How To Stay Accountable As A Solopreneur
“At the end of the day we are accountable to ourselves — our success is a result of what we do.”
~ Catherine Pulsifer
Whenever I get on a call with someone I’ve never coached before, I always ask them what they think coaching is and what they are hoping to get from it? Pretty often the answer that comes back, includes within it something about accountability.
Most people seeking out my services are doing so because they know that on some level they need someone to help them stay accountable. Whilst a pretty common reason for hiring a business coach, when someone says this to me, it does ring an alarm bell. Why?
Because if I become the source of someone else’s accountability, what happens when the coaching program ends?
Don’t get me wrong, I can totally see why accountability is something that many solopreneurs feel that they are lacking and why wouldn’t they when throughout life, we pretty much always have something or someone external to ourselves to be accountable to. Be that our parents or caregivers when we’re young, our teaches and the education system as we grow and our employers and the jobs we take on as adolescents and adults.
With all of these, there are built-in consequences should we fail to do what we say we will. If we stay out later than our curfew, we’ll likely be punished by our parents, if we fail to study, we’ll likely fail our exams and in some cases get kicked out of school and if we fail to show up for our jobs, our employers will ultimately have no option but to fire us.
But where is this accountability when you’re running your own business? Suddenly as solopreneurs it’s all on us and many of us find this tough.
I’m fortunate enough to be pretty self-motivated and have a history of setting myself crazy goals and stubbornly realising them. I’ve been described by many who know me as a determined person so you might assume that self accountability comes naturally to me but when it came to building my own business, I too struggled. Having had a successful career in project and program management for many years, I was used to having strict deadlines imposed on my work by the needs of my employer.
Suddenly I found myself as both the employer and the employee, I was the person who created and set the deadlines as well as the one who had to meet them. It’s easy in this scenario to become the kind of boss who lets things slide and as a result become the kind of employee who doesn’t worry too much about sticking to the plan.
Of course when there are no obvious, immediate consequences this makes perfect sense, but what I soon came to realise is that there are huge consequences. Money has to come from somewhere so if my business fails, I have to go get a job. This looming consequence, no matter how far in the future was enough for me to get my act together. That and the kick I got from my then Business Coach (of course!).
It was 2014 and I had just started working with my Coach when I made the mistake of telling him that I really wanted to write a guest post for a high profile, high traffic blog. “No matter how much I want it, I just can’t find the motivation to sit down and write it!” I complained.
“That’s pretty easy to fix”, he said and then challenged me to write to the editor with the title and topic of the blog post I wanted to write and the date by which I would send it over to him. I could see exactly what he was doing.
By having me make a promise to the editor of the website, I’d finally have the accountability I had thus far been lacking. It was genius and I did exactly what he told me to do and the editor replied saying it sounded like a great piece and that he was looking forward to receiving it. There was no way I was going to fail on my promise and just like that I wrote and submitted the guest post I’d been trying to write for months (he loved it and published it in case you were wondering!)
That was when I realised how to stay accountable as a solopreneur. Here are just some of the ways I’ve implemented that lesson in my business over the years.
- Launching several courses and programs before I completed the content, meaning I then had paid up customers who I simply couldn’t let down.
- Making the announcement of forthcoming creations (products, programs, events etc) one of the first things I do — it’s so easy to hold off on making the announcement until you feel you have everything ready but then the date just keeps getting pushed back and back.
- Sharing my ambitious goals with the world, much like I did a few years ago with my content creation challenge, when I shared publicly that I was going to write 30 blog posts in 30 days. There was no backing out from that one!
I often call this strategy of announcing what I’m going to do before I’ve done it front-loading the fear. Meaning that we get the scary part out of the way, right up front. We’re often so terrified of making the announcement because then we know it’s really happening that we put off the announcement and get lost in procrastination and perfectionism telling ourselves I’ll announce it when everything is ready.
This is a classic mistake because we never feel like our work is ready, there is always more we want to do, so without the accountability of a publicly promised deadline, we start a gazillion new things that end up never finished. Sound familiar?
Can you relate to what I’ve shared in this piece? Can you see how hard it is for us to stay accountable when we can’t see the consequences of not following through? I’d love to know if you like the approach I outline in this post and if you think you might use it in your business. Feel free to share in the comments.
I’m currently enrolling for next year’s Conscious Business Mastermind, a yearlong group program that supports conscious business owners to get the business foundations and practices in place. With a focus on ethical marketing, it could be the perfect place to get some additional accountability. To find out more head here.