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Coach or Mentor? What’s Right for Your Creative Business?

If you’re looking to take your business to the next level, the insight from someone more experienced than you is a must before making the big leap. It seems like everyone these days is working with a coach or talking with their mentor on their next big idea. What’s the difference between these two magical beings? Also, how can you get one?

A Coach is an advisor you hire for their expertise.

A coach is someone that you pay – simple as that. You hire them because of their experience in business and/or your creative field. Each coach has a different approach and methodology. Some things to look for in a coach may include:

  • What is their background and how will it help me with my business challenges and goals?
  • What is their style and approach to guiding a business owner? How do I typically work best?
  • Do they have a structured program, or is it a looser arrangement? Which suits me better?
  • Does this coach have knowledge on the specific areas that I’m looking to improve in my business? How will they help me with my challenges?

There is no shortage of great coaches these days. Your best bet is to ask other small business owners whom they recommend. Then interview a few to see if they match your personality, your style of working, and have the experience to help you tackle your specific need.

A Mentor provides advice because of the trusted relationship you’ve earned with them.

A mentor is typically someone with whom you’ve had a long relationship. A mentor is NOT paid. Usually, a mentor has more experience in an area that you do not have. Alternatively, they provide an outside perspective for your business challenges. This person make work in your industry, or outside, in a different field all together. They’re looking out for you because they believe in what you do. YOU inspire them to want to help you.

It might feel like a mentor is hard to find. However, it’s likely that you have these people in your life and don’t even know it. And, you may not be utilizing their guidance enough. You might have a mentor already if you have any of these people in your life:

  • Your friend who always seems to have great advice for you on business and life.
  • That creative business owner who always makes it a point to come say hello to you at local industry mixers and meetings.
  • That college professor you friended on Facebook who always likes everything you post and cheers on all your accomplishments.
  • That friend of your mom’s who owns a small business and is always asking about you.

Don’t get tied into stereotypes of mentors. Mentors can be peers and friends too. The biggest thing is that they’re looking out for you and can provide SOLID advice on the challenges you face in your business. (SOLID is key. Bad advice is easier to come by these days.)

A mentor can be a peer or someone more senior. They make work in your creative field, or a completely different industry. They look out for you and want to see you succeed. It’s your job to reach out periodically. Mentors love to feel utilized for their knowledge. If you nurture your relationship with them, they will continue to love on you and your business.

Which is Best for My Business?

 In a nutshell, a coach and mentor differ in two significant ways. A coach is paid, while a mentor is not. A coach will likely be more specialized and provide structure for your needs. While a mentor has an inherent desire to help you succeed.

So – who do you need? The answer is: BOTH. Each suits a different purpose. Your coach is going to give you structure and guidance on YOUR TERMS. You pay them for the advice they share with you. They work for you and they know that your business success is dependent on their ability to help you. The mentor is a fairy godperson looking over you and can give you a fresh perspective on things you didn’t even know you needed to know. The mentor relationship is one you should always be nurturing throughout your lifetime. You’ll have many mentors that ebb and flow into your life depending on where you’re at, and what you need most help with. Coaches and mentors are BOTH people you’ll need on your strategy team to help get your business to the next level.


Michelle Loretta is a business consultant and financial strategist for wedding and event professionals. As founder of Sage Wedding Pros she blends her past as an accountant for Deloitte, a sales and marketing manager for DDLA, a merchandiser for Coach, and a stationery entrepreneur to strengthen wedding businesses worldwide. Sage Wedding Pros is the creator of the business plan program, The Simple Plan, Exclusive. Michelle has been asked to speak at a number of industry conferences, including NACE Experience, Biz Bash Live, and The Special Event.

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Michelle Loretta

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