Published July 22, 2020
Some of the best ideas — and most successful businesses — start off as side projects. But working on a side hustle requires time, effort and focus, and even market-defining innovations need a little help to get off the ground.
Illustration from Icons8
Sometimes you just don’t have the network, the resources or the exact capabilities to bring your vision to life.
When the line between success and failure is so thin, it’s good to have someone by your side. Someone who knows the ropes; providing support and unbiased guidance when you need it most. And, who knows, the mentor you bring on-board at the start of your side project, may just help you carry that new idea all the way through to market.
At the heart of it, mentoring is all about knowledge sharing. A mentor is an experienced and trusted individual who can help guide and support you in your chosen career.
In the context of side projects, a mentor will likely be someone who has been there and done it before. From this background, they’ll be able to share ideas, advice and warnings about things to expect and how to proceed in the best way.
A mentor is not a boss or a parent. They aren’t there to tell you what to do. They’re there to help you work out the strengths and weaknesses of your idea; giving you the tools to make your project stronger, rather than running it for themselves.
Your mentor can work as closely with your idea as you want. Think of them as a valuable resource; one that you can draw on when you need it, where you need it. Some entrepreneurs have their business mentors on speed dial, others meet up just once a month for a long catch-up session.
Either way, you’ll want to get on well with your mentor. A good rapport is essential for mentorship — particularly when you’re starting something new based on your own ideas. Traditional career mentoring can be more structured, but when it comes to mentoring a side project you’re going to need someone to riff alongside, to bounce thoughts off, and who you are comfortable sharing even your bad ideas with!
Importantly, though, mentoring is also a two-way street. The relationship is really only sustainable if both parties are getting something out of working together. Giving back what you get helps create a stronger bond with your mentor, and will pay dividends further down the line. This can be as simple as being proactive when it comes to staying in touch, showing gratitude for their support, and being vocal about acknowledging what they’ve done for you publicly. A mentor who feels (consciously or not) like they are getting something back, will be a better mentor for you.
When looking for a side project mentor, there are a few things to consider.
First of all, it is incredibly important to work out what you are looking for in a mentor. You need to have the aims and goals of your new business laid out, so you can find someone who fits them and can provide relevant experience. You’ll need to have a think about where your strengths and weaknesses lie, and what you might need support with down the line.
Going where your potential mentors are is the next step. You can take your project idea, and look in places where relevant, experienced people are likely to be — joining discussion groups or attending conventions, and chatting to people who have done similar things to what you are planning. This applies just as much to looking online, as there are always plenty of groups and forums where you might encounter the right person for your vision.
Reaching out to your existing networks can be a great way to find the right person for your project. You probably already know loads of amazing folk who are clued up to how you think and what you are doing, and are working in the same areas as you.
Another way to find a mentor online is to look to organizations who can connect you with a mentor, like MentorCruise, for example. We host mentors from every background and sector, allowing you to find the perfect person to help make your vision a reality. MentorCruise is designed to make the hardest part of the mentorship process — finding a mentor — as simple as possible.
Getting the best out of the mentor relationship is not just a question of sitting back and drinking in their wisdom. You need to be in the right place to make the most of their talents, experience and guidance, as well as knowing what you’ll need them for.
Working with a mentor — particularly on a personal project built around your individual vision — requires some humility. You need to put your ego aside, and be able to take advice, even criticism, in order to get your ideas going. Being a good listener, and taking on board constructive feedback is a really important part of the mentoring process.
Mentors aren’t mind readers, and they aren’t necessarily going to know exactly what you are looking to achieve. You need to be able to ask the right questions in order to get the answers you need to build your side hustle.
If you’ve picked the right mentor, they are probably going to be pretty busy managing their own successful projects. This is not a bad thing, but it does mean that you need to work around their schedule, and fix time in advance that works for both of you. Setting up a consistent meeting schedule allows you to benefit from their advice without getting in the way of their own work.
Before getting down to work with your mentor, it is vital that you, your project and your ideas are in the right place to get the most out of the relationship. You need to have already set goals and outcomes that your mentor can help you achieve, and that give you something to track your progress with.
This helps with the magic ingredient for side project success: accountability. Chances are, you’re establishing this new venture alongside other work. Sharing your goals and timeline with a mentor gives you the nudge you need to stay on track.
Finally, it is almost as important to know what not to go to your mentor with. As we said before, they aren’t a parent, or your boss, and at the end of the day it is your project. You shouldn’t expect them to provide a detailed roadmap for every step of the way, and they certainly shouldn’t be expected to be as invested in the project as you (or to invest financially!). You shouldn’t go to them to take on tasks for you, or to reveal trade secrets.
If a mentor really believes in you and the work you’re doing, then there’s an opportunity for you to be introduced to their contacts — people who maybe can invest financially, or help you gather the resources you need to take your idea to the next stage. But they’ll only do so if you show initiative — you need to be a self-starter, and that starts with finding the right mentor.
Could your side project could do with an injection of experience, guidance, and accountability? Head over to the MentorCruise website right away, and we’ll put you in touch with your best match.