Being held accountable feels like something ominous-- you will be taken to task for your actions! Ack! But really, if you think about it, it's really just a way to monitor progress... and also gain some perspective by talking it out with another person. Today we have Yuko of Honeyberry Studios sharing about how having an accountability partner helped to move her business forward!
Q: Tell us about yourself and what you make!
A: Hi, I’m Yuko Miki. I’m an artist, blogger, and a Creative Coach in Seattle, Washington. I’m mostly a self-taught artist and like to work with pen and ink, watercolor, gouache, colored pencils, and markers. I also create my work digitally using Photoshop and Illustrator. This year I’ve been learning to incorporate block printing in my work as well.
My creative business is called Honeyberry Studios, and I’ve been selling my products on Etsy since 2010. When I first started my Etsy store, it was under a different name, and I was selling my crochet accessories. It was more of a hobby back then and after a couple of years as I was rediscovering my childhood love for drawing, I slowly started adding more of my art prints and illustrated goods to my shop. I just felt like the profit margin for my crochet wares was too small (or I didn’t know how to scale up), and I got bored of crocheting the same things over and over.
In 2013, I changed the business name to Honeyberry Studios and focused my offerings in the shop exclusively to my illustration work. I had a full-time job, and I was also getting a certificate for Graphic Design at a local college because I didn’t think I could make it as a full-time artist without an art degree. Graphic Design seemed like a good practical skill to get me a career in a creative field. In my last portfolio review class in Spring of 2014, we had to do a presentation and talk about our design work.
I had a mini panic because my work looked very different than other students’. My design portfolio was full of whimsical and wonky illustrations I created, and I felt like I was failing as a designer. After my presentation, my instructor Susan said “Well, you’re not a bad designer. But it looks like you’re more passionate about illustration work - why don’t you just pursue illustration?” And with that one comment, I knew that’s what I wanted to do. Why don’t I pursue illustration? That is my passion and what feeds me more than doing design work.
My training in Graphic Design definitely helps me in my creative business, so I have no regrets about the little detour. After I got the design certificate, I was determined to take my art and illustration business to the next level. At the end of July 2015, I decided to quit my day job cold-turkey and pursue my creative passion full-time. It was a difficult and scary choice, but I just knew it was the right thing to do. I still sell my products on Etsy and at art and craft shows, do commission work, and have art shows. And after I quit my day job, I started a Creative Coaching service to help other artists keep moving forward with their dream goals. It’s still in a pilot stage, but it’s going great. I’m really excited to open it up officially in February 2016! I also publish a weekly blog about creativity and motivation every Sunday.
Q: What brought you to the point where you knew you wanted an accountability partner for your business?
A: I’ve been listening to Seanwes podcast (seanwes.com/podcast) religiously for a couple of years. His show is jam packed with practical advice and tips about creativity and business, and I can’t recommend his work enough! Anyway, he introduced the concept of accountability partnership in one of his episodes, and I got intrigued.
I’m naturally a pretty disciplined person and already had a couple of tools to stay motivated to achieve my goals - for instance, I made a public commitment in 2014 to start a daily drawing project called 365 Day Happiness Project and successfully completed it in 2015. And my sheer desire to become a full-time artist kept me going. But I was having a hard time emotionally because I didn’t feel like I was moving forward as quickly as I wanted to, especially when I had to balance my creative passion with a stressful day job. I’ve had many doubts and insecurities about where I was heading, and that’s the hardest part of pursuing a creative dream for me. I thought having an accountability partner would be another layer of support and motivation for me.
Q: What did you want out of an accountability partner and what criteria did that person need to meet?
A: For one, I would have a regular opportunity to talk about my successes and challenges with someone I feel comfortable with. It forces me to document what’s going well and what’s not working. I tend to focus on the negative, so for me to make a habit of telling someone what worked well really helps me see how far I’ve come and gives me the confidence. And when I’m in a perfectionist mode and want to tackle too much, I have someone to do a reality check with. It’s funny how we often need a permission to say no to something!
I also get a lot out of helping others, so this partnership structure is great. I get help around my challenges and get to help someone I care about achieve their goals at the same time. I had several criteria for teaming up with someone in this capacity: someone who is pursuing their creative goals, someone who is open to growth and learning, someone who wants me to succeed and is invested in their success just as much. And someone who is kind and shares similar social values as I do.
Q: How did you find this person?
A: At first, I tried to find someone in an on-line community with Seanwes (mentioned above for his podcast) and posted a message there but got no response. So I started thinking of anyone I knew in my circle who might be a good fit. Fortunately, I had an old co-worker and a friend, who is pursuing her passion for music while having a job and a family, and I thought she’d be a good fit. We were already a good personality match as a friend, and she lives nearby, so that makes it convenient! I reached out to her with a proposal and she was curious. So we met at a coffee shop one day and talked more about what I was wanting from the relationship. She agreed it would be helpful for her as well, and we’ve been meeting monthly since March of this year.
I’ve also been meeting with another accountability partner since June. She had just quit her day job to start a consulting business this spring, and I was talking to her about how my accountability partnership was helping me accomplish my goals. She asked if I could be her accountability partner, and I said yes because again, I knew we were going to be a good fit. I also felt I had time and energy for it too. I like having two accountability partners because they each offer different perspectives and are both very helpful.
Q: What is the structure you have for keeping each other accountable?
A: We typically meet once a month at a coffee shop or over lunch. At the end of the meeting we usually set concrete goals for the next meeting, so we take turns sharing how we did with our goals from the previous month. What did you accomplish? What didn’t work? What kept you from accomplishing those goals?
The purpose of accountability partnership isn’t really about one person holding the other accountable - it’s more about having a space to hold yourself accountable and be supported in your challenges. There have been times when we didn’t work on the goals we said we would. It’s not productive to feel ashamed or guilty about not following through with your goals. Instead, we focus our time and energy understanding why it didn’t work and problem-solve moving forward. We schedule our next meeting at the end so it’s on our calendars in advance. We do our best to prioritize our time together unless there is an emergency. Sometimes we do email check-ins between our in-person meetings if there is something timely we had to work on, like for example, I had a deadline to turn in an application for an art show and wanted to report to my partner that I did it etc.
Q: What advice do you have for anyone who is thinking about getting an accountability partner?
A: Do it. It’s a wonderful gift to give your future self!
Q: What's the number one thing people should know about getting an accountability partner?
A: Keep your mind open and communicate a lot. Your accountability partnership can look differently than mine or anyone else’s. You and your partner might need to put in some time to figure out the structure and expectations that work for both of your learning. Be open to course correct if something doesn’t work.
Q: Where can people find your stuff?
A: I’m all over the interweb! I’d love to connect with you :)
Q: Anything else?
A: Thank you for letting me share with you all! I hope it was helpful and you’re inspired to get yourself an accountability partner :)
Have you ever had an accountability for your work? Are you considering one? Let us know your experience!