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Starting an Accountability Group


Starting an Accountability Group

Even with all the advantages of freelancing (avoiding the commute, setting your own hours, protecting yourself with multiple income streams), you still might find yourself missing the kinds of discussions and professional camaraderie that come with in-office jobs. 

Accountability (or mastermind) groups can help, and it’s wholly within your power to start one. (I did it, and I assure you I am far from a social butterfly.)

Overcoming Anxiety

There’s no way around it: organizing an accountability group means contacting people and setting yourself up for rejection. No matter how accomplished you are, you might still find yourself subject to negative self-questioning and impostor syndrome: Would anyone join my group? Do I want to be part of a group that would have me as a member?

Your inner voice can be cruel, but remember a few things:

  1. The fact that you’re trying to learn and increase your connections in the editing community (or any professional community) speaks well of you.
  2. Most people will be flattered that you respect them enough to ask them to join your group.
  3. People might decline for reasons that have nothing to do with you. They may already be in another group. They may be feeling their own anxiety. But even if they decline, you’ve still paid them the compliment of an invitation, and they’re likely to remember that.

Reaching Out

Once I committed to forming the group, I had to find members. The editing community on Twitter is generally welcoming and informative, and I follow a lot of great editors. 

I have always been uncomfortable on social media, but I interact just enough that I had in mind some people who might want to join the group (as well as someone I met at a breakout session during the last ACES conference).

Six struck me as the perfect number of people for the group (I wanted enough people to offer different perspectives and still maintain a good group number when a member inevitably couldn’t make a meeting, but I didn’t want a number that would make the group unwieldy or limit the ability of everyone to participate).

I sent out five invitations. One declined, as the person was already in another group, and one person had another participant in mind, and that person subsequently accepted, so we hit our six.

It couldn’t have gone better.

Defining Your Intent

I had a rough idea of what I wanted to accomplish with the group, but sending out invitations forced me to define it better. The following are the main goals I had in mind for the group:

  • Share knowledge about tools and processes
  • Engage in discussions about our work lives
  • Promote accountability
  • Support each other
  • Share opportunities
  • Celebrate our accomplishments
  • Network

Those are my goals, but I also wanted it to be a group of equal voices, and I looked forward to hearing what other members hoped to get out of the group. One of the main benefits of the group, I hoped, would be to inspire each other with ideas that wouldn’t occur to us otherwise.

Managing the Logistics

Once five members accepted invitations to the group, I had to set up our first meeting. I queried the group for best times and a good date. 

My initial thought was to host our first meeting on Zoom, but I don’t have a paid Zoom account (with free accounts, your meetings are limited to forty minutes), so I sent out meeting requests on Google Meet (I have a Gmail account). 

Enjoying the Ride

The first meeting was a great success. One of the members couldn’t attend because work got in the way, and she was missed, but that will surely happen from time to time, and I wanted everyone to be assured that that’s fine, and that work and life take priority.

Everyone seemed happy with Google Meet, the only inconvenience being that I have to admit people who aren’t part of the network (and that’s a minor inconvenience).

Before the meeting I sent out a brief PowerPoint deck that included our purpose and three simple ground rules:

  • Be kind
  • Respect privacy of discussions
  • Do no harm

This first meeting had the simple agenda of introducing ourselves and covering a few basics, such as the best day of the week and the best time to meet going forward, as well as the duration for the meetings.

We decided to meet every two weeks on Wednesdays at 8:00 p.m., and we set the target at an hour, with the idea that we might want to keep the meetings going longer, but that anyone was free to drop off at any time, for whatever reason.

The members are all wonderful editors, and as we introduced ourselves, I enjoyed learning about everyone’s experience and specialties. We seemed to have differences and commonalities that strike a nice balance, so my hopes for the group are high. 

A Name

We’re tentatively set with a group name of Pens & Pilcrows. 

A name for the group might not be essential, but I could also get carried away thinking about the potential to set up a website so the group can share resources and promote its members, providing another gateway to our individual sites. I could also see us creating publications or helping other editors in any number of ways, but hosting successful, productive meetings is a great first step. 

A name is also a unifying banner to work under and should increase our sense of unity. It also makes the group feel more official, more legitimate.

Final Thoughts 

I’m proud of myself for stepping out of my comfort zone and forming the group. I hope to learn a lot from the other members, and getting to know five other editors better has already been well worth the effort.

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