“If only I knew X when I started out” – how many times have you heard fellow freelancers say that? There are a lot of mistakes you can make at the beginning of your career and some are not obvious.
Whether it is about picking your niche or nurturing your network from the very start, figuring out everything on your own is next to impossible.
But guess what – not every freelancer has to discover the wheel by themselves.
Humans are defined by the fact that they are social beings. Searching out someone to guide you along is a very natural thing to do and can help boost your career by a lot. So if you’re thinking, “I need a mentor” – go for it!
On the other hand, many freelancers might be reluctant to directly look for mentors, but they really shouldn’t be. There are people willing to help – you just have to find them!
In this article, we’ll see:
- Why should freelancers have a mentor?
- Types of mentoring available
- How to find a freelancer mentor
- Mentoring vs coaching
Freelancer, why should you have a mentor?
1. Learn from others’ mistakes rather than your own
As we said, not everybody needs to discover the wheel for themselves. Yes, there are a lot of errors you can make when starting out as a freelancer. However, every single one has already been made.
Learning from your own failures is a way to make experiences really stick with you.
However, you don’t have to burn your finger by sticking it into the fire every time.
Sometimes, you just need a person you trust to tell you that’s not a good idea.
2. Have a second opinion
As a freelancer, innovation is your second nature. Especially when starting out your career, there will be a lot of new situations that require you to make a decision. And while trusting your gut instincts or evaluating pros and cons can often lead you to the right solution, having a second opinion is just as valuable. And if that opinion comes from someone who has already experienced what you’re going through, that’s even better!
3. Build confidence
Thirdly, mentorships are a great way to build up your confidence. Mentors aren’t only there to give you advice and guide you along. There are also people who share in your success, know how much work you’ve put in and are there to give you a pat on the shoulder when you deserve one.
4. Provides accountability
We already told you about the importance of having an accountability partner to achieve your goals. Your mentor can also act as this partner as you will need to report back to him.
If you talk about redesigning your page or updating your portfolio you will need to start working on that.
5. Benefit from the mentor’s network
Last but not least, mentors are by definition more experienced than you. That means they know people in your field of work – they have connections.
If they are willing to use those connections to your advantage, you stand to gain a lot from a mentorship.
What types of mentoring are available?
1. Jumping into freelancing
If you are thinking about freelancing, but haven’t taken specific steps to begin, hiring a mentor to guide you through the initial setup could be an excellent way to speed things up.
A mentor can guide you in setting up your freelancer profile, on how to make your self stand out and look more professional, and which of your strengths to focus on.
A perfect mentor for this stage would be someone with a track record of several years of freelancing online, with proven successes in a specific niche.
Ideally, you would want to work in the same niche, but his or her advice will be valuable even if you will provide a different kind of service.
2. Bringing your skills to a new level and mastering your niche
At this stage of your freelancing career, you need someone who advises you on how to leverage your existing skills and abilities for the maximum effect – someone who will be able to teach you how to get the best result in the shortest amount of time, based on your existing skills.
Complementary to this, you might look for someone who can guide you on the best route to take to acquire new skills and abilities in your area of expertise, e.g. design, writing, or development.
3. Growing as a freelancer
You have spent some time freelancing, and you are not struggling with beginner’s issues anymore. You have made a significant amount of money freelancing online. You have a constant stream of customers.
Now you are ready to take things to the next level, as a result of ever-increasing demand. You are thinking of hiring an assistant to help you deal with this, but you have your dilemmas. Should I hire one or two assistants? How to organize everything? Is it time to start a business and move to an Ltd.?
A proper mentor at this stage should give you ideas for a business model, content creation, and lead magnet optimization, marketing, online marketing, and social media, CRM, and so on.
4. Switching from a freelancer to a business owner
At this point, you need to hire more than one or two assistants. You need a number of full-time employees. You are becoming a larger business. Accordingly. you need a mentor who will help you with setting up a corporation, reducing startup costs, hiring new people, looking for angel investors, helping you hash out a vision and a mission for your business, deal with branding, etc.
How to find a freelance mentor
1. Reflect on your strengths and weaknesses
The first step in finding the right mentor is determining what you’re looking for.
What are you exceptional at?
If you’re really good at something, a mentor will be less effective at helping those areas get even better. Weaknesses are what you want to focus on.
Find a person who is excellent at something you struggle with. Is it Plugin development? Is it SEO? No matter what it’s, this is the easiest way to improve.
2. Personal network
The first place to look for a mentor is your personal network.
A lot of people can be mentors – colleagues, higher-ups, past or current teachers – you absolutely know people who can help you get better at something that will push your freelance career forward.
The main advantage of finding a mentor through your personal network is that you already know them. You just need to ask them for advice.
3. Freelancer meetups
Whether they are virtual or in-person, networking groups are the best way to meet other people who are excited about your field of work as much as you are. This is where you can meet professionals who are willing to share their experience.
You should nurture the connection by keeping in touch, but also remain respectful to your mentor. You don’t want to hassle them, you want to form a friendly professional connection that is informative to you, but engaging and interesting to them as well.
4. Mentorship programs
Finally, there are also structured mentorship programs available in most countries. Some of them connect freelancers with their mentors online, others do it locally. If you’ve exhausted all the above-mentioned options or are in a hurry to get a mentor, looking up a mentorship program is the best way to go forward quickly.
Just make sure you familiarize yourself with the rules of the platform or site before getting into something that you didn’t really want.
What’s the difference between coaching and mentoring?
Often both concepts are used with the same meaning in business. However, a mentor is different than a coach.
A mentor and a mentee have an informal relationship. The role of the mentor is to transfer his or her experience and wisdom while providing support and motivation for their mentees.
This role is very important because a mentor is living proof that it is possible to achieve a certain level of success. The guidance they provide to mentees is invaluable since it helps them focus on the things that really matter – rather than discovering, through trial and error, what those things are.
Mentors help their mentees glean gems of wisdom. This is especially important today, in our data-driven world.
Contrary to the mentor-mentee relationship, the relationship between a coach and a trainee is a lot more formal. It is concentrated on teaching trainees a specific set of skills, in a predetermined number of classes and over a fixed period.
In short, a mentor is an advisory role. A mentor is a problem-solver, that is his or her main objective. A mentor provides wisdom.
A coach is a more formal role. A coach’s objective is the transfer of specific skills. A coach provides knowledge.
Here is a good metaphor to remember the difference between the two: a coach helps you pass a test, while a mentor helps you understand which test you should take in the first place.
|Friendly relationship, usually one on one.||Formal relationship, usually in more of a classroom style.|
|Long-term relationship that lasts for years.||Short-term, usually on a predetermined schedule.|
|Meetings happen when a problem needs to be solved.||Meetings happen on a pre-set schedule.|
|The value provided: Holistic approach to development of the mentee, through wisdom imparted by the mentor.||The value provided comes in the form of specific knowledge and skills acquisition.|
Have you had a mentor? Tell us your story in the comment section below this article!