How To Find A Creative Freelance Mentor
When you’re trying to build the independent career of your dreams, having a mentor to help you grow as a freelancer and achieve your goals is a no-brainer.
Even if you’re confident in your creative skills and have no trouble finding clients, speaking with another experienced freelancer who’s been in your shoes before can help you grow your career in ways you might never have thought possible, whether it’s helping to brainstorm new ideas or just getting through an annoying client issue that’s been troubling you for months.
Finding a mentor as a freelancer, however, can be tricky. Unlike people working in large companies with access to many potential mentors on a daily basis, working alone means you have to work a bit harder and get slightly more creative to find the perfect mentor. We’ve put together some tips to help you find the perfect freelance mentor (both online and offline) to help you propel your career into the stratosphere!
Finding a mentor in your city
The most traditional way to find a mentor is by tapping into local networks and connections. Even if you don’t work at a company with a large creative team, there are tons of great ways to connect with potential mentors in your city.
- In-person mentorship programs
- If you live in a major city, you might be able to find well-organized mentor programs that pair emerging designers directly with established creatives. Many of AIGA chapters offer localized mentorship programs, and emerging groups like XXUX help female UX designers find local mentors in their field. Do a quick google search for “Creative Mentorship Program + Your City” to see the types of opportunities available in your area.
- Leverage your network
- Stay in touch with everyone you’ve connected with throughout your creative journey. You never know where you might find an amazing mentor. LinkedIn is a hugely valuable (and overlooked) resource for this type of networking. Search by title + city to find folks you already know working in your field locally. If none of them seem like a good fit, search by role title in your city and check out 2nd Connections. If any 2nd Connections seem perfect, ask for an intro from our mutual acquaintance!
- Attend local design meetups
- Meetups are one of the best ways to meet other designers and freelancers in your city on weekly basis. Even if you live in a small town, there’s a strong chance that at least one creative or freelance-focused meetup has been created by someone near you. Also check out the local chapters of the Freelancers Union. If there’s a local Freelancers Union group near you, go to their next event and see who you can meet!
Finding an online mentor
Most people think of mentorship as a traditionally offline relationship, but the vast resources available online for finding and connecting with other amazing freelancers make digital mentorship relationships easier than ever. In a lot of ways, digital mentorship is easier and more efficient than a traditional mentorship: you don’t have to worry about finding time to meet in person, you can easily keep track of shared resources and notes, and your options for potential mentors are infinitely larger than limiting yourself to people living within a few miles of you.
- E-learning platforms
- Even if you’re already an expert in your field, platforms like Skillshare can be an amazing way to find potential mentors. Browse their courses to see what teachers in your field seem like a good fit and reach out directly saying you’d love to chat.
- On-demand digital mentorship
- If cold emailing lots of people isn’t your cup of tea, you can look into on-demand mentorship platforms like RookieUp, which lets you schedule 1-on-1 mentor chats with an amazing community of on-demand creative professionals and freelancers, whether you want to chat for 30 minutes or are looking for a mentor to work with over several months.
- Twitter searches
- Most people think of LinkedIn as the holy grail of finding professional contacts, but Twitter is also an amazing resource. The main reason for this is that the creative + freelancer community is incredibly active on Twitter, which makes cold messaging people here much more effective than sending a contact request to someone on LinkedIn. Do a Twitter search for something like freelance designer and filter by People. Follow a few people whose work you like and start engaging with their content. Comment, retweet, like, whatever feels most natural! After a while, shoot them a private message asking if they’d be up for a quick Skype chat.
- Online communities
- Start immersing yourself in the online freelancing world and the possibilities for amazing connections with other freelancers are endless. Check out lists of designers to follow on Twitter and Instagram and become an active contributor on freelancing topics in communities on Quora and reddit.
- Also begin to post your work on dribbble, Behance, and other design discovery communities. Follow other designers or creatives that you like the comment on their work. Similarly to how you’d handle new contacts on Twitter, slowly start to build online relationships with certain creatives you like before reaching out directly. Check out other communities like The Designers League, which is frequented by tons of amazing independent creatives around the world.
How to make the most out of your mentorship
So, you’ve found a mentor and are ready to start building the relationship? When building a relationship with your new mentor, be cognizant that they are giving their time to you, time they could be using to focus on their own career.
- Set an agenda before meeting
- Write down a list of questions you want to discuss prior to each meeting so that your mentor can review them beforehand
- Always discuss next steps
- Spend the last few minutes of each conversation talking about action items and next steps. Ideally, there will be some clear items for you to work on, whether that’s working on a new project or rebuilding your online portfolio.
- Create a shared online space
- Be thankful
- Mentorship is takes time and lots of mental commitment on the part of your mentor. Always be on time, don’t ask for too many meetings, and be incredibly thankful! Always offer to buy coffee if you meet in real life or offer to promote their work if you have an online mentor.
Hopefully now you have some great tools to help you find the freelance mentor of your dreams.
Figure out your goals first and then tailor your mentor search based on that.
Alec is the co-founder of RookieUp, an online mentorship platform for people trying to build careers in the creative, coding, and entrepreneurial world
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