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Could Accountability be The Key to A Successful Freelance Writing Career?

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I'm on a diet. Have been for, oh, about 7 weeks now. I've lost 7 pounds. Yeah, no, trust me, I'm going somewhere with this.

The reason I'm on a diet is because I have an accountability problem when it comes to food. Generally when I want to eat something bad I come up with some kind of reason that I should eat it.

"I worked hard today"

"I did laundry."

"I had a difficult phone call."

"It's raining."

You name the situation and I can turn it into an excuse to eat something terrible. But for the last 7 weeks, I haven't been doing that anymore. Instead, I've been holding myself accountable. I've realized that the decision to eat stuff I shouldn't is a decision that I make, not a decision dictated by the day's events. That gets me out of the excuses thought process and helps me commit to eating properly.

My dieting dilemma reminds me a lot of the blog posts and forum ramblings I see of many freelancers. Every day the same questions appear:

"How do you find clients?"

"How do you find high-paying clients?"

"Are there any high-paying gigs anymore?"

"How do you get clients who pay?"

It's not that having questions is bad, it's that all of these questions are answered in about 8 million different free blog posts all over the Internet. This makes me begin to wonder if the real problem is that the writers asking these questions aren't holding themselves accountable for their careers. It's just like Rebecca mentioned in her post earlier this week. If someone has to hold your hand and personally escort you down the fanciful freelancing lane, then you probably are not capable of doing it yourself. Not for lack of talent, not for lack of business acumen and not for lack of smarts--for lack of accountability.

So what do you think? If you went out, read all the advice out there on blogs and tried some of it yourself, do you think you would become as successful as you want to be? If you decided to send 10 marketing emails out to potential clients each week--and you made yourself do it--do you think you would get the kind of business you want? If you developed a strategy for making yourself more visible within your specialty and then carried it out, do you think you could become a query free freelancer?

I bet you could.

Hopefully next week I'll be back with another freelance writing marketplace review. But hell, maybe by then you won't need it.

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11 thoughts on “Could Accountability be The Key to A Successful Freelance Writing Career?”

  1. I absolutely think accountability is the key to success in anything. Either you can take care of business (in every sense of the word) or you can’t. If you need help, you have to be willing to help yourself first so that you know what it is you’re asking. If you want someone to tell you what to do; don’t quit your day job – that’s the exact definition of an employee. A freelance writer is a small business owner. If you’re not ready to run your own business, you’re not ready for this phase of the business.

    There are so many places to find help, even for those that have been in the business for a while, it’s a matter of taking responsibility for learning and discovery. Questions are great and there are plenty of us willing to answer them so long as the individual asking has done at least of bit of work trying to figure it out already or knows the framework for the question at least.

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  2. lol I just did the same thing today — justified grabbing Wendys for lunch by telling myself it was ok b/c I’d be dealing with physically grueling housework most of the day (which is true). And those little things are what cause my own weight loss to shoot back a step every time I think I’m getting one or two ahead. A part of the accountability thing is being able to learn from the mistakes and fix them though. So I guess that means an extra hour on the exercise bike today.

    As for business, it really is the same. You have to take responsibility. You will very likely slip up at times. And when you make a bad decision you have to evaluate the problem and alternatives and then fix it.

    You know, whether on the blog or privately, you have a way of kicking my ass into shape in various non-business areas even when you don’t mean to. You’ve done it on the man front, and here you’ve done it again on the health one. You’re like my unwilling life coach! 😉

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  3. And I ate cookies yesterday because I had a migraine headache… sigh.

    One way I help my self be accountable is with an accountability partner… wrote about it actually – http://bit.ly/9la8OI

    Of course that only works when I work it… thanks for the reminder.

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  4. Is “being accountable to yourself” (ie no outside force) just another word for discipline? I gained and lost 30 pounds in the last 2 years. I also exploded my freelance writing business. When people ask me the How of either, I answer the same: discipline.

    I will say that these two things are at odds, discipline-wise. Discipline in my work means having my butt in a chair, immovable, without excuses. And not gaining weight requires the opposite- getting OUT of this chair. It’s a push pull and so far I’ve succeeded in that balance.

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  5. @Allena, that is a great question. My instinct is to say that they are different… but I can see that they are similar. I think the commitment is the accountability portion and maybe the execution is discipline related. The key is not to give yourself excuses, which means being accountable to me.

    @Anne, I never progressed past rebellious teen in terms of maturity, so I think an accountability partner would hate me, but that could be a GREAT idea for others!

    @Jenn, I wouldn’t say UNwillingly 🙂

    @Rebecca, did you know that DPF was my inspiration for this post? Please tell me you’ve felt the frustration there too!

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  6. @Yo – Absolutely. I barely spend time there anymore because I’m so tempted to say something non-comforting to those obviously in need of TLC.

    I think it’s important to also point out that it doesn’t all come at once. Being independent and accountable can take time – it’s not entirely black and white. In some regards you have to grow into it and practice being responsible over and over again before it becomes a habit.

    And since we’re throwing out all of our personal weight loss stories, I’ll include mine. I gained almost 60 with my first and lost all but 5. With my second I gained 70 but my life was much, much fuller then with teaching, writing, a masters and a toddler and about half of that weight stayed on. For years. And for the most part I just ignored it because I wasn’t ready to tackle it just yet.

    Just in January did I have enough control of all those other parts of my life to get that back under control, too. I’ve modified parts of my diet and lost 12-13 pounds since January. More than a few left to go, but it feels good to have those pants getting looser instead of tighter again.

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  7. Like Anne, I’ve found an accountability partner and it’s working out quite well. We were both dead serious about taking our businesses to the next level, so we wanted to make sure we were partnering with someone who is serious enough to consider themselves a business – no hobby writers. Knowing that I’ll be reporting my progress really helps keep me focused and plan actionable steps each day toward my goals.

    Hmm, since this is going so well, maybe I need an accountability partner to help me stick to working out every day…

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  8. Yo, I agree totally. I’ve lamented with probably the same frequency as these lazy questions. That’s what they are – lazy questions. It says to me “I don’t know where to start, but instead of figuring it out first and then asking really good questions, I’ll let you tell me what I should do next.”

    I was a beginner once, though long ago before computers (yes, it’s true). I had no one to ask. I read. I subscribed to Writer’s Digest. I learned the basics through reading about them. I was a little embarrassed to ask questions (also a mistake). I learned from doing and from trying. Okay, eventually I had Internet writing colleagues, so I was able to ask. But still, I didn’t. I read. I let them discuss and I absorbed their discussions like a sponge.

    I do answer questions. I love them. But I won’t give any writer a “How do I get started?” response any longer than “Read this blog, then do a Google search for specific topics.” No one has enough time to answer that question!

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