How an Accountability Partner Can Help You When You’re Starting Out

Two smiling friends sitting at a table with coffee and talking

If you’re starting out on a new venture — whether it’s a business, a hobby, an exercise routine, or anything else — you’ve probably already heard about the benefits of having an accountability partner.

But in case you’re not familiar: it’s basically someone who helps to keep you on track while you’re working toward your goals. You can either meet to work together, or you can check in with each other to keep track of your progress.

The process can be especially valuable for new B2B copywriters who are trying to develop habits such as writing every day, reaching out to clients, or any other task related to the business of writing.

Of course, you’ll want to avoid pitfalls, such as an arrangement that’s too casual, where you and your accountability partner allow each other to slack off on your respective goals.

I myself had an experience like that a few years ago, when I decided to start a blog. A good friend of mine was also interested in blogging, but we both found ourselves busy with our day jobs and not making much progress.

To help hold ourselves accountable, we decided to each put up one new blog post once per week, and to check in with each other (by email since we lived in different countries at the time) to be sure we had done it.

We both had the best of intentions, but here’s what actually happened …

Whenever I didn’t meet my goal of creating a new blog post, I didn’t send the email to her. I would rush to complete the post in the next couple of days, and then finally send the “accountability check-in” email when I had actually written the post, rather than just checking in on the appointed day.

I would also nervously await her email, ashamed that I’d need to reply back that I had not, in fact, completed my task. But then … no email arrived from her. It turns out she was doing the same thing I was — falling behind on her tasks, and waiting to email me until she had finished.

This was alright when we were only a couple of days behind. But our emails started to get further and further delayed each time. Eventually, more than a month went by when we didn’t check in with each other at all. And at that point, we decided to call it quits.

Here are a few guidelines that may help you and your accountability partner get the most out of the arrangement:

Set up a check-in time, and stick with it

This could be any day and time that works for both of you. It could mean an email or a phone call, and it could range anywhere from a detailed analysis of what you’re working on, to just a quick “yes, I finished my task” or “no, I didn’t.” Or, it could mean meeting up to work together, to provide extra motivation and brainstorming power.

Whatever routine you decide on, be sure to stick with it. If you both slack off on your meeting time … then it becomes too easy to also slack off on your actual work. On the other hand, when you know you have to check in with somebody, it can be a surprisingly powerful motivator to accomplish more than you would have otherwise.

Be honest

If you fall behind, it’s okay to report that to your accountability partner. It happens to everyone. If you try to make it sound like you’ve finished more than you actually have, then it really defeats the purpose of having an accountability partner arrangement in the first place.

And as far as being honest goes — don’t be shy about asking each other why you’ve fallen behind … especially if it goes on for several days or weeks. By asking gentle and honest questions, you each may find that you need to change course from the original plan. When this happens, it can help to get some outside perspective from your accountability partner.

Consider a “non-personal” arrangement

Sometimes, if an accountability partner is a good friend or family member, it may be difficult to be honest.

For instance, you may feel disappointment when you have to tell them you’re not accomplishing your goals … and they might be hesitant to give “tough love” and ask questions about why you’ve fallen behind, for fear of hurting your feelings.

To avoid this potential problem, consider a purely professional, one-sided arrangement, such as a coach or mentor. They can offer you non-biased feedback. The same is true for an online goal tracker, which you could use privately, or announce your goals publicly for even more accountability.

Try a structured program

This could be a group mentoring program or course, where you’ll be assigned an accountability partner or mastermind group. In this type of arrangement, it can be helpful to collaborate with others who are working on the same goals you are. That builds a sort of group motivation and energy that could help you to accomplish your goals even faster. Plus, you’ll likely receive guidelines for meetings and communication, which makes the whole process smoother.

Other ways to find an accountability partner

If you’re looking for a more organic way to strike up an accountability partner arrangement, and maybe do some networking in the process, try a local Meetup or professional networking group. While you’re there, look for someone with similar goals to you. If there aren’t any other writers, consider other entrepreneurs, artists, or freelancers. And while you’re there, keep an eye out for potential new clients, too.

When you’re ready — spread your wings and fly

No matter which of the above arrangements and techniques you adopt — eventually, you’ll probably want to try flying on your own. In my opinion, the whole point of an accountability partner arrangement is to help you form a new habit. The real test will be to see if you can make this habit stick.

You can either decide ahead of time to meet for a set length of time — a few months, for example — or to carry on until one person feels ready to go out on their own.

Of course, in the process of discussing your goals and dreams with your accountability partner, there’s a good chance you’ll make a new friend. If that’s the case, then by all means, continue to keep in touch! You can continue to provide support and encouragement to each other, and to celebrate one another’s successes.

This article, How an Accountability Partner Can Help You When You’re Starting Out, was originally published by B2B Writing Success.

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Published: September 6, 2018

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