Finding the Right Mentor or Coach

Finding the Right Mentor or Coach

Intro by Skip Cohen

Finding a great coach/mentor has always been a challenge for most of us, even outside the imaging industry. But the pandemic brought with it more challenges than just developing your skillset as an artist or business owner. Everyone is looking for answers, and it’s so important to align yourself with the right kind of person to help you grow.

For me, it starts with the importance of understanding what it is you want to achieve. This takes a lot of soul-searching. It’s not about just capturing and creating stunning images but thinking through how you want to build your brand. And you also have to be honest with the skills you’re weakest in, not just focused on short-term successes but also long-term goals.

I’ve been fortunate to have a few great mentors in my life, who gave me enough rope to hang myself, but slipped a chair under me if they thought the rope was getting taut!

If you’re in the “market” for a coach, take the time to think through exactly what you want to be when you grow up! And that’s not meant to be insulting – I still don’t know myself!


By Sarah Petty

There’s a reason why the people you look up to in business have gotten to the top, and it’s because they picked the right photography mentor or coach for them. Along the way, I’ve chosen wrong and learned some expensive lessons, so I’ve developed a framework for choosing the right photography mentor.

I hope you can use it to save time and money in choosing the right leader for where you are in your business right now.

  1. I pick someone still doing it.

A few years ago, when we decided to put on the world’s only 3-day event for boutique photographers, Go Boutique Live, I needed a coach to help me deliver the most incredible live experience because I’d never done it before. When I’m choosing a coach to help me grow my business, it’s important for me to choose someone who’s still actively running that part of their business.

Last year, photographers had to navigate the pandemic.

Since I run a studio, I had to do it just like all of you did. I had to keep clients coming in and figure out how to keep the cash flow coming.

I wouldn’t recommend you pick a photography mentor who ran a photography business years ago and doesn’t run one anymore.

  1. Is this coach where you want to be?

Are they both successful in not just making money but putting their family first?

This is why I share here that I was named one of the most profitable by the Professional Photographers of America within five years of opening my first studio.

Make sure your mentor is making money.

I want a mentor who’s where I want to be, who’s making money, but not at the expense of their family.

  1. Do they have proven systems?

Not only do I pick a mentor who’s doing it and who’s where I want to be, I want to make sure that they have repeatable systems.

A system is something that people can follow and has been perfected over years of doing it.

It’s taken me 23 years to perfect the system I created. Make sure the person that you’re wanting to study from has these systems that can be plugged into like a cake mix.

It needs to be something that can be replicated.

  1. Are we an energy and fit match?

I didn’t realize how important the personality of a mentor was until I’d hired a few different mentors.

I’m high-energy, move fast, and want to implement things very quickly. This is important because you do have a relationship with your mentor and if your mentor is a slow-mover and you are wanting to be quick and efficient, it isn’t going to work.

  1. What are their core values and their culture?

I want to be in a program where people share the same core values as me. They lift others, value family, and morally we are aligned.  I think we all should be able to live our passion.

I am very strong about not allowing any bullying or negativity in my community. Life is too short to tear others down.

Is it hard to find a right fit mentor? It can be if you’re not exactly clear on what you’re looking for. I encourage you to consume as much free content from your potential mentor/coach as you can before you decide to invest with them.

I hope this has challenged you to take a high-level look at your life and decide where you need a mentor or coach. It is not a luxury, it’s a necessity.

If you do the work and are coachable, it can take you places you have never thought possible.

If you have the ability to do it on your own, you’d already be doing it.

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This article was written by
Sarah Petty

Sarah is a New York Times best-selling author, highly-acclaimed speaker, author, MBA and coach who started her own boutique photography studio after working for Coca Cola for 20 years and then meeting the marketing goals of a top regional advertising agency’s clients. She attributes the rapid growth of her boutique photography studio, which was named one of the most profitable in the country within just five years in business by PPA, to the creation of her own strong brand. Click on Sarah's photograph to visit her blog.

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