I decided to take my writing to the next level a few years back and put my creativity to the test by starting my own freelance writing service.
It sounded easy back then; it wasn’t, and to this day … it still isn’t.
But it can be a little less daunting with the correct guidance and mentorship along the way.
I work from home with the responsibility of providing SEO-written articles, blog posts, website articles, magazine articles, and employment resumes/CVs year-round, and I have struck up relationships with several experienced editors and writers from all over America, the United Kingdom, and Ireland who have given me valuable knowledge and tips along my journey.
It’s one thing being able to write and draw up a few first drafts, but on another scale, I also required guidance and mentorship to keep me on a straight and narrow path.
There’s no doubt in my mind—without the guidance and expertise of a mentor, I would not have been able to get as far as I have come today.
Start showing off your skills, work hard, and don’t be afraid to ask the hierarchies in your field or niche for some of their well-respected advice. And when you get it, don’t let go of it. Be humbled that they’re sharing it with you.
Stay connected with them and always show them you’re a keen worker and that you’re always willing to learn new things.
This is where you will start to strike up working relationships with some very important people in your field who have been there and done it all.
Having a mentor is all about showing them that you’re worth having around. Who knows? Maybe if you show them you are an asset to work with, they might even offer you some work with their organization. Or have a quiet word with some VIPs they have strong connections with further afield.
Open your mouth, speak up, ask questions, and learn from them.
Here are five reasons why it is crucial to have a mentor.
Starting out a few years ago, I hadn’t the foggiest idea how to run a freelance writing business.
Yes, I was sufficiently equipped for the task at hand like writing articles and blog posts, but proceeding that, I had no idea how to deal with things like marketing myself or expanding my writing services further.
Even the smallest things like drawing up agendas and keeping an organized day-to-day reflection of my finances were things I didn’t know I needed to keep track of.
So what actions did I take to educate myself further?
First things first: signing up for newsletters from several writers and marketing specialists who were well-respected in their fields. That way I got an education on not only writing but also on insight into how I could plan to market myself moving forward.
This quickly taught me that social media was a great way of advertising and showcasing my work.
My brain acted like a sponge—it soaked up a large amount of knowledge from experienced professionals over time, and that knowledge made the learning curve substantially easier.
“Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction,” said politician John C. Crosby.
Writing entrepreneurship can become a lonely, emotional place with nobody to turn to.
A listening ear or a comforting arm around your shoulder, with some solid advice and mentorship, can be instrumental in sustaining a solid mentality throughout your writing career. Mentors can lift you up when you’re feeling down.
There were many days when I found it hard to motivate myself after multiple rejected article submissions from online publications, freelance job postings, or local magazines.
It was beginning to have a negative affect on my confidence and cast doubt on my self-belief. I began to question my ability.
“Perhaps I am just not good enough?” I would debate with myself.
“Maybe I should throw in the towel?”
Those were the days when I stopped working on blog posts. Instead, I would search for inspiration. I would watch videos, read articles, and stream podcasts from top-level writers, businessmen, and even celebrities.
There was a pattern beginning to emerge from each of their stories: rejection. Yes, even the most successful people experienced rejection at one point.
This provided me with all the encouragement and inspiration I needed. It gave me a little shove in the right direction, and I began to understand and accept that rejection is a learning curve along the way.
If you’re feeling like you’re ready give up, listen to as many inspiring stories as possible, and use them to fuel your self-esteem.
Author Bo Bennett said, “A rejection is nothing more than a necessary step in the pursuit of success.”
Respond to the newsletters of respected writers you subscribe to; you may strike up a conversation or even find a mentor. Always stay in dialogue with them.
This will give you invaluable feedback that will enable you to educate yourself as you go along, which will be an edge other writers may not have.
Send over a draft of your latest blog or article. See what they think. They will explain what may require a little more dusting up on so that before you send it off to the next publication or newspaper, it’s squeaky clean.
They will take note of your strong points, what sounds good, what doesn’t work so well, and suggest things that may flow better.
Experienced mentors will use their knowledge and expertise to guide you in your work so when you’re writing your next article, you can use your previous work as a benchmark for your next piece. As time goes on, you will begin to see a vast improvement in your writing skills.
This will only enhance your chances of being approved by newspapers and other publications moving forward.
“What you want in a mentor is someone who truly cares for you and who will look after your interests and not just their own. When you do come across the right person to mentor you, start by showing them that the time they spend with you is worthwhile,” said entrepreneur Vivek Wadhwa.
Having a mentor free of charge is the most valuable tool you can have. So use it to your advantage.
Whether your plan is to become a novelist, a freelancer, or a staff writer for a publication, you should never neglect having a mentor.
When starting out as a freelancer, you most likely will not be able to afford any paid coaching.
Instead of going to a local college to enroll in a higher education course or hiring a coach, start emailing respected writers and asking them for some friendly advice. It’s free.
Follow them on social media, read their books, listen to their podcasts, stream their YouTube channels/interviews.
Take into account how often they put out content on their Twitter/Facebook feeds. Read all of their articles, blog posts, and social media updates. Just keep learning from them every day.
And lastly …
I’ve experienced a lot of constructive criticism. My mentor understood that being a home-based freelancer can be challenging when it comes to self-motivation and self-discipline.
He kept me on my toes every single day, even when I just felt like I couldn’t write another word.
But I was swiftly reminded that I was being a little slack. I didn’t like being labeled “slack.” It pissed me right off. This was a kick up the rear end that I needed. I needed to hear it.
If my work was lacking in quality—my mentor would tell me it had “no legs.” Plain and simple.
This solidified my work ethic, sharpened my tools, and helped me ensure my work was of the highest quality that he knew I was capable of producing.
Seek out as many experienced writers as possible. Writers who have been there and done it. Writers who have struggled, been rejected, and failed, but learned from it.
Follow them on social media, email them for advice (and keep emailing them), and read their content religiously.
Learn from them, take inspiration from their journey. Keep them close. Who knows? Maybe one day you will be in their position.
Writer William Arthur Ward said, “The mediocre teacher tells. The good teacher explains. The superior teacher demonstrates. The great teacher inspires.”
Michael Bradley is an entrepreneurial writer currently based in Ireland who lends his services to various brands, SEO agencies, and magazines through his own website: www.freelancemichael.com, or directly through his personal email: [email protected]. When he isn't attending to his clients, Michael is a passionate Liverpool FC supporter and his dream is to one day see Liverpool win the Premier League. Follow him on LinkedIn and Twitter.