How to Work with an Accountability Partner

by  Carolyn Edlund

Artists can work together as accountability partners to follow through and accomplish more of their business goals.


Artist with mentor


Quite often, in my work with artists as a mentor and business advisor, I find myself acting as an accountability partner too. In that role, I work with the artist to formulate goals and select a timeline in which to pursue and reach them. We set deadlines for particular tasks the artist wishes to commit to. Then, we follow up with conversations about the results.

You don’t have to work with a coach, however, to have an accountability partner. Artists often work with their peers to mutually help each other. Usually no money is exchanged in this type of relationship; there is great value in the mutual exchange of assistance and encouragement.

Commit to being accountable

When you declare your intention to achieve certain goals in your art business and express the desire to be held responsible for accomplishing them, you are taking a major step towards staying focused and motivated. The purpose of the accountability exercise is to help each artist proactively move forward and be recognized for that progress. It should not put either party under an unreasonable amount of pressure. Nor should it blame them for not reaching their set goals.

Find a compatible partner

There is no “ideal” accountability partner. Working with a peer who is at about your same level in business is usually the best fit. You will likely have much in common, and may have similar goals. Select someone you feel will be responsible and fair, and that you can work with over time. Each party should communicate about their overall business objective and be able to set intermediary goals to achieve it.

When you and a partner have decided to work together, choose regular meeting times. Decide how you will communicate, whether in person, through email, over the phone, on a video call, etc. Once you have discussed and committed to goals, place the next meeting on your calendar.

State your goal

Starting or building an art business has many moving parts. These include studio work, the choice of market channel, portfolio development, networking, creation of marketing collateral, and more. Build a road map to reach your stated business objective by breaking it down into smaller goals, with logical steps to reach them. Decide what can reasonably done in a set time period and state your intention.

Be specific

It helps to break down large goals into manageable steps that are clear and tangible. A goal like “Pull some marketing ideas together” is rather vague, while “Create a marketing calendar for the first quarter of the year” is more specific. When the accomplished goal can be demonstrably shown or measured, check that off your list.

Make it realistic

Set a timeline during which you will complete chosen tasks. Rather than commit to one big project, you may want to create a checklist of items to completed by the next meeting, perhaps one week or a month later. Make sure you are setting reasonable expectations. Life happens, and unexpected things come up. Don’t sabotage yourself by setting highly demanding goals. Instead, set yourself up for success by outlining small steps that can be acknowledged even if you don’t complete your list. That will help you stay positive and feel in control.

Meet and evaluate

Meet with your accountability partner on a regular basis for the purpose of reviewing progress. The great benefit of working as a team of two people is being able to get down into the details while avoiding outside distraction.

An accountability partner is not there to criticize or embarrass the other party. Nor should they be expected to be an advisor or solve problems for their partner.  Their role is check in with you, review current challenges, and offer support to help you stay on track. Each party is responsible for their own progress, while staying motivated by the commitment made with their partner.

Have you ever worked with an accountability partner? Did you find it helpful?  



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  1. I have been working with an accountability partner for about four years. I wouldn’t be painting without my partner Thyra. Besides holding each other accountable, we celebrate accomplishments, encourage each other, and offer suggestions when asked. We have both grown as artists and business people. It has been one of the best experiences I have had.

    We met at an art conference and clicked immediately. We both have 2 dogs and no kids. We went out to dinner with a group of artists and listened to several talk about their experiences with an accountability partner. We looked at each other, and I said,”We could do that.” She agreed and the rest is history!

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