6 Reasons to Get Certified

What’s on the iPod: No Line on the Horizon by U2

I’m back, though I’m still unclear what time zone I’m in. We flew in late Saturday night. Sunday was about catching up — on sleep, on chores, on the garden. I cleaned out the front garden, and the perennials are looking great. There are some forget-me-nots that migrated from the end of the path to the front door. There they shall stay.

Today, I’ll be organizing my receipts, my appointment notes, and my correspondence. I’ll also be starting on the second part a project for a newer client. No time for a good rest — I’ll get that on the weekend.

Wrapping up this month’s theme — education and training — I wanted to touch on certification. I see the question asked on various blogs and forums: should I get certified?

The answer is it depends.

Not every writer needs (or necessarily wants) certification. In some writing areas, it could make sense, such as in resume writing or technical writing. Still, someone with a penchant for self-learning could easily pick up the same skills as a writer who takes the training courses. For example, I know one writer who wowed the resume company I worked for. She showed up, applied common sense and creativity, and they begged her to work with them. Wisely (for many reasons), she declined. But she had proven herself without the required training they put me through.

So when do you need certification?

When it clearly benefits you financially. This is why I never went back for my Masters degree. Having a BA was enough (maybe more than I needed) to freelance. There could be benefits to getting one, such as impressing prospective clients and my mother, but it’s not required for me to earn what I think is a damn good hourly rate. Make your choice based on whether the additional money spent will come back to you tenfold. If the answer is yes, go for it.

When it’s required by the type of work you do. Say you want to start in medical writing. That’s not something you simply pick up. You need some background and probably more than a little certification or training in order to understand the needs and deliver what’s promised.

When you want to learn something new. Right now, I’d plunk down money for a good SEO course. I know enough to do an acceptable job, but I could be better. And it’s an area that’s always interested me. I would gladly pay for the right course led by the right person.

When it will enhance what you do. I took a poetry course last fall that I think not only improved my poems, but improved my writing for clients. The same goes for any course, certified or not, that can improve your skill at writing or marketing or business operations. If you feel you’re lacking in skill or breadth of knowledge, do something about it. Reward yourself with education.

When the instructor makes it worth your time. See, there are way too many certification courses around that are taught by people who love the sound of their own voices. Get feedback from participants. Was the information presented in an easy-to-understand fashion and by someone who knew what they were talking about?

When you want to score major awesomeness points. Suppose that potential client is looking over your portfolio and notices you took the time to gain certification in say insurance basics, risk management, health care management, real estate sales. That says to the client “Hey, this person isn’t just dabbling. Look how much he/she knows!” While I still get a few dolts who think girls can’t possibly know anything about risk management (especially those dolts whose opinions are mirror opposite to my own), I know that the real clients would find huge value in someone who’s studied their industry. So will you.

Have you taken any training or received certification for anything you write about? How did you make that decision? If not, what type of certification would you spend money on and why?

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  • Devon Ellington April 29, 2013 at 11:52 am

    I'm interested in doing more work with green businesses and organizations that specialize in sustainability, so I studied with a top person in the field to get certified.

    As long as it's something I'm interested in and know I want to pursue in more depth, I'll do it.

    If I'm not really interested in it, it's not worth it, because I'll spend my time wishing I was somewhere else.

  • Paula April 29, 2013 at 2:34 pm

    I toyed with the idea of pursuing certification for résumé writing, thinking perhaps I could charge more for my services, until I realized I really didn't want to spend copious amounts of time writing résumés.

    Don't get me wrong, it's a valuable skill and I don't mind polishing résumés on the side. I simply don't want to do that on a daily basis.

  • Cathy Miller April 29, 2013 at 2:37 pm

    I have maintained my broker license ever since I 1st started ny business writing company. I'm sure I could get by without doing it, but I think it helps keep me up on the technical side of health and life insurance.

    I know I've shared this with you, Lori, but I'd also caution about checking out the certification. There is a magazine publisher with its hands in several areas – health care reform, wellness, self-funding, etc. They ride the backs of industry professionals to do their article writing. Well, they got the bright idea to develop certification for wellness and health care reform, also on the backs of the industry professionals. They had training put together chapter-by-chapter by those willing to do it – no pay, of course. And no percentage of the training course revenue.

    They may very well have well-credentialed indutry professionals, but they could just as easily have people who have no idea what they're talking about.

    Needless to say, I didn't sign up. 😉

  • Cathy Miller April 29, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    Ack – pardon all the typos – that's what I get for not previewing it 1st. 😉

  • Lori April 29, 2013 at 5:16 pm

    Devon, agreed. I took one course that absolutely bored me to tears. Dropped in midway. The instructor had a droning voice, and she presented the material in the driest, most mundane fashion imaginable. Plus it was intensive — entirely too much work. It felt like busy work. No thanks.

    Paula, I don't get you wrong. I did it every day and it became drudgery very quickly. I like doing resumes occasionally. As a steady diet? No thank you. I've done it, and I loathed it.

    Cathy, you have to tell me which publisher (privately). I agree — if they're paying a pittance to non-professionals to get the job done, forget it. Not worth the money.

  • anne wayman April 29, 2013 at 8:29 pm

    I'm sort of anti-certification for writers… it's one of the few real trades left and the certification courses I've taken are mostly make-work, to assure jobs for certifiers and for those who grandfather in.

    There are exceptions, like Deveon's sustainability – that one actually makes sense because of the tech stuff involved. (techy sentence there) But the certification for tech writing is imo bogus… yet if you want to tech write for the biggies today you need one. Sigh.

    Now, ask me about taking classes and courses… I'm all for that.

  • Paula April 30, 2013 at 5:43 pm

    This all reminds me of the LinkedIn Group I belong to: Certified Professional Writers Association. There is no certification or association – the name is sort of an in joke designed to weed out new or would-be writers.

    Basically, if the group managers check your credentials and deem you worthy of joining, you're "certified."

  • Paula May 1, 2013 at 2:35 pm

    Hey, y'all – Lori's a bit tied up today and asked me to post a comment here reminding everyone about Writers Worth Week(s).

    If you plan to contribute a post this year, time is running short.

    Let's hope Lori's real-life issues cut her a break and she's back in the office soon!

  • Lori May 2, 2013 at 6:27 pm

    Paula, thanks. I'm home today, but not sure when I'll disappear again — probably late next week.