As freelancers, we often have an idea of what we want to achieve, but find ourselves uncertain on how to get there. Cue mentorship. Having a mentor who has “been there, done that”, can help guide you personally and professionally to reach the success you are aiming for. Read on to learn how to find someone who is a good fit for you and what you can get out of the relationship.
Be a groupie.
Look for a mentor that you admire and who you think will give you the type of knowledge that you can’t just Google. This person might be someone who is already in your network, like a family friend who has built a successful business, or someone who you don’t currently have a direct link to but can get access to. Once you have identified the people you think you could learn from, send them a polite email asking them if you can take them out for a coffee or have a chat on the phone. Be open about uncertainties or doubts that you have about your career trajectory and tell them why you think their advice would be valuable to you. If you don’t have their contact information, try reaching them through their personal website or LinkedIn page and explain why you’re interested in meeting with them.
The first pow-wow.
When you meet up, be mindful that this person is giving you their time, so be ready to ask questions that let you walk away with actionable tips for your career. Ask questions like, “How did you choose to pursue this career?” “How did you land your first major client?” “How did you expand your client list over time?” “What are some resources that you found to be helpful?” Take notes during your meeting so you have something to refer back to in the future. This will also make your mentor feel like you’re taking their advice seriously and that they’re not wasting their time with you.
A mentor/mentee relationship usually forms naturally over time. Mark it in your calendar to contact your mentor once a month to check in with them and schedule your next meeting or phone call. Give them progress reports on the subjects you brought up last time to keep yourself accountable. Mentorship matters not only for the invaluable advice we receive but also because many of us freelancers work alone. Having a mentor can help us combat freelancer loneliness and let us feel like there is someone on our side who is just a phone call or email away.
Give and receive.
While you gain knowledge from someone who is more successful than you, offer your help to someone who is at an earlier stage of freelancing or who is facing a challenge you’ve already overcome. Not only does giving back and helping others make you happier, it also lets you reflect on the career choices that you’ve made and learn more from your own process too.