Do you get an upset stomach every time that you are doing something for the first time? You can relax, there is no need to call the doctor. There is nothing wrong with you, it happens to everyone. Even to those who seem extremely confident, they just know how to fake it better. When you are doing something for the first time, it is not your fault that you have not done it before and that you have no experience doing it. We all have to start somewhere. But it is definitely your fault if you do not prepare for it. We all must recognize our limitations and be proactive addressing them.
My father used to say “nobody learns with someone else’s head”, meaning that only through our own experiences were we able to learn from our achievements and mistakes. And in a way this is true: I can lecture you on photography for days but only when you pick up the camera is when you understand what taking photos is all about. But when you learn how to use the camera and then you decide that you want to be a photographer you will face the reality that taking photos and running a photography business are two completely different things. And, of course, you can google “how to run a photography business”, or even ask your friends and peers, and more times than not you will be able to find answers. But there will come times when the answers that you find do not adapt to your particular situation and those are the times when you need advice from someone with experience in the field. Those are the times when you need a mentor.
Mentors come in different sizes and flavours. A mentor could be a relative, a friend, your boss, your peer or even someone that you pay for having a mentoring session. In any case, a mentor is not someone who will tell you how to do your craft or who will do the work for you. That’s on you. A mentor is someone who will give you advice from their own experience when you feel stuck or when you face a new challenge that you just cannot seem to find a way to overcome. Do not expect to come to a mentor with a generic question like “can you help me become a photographer?” because that is not the way it works. Instead, you must come after thoroughly doing your research and when speaking to the mentor seems like the last resort. That way you will be able to ask specific questions and you will get your time or money’s worth.
I have had many mentors throughout my career, from the free advisors like friends and peers to the professional ones who offer mentoring sessions in exchange of a fee, and they have all taught me valuable lessons. Being a succesful creative nowadays is not only about knowing your craft; you also need to know the business. If you have doubts that you cannot seem to solve online, if you feel that you are not advancing on your career or even if you just need feedback to know if you are heading the right way, a one on one chat with a mentor might be all that you need.
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