Every professional photographer at some point in their business needs a coach, because the fastest way to learn any business is to study someone who has been successful at it. This person has already paid the price of experience. You must absorb all of the information that you can out of him or her!
Over the years, I’ve met many people who desperately want to be successful but who are ultimately unwilling to invest in themselves. They think, “I can teach myself. I can learn this on my own.” I’m always dumbfounded by this attitude. If I can avoid making a few mistakes, I’m going to.
Our whole lives are about learning. When we’re young, we attend school. If we’re lucky, our parents impart a few important lessons. If you’ve ever played sports, you’ve had a coach. Education is king. In the long run, finding the right mentor will save you time and money.
However, it goes without saying that some coaches are better than others. There are so many people these days offering their services to photographers online. Before you leap into a new relationship, take some time to get to know a potential coach. The following qualities are what you should be looking for.
The number-one thing to look for on someone’s resume is his or her experience. What exactly have they accomplished? Is it what you want to accomplish? Your coach must have walked the walk.
I feel strongly about this. Find someone that has truly paid their dues and can speak to their real-life experiences. Ideally, this person will have failed and succeeded. Their insight will help you avoid making costly mistakes and increase your chance of success immensely.
The devil is in the details. Ask for testimonials. What are former mentees saying about him or her? Is what’s being said personal and detailed? Always remember to Google for complaints as well.
In my experience, having a great attitude comes with time and experience. The right coach will have been through it all — and come out the other side knowing a sense of humor goes a long way in business. They are able to see the big picture. They understand it’s all a numbers game. They don’t get too upset. An ideal coach is very patient, but also persistent and determined.
3. Willing to share
A great coach is willing to share all of his or her experiences with you — the good and the bad. Do you get the feeling this person is holding back? That’s not a good sign. You’ll learn the most from someone who is willing to be radically transparent.
4. Expertise in their field
Does your potential coach regularly give lectures? Has he or she written a book? Do reporters interview him or her? It’s impossible to be everything to everyone, and nor is it desirable. If this person offers a long list of services, exercise caution.
You must be able to reach your coach. A good coach will be willing to customize a program for you, because they know one size doesn’t fit all. Does this person care about your problems and concerns? Specifically ask them how much time they have to offer you. What is their schedule and availability like? How many other projects and commitments do they have? Discuss these very important details up front.
6. Support Group
A great coach will have longstanding relationships with people who could benefit you. They should have a strong group of photographers who will support and encourage you. Ask him or her if they’re willing to open doors for you. Sometimes, it is about who you know.
Ask your coach what they expect from you. A good coach will keep you accountable. They will outline what they need from you, time and action wise. If they don’t ask how much you’re capable of, that’s a red flag. I would never take on a mentee who told me he or she didn’t have as much time as I thought they should dedicate to a project. A good coach will also from time to time “kick you up the bum” if you need it.
8. A love of teaching
Teaching is a skill that people get better at over time. Good mentors love to help other people. They enjoy the act of teaching. How a potential coach treats you from the very beginning of your interactions is a good indicator of how he or she will act over time. Are they late to the first appointment you set up? That’s not a good sign. You need a coach who is considerate of your time.
9. Holds you accountable
A great coach will not simply let you disappear. Yes, things get in the way. But he or she cares about how you’re doing.
If you’re lucky enough to find a good photography business coach, a coach that you vibe with, you will make a great friend for life. They will enjoy sharing in your success and feeling like they were part of it.