Why mentoring matters – what you can learn at every stage of your photography career

What comes to mind when you think of mentoring? Probably someone at the beginning of their career, or perhaps a new or struggling business owner. Like a new baby, a new business requires a lot of time and attention, more assistance in the transition from one stage to another, and access to the help of a more experienced business person can greatly impact the success and growth of a business in the midst of rapid growth and change. As your business gains momentum, seeking the help of a mentor may drop in priority compared with the more exciting and time consuming tasks you experience as a result of your increased demand. And lastly, as an established photographer, mentorship may seem completely unnecessary if you remain satisfied with your clientele and workload. But if we take an objective view of how mentoring, and being mentored affects the photography industry as a whole, some impactful ideas about supporting our profession emerge.

Here’s a quick breakdown of how mentorship affects the stages of the photography business:

New Photographers:

  • Gain information about best practices and industry standards (I once had a photographer tell me “There are no industry standards in photography” which couldn’t be further from the truth! Educate yourself at every opportunity.)
  • Avoid making financial and client management mistakes as a result of inexperience
  • Learn professional techniques and processes in a non-critical environment

Growing Photography Businesses:

  • Make peer and industry connections that expand their professional networks
  • Gain insight into their specific professional strengths and weaknesses and recognize opportunities to improve their business practices
  • Solidify and validate key aspects of their style and brand

Established Photographers:

  • Leverage their experience to influence new and growing photography businesses
  • Ensure the future success of the industry by supporting and improving best practices and relaying education to new and growing photography businesses
  • Maintain relevance by incorporating the new and innovative concepts and technologies of emerging businesses

Okay, so let’s put these big picture ideas into practice. Where and how do you go about finding yourself a mentor, or when should you take on someone to mentor?

If you are looking for a mentor to assist and support you:

  • First define your business goals – who can help you reach those goals? Do you need a business coach, or are you looking for a technical specialist?
  • Create a budget – write a concrete financial plan including how much are you willing to spend to gain the knowledge that will allow your business to return profit from that investment.
    • If not monetary, what kind of value can you offer to your mentor in return?
  • Be clear with your expectations – do you want this to be a short term, long term, ongoing, or open-ended relationship?

Why you should be mentoring other photographers:

  • Creating a more deeply engaged community of professionals strengthens the public perception of the profession as a whole
  • Engaging with new talent who recognize and value their own potential re-energizes stagnant business models
  • Open dialogue and information sharing lessens the spread of misinformation and undercutting.

What are some other benefits of mentorship that you have experienced?

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