The last few years have seen an unprecedented number of new businesses starting. As many workers left their previous jobs to go into business for themselves, “solopreneur” ventures have been popping up all over the country. And while working for yourself, by yourself, is a dream for many, self-employment has its challenges. Tackling all aspects of running a business by oneself requires immediate adoption of many new skills and tools and can feel overwhelming.
Even though solopreneurs manage the business alone, the burden can be lightened with the assistance of a mentor. Mentors who have worked in your selected industry lend experience and insight that can be a lifeline when you begin to feel overwhelmed or lost.
Some benefits of working with a mentor if you are just starting up:
The most striking benefit of having a mentor is access to advice. Get tips for how to get started, or strategies for handling problems that come up, or advice on what software to adopt. Some mentors may allow a novice entrepreneur to shadow him or her for a day to get an overall picture of best practices and management tools.
Every person venturing out on a brand-new business will make some mistakes and miscalculations, but why tread the same flawed ground when an experienced mentor can help you avoid the most likely pitfalls? Solopreneurs must adopt many new skill sets at once, so the likelihood of errors is high; a mentor can caution you in advance so that your path is less rocky.
Mentors who have worked successfully in your industry likely have connections, and they can introduce you to the people best situated to assist and promote your business. The mentor relationship can make networking smoother and can help you attain invitations to events you may not otherwise have known about or had access to.
Mentors with years of business experience can alert you to the laws, ordinances, and requirements that directly affect your business. They can give you information concerning permits, insurance, taxes, and other legal obligations your business will have to contend with. While not a substitute for professional tax or legal advice, guidance from a mentor can help you begin navigating the legal requirements surrounding your business, as well as help you select the appropriate professionals to assist.
Working on your own may be a dream come true, but it can also be isolating. Having someone to talk to regularly not only diminishes feelings of loneliness and stress, but it also keeps you practiced in the important art of communication. While you may communicate with your clients on a regular basis, they are not the best people to practice your communication skills on because you are always representing your business to them and must appear organized and professional at all times. A mentor gives you a channel for more candid communication of ideas so that you can be more polished when presenting them to clients or investors.
We all need some degree of evaluation to tell us how well (or poorly) we are meeting our goals, but self-evaluation is notoriously biased and flawed. If you are coming from an office environment prior to starting your business, you are probably used to being evaluated by supervisors and superiors. Now you are the boss and no longer have the outside feedback to help you improve. Mentors can give you an insight into the strengths and weaknesses that you may not see. They offer a fresh set of eyes, but they also have your best interest in mind and want your business to succeed, so their criticism is likely to be constructive, helpful, and forward-moving.
Finally, mentors are role models that you can look up to. A relationship with a mentor can be a morale- and confidence-booster by offering living proof that success is possible. They give you something to strive toward and help remind you that by making the right decisions, your business goals are very much in reach.