Celebrating a full year of accountability

Tom T bugIn January I wrote about how my accountability buddies and I are helping each other stay on track with self-promotion. Our group recently reached the one-year mark, which got us thinking about how the process has changed and improved the way we work. Here’s a quick rundown of what we’ve accomplished so far:

We’re getting the job done

All three of us (Elke, Laura, and Tom) are doing self-promotion more consistently. Even when we fail to meet all of our goals for the month—incurring the dreaded penalty of wearing corporate clothes—self-promotion has become a regular part of all our routines. “Setting attainable goals that can be done within a month, each month, and ensuring that I hit the goals and set new ones has really helped me to remain focused on marketing,” Laura says.

We’re setting—and achieving—more realistic goals

One of the things we laugh about today are the grandiose things we used to plan to do in a month’s time. That’s not to say that freelancers shouldn’t have big goals, because all three of us do, but we now have a much more balanced sense of how much ambition we can handle in one 30-day period. We’ve also refined our strategies to focus on specific, measurable goals. “Setting nebulous goals doesn’t help,” Laura says.

We’re more relaxed and confident

Even though we only check in once a month, there’s less of a feeling that we live in freelance bubbles. Our buddies face the same challenges we do every day, which creates opportunities to learn from each other and an outlet for when we feel stressed or discouraged. One of the things that makes it work is that the roles are constantly changing: everyone in the group has been a “sage” or a “student” at one time or another.

“I spent a lot of my corporate career worrying about ‘getting in trouble’ if I didn’t get things done,” Elke says. “Now I’ve started to think differently about what it is that I’m doing. If I don’t do something I’ll lose a client, but I won’t ‘get in trouble.’ It’s a different, more confident persona.”

We’re wasting less time

Though the group was formed around self-promotion, we often share strategies for other aspects of our businesses. As luck would have it, that’s led to some productivity improvements for each of us. Laura has explored outsourcing options for some of her self-promotion tasks, Elke is benefiting from a daily planning routine, and I’ve developed an Evernote-based workflow that’s helping me stay organized and on schedule. (More on this in an upcoming post.)

We’re doing self-promotion even when we’re busy

A year ago, when this group was just getting started, I was scrambling for work. Today I have clients asking me questions like “are you at capacity right now?” Even though I know from past experience that the pendulum could swing back the other way at a moment’s notice, it’s only since we formed the buddy group that I’ve found a strategy that keeps my business development on track.

Now, no matter how busy I get, I regularly find myself thinking “What do I still need to do for the group this month?” and “What are my goals for next month going to be?” This may not save me from the next downward dive of the feast-or-famine monster, but it’s clear that the instinct to keep the marketing machine running—even when I don’t seem to need it—is finally starting to become a habit. From what my buddies are telling me, they’re experiencing something similar.

We’re inspiring each other to succeed

At the beginning of our last call, we quickly noticed that all three of us were dressed in “freelance casual.” No pajamas, mind you, but it was the first time ever that none of us showed up wearing the Corporate Clothes of Shame. It was the first time in a year that all three of us hit our goals for the month, but at the rate we’re going, it’s not likely to be the last.

Want to know more about how to launch a buddy group of your own? Laura and I will host a breakfast roundtable on Sunday, June 23 at this year’s Creative Freelancer Conference. Hope to see you there! (You can still get $50 if you register with promo code “ILISE”)


Tom N. Tumbusch writes copy that creates action for creative agencies and green businesses. He publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month and periodically shares more casual wisdom on the WordStream of Consciousness Blog. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at www.wordstreamcopy.com.