Day 10: Finding a Mentor

It took me a few years to want a mentor. Up until 2014, Google was my mentor and the thought of spending money I didn’t have on 1 on 1 education seemed like a Luxury with a capital L. Besides that, I had viewed several people as mentors throughout my journey; people I had 2nd shot weddings for, people I had gone to seminars to listen to, people who had offered amazing advice through Facebook groups. I didn’t want a mentor until I saw Taryn speak at a local photographers’ meetup.

She was bright and vocal and full of energy. On top of that, she was somehow concrete. Her no’s meant no and her yes’s meant yes. She had an answer for everything in her business and an answer for everything in your business. She talked for an hour on the topic of sales and made no apologies. To me, sales had always been a four letter word. It’s the thing I’m the worst at. When it comes to asking people to give me money, I freeze. But if I was going to be a business owner, I would have to face that fact one day and who better to teach me how to do that than this woman who not only doesn’t shy away from sales, but who was passionate about it?

After the meeting, I approached her and thanked her. I was too nervous to ask about her mentorship costs because I was afraid she might hit me with a four thousand dollar price tag and I would have to fake that awkward moment… the one where you’re in the store and the sales associate gives you a price way out of your range and to save face you act like you’re actually considering it. So instead of risk that happening, I sent her an email the next day.

A week later I was in Taryn’s studio in downtown Mesa (a space I would later rent with her and to this day, we are office roomies) taking notes faster than my hand would allow. She listened to my fears, she gave me permission to be confident, she followed up with me over several months, and later met up with me again to go over the steps I had taken since our last meeting.

When I think about mentorship in my business, Taryn always comes to mind first. She’s my “official” mentor. She’s the one that’s in my corner, cheering me on.  If you’re at the point in your business where you want a mentor, these are my five pieces of advice:

  1. Choose someone who is best at the thing you’re worst at. The point is to grow, right? There’s no point working with someone who is fantastic in client experience when your client experience is already amazing. Find your weakness and find someone who is strong in that area.
  2. Be open to costs. I always thought a mentor would be an old man, taking me under his wing to bless my life as his was ending. And how generous I would be… making sure his pearls of wisdom lived on. But in the real world, mentors are usually people with their own business and obligations. Invest in them and they will invest in you.
  3. If you can’t afford mentorship, have something of value to offer in return. Offer to second shoot for free or simply build a genuine friendship with them at a networking event. Offer to photograph their family for free in exchange for an hour of picking their brain.
  4. Do the work. Take what they say and run with it. We’ve all had that friend who asks for our advice and then throws it out the window. Don’t be that person.
  5. Be honest. I believe a candid conversation is the only one worth having. So be real. What do you want to work on? What are your fears? What is the end goal for this year? Where do you fall short? The more you give them, the more they will be able to give you.

As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments. Are you looking for your own mentor right now? Has the thought never crossed your mind? Have you had success already with a mentorship in your business? Let me know and I’ll see you tomorrow for day 11/100: The Power of a Thank You Card.

Day 98 is currently reserved for any questions you have throughout the next 100 days. To submit a question, please click here!  If you’re interested in supporting this project, please share, PIN and comment! Any other questions, comments or ideas, please feel free to email me at denise(at)denisekaris(dot)com

Denise Karis is an Arizona photographer who enjoys musicals, Doctor Who and breakfast burritos. IG @denisekaris

denise karis photography blog 100 posts in 100 days for photographers