Rule 5 of Profitable Writing

Writer For HirePart five of nine-and-a-half.

Last week I talked about the rule most responsible for what success I’ve experienced. Now we’ll talk about the habit that’s missing from most of the people who come to me for advice. Writers aren’t alone in this. In fact, it’s a point Michael Gerber brings up again and again in his books for entrepreneurs of all stripes. Rule five of profitable writing is….


So here’s the thing about a lot of freelancers. We fired our bosses and went out on our own because we were sick and tired of being told what to do. We thought we were smarter that our bosses, and knew we were better looking.

We may even have been right, but do you know what we were worse at than our bosses? Being a boss.

And that’s where many freelancers have trouble. We’re great at what we do, we may even excel at planning our projects, but as a group we’re terrible at following through on our plans. Without a boss to ask us pointed questions every few days, projects fall farther and farther behind schedule. We turn in work late, fail to communicate promptly, and let our businesses perform adequately instead of making our dreams come true.

The solution?

Find a boss.

I don’t mean go back to a regular job. I mean find somebody who will hold you accountable for your success. Whoever that person is, they need to be able to:

  1. Get you to commit to timelines and deadlines for finishing your projects.
  2. Touch base with you on your progress in a way that encourages you to stay on schedule.
  3. Chide you as gently or firmly as you need to keep your promises to yourself.
  4. Do all of the above without drama that leads you to rebel and sabotage yourself.

A lot of people think immediately of a spouse when looking for an accountability partner. In most cases, this is a mistake. There’s too much emotional baggage — and too much ignoring one another — in most marriages for this to succeed. Some alternatives that often work better include

  • A parent or sibling
  • A former co-worker, even a former boss
  • Another freelancer
  • A writing group
  • A friend

Exactly who you choose to hold you accountable is up to you, but you need something. For me, my systems and bills are enough accountability to keep me on track — but that’s true after two years of outsourcing it to a friend.

Who provides your accountability? If the answer is “nobody” or “myself” how are you doing so far?

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