By Kat Boogaard
As a freelancer, you may think you don’t need a mentor. After all, you’re in business for yourself. But, a mentor wants you to succeed and is there to help you navigate any obstacles you encounter.
Though most companies have a mentor program for staff, as a freelancer, it’s up to you to locate and establish a connection. How do you find a freelance mentor? And what should you look for in one?
What Is a Freelance Mentor?
A freelance mentor is exactly what it sounds like—somebody who’s well-versed in what it takes to be a successful freelancer and is willing to share their insights and experiences to help you take your freelance career to the next level.
How Can a Freelance Mentor Help?
In any career, it’s helpful to learn from someone who’s already faced many of the similar goals and challenges that you’re dealing with. And, in a field like freelancing, where you’re responsible for so much (from marketing to accounting), it can be especially beneficial to lean on the support of a mentor.
Provide Guidance and Advice
Perhaps you’re unsure how to value your work and set your rates. Or, maybe you have an unhappy client blowing up your inbox, and you have no clue how to respond. These are situations that other freelancers have dealt with. Your mentor will be able to share their wisdom and experience to guide you through those challenges in a professional and productive way.
Freelancing has its pros, but it also has its cons, and sometimes a freelance mentor is just what you need during the cons.
Not everybody will understand the trials, tribulations, and victories of freelance life. Having somebody who can sympathize, commiserate, and celebrate with you is a benefit that’s easy to overlook, yet still incredibly important.
There’s no way around it—you’re going to have those days when freelancing feels like too much. You may feel ready to throw up your hands, call it quits, and go back to the comfort and predictability of a traditional 9-to-5. In those moments, you need someone to talk to. And, there’s nobody better to do that than somebody who’s experienced those same emotions. Freelance mentors are a great resource for support and encouragement when you’re feeling particularly low or disheartened.
How to Find a Freelance Mentor
Start With Your Network
Decide what you’d like to learn from a mentor, and then evaluate who you know that might fit the bill. Keep in mind that you may benefit from having more than one mentor.
The manager whose thought-provoking questions helped you formulate goals in the past may still be a great option if seeking career guidance. Turning to a neighbor who operates her own business may help you learn how to navigate life as an independent contractor.
Similarly, be willing to think outside the box. If establishing an online presence is one of your concerns, turning to a young but social media-savvy former coworker may yield high dividends.
Try Outside Your Network
If you aren’t finding “mentor material” among people you know, branch out. Professional organizations, alumni associations, and community groups can bring you into contact with an array of people who might be more suitable. Likewise, online options abound from LinkedIn groups that can introduce you to their connections to online communities, such as Freelancers Union.
Take a Chance and Ask
While some connection or introduction may make the process of meeting a mentor easier, it can be worth a try to establish a bond with someone you feel drawn to but don’t know. Whether this person is a blogger who seems to speak your language or the director of a local nonprofit whose sense of purpose you admire, take a chance and reach out.
Arrange a meeting or phone call at the person’s convenience. Explain who you are and why you’d like to have him or her as a mentor. If there seems to be some interest, set up another informational meeting for a specified amount of time on a certain topic. Keeping initial conversations focused will stop the potential mentor from feeling overwhelmed and allow the relationship to build slowly.
Lastly, note that finding a good mentor can take time. Try not to take rejection personally—the person you ask may be currently overwhelmed with other personal and professional obligations. Explore different options until the right match occurs; the freelancer who finds an excellent mentor is the freelancer who doesn’t give up!
Give and Take
Once you find a mentor, remember that even though you’ll be the one doing the majority of the learning, the relationship is a two-way street.
Whether you treat your mentor to coffee every now and then or can help out when needed, any good relationship is a give and take. Do that, and you’ll have a productive professional relationship that pays off—quite literally.
Whether you’re new to freelancing or a seasoned pro, FlexJobs can be an excellent source of client connections. Join today and start searching our freelance job postings. Or, take the tour and learn how a FlexJobs membership can support your freelance goals.
This article is originally posted on FlexJobs.