On Monday, we discussed the importance of finding a freelance mentor; someone who can help you and guide you as you build your design business.
But how do you find a good mentor? Sure, there are plenty of people out there who are willing to help you for a fee. Their intentions are probably mostly good. But how do you know if you’re getting a great mentor at a good price instead of just a money-hungry businessman?
Here are 8 personality traits that a genuine, quality, helpful mentor will have. Focus on finding someone that matches many of these criteria (and if you have any good ones to add to the list, please leave a comment):
One of the most important traits of a freelance mentor is honesty. If you can’t trust the person who is mentoring you, who can you trust? You’ll most likely discuss a lot of sensitive subjects with them (finances, client concerns, etc) and you need to know that you can trust them to be honest and trustworthy at all times.
Another clearly important trait when searching out a mentor is experience. There’s no rule that says your mentor has to be retired or even have been in business for 20 years. But you want someone who knows what they’re talking about. When you need advice, you don’t want it to be based on speculation and guessing, you want it to be based on first-hand experience.
No one likes a downer. Especially if they’re your mentor. A mentor should be positive and inspirational. They should look at your opportunity in a positive way, believe in you, and encourage you to achieve your dreams. A negative mentor will only crush you.
A good mentor is always available for concerns, questions, help or advice. The business world is fast-paced and you need someone who can be there for you when you need help moving forward.
Business can be tough sometimes. And, despite the fun of working for yourself, freelancing and designing aren’t always a walk in the park. Just like with any job, you’ll have mornings when you don’t want to get out of bed; days when you don’t feel like working. It’s important to have a mentor who can inspire and motivate you during difficult times. A good mentor will always push you to be better at what you do.
While it’s not necessary that your mentor be a millionaire, you need to seek out a successful person to mentor you. Why? Because you want to be successful. How do you know if someone can teach you to be successful if they aren’t. You wouldn’t ask someone who has never gone skydiving to teach you how to skydive, right?
Sometimes you have to pay your mentor. And sometimes you ask your mentor to make important decisions. You need to find one who is reasonable. Avoid money-hungry or stubborn people when searching for the perfect freelance mentor.
You also need someone who is responsible. While a good mentor will help you push yourself (“Don’t worry, you can handle an extra client this month”), a bad mentor will be irresponsible in his recommendations (“Don’t worry, you can afford a brand-new computer and Wacom tablet”). See the difference?
9. Open to new ideas
The last thing you need is someone who is holding you back. Your mentor should be open to (and help come up with) new ideas. You should feel like you can take new ideas to your mentor without the risk of being laughed at or told it’s impossible.
Just like a sports coach, a good mentor will push you to your limits (helping you be the best you can be) but will also understand when you fall short. They’ll help identify problems you face, understand why they occur, and help you solve them. Good mentors turn disappointment into an opportunity to learn not just a depressing moment.
Lastly, you want a mentor who feels personally invested in your company. Whether they literally are invested in your company (they get a small percentage of the money you make) or they just want to see you succeed, that feeling of being invested is vital. If your mentor only cares about a paycheck or looking good for his colleagues, he’ll be of little value to you. Find someone who is invested in your future and they will help you reach your potential.
What other traits should a good mentor have?
I’m dying to know what you think a good mentor should be like. Are you a mentor or do you have a freelance mentor? What makes your relationship so successful? Share your tips by leaving a comment.