Years ago, my professor in journalism school had told us about the crucial role that a knowledgeable and helpful senior can play in molding a reporterís life. According to him, this mentor is generally either a senior reporter or a senior person in the reporter’s beat who directly or indirectly helps him in understanding the intricacies of the beat as well as in cracking important stories. Though I don’t per se recall him using the word mentor, the description fits perfectly here.

In the last few years of my freelancing career, I have always remembered this representation whenever I came across such ‘guides’ or ‘advisors’ (aka mentors). Like many other (or may be all) freelancers, I too regularly face many situations where I find myself totally flummoxed. In these situations, I desperately yearn for an advice of an experienced person to navigate me.

Should I make a portfolio website? Should I form a company of my own? Should I outsource a part of my operations? And, if I do what exactly should I outsource without quality being affected? How do I negotiate with other writers? And the list keeps adding up. Many of these may appear as small issues/doubts, but they do have potential to have a far-reaching impact on the overall growth of the business.

As a freelancer, one tends to be overtly sentimental about business, and here a mentor can guide by objectively assessing the situation and offer the best possible advice. Generally, for me, mentors come with skill-sets that I lack (kinda). These usually are related to the business aspect of freelancing where I need assistance and guidance. My mentor helped me realize my expertise in the initial days when I was doing some very basic freelancing projects. I can safely say that it is because of this motivation and encouragement that I took my baby steps in the world of ‘business negotiations.’

But the role of a good mentor is not just confined to encouragement. He is also the one who criticizes you or your work without any hitch. My experience tells me that a mentor will relentlessly question your strategy, objectives and business model. Basically, he/she will make you think more, and think critically about your business and how you can grow. A mentor is generally like Caesar’s wife so above any reproach. Many times, I have been terrified to take up especially difficult assignments, but mentors can nudge you out of your comfort zone to take up things which you haven’t done before. It is thanks to these mentors that I even pitch at some very prestigious publications and companies.

Also, this mentor is not always one person. He may differ as per your circumstance (or problem/issue, if I may say). In my case, I rely on a group of people who help me wade through different situations. For instance, when I need to discuss a story angle I call up X. However, when I can’t decide whether or not to accept a particular assignment at a given rate, I get in touch with Y. Similarly, it is thanks to Mr Z that I always manage to keep taxmen at bay. For, he always informs me whenever he is filling any Government form or doing any tax-related work. And not to forget that emotional support and ‘cheer up’ during those low days. Invariably, there are times when you are tempted to throw in the towel, the soul called your mentor will gently pull you out of this abyss. He/she makes you see the bigger picture and move beyond small disappointments.

The role of a mentor is almost equivalent to the role of a good teacher, who is indispensable for your growth. And in the years of my freelance journey so far, I owe my growth to these guiding lights that continue to enrich my work life. Freelancing won’t be half as rewarding as it is now without my group of mentors and advisors.


Leave A Comment