Thirty Four.

Why we co-mentor each other and why you should do it too.

This week Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland have a chat in response to a question from graphic designer and illustrator Ami-Lou Harrison. She says:

My question is about co-mentoring. I’ve heard you mention a couple of times that you mentor each other. It sounds like such a brilliant idea and something I feel I could benefit from myself, so I’m wondering if you could talk more about how it came about, how you go about co-mentoring someone and also how it has benefitted your freelance businesses?

• • • • •

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Take note dear listener! We might swear a bit. This one’s for the parents. To be enjoyed at your desk or once the kiddos are in bed.

Here’s what was said in this episode:

Comments on the previous episode:

[00:02:06] – Frankie
Hello, you’re listening to the Doing It For The Kids podcast, where we swear a bit too much and talk a bit too fast about freelance life with kids in the mix. I’m Frankie and this is Steve.

[00:02:16] – Steve

[00:02:16] – Frankie

[00:02:17] – Steve
Each week we take a question from the Doing It For The Kids community. Do our best to answer it, but then we start each episode by looking back to last week’s episode and reading your comments out from that previous episode. Last week’s episode was…

[00:02:28] – Frankie
Preparing to move somewhere.

[00:02:32] – Steve
Yeah, it’s a little bit more eloquent than that, but, yeah. Moving yourself, moving your family, moving your business. Thank you so much for your comments.

Laura Mingozzi-Marsh got in touch who said,

“Okay, you two are definitely listening to my thoughts. Just this week, we accepted an offer on our little flat and are heading out of the Big Smoke to the seaside life of our dreams. It’s exciting. It’s also bloody daunting.”

Laura, that is so exciting! Congratulations.

[00:03:03] – Frankie
Trudy Thorpe says,

“We did this two years ago, moved from Leicester to Cornwall. I was flexible due to being freelance and my husband’s dad’s factory sold, enabling us to move. We sold our house with nowhere to move into, but had a relative’s house we could use on a casual basis until we bought somewhere and sorted the nursery. I kept my art studio on for a year and a half back in Leicester, and it took a good year for my husband to find a unit and relocate the machines. He was going back for several days at a time and still uses other manufacturers in Leicester, so we only really completed the move fully in September. It helped that my work is all remote and it’s only since all the moving completed that we’ve been ramping it all up again. But we still feel like we’re camping out in the house a bit. Just remember, though — you aren’t cutting ties to the existing network. In fact, my old network is still a source of leads, plus you have the new area and the new networks to go out and get to know as well.”

[00:03:49] – Steve
I love that last bit. You aren’t cutting ties to your existing network, but you also get your new network. So actually, when you move around, double whammy.

[00:03:56] – Frankie
Bonus. It’ll be fine, Detective Sydney.

Our answer to this week's question:

[00:06:17] – Frankie
This week’s question comes from Ami-Lou Harrison, who is a graphic designer and illustrator,

[00:06:26] – Steve
By the way, her illustrations are wicked, aren’t they? Yeah, I was checking out her instagram.

[00:06:31] – Frankie
Yeah, her website’s really cool as well. She says,

“Hey, Steve and Frank-”

Oh, my God. It’s the wrong way around. Sacrilege!

[00:06:41] – Steve
You’re right. It has to be Frankie and Steve.

[00:06:43] – Frankie
Too late. I’m going to do it.

“Hey, Steve and Frankie.”

[00:06:46] – Steve
It’s the wrong way around. We’re standing on the wrong side. It’s like Ant and Dec, Richard and Judy.

[00:06:53] – Frankie
That’s true.

Ami-Lou asks,

“Frankie and Steve,

My question is about co-mentoring. I’ve heard you mention a couple of times that you mentor each other. It sounds like such a brilliant idea and something I feel I could benefit from myself. So I’m wondering if you could talk more about how it came about, how you go about co-mentoring someone, and also how has it benefited your freelance businesses?

Thanks so much.

Love and biscuits, Ami-Lou.”

[00:07:30] – Steve
Yes. So we’ve been co-mentoring each other for a year, but actually we kind of started doing it accidentally.

[00:07:38] – Frankie
That’s true.

[00:07:39] – Steve
For probably a year before that, we’d been chatting to each other on Instagram. So how it came about was exactly that. We just started chatting and cheerleading and running ideas past each other. And it was only then, in the tail end of 2018, that I suggested… Because I’d been listening to a podcast called Friends with Business Benefits, where Franky and Charlie, the presenters of that, are co-mentoring each other and I was kind of inspired by that idea.

So I suggested it to Frankie, and I thought, “well, what harm?” Like, she could say ‘no’, or she could say ‘yes’ and we could try it and if it doesn’t work and it doesn’t matter, we’d just stop.

So, yeah, I suggested it and she went, “yeah!” And we gave it a go and it really worked. So I would say to you, Ami-Lou, that you might have already found the person that you could co-mentor with just not have thought of it that way yet. So that’s a good way to think about it. Maybe there’s somebody that you’re already having interactions with that you could team up with?

[00:08:48] – Frankie
Yeah. In fact, my advice would always be to try and find somebody organically like that, because a lot of people are like, “oh, how do I find a co-mentor? Like, is there a service that does that? Or should I do a shout out somewhere?” And maybe that works for some people. I don’t know, because we didn’t do it that way. But I suspect it’d be much better to just look at the people already in your life — even if it’s only the seed of a relationship at this point — but look at those people. Oh yeah, “I vibe with them. They’re doing similar things to me. We’re just already talking to each other”. I would always pursue that kind of person rather than try and do something cold.

[00:09:25] – Steve
And it doesn’t have to be somebody who does exactly what you do.

[00:09:29] – Frankie

[00:09:30] – Steve
So Frankie is a graphic designer, I’m a video and audio producer, so our businesses are different, but that doesn’t seem to matter. We can still discuss what goes on. What we do have in common is that we both run stupidly demanding side projects, and we also have in common the fact that we’re parents and have two kids. So there are similarities, but it doesn’t have to be… I don’t know, you’re a photographer and you get another photographer.

[00:09:56] – Frankie
Oh, totally. Yeah. No, in fact, it’d be helpful to speak to somebody from a slightly different industry because they have a different experience and different approach to things than you.

[00:10:07] – Steve
So what do we do? Should we talk about how we do it?

[00:10:10] – Frankie

[00:10:11] – Steve
The first time that we met, the first conversation we had, I remember we basically told the history of our business to each other, so we were aware of some stuff already. But it was more like, “okay, here’s all my shit. This is how I run my business. This is what I do. These are what I think are challenges. These are the sort of people I work with” so that we had a broader idea of how we work. And then we had lunch, and then we talked more about things on a bigger level. And now we chat on the month by month basis.

[00:10:44] – Frankie
And I remember we specifically made a list of things we wanted help with or that were challenging us at that time. I mean, we do that every month anyway. But I remember right at the beginning, it was like, “what are the big things that I want to get out of this, for me, right now?”

And then since we’ve met, since that first one, it’s kind of a miniature version of that, isn’t it? So we have a little ‘what’s going on’ update, and then we tend to concentrate on one of us first and then the other one for the second half with some lunch in the middle. And again, it’s centered around what the challenges are at that stage. But also we’re referencing back to what we talked about last time. So we’re also celebrating the wins from the last month, as well as things we want to talk about and iron out and get advice on this month.

[00:11:24] – Steve
And then intermittently between those monthly meetings, be it online or in person-,

[00:11:31] – Frankie
Steve sends me videos of dogs!

[00:11:35] – Steve
We do what we were doing anyway, which is like just chatting online.

[00:11:40] – Frankie
“I like that post. Nice post, Steve”.

“Oh, I did this. What do you think about that?”

“I got an email from blah blah.”

[00:11:45] – Steve
Exactly. “I’ve got a meeting with this person”, “that person has done this and this happened”, or whatever.

One good thing that you can get out of co-mentoring — depending on how you do it — some people will say it’s like accountability. I don’t think it’s necessarily the other person going, “have you done this, have you done this, have you done this?” Although occasionally we will. It’s more about the fact that, you know, in a month’s time you’re going to be sat there talking about it again. And actually I find that sometimes knowing that I will be talking to you about it will make me do it, make me take action!

However, the things where I don’t take action, it also makes me think, “why didn’t I do that? I knew I was going to be talking to her about it. Maybe it isn’t that important to me”. So, yeah, it’s useful for the stuff that you get done, but it’s also useful for the stuff that you don’t.

[00:12:36] – Frankie
But also it just gives you that kick up the arse to do a bunch of stuff that maybe you didn’t have the confidence or weren’t sure about when you came to the session. But when you leave… I remember you saying on the train back from one of them, you literally did like eight things on the train that you’d been putting off or you weren’t sure about, and you just did them. For me, when I feel like that, it’s partly because I feel like I’ve been given the green light to do them. And maybe that’s a confidence thing or whatever, or just it’s nice to have a decision made either way about whether to leave it or get on with it. And also — when do we ever take that amount of time out of our businesses to just talk about it and think about it? We just don’t.

So having a co-mentor gives you an excuse to do that on a regular basis. So it’s as much about giving yourself the headspace as it is having somebody else to throw ideas off. Maybe if you can’t find a co-mentor, just like schedule in a day, a month anyway, for yourself.

[00:13:28] – Steve
One of the benefits really is that thing where you feel like you’re not just going through it alone, which we both did for years. We talk business, sure, but we also understand each other’s lives as well, which is helpful because it means that sometimes we can beat ourselves up about stuff that we’re doing, but actually that other person is aware of what you’re going through and tell you to just give yourself a break. “You’ve got all of this going on, that doesn’t matter”.

Or maybe instead of holding you accountable to a to-do-list, they’re making you go to bed and actually get some sleep or whatever. So I think sometimes we can be quite — almost brutal! — to ourselves and it’s quite nice having somebody else pointing out that you’re doing okay or that maybe you just let that slide and it doesn’t matter.

[00:14:13] – Frankie
And that ties back to the finding the right person thing because, yeah, you want somebody that you can be honest with and go like, “this shit is happening in my life. I’m doing this, that and the other”. You don’t want to be hiding that stuff. Because when you’re self employed and you work for yourself, your life is so woven into your business, there’s a lot of grey areas. And how you feel and what’s going on is going to have a massive impact on your productivity and decision making and all the rest of it. You don’t want to be having a co-mentor that you don’t feel that you can be open with about the context of your wider life.

[00:14:50] – Steve
It feels really good to be able to share ideas and, like you say, kind of get a ‘green light’ or get somebody to go, “but do you remember that time when you did that thing with this thing and that didn’t work so well?” or “Yeah, that client’s gone. But actually, you didn’t really like working with them anyway, so how about blah, blah?”

When you work with somebody over a longer period of time, they remember stuff and they can sort of throw that back at you in a way that maybe you’ve not seen yourself.

[00:15:23] – Frankie
Yeah, you’re right. It helps you kind of cull stuff with confidence, whereas you might wait. Basically, I feel like I’ve wasted less time this year because I haven’t been toing and froing and dillying dallying about certain things. Yeah, as you say, you’ll challenge me on it a bit, which is good because either I’ll be like, “no, that’s a fucking great idea!” and I’ll feel even more like fired up about it, or I’ll be like, “yeah, that’s a fair point. Maybe I shouldn’t bother”, or “maybe I need to put it on the back burner for a bit”. Or it just helps you make those decisions quicker and with more clarity and therefore you’re wasting less time, energy, headspace on shit that, when you’re on your own, you just circle around.

It doesn’t even have to be somebody that lives local to you if you don’t want it to be.

[00:16:09] – Frankie
It really doesn’t. When we chat via Zoom, they’re just as valuable chats…

[00:16:14] – Frankie

[00:16:14] – Steve
… as when we meet in person. It’s just nice having a day out and meeting in person.

[00:16:19] – Frankie
Yeah. Not to say that it’s not nice to meet up and have lots of cake, but I wouldn’t say that’s a make or break thing when it comes to choosing who that person is.

In a world where a lot of people pay for business support through a coach or something… I’ve never had a coach. I’m told it can transform your life. Excellent! But it’s more like a one way service, right? Whereas this is more of a two way thing. And even if you’ve got a coach, I’d imagine you get a slightly different kind of benefit out of this kind of mutual arrangement. Also, if you can’t afford a coach, a co-mentor is a great option.

[00:17:00] – Steve
And it feels good, you know? Like, how giving a gift is as nice as receiving it, sort of thing. It’s a bit like that, isn’t it? You feel good watching your friend, your co-mentee succeed and do awesome things.

[00:17:15] – Frankie
That’s so true.

[00:17:17] – Steve
It’s fun.

[00:17:18] – Frankie
It is fun. That’s a great benefit.

[00:17:20] – Steve
It is, though.

[00:17:21] – Frankie
We might start a podcast! Franky and Charlie started a podcast. We started a podcast. Boom.

[00:17:27] – Steve
Loads of laughs online when you’re just chatting to each other anyway. But then when you meet in person as well, working for yourself can be so…

[00:17:34] – Frankie

[00:17:34] – Steve

[00:17:35] – Frankie
Isolating. That’s the word.

[00:17:36] – Steve
And also, you can laugh at things that maybe you weren’t laughing at-,

[00:17:40] – Frankie
That seem much bigger on your own! That’s true.

[00:17:43] – Steve
Okay, we would love to know if you’ve done co-mentoring. What are your tips? What’s your advice? Maybe it did work out. Maybe it didn’t work out. Either way, it would be good to know. Lessons learned. Get in touch. As ever. #DIFTKPodcast on Instagram, on Twitter, you can also get involved in the Doing It For The Kids community.

What would your advice be?

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