Do You Need an Accountability Buddy?

I’m sitting at my desk wearing something unusual (for me, anyhow): a sport coat, Oxford shirt, dress pants, and (good grief!) a necktie. I’m not even cheating below the camera’s eye—I’ve put on the same shoes I usually wear to formal client meetings.

I’m dressed like this for a web conference, but not with a prospect or client. Today I’m meeting with my freelance “accountability buddies.” I have to wear corporate clothes because I didn’t do all the marketing tasks I committed to do last month.

Oh, how great is my shame.

I started scheduling a monthly web conference with two colleagues last spring. We met through a recent CFC and one of Marketing Mentor’s Marketing Groups. We don’t have huge results to report yet, but all three of us are more focused and motivated when it comes to self-promotion than we were a year ago.

It’s especially handy if you’re trying to stick to the Marketing Plan + Calendar or a plan of your own.

If you need accountability, struggle with getting your marketing work done, or have something else you know you should be doing, maybe it’s time for you to try “The Buddy System.” Here are a few tips to get you started.

Find buddies you like and trust

Most of the time, business owners don’t get to talk frankly with others about the challenges they struggle with. To get the most out of this experience, you’ll want to be in it with people you’re not afraid to be a little vulnerable with. Choose someone you’re comfortable with, and consider testing the waters with just one person at first unless you already have a close-knit freelancer tribe. If you’re not sure where to even begin looking, come to CFC 2013 in San Francisco, June 22-24.  You’re sure to find plenty of potential buddies to choose from there. (Early Bird Deadline ends March 15).

Embrace diversity

You’ll get a lot more out of buddy interaction if different perspectives are in the mix. Our group has a copywriter, a graphic designer, and a PowerPoint guru. We live in different parts of the country, specialize in different markets, and have contrasting personalities. That’s great, because when one of us has a challenge to discuss, the other two see it from a different angle.

Stay open to new ideas

You and your buddies are likely to have different work habits and insights. While you shouldn’t tell each other how to run each other’s businesses, don’t discard a buddy’s suggestion out of hand just because it’s dramatically different from your usual process. Alternative options suggested by outsiders might be just what you need to turn a thorny problem around. Be willing to experiment outside your comfort zone, even if you only test new ideas.

Be fully present

Respect your buddies during your time together by giving them your full attention. Turn off your email, stay off social media sites, and set other distractions aside for the duration of your call. Most of all, listen when it’s the other person’s turn to talk. Successful buddy relationships always work both ways.

Establish a competition-free zone

Your buddy group should be a source of support, not a contest to see who can outdo the others. While it’s not essential, you can help keep buddy relationships friendly by choosing people who don’t overlap your market, your skill set, or the part of the world you do most of your business in. If you find that you have conflicts of interest, it might be best to shake hands and find someone else to fulfill the buddy role with.

Communicate goals and be accountable

Each time you have a buddy meeting, whether it’s in a coffeehouse or a Google Hangout, finish up by stating exactly what you plan to do between now and the next time you get together. Make your goals specific and quantifiable. For example: “I’ll have lunch with one client or prospect each week in the coming month.”

Start your next meeting with a recap of what you accomplished and what you didn’t. You’ll be amazed how much more motivated you become when you have to report back to someone else.

If you need extra motivation, build a “forfeit” into your buddy system for those who fall short of their goals. In my group, we have to dress in full corporate regalia. (The mere threat of lipstick and panty hose is enough to motivate one of the women in my group to great efforts.) If you need stronger medicine, pledge to donate a small amount of money to a cause you like…or better yet, one you oppose. Don’t make your forfeit so stressful that it outweighs the benefits of your buddy group, but give it enough teeth that it inspires action.

Set reasonable goals

Don’t go out on a limb to impress your buddies. The goals you set need to fit within your schedule and accommodate your workload. One of the women in my group started out by setting an extraordinary goal for the number of client meetings she wanted to have in a single month. You’ll quickly discover how much you can handle in a particular period of time. You may not be satisfied, but be prepared to increase your efforts gradually—don’t burn yourself out by trying to do everything at once.

This article is the last of four “buddy goals” Tom N. Tumbusch set last month, so he gets to wear casual clothes to the next meeting! He’s a regular contributor to the CFC blog and publishes a free writing tips newsletter each month. His tiny solar-powered corner of the Internet can be found at www.wordstreamcopy.com.

3 thoughts on “Do You Need an Accountability Buddy?

      1. Michelle

        This is what Jenny posted in response, but her comment hasn’t shown up:

        Hi Ilise! The DESIGNERS ROUNDTABLE is the group I brainstormed with you about in August ’12 when my accountability partner from the HOW Boston wasn’t so accountable. I blasted this group out on Linkedin and we’ve been meeting monthly since September. It’s a free group where we all agree to put in as much as we want out! We set an agenda of: Business Topic, Design Topic, Noteworthy News, and then each attendee sets a tasks to accomplish in the next 30 days. The group has averaged 5-8 attendees on Google+ Hangout from San Fran to Rhode Island to Canada.

        Not only do we, solopreneurs, have people to hold our 30-day task accountable to, but some of us have become team partners for each others business, we lend support and suggestions for improvement, share valuable resources such as great websites, templates, ancillary services, books, review coaching programs, as well as virtual shoulders to lean on through difficulties in running our own businesses.

        It’s really become a great group that we all look forward to each month. And we’re hoping to meet some of the group members in person at HOW San Fran this year.

        You see the recaps of each session at http://www.presqueisledesigns.com/designers-roundtable/ as well as the agenda for the next session.

        If you have more questions, or if anyone wants to join you can find me on Google+ at http://bit.ly/WIUZbN

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