Meet A. Club, accountability groups hosted by creators, for creators

By Bridget Brewer

Photo by Jeremy Cohen, featuring Siobhán O'Loughlin

To learn, grow, and connect with others navigating similar experiences, join a creator-led club — and you’ll never have to create alone.

With all the overlapping stresses and pressures of current life, it’s no wonder that loneliness and burnout are on the rise — including for creators. The May 2022 Patreon Creator Census found that 80% of creators work alone, which can bring a thrilling freedom and creative independence. But solo work can also have a shadow side: without formal support structures to help navigate creative and professional challenges, creators can feel stuck or isolated.

Enter: peer accountability groups.

The benefits of peer accountability groups, though largely unstudied with creatives, are well-documented within other spheres. Studies show, for example, that office workers with managers who emphasize and follow through with accountability practices are four times more likely to do their jobs well, be honest, and act fairly.

"To have a group where there's always somebody in the room that has had some direct relative experience to the challenge that you’re having is so special." - Troy Hewitt

Similarly, when Patreon creators participate in A. Clubs — small peer accountability groups hosted by creators, for creators — the deep sense of community and support can lead to heartening results. The “A” in A. Clubs stands for “accountability,” although “ally,” “action,” “audacious,” and “awesome” are also options. For Mutants & Masterminds lead Troy Hewitt, facilitating the weekly Tabletop RPG Creators Club has been a chance to connect with others who understand the nuances of being an independent creator in the world of live games.“If you're working on a Patreon, it's your dream, or your dream realized,” he says. “It's deeply personal. So to have a group where there's always somebody in the room that has had some direct relative experience to the challenge that you’re having is so special.”

Finding strength and direction as part of a group can be a powerful experience. “As an independent creator, not attached to any record label, it’s easy to feel that you have to work independently,” says Summer Mensah, a member of the Songwriters Support Club. “But that is a misconception. Though I may be my own manager, I still depend on others to help my projects come to life. And A. Club helped me face this reality all the more.”

A. Club’s creator-centered beginnings

After Patreon kicked off an onsite residency program at Patreon's headquarters in San Francisco, creator feedback shed light on more pressing priorities. “Creators were saying, ‘I don't really need work space at Patreon. I need ongoing support to figure out how to run my creative business,’” says Emily Lakin, Head of Patreon’s Creator Community. “And that was really a lightbulb moment for us to think about how the creator community plays a role in supporting each other through the ups and downs of their career, and in sharing best practices from their own experiences."

So, the Patreon community team pivoted from providing physical space to building A. Club as a way to foster opportunities for creators to meet, support each other, and learn together, in turn, building community and connections with fellow creators. The program has been growing ever since, launching almost 100 clubs and connecting creators across 70 countries, as of late 2022, so that you never have to feel like you’re creating alone.

A flexible, come-as-you-are format

Some A. Clubs meet weekly or biweekly over Zoom. Some communicate almost entirely in Discord channels. Clubs might revolve around an identity — take the Queer Erotic Content Creators Club, for example, or the Black Audio Content Creators Club — or a profession, like the Health and Wellness Professionals Club. Some A. Clubs use their time together to focus on to-do lists or on committing to completions of projects; others simply offer a communal gathering place. Some clubs play host to 70 regularly-attending participants; others are much smaller.

Health and Wellness Professionals Club captain Robyn Warren, founder of Geek Girl Strong, says that the beauty of A. Clubs lies in their flexibility. “If it's not working for you, you don't have to keep doing it,” she says. “I just offer the space and allow the club to meet people where they are.”

Troy puts it like this: “The way that we've structured our A. Club is ‘you come as you are, as you can.’ It's Accountability Club, not Shame Club!” In the end, what matters is how creators show up for themselves and others — that’s what makes A. Club so valuable.

Communal creator-led spaces

It’s all well and good to put people together, but community isn’t something that happens overnight. It takes work and clear organization. This is where A. Club Captains play an essential role. Each A. Club is hosted by a volunteer creator, known as a Captain, who comes up with the idea for a club and applies to lead it. Captains kickstart each A. Club into existence and facilitate the group over a period of time, tapping into a toolkit that includes facilitation best practices to guide them in their role. They spend their time sending emails with agendas, checking in on Discord, or opening the Zoom rooms and greeting members.

When Troy heard about A. Clubs, he immediately connected with the idea, given how many role-playing game creators use Patreon. “I thought, if I run a group and slowly connect people to one another, maybe we can get some discussions going,” he says. “What’s funny is that there are probably four or five people in our A. Club now who said, ‘Before I found out this club was getting made, I already had my paper in hand, and I was ready to do it myself.’ People in A. Clubs really are self-starters.” In addition to motivated facilitators, A. Clubs work best when all members fully commit by showing up to meetings and participating.

But being an A. Club Captain is pretty different from traditional facilitator roles in other spaces, where you’re expected to be an expert or an instructor. “Most of my time is spent organizing and leading the community coaching sessions and leading classes,” says Robyn, “so I wanted the club to know that this wasn't my role in our club; that I was a facilitator, not their teacher, in this environment. Especially since they all spend their work time teaching and instructing as well!”

In A. Clubs, everyone is both an expert and a learner, and a Captain’s job is to cultivate a space where everyone can lead and share with each other. Troy, who has a long history of activism and building online communities, likes to help other members learn facilitation skills during meetings, and Robyn calls on her fellow health and wellness professionals to share the responsibilities. Regardless of experience level, the real goal as a Captain isn’t to make sure a certain number of metrics are achieved or that it looks how an A. Club “should” look, says Robyn. “It can just be an opportunity to open up space, and that's it.”

Captains aren't alone in their role either. The Patreon team provides opportunities for captains to meet and talk strategy along with resources to help with club operations.

"Not many people in my local community pursue this field, and A. Club helped me find someone who had the same ambitions, motivations, and bravery as me." - Emily Roig

Opportunities to connect and collaborate

Regardless of each club’s function or size, the mission remains the same. In creative industries that treat creators as solo acts, A. Clubs are a place for creators to gather and grow together.

Take, for example, musicians Summer Mensah and Emily Roig. They first met in the Songwriter's Support Club and ended up collaborating on a new single, titled 95, that they released together in July 2022. “I left our writing sessions feeling reinvigorated to experiment musically, produce and record at a higher quality, and relieved to not be alone in this work,” says Emily. “Summer is truly gifted and inspiring and innovative. I can't wait to see what else comes of this newfound friendship and creative partnership!” Summer adds, “Not many people in my local community pursue this field, and A. Club helped me find someone who had the same ambitions, motivations, and bravery as me. We’ve even extended our collaboration and decided to perform a couple shows together!”

Robyn finds the inherently collaborative nature of A. Clubs essential to her work as a health and wellness professional, especially because, without colleagues to chat with, her work can feel lonely and undervalued. “I now know all of these other people who are trying to be really creative in how they present information, how they garner community around the service that they're offering,” she says. “It's been really good for me on a personal level, as someone who puts a lot of my own value in the work that I do.”

How to participate

Could an A. Club be right for you? For Emily Roig, the decision to join felt like a leap into the unknown. “I didn't know what to expect and was unsure if it would be of any benefit or if I could fully commit to it,” she recalls. “But after the first few meetings, I was so glad I did. It enabled musicians from all over the country to meet, connect, inspire, and learn from each other.”

A. Clubs are regularly open to new members, as well as new Captains. Interested in taking the plunge? You can learn more about the program and sign up for existing A. Clubs. If you’ve got an idea for an A. Club tickling the back of your brain, you can learn more about becoming a Captain and apply to start your own club.

“You are not alone in your work,” says Emily Lakin. "And if you want to connect with other creators who know what it's like to do what you do, and put in the work to grow together, the experience can be incredibly rewarding."