When it comes to professional development and business growth for bloggers, there's a lot of options. Do you need a coaching program? A mentorship? Or would a mastermind group be a good choice? Here's our blogger's guide to coaching, mentoring and mastermind programs.

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Running your own small business is a continuous learning curve that never seems to end. There's constant innovation, wearing multiple hats, figuring out when or if to bring on help, worrying about profitability... the list goes on.

It doesn't matter if you call yourself a blogger, a digital content creator, a community builder or a lifestyle brand - you're the boss and you have to make all the decisions for your business. Some days it can feel like overwhelm.

One of the things we often take for granted when we have "job jobs" or J-O-Bs is that there is almost always somebody above you on the company ladder. Yes, they're your boss and you have to answer to them - and sometimes they might not be the most agreeable person - but they can also be a mentor and teacher who can help guide you through the next steps in your project, your annual goals or even to your next promotion.

Who does that for you when you work for yourself?

Maybe you've thought about getting some help but you're just not sure what that looks like. Do you need a coach? A mentor? Or what about these mastermind groups you keep hearing about? What's the difference and would one (or more) of them work for you?

Let's find out!

Table of Contents

What's The Difference Between a Mentor, Coach or Mastermind Group?

The big question most people have is what's the difference between a mentor, a coach or a mastermind group and does it even matter? Well, yes... it can matter a lot! All three can be very beneficial under the right circumstances but in very different ways.

Let's start with mentors and coaches because they're often confused. Mastermind groups are a completely different ballgame altogether so we'll leave those for later.

Coaches

A coach is somebody who you hire, usually for the short term, to help you with one or two specific problems that you are struggling with. There are so many different types of coaches:

  • business coaches
  • life coaches
  • writing coaches
  • accountability coaches
  • social media coaches
  • sleep coaches (yes... this is a booming business amongst high level CEOs!)
  • if you need coaching with some particular aspect of your business or life, there is somebody who can help you - for a fee.

We offer short term coaching programs for bloggers through FBC that can be a short as a single phone call or as long as 6 months.

How Long Do Coaching Relationships Last?

Coaching relationships are usually for a defined period - anywhere from a one day intensive coaching session to a year long coaching program with regular weekly or monthly sessions.

It's possible your coaching relationship could last longer than a year if you have some defined goals and you're both working effectively towards those.

Your Coaching Relationship Should Have An Objective

When you sign on to work with a coach you should have a defined objective that you're working towards together. It could be working to create systems within your business, diversifying your income or even something as simple as having somebody you're accountable to help you execute some big goals for the year.

When your objective is reached, it's not unusual for your coaching relationship to dissolve. You might work together again on a new objective or you might move on to hire a new coach that specializes in a different aspect of your business. This is all completely normal and you shouldn't worry that you're hurting your coach's feelings or that you've failed because the relationship ends. It should be a cause for celebration - you reached your goal and succeeded!

How Hiring A Coach is Different From Hiring a Subject Matter Expert Contractor

One really big thing to understand about hiring a coach is that you are not hiring them to do the work for you. You need to do the work (and some of it's going to be really hard!).

A coach's job is to guide you to your goals. They're going to ask you a lot of questions - hopefully that really make you examine your goals and what you're trying to achieve. They are going to try and open your mind up to new possibilities and new ways of seeing things. They will point you in the right direction, help you come up with action plans, give you tools to implement new strategies and keep you accountable. But, they will not do the work for you!

If you want somebody to do the actual work instead of you - like design and write the ebook, or implement the systems or create your on-line course for you, you need to hire a "subject matter expert" or SME. They'll do the actual work - for a fee. But, again, to be very clear, a coach's job is to guide you, help you see things through a new lens and give you new options to consider - not to do the work for you

One on One Coaching or Group Coaching?

There are different ways you can work with a coach. Some may offer a group coaching program where you are being coached alongside of others. The sessions will be group sessions held either in person or online.

Group coaching programs will be less tailored to your specific needs and will usually focus on one very specific topic or niche. They also tend to be less expensive than one-on-one coaching but that doesn't mean they're less effective. For very specific areas of your business, they can be a great way to get coaching and also have a built in support group as you embark on something new.

One-on-one coaching can be much more tailored to your specific needs and all your sessions will be completely dedicated to you and your business. One-on-one sessions will come with a higher price tag but you will be getting a very personalized service. This might work better for your personality or make you feel more invested in the outcome.

Mentors

Mentors are very different from coaches although, more and more coaches are starting to call themselves mentors. It's really important that you understand the differences so that you have realistic expectations before entering into any kind of formal arrangement with a coach or a mentor

Key Differences Between Mentors and Coaches

1. Mentors are usually people within your industry, or a closely related one, who are more experienced and further ahead than you are in their career and possibly even in their personal life. They are usually somebody whose achievements you admire and hope to emulate but you also respect, not just professionally but also ethically and morally. They can become some of the most valued relationships of your professional career.

2. While a coach is meant to actively help you identify and achieve your goals through a structured relationship, a mentorship is usually much less structured. You may choose to meet regularly as a check in or you might only connect when you need a little advice or guidance. A mentor will rarely actively guide you - they let you guide the relationship

3. Mentorships can last for years and in some cases, even a lifetime. There isn't necessarily an end goal. A good way to think of a mentor is like a trusted advisor there to help you when you need advice or guidance or an ear to bounce ideas off of - both when it comes to business and possibly life.

4. Mentors are almost never paid. For many, being a mentor is a way to give back to the community and to their industry. Many of them do it as a form of succession planning - making sure the future is in good hands so to speak.

Others do it because somebody helped them in their career and it meant a lot to them and they want to help somebody else in the same way. And still others do it because they enjoy being connected to somebody a little younger (or even a lot younger) or newer to the industry who brings enthusiasm and fresh eyes.

A lot of mentors get just as much value from the relationship as the person they are mentoring and they enjoy the connection.

5. A mentor almost always brings access to their personal network, which can be invaluable when you're starting out. As the relationship progresses and the trust level increases, a mentor may invite you to events you wouldn't normally have access to or introduce you to the "right people at the right time" as you progress in your field.

6. A mentorship can be formal or informal. A lot of large companies will actually have a formal mentorship program in place for all employees where a senior employee is expected to work with a junior employee in a mentoring relationship. The idea behind this is generally succession planning. But there are a lot of people who offer to mentor junior people in their industry because it really is important to them to give back.

Informal Mentors

In the blogging world, this scenario is pretty unlikely to play out! Nobody is going to formally assign you a mentor. But you can reach out to people you admire, or who you feel a connection to, and ask them if they would like to mentor you (more on that in a minute).

But in all industries, informal mentorships are much more common. These can take many forms. An informal mentor might be somebody you never meet but who you feel connected to, admire and who you feel you learn from consistently over and over again. You many choose to be "mentored from afar" so to speak and that's totally ok. Lots of us have people we look up to and feel like they have helped us, or who have been a role model for us.

An informal mentor might also be somebody you've met but you never formally ask them to be a mentor. When I first quit my job to be a full-time, self-employed designer, a friend introduced me to another friend of theirs who had done the same thing a few years before me. That person became an "informal" mentor to me, answering my questions, meeting for coffee, and helping me grow my business, introducing me to people who can help me, etc. And as the years have passed and our businesses have diversified, I have been able to repay the favour in certain aspects of our businesses.

Other informal mentors might be industry leaders like Pat Flynn or Pinch of Yum who offer up multiple free resources and information via their blogs, books, podcasts, YouTube channels and income reports to anyone who needs it. It could be a family member who has navigated running a business successfully, or it could be a friend or former colleague who has made the leap to running their own business.

Asking Somebody to Be A Formal Mentor

If you're going to reach out to ask somebody to be a formal mentor there are a few things you need to make sure of:

  • you need to have some kind of existing relationship with them already - it's extremely unlikely that somebody will agree to mentor you when you've never made any attempt to connect with them personally
  • failing not having a pre-existing relationship, another way to find a mentor is to ask others in your network if they know of anyone who might be willing to mentor you and who has the time. They might be able to make an introduction for you.
  • remember, most mentorships are not paid and so, you are asking that person for access to one of their most valuable assets (their time). Make sure they are open to the idea before you ask them if they'd be willing to take you on. Most mentors will not take on more than one mentoring relationship - and that's where you may see paid mentoring come in to play.
  • if somebody does agree to take you on, treat the relationship with all the respect it deserves: be on time for meetings, offer to pick up the bill for lunch or coffee, always thank them for their time, send them a holiday card or a small token of appreciation on their birthday. Above all else be respectful of their time and of the suggestions and advice they give you - even if the advice they offer doesn't feel like a good fit. You can respectfully acknowledge it without having to follow it.

Mastermind Groups

Mastermind groups are an entirely different scenario from coaching and mentoring. A mastermind group is a group of peers, usually at similar stages in their business development, who come together to help support and advise each other through the challenges of growing their businesses.

That support may come in the form of:

  • helping each other set solid goals
  • brainstorming ideas for each member of the group
  • being a sounding board for new ideas
  • providing constructive feedback on business ideas and scenarios
  • provide accountability - nobody wants to come back to the group week after week without having moved forward on their goals!
  • access to one another's personal networks (this can be invaluable)
  • celebrating group members' successes and also providing a safe place to discuss member failures.

There is a wealth of variety when it comes to mastermind groups:

  • Some are by industry and can be broad (ie food bloggers of all niches) or very specific (ie food bloggers who specialize in baking, travel YouTubers with more than 100K subscribers, dietitians in private practice who focus on vegan clients)
  • some are by revenue: ie under 50K annual revenue, 50k-100K, or multi 6 figure revenue
  • some mastermind groups are paid and some are free (more on that in a minute)
  • some may have a facilitator (who is almost always paid) and others may rely on the facilitator role rotating through the members - but a facilitator is almost always present at meetings
  • size can vary although most are usually quite small - between 4-10 people.
  • "hot seats" are almost always part of being in a mastermind group

4 Keys To A Successful Mastermind Group

There are four keys to a successful mastermind group and these really are critical:

  1. regular meetings and check-ins
  2. commitment to attend meetings and check-ins by all members (serious mastermind groups may have a maximum number of meetings a member can miss before they will be removed from the group)
  3. good facilitation - whether by an outside facilitator or by the group itself
  4. confidentiality. What happens in the mastermind, stays in the mastermind. It's important to feel like your MM group is safe place where you can openly discuss your business

Regular meetings are critical to keep everyone on track with their goals and to give everyone a chance to be in "the hot seat". How often you meet varies from group to group but most will meet at least once a month, many will meet weekly. It's important that your meeting times are long enough that every member of the group has the opportunity to share their successes and failures for the period and to get individualized advice on their business from the group - this is why most masterminds are kept quite small.

Commitment is critical to the strength of the group. Your mastermind group must become a non-negotiable in your calendar. If you are not able to turn up regularly and consistently, you are not being fair to the rest of the group and you may be asked to leave. Most mastermind groups fail because the members don't prioritize the meetings.

It's also a good idea that members are all at a similar place in their businesses. The idea is that everyone is in a position to offer advice, support and suggestions to the same degree so that everyone is giving and taking equally.

Each stage of business comes with a different set of challenges and problems. If you have somebody in the group who is just starting out in a group of experienced business owners, that new person will be able to gather a wealth of knowledge (some of which they might not need yet) but they're not going to be able to contribute to the other members. That can cause resentment and frustration.

Mastermind Facilitators

Because it's crucial that each member of the group has the opportunity to be heard at each meeting and get some feedback, good facilitation is important. Without it, meetings can either go on for hours or somebody doesn't get the opportunity to share an update, and that can cause backlog and frustration.

Having an outside facilitator can be really helpful because they can be impartial and ensure that everyone is fairly recognized at each meeting. They can ask the right questions to get the group to dive deeper into different scenarios and help the group brainstorm solutions. They can also be helpful at running hot seats. This is why they're usually paid.

A facilitator who runs masterminds for a living may also be able to offer group curation services - meaning that they put Mastermind groups together based on industry, revenue, what stage of business the members are at etc. This can make sure you're in a group that works for you.

What is a Mastermind Hot Seat?

We've mentioned "the hot seat" a few times now but what does it actually mean? The hot seat is your opportunity to have the floor and present a specific challenge you are having in your business to the entire group and receive direct feedback. It gives the group the chance to ask you deeper questions about your problem in return while also suggesting solutions, giving advice based on their past experiences or brainstorming ideas as a group. The hot seat can be intimidating (you will be getting very honest feedback and suggestions) but it can also be a very powerful tool to help you move forward with confidence.

How often you get to be in the hot seat will depend on your mastermind group: how big it is, how often you meet and how long your meetings are. Ideally, you want to be able to be in that hot seat several times a year, if not more.

Paid or Free Masterminds?

There's no right or wrong answer here. A free mastermind group can be very effective (I have been in one for several years now that works very well for me) if the group is committed and able to facilitate effectively on their own.

But, a paid mastermind group can also be very beneficial. If you struggle with committing to things or prioritizing and showing up for things, a paid mastermind could be very helpful. Knowing you have paid money to be part of this - especially if it's a significant amount of money - might be what you need to make sure you make your group a priority.

If you need an outside facilitator to run your group, you will likely have to pay them and it will be up to the members to split the cost of the facilitator's fee.

Some paid masterminds will be run by an expert in the field which can also add to the value of the group. But it's important to note that they are not there to coach you - they're there to facilitate the members supporting and helping each other. But they might step in with their two cents as well!

Many paid masterminds may also include a multi-day group retreat that's covered in the cost of the group - these group retreats can be an opportunity for everyone to do some really deep work on their businesses. If you're in a free mastermind, you might choose to organize your own retreat where everyone pays their way - you'll have more freedom over scheduling and location.

So, as you can see, there are a lot of different options available to help you take your business forward! They come at all different price points and there is something to suit every type of personality. But now you'll be able to get a good sense of which might be the best option for you at this point in your business!

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