I get email frequently from different people but with the same question. How do I get started in freelancing? I always view these with frustration, because there’s no easy answer and of course because there’s so much information about this on the Web free of charge. But one of the first things I point an aspiring freelancer to is a network. You can do one physically or on the Web. You can do one as part of an organization or a commercial group. You can even start one yourself.
Most states have writing organizations. Some effective organizations—and this is my opinion so do your own research first—are the North Carolina Writers Network, the South Carolina Writers Workshop and the Florida Writers Association. If you’d like a group with a regional slant, take a look at the Southeastern Writers Association. I’ve spoken at conferences for each of these, except for the NC organization. They run top tier programs and the people in charge are very helpful. Do a search for an organization in your own state and see what the group has to offer versus what it will cost you to join.
Web-based networks are also very effective. Most of these communicate by way of message boards and/or email news groups. Online News Association is on the cutting edge of technology that changes this profession on an almost daily basis. ONA has a fantastic conference; I plan to attend this year. Freelance Success (commonly known as FLX) is not non-profit, but the fee is well worth it. I speak from experience and I know many writers who say FLX brought their career to the next level. It certainly helped me. Very nice members; all very helpful.
Finally, there are organizations like the American Society of Journalists and Authors and The Authors Guild. Both of these are pricier because their base comprises professional writers. Once you have national publication credits, you can apply. ASJA does allow non-members to attend the annual conference.
Some writers opt to start a network. This is easily done by way of Yahoo or Google groups. You simply set up a group, solicit members and take it from there.
The writer in the lonely ivory tower is mostly a myth. I won’t say he or she doesn’t exist. I will say most of us need a network, myself included.