Freelancers, here's how to find a life-changing mentor

Finding my first mentor was life-changing. She contributed so much to whatever success I have now, because for the first time, someone was able to show me that it was possible to have a different life than what my parents and school initially taught me. Because of that person, I saw a path to being an entrepreneur! I was a freelance marketing consultant for her business, but eventually, I began to understand that I could be more - with a little bit of guidance.

Mentors are people whom you look up to for advice, wisdom, and opportunities. They are role models that you seek for guidance; ideally, you have a long-term relationship with them where they share their method to success. They can be massively influential to your personal and professional growth. But here comes the daunting task: how do you find a mentor?

I remember meeting Ms. Nelly for the first time. She excited talked about her business and how she got started. She was a stay-at-home mom back then, but she accidentally made a huge order of hair accessories from China. What did she do? She rose to the occasion and became an entrepreneur with fifty stores all over the country. She is glamorous and graceful, as well, with five kids she raised herself. I’ll never forget that moment when I thought: I want to be like her. 

Ms Nelly giving an inspiring talk during Project Vanity's 5th Anniversary party!

Ms Nelly giving an inspiring talk during Project Vanity's 5th Anniversary party!

Fortunately for me, she has always been generous with her advice and patient with my mistakes in the years I’ve worked for her. Until today, I still ask her out to lunch or coffee, just so I can pick her brain about business! 

Ms. Nelly and other mentors have been instrumental in changing my life from a freelancer to an entrepreneur. If you are looking to boost your freelance career and take it to the next level, here’s some advice on how to find and sustain a great mentor relationship!

Identify your mentor. There is no one-size-fits-all formula to this step; different mentors will be relevant to different stages in your life. If you’re a freelancer, identify those in your field whose work you admire. You can also check LinkedIn and other social media pages for referrals. Attend as many industry events as you can (PayPal for example has been holding workshops for freelancers these past few months!) so you can network and learn about.

Let your mentor find you through your work. Being a go-getter is great in many instances, but imagine a total stranger suddenly asking you for professional help! This is why it’s necessary for you to engage with your mentor first through social media (or equivalent real-life setting). Follow, like, and comment on their pages and vocally support their advocacies. In the meantime, you should be learning from them even without a personal relationship. You should be relentless in building your own body of work and reputation, so that when the time comes that you do make your introduction, you are already acquainted with each other in a shared space.

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Respect your mentor’s time and space. A successful person is most likely a very busy one. As much as they want to help you, not all mentors can commit to regular meetings with you. Make sure to clearly define expectations from each end. Sending a concise yet detailed email asking for their advice or giving updates based on your last conversation should be enough. A scheduled phone call can work too! When inviting for some face time, clearly say that you are asking for only a specific amount of time way in advance - a quick 30-minute coffee or a 45-minute lunch is easier to commit to compared to dinner. 

Remember, your mentor doesn’t owe you anything, so you have to be the one to adjust according to their schedule.

Be a great mentee. Mentoring is not a one-way relationship. Always be open-minded, especially when it comes to advice you don’t want to hear. Consider all paths before assuming you are on the right one; understand that their experience came at a price that they would like for you NOT to pay. It’s also important to come to every interaction with a positive development on your end. You want to show that you’re working hard to hone your craft and improve yourself.

Always keep an eye out for opportunities that your mentor will find useful. When I was a freelancer, I worked with several brands, so I would share with my mentor my insights as well as make introductions whenever possible. This is a valuable contribution on the mentee’s end, so always be active in your own network and seek to grow it at every turn.

Being a freelancer can often make you feel like you’re adrift - directionless - and stagnating. Having a mentor can keep you grounded and focused on a specific goal. A mentor can help you figure out your next step to becoming the best version of yourself! The work, of course, all happens on your end, but having a clear vision of your future will motivate you to reach further than ever.

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I really love writing these stories for PayPal. I wish that I had read something like this when I was still a freelancer, because it would have saved me so much time from trial and error! I admire PayPal’s advocacy of supporting freelancers in the country by providing mentorship opportunities by way of community events. If you enjoyed this article, do sign up for a PayPal account and take your freelance work to the next level. Through PayPal, you can do online invoicing, use PayPal.me for instant payments, and get paid faster, safer. Get PayPal today!

This story is brought to you by PayPal.