Is there a shortcut that freelancers can take when they are starting out to lessen the learning curve and achieve their goals more quickly?
You bet there is! It’s called…finding a mentor.
A mentor is a more experienced freelancer or other professional who you can turn to for guidance and who can answer your questions about freelancing. Although there are many benefits to working with a mentor, surprisingly few freelancers choose to work with mentors.
In this post, I’ll list some of the ways that having a mentor can benefit a freelancer. I’ll also provide some tips to help you find the mentor who is right for you.
6 Advantages to Working with a Mentor
Whether it’s the “loner” mentality or just a lack of knowledge about how beneficial a mentor can really be, many freelancers never use the services of a mentor.
Here are six reasons why freelancers should consider finding a mentor. Freelancers who have a mentor often:
- Learn from secondhand experience. It’s great to learn from your mistakes, but it’s even better to avoid making the mistakes in the first place. In a nutshell, this is often what having a mentor can do for you. Your mentor can tip you off to methods and processes that really don’t work well.
- Benefit from expanded network connections. Your mentor likely has a broader base of connections since they have been in business longer. For that reason, your mentor can introduce you to or point you towards individuals who can really help you grow your business.
- Have access to another opinion. How many times have you wished for a second opinion on a crucial decision? Often, a freelancer has no one to act as a sounding board. Freelancers with mentors, however, do have someone who can take a fresh look at their ideas.
- Get industry-specific tips. If your mentor works in the same freelancing profession as you do, they may be able to help you identify specific tools and techniques that work well in your field and steer you away from those that are bad ideas.
- Get general business tips. Lack of basic business knowledge is a huge hurdle that many beginning freelancers face. However, an experienced freelancer has been running a small business for a while and can tip you off to some business principles you should know.
- Have more confidence. Last, but not least, a freelancing mentor can provide encouragement. You’ll grow in confidence as he or she points out those areas where you have excelled.
The bottom line is: there’s nothing like learning from someone who has been there.
Now that we have discussed how a freelancer can benefit from having a mentor, it’s time to talk about how to find the right mentor.
6 Tips for Finding the Right Mentor
When looking for a mentor, first and foremost, you should look for someone whose personal style is compatible with your own. Naturally, you should seek out someone whose opinions you value. Finally, your mentor needs to be able and willing to spend some time interacting with you.
Here are six possible ways to find a mentor:
- Paid coach. Many experienced freelancers offer paid coaching or mentoring services. If you want to find a mentor who works in your specific niche, this may be the best way to do it.
- Professional association. You can also find experienced freelancers (and potential mentors) in professional associations and business networking groups.
- Past or present teacher. If you are a recent graduate or keep in touch with your former professors, it’s quite possible that one of them may be welling to serve as your mentor.
- Past employer/colleague. For those freelancers who have held a traditional job before becoming a freelancer, their past workplace may be the ideal place to find someone experienced in their field.
- Social networking. More than ever before, experienced freelancers and inexperienced freelancers can “meet” and get to know one another online.
- Score and similar organizations. Many nonprofits offer business mentoring services to small business for free or for a reduced cost. In the United States, an example of such an organization is SCORE, which provides both mentoring and workshops for small business owners.
A final word–treat your mentor respectfully and always be considerate when it comes to how much of his or her time you use.
Do you wish to learn more about mentors and mentoring? Here are five more helpful posts:
- From Susan Johnston at FreelanceSwitch, 5 Tips for Freelance Mentor Relationships
- From Preston D Lee at graphic design blender, 11 personalities traits of a good freelance mentor
- From tumblemoose at FreelanceWriting, Do You Have a Freelance Writing Mentor?
- From Jo Ann Sweeney at FreelanceFactFile, Seven foundations for successful mentoring
- From Freelance Writing Jobs, Do You Need a Writing Mentor?
You can probably tell that I’m a huge fan of mentors, and rightfully so. When I was starting out I had the good fortune of working with several other writers who were willing to help me grow as a writer.
Did you/do you have a mentor? In what ways has your mentor helped your freelancing business?
Image by @boetter