When I gleefully quit my day job three years ago to write full time, the last thing I thought I’d miss was coworkers.
Don’t get me wrong — I miss specific coworkers quite a bit. But trying to write in the middle of a busy office day after day exhausted me mentally, and I rejoiced at that first blissfully silent day working for myself from home.
While I’m way more productive as a freelancer, the life can also be lonely.
My personality is well-suited to spending long stretches of time on my own, and I’m good at seeking out companionship when I need it. But having friends you can meet for happy hour isn’t the same thing as having colleagues or coworkers you can bounce ideas off of.
That’s where accountability groups come in.
I’ve been a member of two different accountability groups — one for almost three years, and the other for just over five. The groups are slightly different, but both have been amazingly valuable for helping me grow my business and keep my sanity over the years.
What’s an accountability group?
You may already have trusted mentors or friends you can go to with your questions, or to get advice. But talking with a mentor or a casual friend is very different from creating a formal accountability relationship with others who are about your same level of writing skill or business.
Beyond keeping you accountable to your goals, an accountability group can help you brainstorm business ideas, answer your weird random questions and give you feedback on your work.
My oldest accountability group consists of me and two other people. We’ve known each other for years, and all three of us are working on creative businesses: writing, artwork and knitting patterns. Our three businesses don’t have a lot in common, which is one thing that makes brainstorming ideas really helpful — my other two accountability partners are often looking at things from a different lens than I am.
My other accountability group consists of myself and two other freelance writers who I’ve never met in real life. Brainstorming with them is helpful because we have many of the same challenges, and we’re all familiar with the writing business. However, even within this group, there are variations in what we do — for example, I’m the only one who makes fiction a part of my business.
Holding each other accountable
Both of my accountability groups are set up as Google Groups. We have a regimen of weekly check-ins to make sure we’re staying on track with goals, then post random questions, ideas, and comments whenever we have them.
How you structure the check-ins can vary, but what’s important is that they’re regular.
In one group, we all list our accomplishments and goals for the week in one main thread. In the other group, we each start our own thread for our monthly goals, then post weekly on that thread to update the progress we’re making.
Dive deep with your accountability group
While a regular goals check is helpful for staying on track, one of the best parts of having an accountability group is taking more time for intense business planning.
With my small business accountability group — the group where we were friends first — we meet for retreats once a year. We all take a weekend off and get together for good food, wine, and focused business discussions around a series of pre-decided topics.
My freelance writers group hasn’t managed an in-person get together yet — but that’s only because we live in Portland, Toronto, and Haifa (Israel). Instead, we Skype from time to time in order to deepen our relationship and mull over tricky business questions together.
How to find your own accountability group
Both my accountability groups formed in distinct ways.
For my small business group, a casual vacation with friends somehow turned into an impromptu business retreat, which then turned into a regular accountability group so we could help each other meet the goals we’d outlined.
For my freelance writer’s group, all three of us were members of a writer’s forum — the Freelance Writer’s Den. One of our members posted that she was looking for accountability partners. I answered the post, and three years later our group is still going strong.
If you want to create your own accountability group, start by thinking about your network.
Do you know anyone who may be in a similar place as you when it comes to your writing? Or, even someone who may be creating art in a different field, but is at a similar place when it comes to business.
It’s important to look for people with the same level of professionalism you have, and whose opinions you trust. If you’re not sure about someone, you may want to invite them out for coffee before proposing an accountability group.
You can also find accountability partners by getting to know people in writer forums, as happened with my freelance accountability group. If you opt for the forum route, you may want to consider personally inviting some people who seem like they would be a good fit for you, rather than doing what my accountability buddy did and posting publicly. Although, that’s worked out great so far for us — the odds might be in your favor, too.
How accountability groups have contributed to my success
These two accountability groups have been critical to my success as a writer.
They’ve given the brilliant new marketing ideas, been beta readers for my short stories, given me feedback on my website, and kept me in check when I’ve considered adding a fun new project onto my already crazy workload.
Above all, they’ve become the place I can go to celebrate my achievements and vent my frustrations.Whether I need a round of applause or a shoulder to cry on, they have my back.
You may not feel like you need help meeting your goals, but never underestimate the value of knowing somebody is there for you That level of support can be hard to come by for many writers, who may not feel like the writing is taken seriously by their family or friends.
If that’s you, maybe it’s time to reach out and find yourself an accountability group. Chances are, the people you reach out to may be looking for the same thing.