A few months ago, I fell into one of those ruts that every freelancer eventually lands in. You know the one. Business is okay–it’s neither up nor down. Your clients seem to dictate your schedule and “tyranny of the urgent” feels like your new business motto.
These phases of your career are deceiving. As you sit there in your underwear putting out client fires, you think to yourself: “I’m busy, so what’s there to complain about? Plus, I’m working in my underwear.” Yet, deep down, something feels amiss. You’re slogging along–and you know it.
I knew something had to change. I also realized I couldn’t do it on my own, so I recruited the help of another freelancer and we started meeting every Monday morning to set goals, provide encouragement, and hold one another accountable. Our group has now grown to three and I’m convinced every freelancer needs a group like this. It was one of the best decisions I ever made for myself and my business.
What Is An Accountability Group?
Before we explore why you need an accountability group, I want to clarify what an accountability group is and is not.
- An accountability group is structured–This is not a meetup. It’s not open for anyone to attend. Our group is invite-only and has a set of guidelines we all agree to.
- An accountability group is selective–We want only the best in our group. This is not mentoring. This is peers pushing each other to grow.
- An accountability group is honest–Honesty is critical to the success of the group. We don’t let each other slide and provide half-hearted excuses. We also don’t toss needless niceties at each other when what we need is real feedback. We tell it like it is.
- An accountability group is trusted- – Nothing is shared beyond the group. Period. We reveal things about our businesses to get help. Sometimes this is sensitive. Hence the aforementioned selectiveness.
- An accountability group is committed–This isn’t an “if I feel like it” meeting. This is a come-hell-or-high-water meeting. Start slacking off and you’re out.
Realize that an accountability group should be hardcore and made up of people who are serious about success. Now, let’s take a look at five reasons every freelancer needs a butt-kicking accountability group.
Reason #1 – It’s Incredibly Fun
Right about now, you’re wondering if I’m bipolar. Serious is fun? What?
Absolutely! Because success is fun. When you start seeing the positive impact that a group like this has on your life and career, it’s exciting. I look forward to these meetings and I always walk away energized and focused to start the new week.
Having a group of people who are serious about success is an often-overlooked joy in life until you no longer have it. I love working from home due to the flexibility it provides me. But, let’s be honest, the hum of a refrigerator and laptop hard drive are poor substitutes for office friendships and human interaction.
Ask any member of our group and we’ll tell you that some of our best ideas have come from, and been developed, in these meetings. And, it’s been the accountability that’s given us the needed discipline to execute on them.
Reason #2 – It’s Challenging
When you work in the world of pajamas and teleconferences, it’s easy to let yourself slide. Not having someone to report to is both a blessing and a curse. Remember when you first went out on your own and swore to yourself that you would keep the same schedule you did at your “office job”? How’s that working out for you?
Accountability is a healthy way to challenge yourself. If you’re surrounded by people who are pushing you, you’ll find it impossible not to feel motivated. When you sit down each Monday to review your goals from the previous week, you’ll realize that it’s uncomfortable (in a good way) when you have to admit to others you slacked-off. That alone can keep you focused.
Reason #3 – It’s Encouraging
It’s no secret that the majority of your friends and family have no idea what it is you do. Many think freelancing is a nice way of saying “unemployed” and is the first step on a path that will have you selling drugs in the alleys.
Working from home tends to put you in your own little bubble. It’s easy to forget there are others out there who are experiencing the same highs and lows that you are. Having a routine meeting where you give yourself the freedom to share your stories from the battlefield can help you stay encouraged and motivated.
You’ll find that others in your group have gone through similar experiences and can provide valuable insight to help you move through a rough patch more quickly. Additionally, we often can’t see the forest through the trees in our own business. Gaining an outsider’s perspective on our opportunities and obstacles can provide much-needed clarity in situations.
Reason #4 – It Will Grow Your Business
You’ve heard the old axiom that “a rising tide lifts all boats.” Well the same is true for your group. If you can find freelancers who are in complimentary fields and explore ways to partner on projects, you now have the potential to grow your client base overnight–as do the others in your group.
Our group will refer clients to each other, speak on panels together, make introductions, and find ways to help each other succeed. Members in the group often partner on projects while still maintaining their autonomy. Joint ventures are underutilized by freelancers as a way to grow their business. Freelancers tend to view other freelancers as competition rather than finding ways to work together and compliment each other’s skills.
Reason #5 – You’ll Learn to Work on Your Business
Your “tyranny of the urgent” motto? That comes by not setting proper goals and boundaries for yourself. You let others set your priorities and your days quickly spiral out of control. An accountability group can help you fight this trend by ensuring you set and achieve goals that take your business to the next level.
Working on your business– not just in it–is vital if you desire a healthy business that grows. Too many freelancers limp along, barely surviving because they focus too narrowly on tasks and not enough on goals. Your group won’t let this happen.
Share Your Experiences and Thoughts
Do you have an accountability group? Do you think you could benefit from one? I’d love to hear your experiences and thoughts below!