How to Choose and Approach a Business Mentor

Taking your first steps as a freelancer is daunting. There's so much you need to learn about business. On top of that, you've got a business to run, and you need to find clients and deliver work on deadline.

How to Choose and Approach a Business Mentor

You might wonder…

  • Am I doing the right thing?
  • What should I do next?
  • Where should I focus my limited time and energy?
  • Do I really know enough to run my own business?

The best teacher, I've found, is experience. You'll only learn how to run a freelance business if you get stuck in and start selling your services. Once you start working, you'll find the answers to these questions for yourself.

As well as learning from your own experience, you can also learn from the experience of others. That's where a business mentor comes in handy.

To find a business mentor, you approach someone who already runs a successful business and ask if he or she would be willing to offer guidance and advice.

In my experience, most people are happy to help as long as you approach them in the right way. Let's take a look at how you can find a business mentor that's right for your freelance business.

What Makes a Good Business Mentor?

The ideal mentor is someone in a similar niche to you, who is a few steps ahead with his or her business. That said, business principles are similar whatever line of business you're in. Anyone you know who is successful in business has the potential to offer useful advice.

Before you take the plunge of reaching out and growing your network in your search for a business mentor, I recommend talking with friends and family about your business. If they're successful in business, and they're supportive of your freelance career, then they'll have helpful advice to give. You'll grow in confidence in asking questions about business, and you may even find that one of them would make an ideal mentor.

Once you're comfortable talking to people about your business, you're ready to reach out and start looking for a mentor.

How to Approach People to Be Your Business Mentor

To approach anyone to be your business mentor, you should learn the following two simple techniques:

The Foot in the Door Technique

When you get someone to say "yes" to a small request, they're much more likely to say "yes" to a bigger request at a later date. Never ask anyone outright to be your mentor. Always ask for something smaller first. I recommend asking for a chat over coffee. You'll learn something new from this meeting, and you'll see if there's a good chemistry between you. They've also seen what you're made of, so they're more likely to respond positively if you ask them to mentor you or to meet up again.

The DIY Technique

If you need a question answered, always do a Google search and look at your business books first.

The more specific questions you ask your mentor, the better response you'll get. Mentors are there to help you when you're stuck and to push you to be the best you can be. It's not their job to teach you the basics. As part of this technique, you should get your business up and running before asking anyone to be your mentor. When potential mentors see you've got the backbone to start a business, they're more likely to want to help.

Two final points…

First, you don't have to formally ask a person to be your mentor unless that's important to you. If you meet someone for coffee on a regular basis to talk about business, you can consider him or her a business mentor. Second, you can have more than one business mentor. You'll gain different insights from each of your mentors.

Now that you know how to approach potential mentors, you're ready to learn where to find your ideal mentor.

How to Meet Business Mentors

The quickest way to meet potential mentors is to get out into the world and start talking to people. In the business world, this is called networking.

You can do this through:

  • Networking groups
    Most towns and cities have networking groups for business owners. A quick Google search will uncover the groups in your area. Networking groups come with a bonus: in addition to finding potential mentors, you'll also connect with potential clients.
  • Co-working spaces
    Many cities offer co-working spaces where you can rent a desk for the day. You'll also connect with other freelancers who can offer advice and support.
  • Online networking
    With social networks, the world is your oyster. You can approach anyone in the world and learn from them. Twitter and LinkedIn are the obvious places to connect with people, but you may find you develop richer relationships in online forums or paid communities.
  • Getting to know your clients
    Not all clients will want to become friends or offer business advice, but some probably will. I've found it's best to let these relationships emerge naturally over time.

How Have Mentors Helped Your Business?

If you're reading this and you already have a successful freelance business, how have mentors helped you? What are your top tips for finding and approaching business mentors?

Written by David Masters

David Masters helps businesses find their sweet spot of creativity, productivity and making money. He's been earning his bread as an online business writer since 2008.

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