Wednesday, May 23, 2007

The Most Important Thing to Look for in a Freelance Writing Mentor (Part III of III)

This article is the final part of a three-part series originally entitled, 5 Things You Must Look for in a Freelance Writing Mentor.

In Part I, we went over the first two things to look for, eg, tech-savviness and variety of projects. Part II discussed why your freelance writing mentor should give you specific answers to specific questions, and why they should be able to give it to you straight.

Following is the final thing - the single most important thing you should look for in a freelance writing mentor. It is, not surprisingly;

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5. Experience: I left this one for last because it seems obvious, but is perhaps the most important.

A mentor should have a certain number of years under their belt - I'd say three at least. Why three? The first year as a full-time freelancer, you are learning the ropes. You will make pricing mistakes - eg, undercharging (overcharging never seems to happen because most freelancers don't have the luxury of doing this).

Other mistakes that will happen during the first year:

**under-estimating how long it's going to take to complete a project;

**setting up an invoicing system;

**dealing with clients who don't pay on time, or don't pay at all;

**marketing for new clients;

**upselling old clients;

**expanding service offerings, etc.

There is so much to learn during the first year that a mentor with only a year's experience won't have encountered - hence, dealt with - enough situations to advise you on how to deal with it.

I've been a freelancer since 1993, and I've basically been through it all. BUT, there are still situations that pop up that cause me to go, "Hmm, how do I resolve this?"

No mentor will ever know the answer to every situation, but a seasoned one - one with 3+ years - will have enough experience to draw on to be able to give you some guidelines as to what to do when "x" happens.

So, what about the second year? During this time is when most freelancers will experience either growth or a drought. Eg, they will figure out how to effectively market their services and complete projects at the same time.

When you freelance, marketing is an on-going thing. Many freelancers make the mistake of marketing only when they have no work. But, during the second year, going into the third, is when most figure out a few marketing methods that work well for them. Then, they put it on autopilot (eg, market all the time), while still completing incoming projects.

The second year is when most figure out the peaks and valleys of freelancing as well. Many panic when there's no work. Conversely, they will also overextend themselves by taking on too much for fear of a drought.

Figuring out how to balance it all and still have a life doesn't usually happen until the third year. So, you want a mentor who has seen all of the seasons of freelancing - at least a couple of times before you ask them to mentor you.

Good luck choosing - and choose wisely.
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