The value of mentorship for freelancers

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Maybe you just started the freelancing journey and you’re still trying to find your feet, looking for clients, learning the drama of chasing invoices and budgeting for uncertain times.

Maybe you’ve been a freelancer for years and can count on a steady source of work, know how to price yourself and get those payments in.

Maybe you’re in between those stages.

In any case, you might look at mentoring articles and initiatives and think that it does not apply to you. I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong.

Just like in our personal life, our professional life is a series of hurdles and moments where you go between feeling like you can conquer it all followed by moments when you need support.

As a freelancer, your own career and personal development is in your hands, and you should be able to receive that support throughout your career. There are many ways to do that, but mentoring is a great way to start.

On mentoring

Mentoring is a nothing more than a relationship based on trust and the exchange of knowledge & experience and can be incredibly beneficial for freelancers

If you work on the basis that, as a freelancer, you’re the CEO of your own business, you can also think of a mentor as a business development consultant.

Because that’s what a mentor can do for you: help you define the path to get you to that next stage or solve an issue you’ve been struggling with, from confidence to pricing your work better, pitching yourself or pivoting your career.  Mentors can help assess your skills and strengths and offer a new perspective to whatever you’re going through.

Perhaps more importantly, finding a sense of community in any space, let alone in a socially distanced world, is challenging, and freelancers already have to deal with a lot of alone-time: so, having a mentor can be a real lifeline.

Talking to someone who you can relate to and who have perhaps experience similar barriers as you can do wonders for your wellbeing. And remember mentoring is a two-way relationship, and your experiences also provide value to your mentor.

Mentoring formats

You have a lot of options here, and can get creative with it if you want. You can have an informal mentor, someone you go to for that advice every once in a while, or someone who agrees to work with you during a period time.

The latter, more structured format, is great when you have a clear issue to solve and would like someone to support you and hold you accountable for taking the steps towards change.

Maybe you will have a session every month for two months, six months, or a conversation every week for a month. Those boundaries are for you to set with your mentor and based on your need and their time.

Are you in the right mindset to be mentored?

Mentoring is a demanding and active role. The mentor will ask questions and give you advice, but you have to walk the path on your own.

It is a relationship that can provide personal & career development, but you do have to put in the work.

Before you decide to jump on a mentoring relationship, I recommend asking yourself:

  • 1-2 goals you would like to achieve this year
  • List the steps you’re taking towards these goals and the obstacles you’re facing
  • Where do you need the most help and why?
  • What am I looking for in a mentor? Why?
  • What are indicators that the mentoring is providing value? Think of it as a personal set of KPI’s!
  • Am I ready to receive feedback?
  • Can I find the time to commit to this?

The answers to all of that will help you draw a roadmap to bring to your mentor. The clearer you are about your goals and difficulties the best the relationship tends to be.

How to apply mentoring for freelancers

I could write for hours about the value of mentoring per se, but instead I’d like to give some concrete examples of how mentoring can support freelancers:

The basics: if you’re starting out as a freelancer, having a mentor that you can check in with over that might be helpful.  You can find tons of information online these days, but it can be incredibly beneficial for your business and your mental health to have someone walking alongside that with you.  Questions can range from accountant recommendations, taxes and how to budget for your life can be a lot easier with someone willing to share their own experience, hard falls and even introduce you to some useful suppliers.

Building (or reigniting) a client basis: successful freelancers often rely on consistent clients. However, things change in the world – especially when a pandemic hit. It might be useful to reach out to someone who has a lot of experience in sales or in a field where your clients are to support you when building a new roster of clients (or increasing yours). That doesn’t mean that they will find the work for you, but they could give you insight into what services are most needed and how to best brand yourself to be the first option of your ideal client.

Defining your brand: a lot of your work as a freelancer will come down to who you are and how you present yourself to the world.

You might be great at what you do, but do people know about that?

If you’re struggling with that and find that you’re missing out on jobs because you’re not sure how to define your services or your voice, a mentor with experience in branding, social media, personal branding or even marketing for SMES could be a perfect fit for you.

Perhaps the best aspect of mentoring is thar it can create long-lasting relationship, lead to new collaborations and ideas.

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