Nine Tips to Becoming a Better Writing Mentor

You’ve decided to mentor some newer, less experienced writers. Good for you.

As we’ve discussed earlier mentoring is a valuable resource for those who are trying to improve their freelance writing skills. Mentoring can also be a wonderful way for an experienced writer to give back to the writing community.

Acting as a writing mentor is not as easy as it might seem, though. There are challenges and difficulties that mentors most overcome in order to be effective.

Last week we provided nine tips to help you get the most from your freelance writing mentor. This week we are going to turn the tables and provide some tips for mentors.

Nine Tips for Writing Mentors

To be an effective writing mentor it is important to approach mentoring purposefully. If you are a writing mentor, here are nine tips to help you become more effective:

  1. Allow enough time in your schedule for mentoring. Remember, mentoring takes time. Plan your work and life so that you can devote an adequate amount of time to mentoring each week. Remember to communicate with your mentee regularly.
  2. Define in advance what services you will, and will not, provide to your writing mentees up front. Also, specify what hours you will be available and how you wish your mentee to contact you. If payment is involved, you should use a contract.
  3. Don’t take on too many mentees at once. Mentoring, if done correctly, is a lot of work. Most mentors can only effectively handle a few mentees at any given time. If you spread yourself too thin, nobody will benefit from your efforts.
  4. Don’t talk down to your mentee or belittle him or her in any way. Remember, everyone starts their writing career somewhere. The fact that your writing mentee makes mistakes just shows that he or she needs the guidance of a mentor.
  5. Treat your mentees as individuals. Every single freelance writer is different, so there are no cookie-cutter solutions to writing problems. Listen carefully to each mentee’s problems and provide ideas or solutions that truly fit his or her needs.
  6. Do praise and encourage your mentee when he or she does something right. Be an advocate for your mentee. It helps if they feel that they have someone (you) on their side, rooting for their success. Make mentoring fun for both of you.
  7. Be specific in your advice. Make sure that your advice is practical enough that your mentee can understand and follow it. Encourage your mentee to ask questions if they do not understand what you are trying to tell them.
  8. Be honest. A good mentoring relationship is based on truth. Don’t try to gloss over mistakes or any errors that your mentee makes. When they need it, provide them with good, constructive criticism. But, you should also be honest with them about their successes.
  9. Be an example. As a mentor, you are a role model for your mentee. Live and write according to the guidelines that you provide to your mentee. Remember, they are relying on your wisdom and experience to improve themselves.

As you can see, writing mentoring involves a lot of effort. However, should you decide to serve as a writing mentor, I think that you’ll find it to be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. Personally, I have a great deal of respect for any writer who chooses to mentor other writers.

Feedback Time

Are you serving as a freelance writing mentor right now? Did you find these tips helpful?

Are you currently being mentored? What other advice would you give to someone who is considering becoming a writing mentor?





4 responses
  1. Chris Pontine Avatar

    Hi Laura,

    I believe being a mentor is a great idea, and so beneficial when you have the knowledge under your belt to share and encourage.

    I believe as well when you state…..

    ” Allow enough time in your schedule for mentoring ”

    ….. is very valuable because you don’t want to mentor someone and leave them hanging because of time restrictions. You want to be able to schedule time for them and make them feel wanted.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Thanks Chris!

      I think that one piece of advice is crucial. It’s so easy for a mentor to think to themselves, “oh, I’ll just take on one more person.”

      Before they know it, they’ve taken on too much…

  2. Murlu Avatar

    I think the most important quality of a mentor is to do what they speak. If your mentor doesn’t live the life by what they teach, you have to decide if they’re really there to help you.

    That’s not to say ever mentor does this but it helps credibility and inspires you.

    1. Laura Spencer Avatar

      Thanks Murlu,

      You are so right. I’m not sure that I would trust a mentor who didn’t at least live up the principles that they recommended for me. That’s not to say that the mentor must have been through every single experience…

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