular editing techniques, problems an editor might face, or reviews of useful reference books.

Online forums

You may be a member of the Editors’ Association of Earth on Facebook or part of a LinkedIn editing group – these are great forums. But when it comes to professional networking, there’s nothing like the members-only forums that some editing societies offer. These are private spaces where editors are ‘among friends’ and can share queries and worries. Perhaps there’s a finer point of punctuation that you can’t find in your reference books, or you’re worried that your client’s new contract is unfair, or you’ve been approached by a client you think is not being entirely honest with you. The forums are the place where you can get fast advice and support (away from potential prying eyes on Facebook). It is perhaps the best way to make sure that editing isn’t isolating and that editors do not feel powerless. It isn’t easy for a client to impose an unfair contract with all their freelancers sharing information and standing together against it.

Personal networks

Local chapters of editing societies are a great opportunity to meet up with colleagues face to face. Many editors find that the connections and friendships established through these groups can lead to informal mentoring, subcontracting and even partnership working.

Accreditation and enhancing reputations

A number of societies offer accreditation. Accreditation gives clients confidence that they are hiring an editor who knows their stuff. And every accredited editor who does a great job then increases industry recognition of the society and the professional standards its members uphold. So the next time a client wants a good job done they know where to come. It’s a virtuous circle.

In the UK, the SfEP are working towards taking this a step further, by building a case for chartership status over the next few years. This is an exciting development that can only help to raise the profile of editing as a profession and the status of its qualified members.

Marketing

Most editing societies have online member directories that allow clients to find suitably qualified freelancers. Aside from personal referrals, these directories are perhaps the number one way in which clients can find suitably qualified editors.

“The collegiality and support of editorial associations can be inspiring, as well as encouraging. I’m a member of (EAC and SfEP) which gives me strong links in two countries and shows potential clients in both Canada and the UK that my outlook is international.” — Janet MacMillan, Wordsmith

Industry recognition also means that companies will approach the society when looking for staff, often sending targeted advertisements to a central message board or straight to members’ inboxes.

Discounts

Most societies negotiate discounts for their members. In addition to training, there are considerable discounts on editing conferences. Other discounts include:

  • tickets for events (such as the London Book Fair)
  • tools of the trade, such as pens, reference books or PerfectIt
  • professional services, such as legal advice or insurance.

Value for money

When you consider the money saved through discounts on training and conferences, member discounts on goods and services, advertising in directories and so on, the annual membership fees for professional societies can sometimes pay for themselves. However, the value that membership offers goes far beyond simple discounts.

The knowledge-sharing that goes on within a society gives its members the confidence to bargain for better rates. And even more importantly, the status that membership and accreditation demonstrate means that joining a society makes you more likely to be offered work, and to be better paid for the work that you do.

Finding your local society

To find out more about your local society, check out the links below.

American Copy Editors Society (USA)

Association of Freelance Editors, Proofreaders and Indexers (Ireland)

Bay Area Editors’ Forum (USA)

Council of Science Editors (worldwide)

Editors Association of Canada (Canada)

Editorial Freelancers’ Association (USA)

European Association of Science Editors (Europe)

Institute of Professional Editors (Australia)

International Society of Managing and Technical Editors (worldwide)

Mediterranean Editors & Translators (Europe)

Northwest Independent Editors Guild (USA)

Professional Editors’ Guild (South Africa)

San Diego Professional Editors Network (USA)

Society for Editors and Proofreaders (UK)

Society of American Business Editors and Writers (USA)

Society of English-Language Professionals (The Netherlands)

Society of Writers, Editors, and Translators (Japan)