Guest Blog by Natalie Blackwood
There is some confusion in the sexwork community with regard to Sexworker Mentors. Here are some thoughts for your consideration.
There are four types of professional advice that you can expect to receive
- Friendly advice
While all of these are helpful they do different things.
A Coach is a paid professional that has experience, not necessarily in your business, but is skilled in coaching. They may or may not be accredited and may or may not have experience in your specific field. What a coach can do is:
- Help you set goals
- Hold you accountable
- Help you challenge yourself
- Help you reach a specific stated goal for your business
In the “real world,” coaches charge beginning at $75 an hour. The Harvard Business review stated that a median price for executive coaching per hour is $200 -$3500. Also, keep in mind that these are standard, general coaches. A specialized coach, such as one that has a dual speciality in your field as well as a coaching practice, generally charges more based on that skillset.
You will have access to your coach once a week during an hourly in-person appointment, phone call, or video chat. They will help you set goals, review your progress, and hold you accountable. If you’re pushing yourself to take your business to a higher level, whatever that looks like for you, a coach is the way to go.
Most high-level professionals use coaches and I recommend the practice as well.
A consultant is a paid professional who can help you in a very specific area of your business. Some examples are branding, social media, image, web design. In this case, you will be doing the work yourself, but a consultant will – get this – consult with you (give you advice) in that area of your business. In the ‘real world’ a branding consultant, for example, has a rate that ranges from $65 an hour to $50k for a complete brand overhaul.
An image consultant can charge $50 to $500 an hour to advise you on your “look” or wardrobe and how you present yourself.
A social media consultant can charge from $15 an hour to thousands per project.
Use a consultant if you need a laser-focused, skilled professional to help you revamp a specific area of your business. But keep in mind they are not a coach, they are consulting you on that area alone.
A mentor is a guide and advisor that is unpaid. Here’s where things get sticky. In our community, where all of us are – regardless of privilege – somewhat on the line simply because of what we do for a living, we expect that our mentors should mentor for free. And they should if both parties are interested in doing so and the protege understands what mentorship is in the civie business world.
In the ‘real world’, if you want a seasoned professional in your field to act as your mentor, you would do the following:
- Build a friendship or at least a relationship
- Offer your mentor value, as you would any business connection
- Show your potential
- And hope
Sheryl Sandberg put this brilliantly: “If someone has to ask the question, the answer is probably no. When someone finds the right mentor, it is obvious. The question becomes a statement. Chasing or forcing that connection rarely works.”
Mentorship just happens and here’s why – a mentor is a seasoned professional looking to pass on the wisdom of their experience to a younger, less experienced protege. This is completely up to the mentor and completely in their court. Most mentors, in fact, are not actively looking for proteges, they happen into their lives and then – after the relationship is well-established – a mentorship organically begins. They take you under their wing gradually.
How do you find a mentor?
Network. Be professional. Be exceptional. And wait.
A good Forbes article on the subject: How to find a great mentor: first dont ever ask a stranger
4. Friendly Advice
The last category is friendly advice. Friendly advice is great for when you have a specific question about a specific issue in your business. Here’s how that looks:
“Hey, Sara! Thanks for taking the time to read this. I noticed you recently toured in Boston. I’m planning a trip there in the Spring. Can you recommend a good hotel? Thanks in advance! Warmly, Nat”
“Hey, Natalie! I stayed at the Hilton. It was quiet and the beds were very comfortable. It was pretty reasonably priced too. Have a great night!”
“Thanks so much! Take care and if I can ever be of any help to you, let me know!”
That’s it. That’s how it goes. If you ask for friendly advice, please remember to say thank you. If you don’t, you probably will get your messages ignored in the future.
Please don’t message anyone ever and say “I want to get into the business, can you tell me how?”
There’s no way to condense that information in a pat email. The person you are messaging has spent a long time developing her brand, her process, her business, her persona. Show some respect for her work and educate yourself before you ask a broad question.
There is one additional type of help you can hire. These are professionals who have businesses that are adjunct to our industry. Photographers, web designers, copywriters, assistants, etc. They are hired, they do the work they are paid for and that’s that.
What if you need help?
You’re just starting out and you don’t have the cash to spend on a coach or consultant, and you can’t wait for a mentor.
The first step
Read everything you can online about the business. Take notes. Read again. Read your notes. Listen to podcasts. Get books from Amazon. Educate yourself.
All those coaches and consultants that are offering paid coaching? They likely offer free information in the form of a blog, a podcast, or a free ebook. Don’t even think about contacting them to ask a question until you have made it through all their free and inexpensive information. Contact them only if you are asking for “friendly advice” – remember friendly advice is a question that can be answered in a couple minutes – or if you are planning on paying them for their services.
The third step
Follow industry leaders. Anthony Robbins said famously, “Success leaves clues.”
To that end, begin curating a list of professionals you look up to. Make a private Twitter list and add all of them to it. Now the real work begins. Watch what they do. Read their websites. Check out their advertising. Study their brands. Why do they do what they do? Why does it work? What do they do that doesn’t work? And most importantly, what can you learn. I shouldn’t have to say this but, NEVER COPY THEIR WORK. Never ever copy. Never. Ever. I mean it. Do, however, learn and adapt general ideas to your business. Do you love how she posts her selfies? What is she doing that you can adapt to your photos? Is it the way she filters, how she tilts her chin, are her backgrounds interesting? Once you’ve started doing that, begin building relationships. Retweet them, reply to their tweets. Once they begin replying and RTing you, feel free to shoot them a DM. A simple “Thanks for the RT, it means a lot. <3” is sufficient. If they are interested in a relationship, they’ll strike up a conversation. If they don’t, lather, rinse, and repeat.
Look outside our industry. I’ve said before that our business is made up of a million tiny, seemingly disparate skills. If you can master one, you’ll stand out. If you can master many, you’ll be unstoppable. Research: branding, marketing, social media, etiquette (both business and personal), how to style photos, copywriting, blogging, anything really… It’s all an opportunity to excel. Learn. Try stuff. Never stop improving.
The fifth step
Find the paid professionals that work for you. When choosing a coach or consultant, look carefully before you invest your money. Some things to keep in mind: do they run a business you admire? Would you consider them an expert in the field they are charging for? Are they offering any free or low-cost resources (blogs, books, podcasts) you can check out before you invest hundreds or thousands of dollars? If not, do they have references you can speak with to confirm the quality of what they’re offering? Finally, are they able to provide what you’re looking for? Are you hiring a consultant when what you really want is a mentor? Please remember that a mentor isn’t a paid service. It is the natural progression of a relationship and can’t be forced.
The sixth step
Pay it forward. Be the mentor/coach you wish to have and one day if you’re lucky, you’ll be in the position to help someone else. When you are, stay humble and kind. But recognize that you, too, have the right to charge for your advice if you choose. Or to mentor a very small handful of greener professionals.
Congratulations you’ve made it! But wait… There’s always more to learn. Evaluate your next steps in your business and life. Head back to step one. Start again by researching. The most successful professionals never stop improving themselves.