Do You Need a Writing Mentor?

Mentoring can be a shortcut to learn what you need to know about writing for corporations. Let’s face it, learning from the pain and embarrassment of someone else’s mistakes is much more comfortable than making those same mistakes yourself.

Nobody likes to make a mistake, but I think we all agree that some mistakes are inevitable. A writing mentor can keep you from making the worst mistakes and guide you through the rest.

Where Can I Find a Mentor?

You may be thinking, “This sounds great, but how can I find a mentor?”

Finding a writing mentor is easier than you might think. Here are five places to look for mentoring:

  1. Hire a writing coach–Many experienced professional writers offer coaching services in addition to their writing services. While these services can be pricey (especially for a new writer), the high price is deceptive. If you choose your writing coach wisely, the lessons that you learn will save you a lot of grief and ensure that you are earning to your full potential.
  2. Join a professional society–If you’ve been reading my posts here for a while, you know that I am a big fan of professional writing societies. But, I have a really good reason for being a fan. Not only do societies offer benefits like training classes and job banks–they also provide the opportunity to network with writers at all stages of their career.
  3. Take a writing class–Even if you are not a full-time student, you may be able to benefit from taking a writing class. The professor’s comments and feedback on your work can provide you with invaluable insights. Be sure to match the specific class that you take with the type of writing that you want to do.
  4. Accept a full-time job–If you get the opportunity to work in the writing department of a medium to large company, you may find that your boss or a more senior writer is willing to act as mentor. After all, helping you get up to speed helps the whole department. Later, you will take those skills to your freelancing business.
  5. Find a writing friend–Peer mentoring can be a great way to learn new things. Partnering with a writing friend and providing constructive criticism to each other can be mutually beneficial. Often, a peer will be able to see flaws in your work that are not apparent to you.

More About Mentors

Mentoring programs are popular because they work. Some companies even take the extra step of assigning a mentor to each new employee. Unfortunately, freelance writers often miss out on the benefits of mentoring.

Here are some additional resources on the benefits of mentoring for writers:

How Mentors Helped Me Become a Better Writer

I’ve personally benefited from mentoring at least twice during my writing career. Early on, when I was a staff writer at a corporation, there was another (more senior) writer there who spent a great deal of time teaching, encouraging, and inspiring me.

Much later, after I had started to do some freelance blogging, an experienced blogger who I met through an online forum made the time to answer my many questions.

There’s no doubt in my mind that working with mentors has made me a better writer.

Feedback Time

Do you have a mentor? Have you acted as a mentor for someone?





20 responses
  1. kimberlee Avatar

    I don’t have an official mentor but I do have a couple people I can call on for advice when it comes to building my freelance business. Its been a while since I’ve had any constructive criticism on my own writing which scares me because I know there’s plenty of room for improvement.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Great point Kimberlee!

      I don’t think a mentor has to be “official” for a mentee to benefit from their advice. Finding a writing coach is just one way to find a mentor. Some of the best advice I’ve ever gotten was given to me freely.

      It’s really good that you have some folks to turn to when you have questions about your business. I know that can be helpful.

      Are there any writer’s groups near you? You may be able to find (and provide) constructive criticism on your writing in such a group.

      Best wishes!
      .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

  2. Matt Keegan Avatar

    Mentoring seems to have fallen to the wayside over the years as companies cut back, leaving everyone else busy filling additional tasks. But, informal mentoring continues as people participate in forums and respond to articles, such as this one, and get snippets of help.

    I believe in “life long learning” and think we all pick up some good tips and advice as we move through life. Yes, it would be beneficial to have that one person to call on, as that person can help you navigate through problems with clarity and confidence.
    .-= Matt Keegan´s last blog ..Write Your Attention Grabbing Headlines With Care =-.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Matt–I couldn’t agree more. Life long learning is very important.
      .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

  3. Maryan Pelland Avatar

    I grew up with some incredible mentors and ultimately hired a coach. Now, I have mentored many writers and coached a bunch more. It isn’t something we’re born knowing. If we want to be paid appropriately for our work, something over the typical Craigslist ad offer of $5 per 500 words,shouldn’t we be willing to invest in the future? And college teaches you how to learn and how to stick with something, but no college or university teaches you the hands-on traditions, conventions, and standards of an industry.
    .-= Maryan Pelland´s last blog ..Why writers care about Archie Comics new gay character Kevin Keller =-.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Maryan Pelland, Thanks for sharing your positive experience as a mentee. Good for you for taking up the mantle and becoming a mentor yourself.
      .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

  4. Stacey Abler Avatar

    Jenn Mattern at is currently coaching me to help me build my freelance writing business. It has been an incredible experience and I have learned a great deal from her. It is invaluable to have a person to go to with all of your questions and ideas. I highly recommend having a mentor regardless of the stage of your current career.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Stacey Abler,

      Thanks for sharing another positive mentoring experience. 🙂
      .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

  5. Danielle Avatar

    Having a mentor can be a wonderful experience. Sharon Hurley Hall fell into a mentor role with me (although I don’t think it was intended) and I ended up writing on her team at the beginning when she first started that. The things I learned from her (and still do) were invaluable. And she gave me the confidence to keep moving ahead. She was the first person (other than my husband) to tell me that I was perfectly capable of making it as a freelance writer.
    .-= Danielle´s last blog ..Being an Outsourced Writer =-.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Hi Danielle!

      I’m glad that you had a good mentoring experience. Thanks for sharing your story.
      .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

  6. Michele | aka Raw Juice Girl Avatar

    Yes, and yes!

    I have had awesome writing mentors and have done my best to mentor other writers and share what I’ve learned, too.

    Gleaning from others is something I thrive on. And I find great pleasure in passing that wisdom on.

    The best advice I ever received was from my first writing mentor (a retired school teacher in the first writer’s group I ever attended). She said, “Michele, the more you put your work out there, the more you’ll be rejected. Don’t take it personally. Learn to accept rejection and move on.”

    I took that bit of advice to heart and have tried to pass it on to new writers (or discouraged ones).

    Great post, Laura. We sometimes forget that freelancing doesn’t have to be a lonely endeavor, but can be full of rich relationships and experiences!
    .-= Michele | aka Raw Juice Girl´s last blog ..Rainbow Grass Smoothie Recipe, Glass Straws, Gardening, Giveaway Reminder =-.

  7. Laura Spencer Avatar

    Thanks to everyone who pointed out the benefits of mentoring. Your comments just go to show how beneficial mentoring can be for a writer.

    If you are considering a mentor, but haven’t taken the step I hope that this post and these comments will help you make your decision.
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

  8. Carol Avatar

    I’d add to make sure you’re clear about what the mentor does and doesn’t do. I try to be very clear with my mentees that my area is coaching them in the business of writing — I’m not going to stand over their shoulder and refine how they write a paragraph. Other coaches may not know much about breaking into new markets and are all about developing your writing style. You definitely want to make sure there’s a good match of what you want to learn and what the mentor will focus on.

    Be sure to describe the services you want and discuss with your prospective mentor so you’re both clear on what will happen. For instance, I provide unlimited email followup to my mentees — but some mentors charge by the hour and once you’ve used up those hours, they won’t give you any more time.
    .-= Carol´s last blog ..To Earn More, Writers Need to Recharge — Fast =-.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Great tips Carol!

      In fact, stay tuned for the next part in this three part series–which deals with how to get the most from your mentor. 🙂
      .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

  9. Tammi Kibler Avatar

    These are great tips, Laura. I look forward to the rest of the series.

    Now I’m going to read the posts you linked to.
    .-= Tammi Kibler´s last blog ..Writing Career Goals – Plot Your Destination =-.

  10. Kathleen O'Connor Avatar

    I have a business consultant right now, but I would love to work with a writing mentor one day. It would be invaluable for me to get advice from someone who’s been there and done that. I’ve also been considering taking some postgraduate courses in editing, proofreading, and writing so I can improve my skills. And I think I will join a professional writer’s organization in Japan when I move there next month. I’m looking forward to the future! 🙂
    .-= Kathleen O’Connor´s last blog ..5 Important Copywriting Questions – My Guest Post at Sprout New Media =-.

  11. Elaine Avatar

    FWJ has become my mentor of sorts, as this community of writers and Deb’s experience has taught me volumes about writing for a living. FWJ is one newletter I am always interested in reading, and has helped me immeasurably in honing my personal marketing skills as an author with value.

  12. Laura Spencer Avatar

    Thanks for your comments Kathleen and Elaine!

    I think a writing mentor is helpful, but you can also learn a lot from blogs such as this one. 🙂
    .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

  13. Rebecca Avatar

    I connected with a couple of people in the entertainment business, specifically those who write screenplays. I was lucky enough to have one of my short films read by a script consultant. She helped me with tighten up my dialogue so it flowed better. Her advice is invaluable to me. I was also lucky enough to work with a writing coach for 16-weeks FREE of charge. She held me accountable for completing my writing projects. Most writers need someone to hold them accountable to finish their personal projects.

    FYI: My writing groups helps me hone my writing skills as well. I take my teleplay to my group and have them read the dialogue. It’s helped me to know if my teleplay would sell (they’d watch the TV show) and tighten up the dialogue. It’s been a wonderful experience.
    .-= Rebecca´s last blog ..What is the Right Number of Pages for an eBook? =-.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Thanks for sharing your experiences Rebecca,

      It sounds like you’ve benefitted a great deal from mentoring–first through the coach and finally through the writing group.
      .-= Laura Spencer´s last blog ..Should Writers Be Paid by Word Count? =-.

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