What To Look For In A Mentor or Coach

Freelancers are a company of one, but we need feedback, input, and help. You're more likely to hit your goals and enjoy success when you work with a mentor. Here's what to look for and how to work with someone.

We’re going to assume that working with a mentor is something you should do in order to accelerate your business.

A mentors has gone down the road ahead of you. They’re farther along, have more experience, and are willing to help you travel the same road.

Not all mentors are equal. It’s your responsibility to search out and select the right person for you. There are a variety of aspects and qualities you can consider when searching. Everything from experience and just plain likability factors in to your choice.

Since I am a mentor, and have worked with mentors face-to-face and virtually, I wanted to give you some insight into why having a mentor is a good idea, and what to consider when selecting one.

Why work with a mentor

First off, you may find it good to with multiple mentors for different things, for different seasons, and different reasons.

A mentor or coach is able to figure out what’s not working and why. They have an objective perspective on your struggles. That means you’re more likely to hit your goals and enjoy success than if you’re flying solo.

Freelancers are a company of one, but we need feedback, input, and help. We need a guide. 

Most mentorships seem to be for a limited time, and people find mentors to help overcome lack of knowledge or work through specific problems. You’re not making a life commitment to working with any one mentor.

You have choices. There’s a vast pool of mentors and coaches out there. You have a lot of people to choose from. So, what are your criteria for making that choice? 

You may already have mentors and not know it. If you follow a person online whose content you devour and advice you implement, but you’ve never met, that person is definitely a mentor — of the virtual kind. That’s the most basic form of mentorship.

If you work with someone virtually or in person, or you’re part of a mastermind group, you’re able to get direct feedback and objective advice for your specific problem.

The thing is to find mentors who know what they’re talking about and have the experience to guide you. Which is best — to work with someone who’s a few steps ahead of you on the road or someone who’s miles ahead? Who has more experience?

Whenever you work with a mentor, you’re there to learn from them. So be a good student.

Why you should pay your mentor

Mentors offer a lot of help and advice for free. But when it gets down to actually doing the work, your best bet is to pay your mentor. Why does paying make a difference?

Because when you’re paying for something, you will pay attention. There’s a value exchange.

Paying for business coaching puts things into a transactional relationship, but there’s nothing immoral or unethical about that. You pay for medical, legal and financial advice. You pay tuition to take a class. You pay to attend events, conferences and seminars. Why would you not want to pay for individualized training and expert guidance to improve your freelance business?

When you expect free guidance for somethng as important as the source of your income, you’re taking, but doing no giving.

When you pay for mentoring, either by the session, by buying a course or joining a mastermind:

    • You give appropriately in exchange for what you receive.
    • You’re make an investment in their prosperity and yours.
    • You taking the training seriously.
    • You’re more likely to do the work and to show up.
    • You’re more motivated.
    • You’re more focused. Accountability and feedback help you stay fixed on your goals and not wander off on side roads.
    • You’re more likely to get your goals done.
    • The teaching you receive is more effective.
    • The mentor is able to diagnose what ails you in your work, creative or business, and prescribe a course of action that’s going to get you where you want to go. They’re able to customize things to exactly what you need


Are you interested in a mentorship with me to help you accelerate your freelance business? Click to apply, and I'll get in touch.

What to look for in a mentor

So if you’re looking for a mentor, here are a few things to consider:


Do you get along?

Your mentor isn’t necessarily a friend, but you want them to be friendly. You want them to treat you well and take you seriously, not talk down to you, and encourage you. You also want them to be honest in their feedback.

You want to have common goals. That means, you both need to want the same things as the result of your working together.

For example, I’m working with a student who is creating work in order to attract collectors and buyers. I can’t mentor her if I don’t share her goals… for her. I’m helping her with design decisions and personal branding.

Your goals should be clear, measurable and scheduled. You should have short and long term goals in place.Short term goals are for a quick win. Long term goals are future focused. Both types need due dates, and flexibility.

To set appropriate goals, you need to know exactly where you are and where you want to go.

Have you ever taken a class and quickly figured out that you know more than the instructor?
You need to ask and answer if the mentor can actually teach you something. If they can’t, you’re wasting your money, your time, and theirs.

Does the person you’re considering as a mentor have the knowledge and experience to guide you? If there are things they don’t know, can they refer you to other resources?

What’s their track record of success? Are they successful doing what you want them to teach you? Can they prove it?

This criterion is related to personality, but it’s not the same. Relationship deals with the long-term.
In Ecclesiates in the Old Testament, the writer asks: If two aren’t in agreement, how can they walk together?
Can you build rapport and mutuality with your mentor?
Can you walk together long term?

Mentor relationships need to last long enough for what you’re learning to become ingrained. Most university courses last 10 weeks. Some are 15 weeks. When you work with a mentor, you’re most likely looking at a minimum 3-month season. Can you  work together for 3 months  or longer?

What your mentor needs from you

Relationships go both ways. Your mentorship is a two-way street. The other person has the same choice in the relationship as you. Be the kind of person your mentor wants to work with:

If something doesn’t make sense, ask for clarification. Don’t assume.

If something’s bothering you, you need to be able to talk about it. If you’re not getting what you need, ask.

Always ask why, not just what, or how-to. You’re in it for a mindset change. This is one reason why you pay your mentor for their help.

Tips, general information and how-tos are when you get in free content. You don’t pay for a checklist or tip sheet.

You pay for training. So WHY you’re doing something is far more important that what you’re doing or how you’re doing it.

Be sure you work with a mentor who gives you the inside, under-the-hood knowledge, not just shiny information to polish the chrome.

For example, if you’ve been on myriad go-sees with prospective clients and haven’t been able to close the client, you don’t need a list of tips to follow. You need to know why you’re not able to convert prospects into clients. A good mentor will diagnose and work out a cure with you.

Your mentor isn’t your personal assistant. They’re not there to do your work for you. They’re not there to follow up, babysit or check in to be sure you’re doing what you need to.

Respect their role. Implement their advice.

Don’t diss if they give you advice or feedback that’s difficult to hear. Don’t go on social media and complain or dox them.

Treat your mentor the way you want them to treat you. (Golden Rule)

Keep your appointments. Whether it’s in person, by phone or web conference, show up, on time, prepared.

Communicate if you’re going to be late or need to reschedule.
These are basic professional and human courtesies that demonstrate respect and care for the other person’s time.

Don’t take over. You’re working with a mentor because they know better than you.
If you already know better, you don’t need them.

You’re wholly, completely and solely responsible for how you use your time, information, etc. The mentor’s there to share with you how they’ve done it. Whether or not you also do it depends on your effort, focus and follow-through over the long term.

Have a plan and parameters

You are your mentor’s client. You’re paying them to help you, just like your clients pay you to help them.

So then, ork with a contract.

Be specific with goals, structure, expectations, and payment terms. Include how long you’re going to work together, and  how you will “meet” — in person,  by phone, via web conference. Put it all in writing. It’s your roadmap for working together.

Freelancers should never  be entirely solo. You can go so much farther faster if you have instruction, wise counsel, and accountability.

Are you interested in a mentorship with me to help you accelerate your freelance business? Complete this application and I’ll be in touch.