How to Really Accomplish What You Need to Get Done by Becoming More Accountable

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We’re well into 2014 by now. How are you coming with your annual freelance web design business goals?

That’s what I thought. But don’t worry. It’s not just you. Most of us are behind on our goals.

One of the biggest perks of freelancing is also one of the biggest problems. To be precise, the problem is the fact that you don’t answer to a boss.

Most freelancers that I know love the fact that no one is looking over their shoulder to make sure that they get their work done. And I agree. Not having a boss can be great.

  • Want a day off? Just take it.
  • Having trouble getting started in the morning? No problem. Get up later.
  • Don’t feel like working today? Then don’t.
  • Do you dread working with that problem client today? Put it off until tomorrow.

You get the picture. There’s a lot of freedom when you’re a freelancer.

Unfortunately, sometimes that freedom means that you don’t get your work done. You may miss deadlines. You may not keep up with your accounting tasks. You might put off marketing until you have no clients coming in.

It’s easy to see how freelancing freedom can be detrimental to your web design business.

Fortunately, you can do something about it. You can choose to be accountable. In this post, I’ll explain how accountability can improve your productivity and help you to get more done. I’ll also describe what to look for in an accountability partner and list some possible accountability partners.

Why Accountability Works

When you think about accountability, do you kind of cringe?

Many of us do. After all, one reason to become a freelancer is to do it all on your own. However, accountability is an effective motivator for success.

If you’ve ever tried to lose weight, you know that many effective weight loss groups incorporate accountability into their program. There’s a reason for that. They know that reporting to someone means that members are more likely to stick their diet. Without accountability, it’s just too easy to sneak a treat–after all, no one will find out.

Business accountability works the same way. It’s easy to slack off or procrastinate if you know that no one will find out about it. Slacking off is harder to do if you know that you will have to report your progress to someone.

And ultimately, a lack of accountability is just an illusion anyway. Eventually we all must answer to someone for what we do (or in many cases don’t do).

For example, if you miss a deadline you’ll have to answer to your client. If you forget to pay your quarterly taxes, you’ll wind up owing more at the end of the year (and possibly some penalties too). And so on.

Generally, it’s better to choose who you’ll be accountable to than to let your own carelessness catch up with you.

What to Look for In an Accountability Partner

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Of course, it wouldn’t do to be accountable to just anyone. You need to choose your accountability partner carefully. Here are five traits of a good accountability partner.

  1. Trustworthy. You’ll be sharing information about how well your business is doing such as your successes and failures. Naturally, you’ll want to pick someone you can trust with such information.
  2. Understands your business. It would be difficult to share your progress with someone who doesn’t understand web design or doesn’t know about freelancing.
  3. Someone you respect. If you don’t really care what your accountability partner thinks of you, the partnership won’t be as effective.
  4. Not overly critical. Your accountability partner is there to support and encourage you, not tear you down. Overly critical people need not apply.
  5. Available. It takes time to be someone’s accountability partner. You’ll need to check in regularly and they’ll need to review your progress.

Okay, now you know what to look for in an accountability partner. But finding one who meets all the criteria can be difficult.

8 Professionals You May Want to Hold You Accountable

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So, where should you find an accountability partner? Here are eight ideas of where to look:

  1. Your mentor. If you have a business mentor, adding accountability is a natural extension of the mentor/mentee relationship. Make sure your mentor has the time to regularly check your progress.
  2. A trusted peer. Do you look up to someone in your field? A web design peer can make a good accountability partner because they already understand your business.
  3. An accountability group. Many professional groups provide an opportunity for accountability. For example, you may join a design group and regularly post your goals and progress.
  4. A former teacher. Generally speaking, teachers like helping people succeed. That’s why they became teachers in the first place. That’s also why they make good accountability partners.
  5. Your business partner. If your business is a partnership and you get along well with your business partner, there’s an accountability opportunity. Your partner is already vested in your success.
  6. A former employer. If you have a good relationship with a previous employer, they could make an excellent accountability partner. After all, they are already familiar with your work.
  7. A business coach. Okay, you’ll pay money for the service, but a business coach can be a good investment. They can help you with accountability and explore other avenues of professional growth.
  8. A personal friend. Maybe the person you trust the most doesn’t fit any of the above categories, but they still have all the traits of a good accountability partner.

Learn More about Accountability

Would you like to learn more about how accountability could help your web design business? Here are three additional resources on how to incorporate accountability into your business:

  1. Laura Vanderkam has written an excellent piece at Fast Company on how to create an accountability group. Read What You Need To Know To Create An Accountability Group That Works.
  2. Stephanie Vozza explains the value of an accountability partner at Entrepreneur. Read Why an Accountability Buddy Is Your Secret Weapon for Faster Growth.
  3. Marla Tabaka explains the importance of accountability at Inc. in the Home Based Business Productivity Playbook. Read about her ideas on accountability and success.

Your Turn

Do you have a business accountability partner or group? What tips would you add?

Laura Spencer

Laura Spencer is a freelance writer from North Central Texas with over 20 years of professional business writing experience. If you liked this post, then you may also enjoy Laura’s blog about her freelance writing experiences, WritingThoughts. Laura is also on Google+.