Now I have to live up to it and keep writing quality content. No pressure then!
Accountability: the missing link
In it I reflected on how I’d been to the TCMA conference the year before, learned loads and had my eyes well and truly opened to the possibilities that content marketing can create.
And yet I’d done nothing about it.
I realised my main problem was a lack of accountability, and so I set out three commitments for all to see:
- Create regular content for my website. We’ve already established that I can tick that box!
- Continue to build a community around me. This is the most important thing I’ve been working on, and it has made all the difference this year.
- Redefine my business. This is a work in progress, but I’m getting there and I now have a much clearer picture of who my ideal clients are.
Lack of accountability can be a real problem when you’re a one-man band. You are essentially accountable to no one and nothing, except perhaps a client’s deadline. Even the most motivated of self-starters can benefit from having someone check if they’ve followed through on their plans, however small. There are always troughs between the peaks, and support, honest feedback – and sometimes constructive criticism on some aspect of our behaviour or business practices – can be very welcome.
We all benefit from an objective viewpoint when we’re so close to a problem that we genuinely can’t see the way forward. And when someone else has been there and done that, it’s reassuring to hear from them and know that there is a way forward, even if we can’t quite see it yet.
So I’ve done a few things this year to make myself more accountable.
I’ve joined the CMA community
I’d been on the fence about this before last year’s conference, as it’s a paid membership community and I wasn’t sure I could justify spending money on it. However, after the conference I took up an offer of a 30-day free trial and I was sold.
It’s a diverse community of over 100 business owners, and the level of knowledge, learning and support exceeded all my expectations. The generosity of the other members, and their willingness to share their knowledge and experiences – the good and the bad – is more than I could ever have hoped for. There are regular webinars from big names in content marketing and other business areas, weekly calls, resources on all aspects of being a business owner and regular challenges to stretch us and keep us accountable.
I’m in an accountability group
One of the huge plusses of my CMA membership is my accountability group within the community, Actionlab. There are four of us: Ross Coverdale, a kick-ass video editor; Martin Huntbatch, a website and SEO genius; John Espirian, my editorial colleague and technical writer set on world domination; and me.
We meet fortnightly via the wonders of Zoom, and we have a private channel in the CMA Slack community. This year we finally all met in the same place at conference, although it did take a while to organise even that, but I think you’ll agree the photo was worth it!
We basically support each other and provide feedback, guidance and a shoulder to cry on if required! It can be a total love-in at times, but we can be very stern and provide a much-needed kick up the backside if someone is losing direction!
I’ve been on an editing retreat
Last summer I read how colleagues in North America had been on a weekend retreat. I posted in an editorial Facebook group, asking if anyone in the UK had been on one. It started a chain of conversations which led to seven of us creating a Slack community to help us with accountability and direction, both as editors, in terms of Continuing Professional Development, and as business owners, looking at marketing, strategy, direction, etc.
This gives me accountability and a sounding board from an editorial point of view. The others, like me, are all Advanced Professional Members of the Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP). So our business discussions can focus on the challenges and opportunities of working in this field.
Ultimately, the aim was to work towards having a weekend retreat, and earlier this month we did just that. We took an AirBnB house in London, and our colleague in Canada joined us for the afternoon and evening sessions via Skype. It worked out really well – look out for blog posts on that, too!
When you speak out enthusiastically about something, you find there are opportunities!
At the SfEP annual conference in Birmingham last September, I took part in a session about professional development. At one point I explained about accountability groups and how useful they were, and although no one seemed aware of what they were, there was a lot of interest.
It so happened that I had been sitting next to Beth Hamar, who had just taken over as Conference Director. A few months later she emailed to ask if I would run a session on accountability groups at this year’s conference. How could I refuse?! I’ll let you know how it goes!
Planning, accountability, and an award. It’s been quite a year!
Do you take the time to plan and reflect, either on your business or on your personal and professional development? How do you keep yourself accountable? Let me know in the comments what works, or doesn’t, for you. I’m always interested to hear other’s stories!