15 Minute Freelancer

58. Co-mentoring could change your life! (with Frankie + Steve from DIFTK)

May 13, 2022 Louise Shanahan Episode 58
15 Minute Freelancer
58. Co-mentoring could change your life! (with Frankie + Steve from DIFTK)
Show Notes Transcript

On this episode, Louise is joined by freelance podcasting royalty! Frankie Tortora and Steve Folland are not just co-hosts of the brilliant Doing It For The Kids podcast, but they've also been co-mentoring each other as freelance business owners (with kids and mammoth side projects) over the last few years. Here, they share their experience of co-mentoring and the impact it's had on their businesses and their lives. Listen in to hear:

  • What is co-mentoring and how it can change your business (and your life!)
  • Why it's so important to have someone to cheer you on and challenge you
  • Frankie and Steve's top tips for structuring a co-mentoring session
  • Where to find the right co-mentor (and how to ask them)
  • Pros and cons of co-mentoring vs. masterminds

Say hi to Frankie and Steve:

Frankie Tortora is a freelance graphic designer and founder of Doing It For The Kids, a community for parents who work freelance. Steve Folland is a freelance video and podcast creator and founder of the Being Freelance community.

Doing It For The Kids

Website: https://www.doingitforthekids.net/
Podcast: https://www.doingitforthekids.net/diftk-podcast/
Facebook group: Doing It For The Kids: Community
Instagram:  @doingitforthekids_

Being Freelance

Website: https://www.beingfreelance.com/
Podcast: https://www.beingfreelance.com/the-best-freelance-podcast
Course: How to get started being freelance
Facebook group: Being Freelance Community

Say hi to Louise:

Louise Shanahan is a freelance health and medical copywriter and a big fan of finding your freelance niche. She's on a mission to help others build a freelance business that feels easy and works for them – in weekly snack-sized bites.

LinkedIn: Louise Shanahan
Twitter: @LouiseShanahan_
Website: thecopyprescription.com

If you find this episode helpful and you'd like to show your appreciation, consider leaving a tip over at ko-fi.com/15minutefreelancer. All donations help cover the cost of running the podcast and are very much appreciated!


Welcome to 15 Minute Freelancer, your snack-sized guide to being your own boss and building a business and life you love. I'm your host Louise Shanahan. My LinkedIn bio says I'm a freelance health copywriter. But for the next 15 minutes, I'll be tickling your ears with practical strategies, behind-the-scenes stories, and nuggets of wisdom so you can create a freelance business that works for you. Whether you're just starting out or you've been self-employed for a while, I'll be right here with you to help you navigate the ups and downs of freelancing life. So grab a coffee relax and join me for 15 minutes of freelancing fun. Don't forget to hit subscribe.

Louise: Hello, and welcome to the 15 Minute Freelancer, Louise Shanahan here and today I'm very excited and a little bit nervous, because we have not one but two guests for the first time on this podcast. I'm sure many of you will be familiar with the brilliant Doing It For The Kids podcast, which is a weekly podcast for parents who freelance, and I'm so excited to have the hosts Frankie and Steve here today. Hello, Frankie. Hello, Steve. I feel like I'm with freelance podcasting royalty here.

Steve: It's the crown and the cape that I have. People can't see it, but that's why.

Frankie: It’s all a ruse. It’s all in the edit, trust me.

L: On last week's episode of this podcast, I talked about building an imaginary Board of Directors where you identify some imaginary business friends or famous business experts to mentally consult when you're facing a sticky business challenge. But you two have kind of gone for the real-life version haven't you, with co-mentoring, which is something I'm hoping we can talk about today. Frankie, maybe you can kick things off by telling us what exactly is co-mentoring and what made you want to try it?

F: It's like having a mentor, but it's more equal than that. There's no 'more experienced person helping less experienced freelancer learn stuff'. The idea is you're on the same level and you are giving each other the same amount of support and taking the same amount of support. It's like a mutual exchange of support and advice and cheerleading each other basically through life as a freelancer.

L: It's different from the traditional coaching model or traditional mentoring because it's that two-way thing, isn't it? You're doing it for each other?

S: Yeah, it's kind of like meeting up with a friend, but deliberately talking about your businesses. Then over time, you get to know each other's businesses and get to know each other's personal lives and how that all integrates so you can really help each other. Neither of us are coaches, we're just people running businesses and silly side projects, that's what we also have in common. It's not even like we both do the same thing, Frankie is a graphic designer, I'm a video and podcast creator, but it works.

L: What kind of things do you talk about, what kind of questions and challenges? Do you have an agenda, or do you just play it by ear?

F: Do we have an agenda?

S: Well agenda’s a very grand word. We tend to reflect back on what we've done since the last time we spoke. For example, where we're at with our side projects, where we're at with clients, things that we said we'd do, or haven't. Then we specifically look at what we might be struggling with or like, hey, I'd like to pick your brain about this, I'm thinking about doing that. At which point Frankie goes, why would you do that Steve, last time you tried that it was awful. So a reality check kind of thing, and then we sort of think about what we want to do by the next time. Sometimes I've left, because we used to meet in person, like I'll be on the train having left our co-mentoring session and I'll already be doing the thing. It acts almost like an accountability buddy kind of thing. 

F: But better, supercharged. 

S: Yeah, and because you know you're gonna meet next time as well, you might think, okay, I said I'm gonna do that thing, I’d better do that thing.

F: Then there are those things that are on the list every time, right, like I'm gonna update my website…

L: How often do you do this, is it a monthly thing, is it quarterly?

F: It's supposed to be monthly. But…

S: Yeah, if I’m recommending people to do it I would say monthly. And in fact, for a long time, that's what we would do, isn't it? And we will put that date in the diary at the last one, so that it’s in there, not to be pushed out by client work and stuff like that. We will probably spend a good half a day. I mean, in a way you might even block out a full day because we used to travel and meet up in person.

F: Yeah, when we did it in person, it was a full school day wasn't it.

L: Do you go somewhere nice for lunch in the middle?

S: Yeah, definitely. It was really nice to take that day out, to pause and just reflect and to think, and to chew over things on your business as well as pastries. When we do it online it's more like a half day.

F: It sounds really luxurious to take that kind of time, but it's so worth it. I mean, I'd recommend it even if you're not doing a co-mentoring thing, even if it's just, sit down on your own and look at what you're doing, what's on your to do list, and what your plans are for the next month, quarter, whatever. But to have somebody else makes even better.

S: Yeah, we get to know each other's, I guess, way of working. There's lots of, go for it, do that thing.

F: Totally, and there is a lot of stuff, I think we can both admit to getting overexcited about things sometimes, and it's equally important to have somebody to rein you in a bit as it is to cheer you on to do more stuff.

S: Also, you can run ideas past each other. For example, if you're talking about pricing something, I think we've both found that kind of encouragement, that voice in your ear saying, go on, you can do a bit more. Or to actually make you think, okay, you're thinking of charging that, but what are your actual costs, and let's talk about that and break that down. It makes you contemplate things perhaps a bit better than if you just did it by yourself.

L: I can see how that’s so valuable, I think sometimes there's things where you kind of know what you need to do, you know what you should do, but you just want permission to go ahead with it. It sounds like having someone else who understands you and gets how you work could be a great person to be that person for you. I'm curious about in what ways has it helped your individual freelance businesses and also your partnership? Because obviously, you're already working together on the podcast Doing It For The Kids?

S: Well, the podcast kind of came at similar time. So I suggested do we want to do co-mentoring, and I think at our first session you suggested doing a podcast?

F: Did I? Was it the first session, that is ballsy.

S: The thing is, Louise, we were chatting for a long time on Instagram before. We found that we were almost doing a co-mentoring thing without realising it. And because of listening to the Friends with Business Benefits podcast, with Franky Shanahan and Charlie Swift, that podcast is basically part of their co-mentoring. So they sort of introduced the concept to me and I introduced it to this Frankie, how about we give this a go, it seems like a really good idea. There are definitely things that I think both of us wouldn't have done if it weren't…

F: 1,000%. I wouldn't have done a podcast, that would just never have happened. I've always talked about doing a Doing It For The Kids podcast, but had I done it on my own, would not have been a thing, and it wouldn't been as good either.

S: I wouldn't have launched the Being Freelance community. 

F: Yeah, correct, you wouldn't have a Facebook group. 

S: I probably wouldn't have done a course for new freelancers. I might have done some other stupid things, which would have been bad ideas, which the world has been saved from. But also our own business-wise, our pricing has probably…

F: Totally, the only reason I put my rates up is because of Steve. 

S: Also work/life balance-wise, I think the way we've dealt with that, sometimes it's just good to air things. It's always hard to know the difference is made because it's just, you know, we've been doing this for maybe three years now. But then as the partnership, that's just sort of part and parcel of it almost.

F: It was born out of co-mentoring, which is pretty cool.

L: Yeah, that's amazing, I didn't realise it was that way around. I think I assumed that you already had these amazing side projects up and running and then you just kind of came together.

F: They existed, but they were babies, and now they've grown a lot.

S: I was doing the Being Freelance podcast for years before, and like the vlog and things, but it wasn't a community. Frankie had the Doing It For The Kids community and the Instagram account and all of that, but it wasn't the podcast.

L: So it's benefited all of us then.

S: It really does. I'm a big fan and advocate really of this whole co-mentoring thing. It's not that I've got things against paid coaches, but it's that kind of mutual partnership. If you get the right person, it works really well.

L: On that then how do you find the right person, it sounds like this sort of natural, organic way of just carrying on, or maybe making a little bit more formal, a friendship or an arrangement that you already had is a good way to go. But if people are wondering how to get started what would you suggest?

F: They're already in your life, that person. I'm sure loads people listen to this and loads of people in both of our Facebook groups, like so many freelancers are desperate to connect with other people who are going through a similar thing to them. To talk about pricing, to talk about this client that disappeared, to talk about whatever. So we're all seeking out those conversations anyway I think quite organically, like whether that's in a Facebook group or you know, a mate you're just texting them or WhatsApping them who happens to be in a similar situation to you. So that person, I have no doubt is already in your life, you just need to start thinking about recruiting for that role. But not in a formal way, just who am I already having these conversations with, who do I really get on with and get a lot of support from already, and would they be interested in, like, going steady?

L: Have you got any tips for how people can actually run the session? Should people come in with a particular agenda? What are some good ways to get the most out of it?

S: Like with any good meeting it pays to think about things in advance. To reflect on what's happened, maybe jot things down as to what you're challenging with, what you'd like to pick someone's brain about, what you want to do next, all of those sorts of things. Actually, if you're meeting every month, you sort of get to know each other and each other's businesses, it all happens quite organically. You might check in, we check in with each other all the time, we were already doing that. Sometimes that might be really deliberate as in I’ll go, hey Frankie, have you done that thing you said you were gonna do by this point? And she'll say no.

F:  Yeah, he’ll message me on Instagram in response to a story about a thing I haven't done, he'll be like, hey, you haven't done the thing, I can see you haven't done the thing, where's the thing?

S: Yeah, other times it will be as and when, but I think as with most things it pays to think about stuff in advance. And you know, if you find a person and you're doing the whole co-mentoring, then it doesn't work out, then it doesn't work out, but you've given it a try.

L: How does it differ from a small group, like a mastermind? Because lots of people are trying that now, either through paid programmes or just kind of finding a group of freelance friends that they want to chat things through with, it sounds quite similar. Do you think there are any advantages having a one-to-one versus a small group of say, four or five people?

S: It's easier to organise because there's only two people.

F: People in my life with multiple children and whatnot, trying to get you know more than two people together at the same time, it's quite hard.

S: You can often go deeper because there's just two of you, so therefore you can talk about things for longer. In a mastermind sort of situation, you might have to boil things down to just one issue, for example, because maybe you've got 20 minutes and the clock is running. Even if it's an informal one, you can't spend all day if there's five or six of you going as deep as we do. However, with a mastermind, why I love them is the fact that you have all of these different heads contributing. Whereas obviously with us, there's just two people. There is more headspace, more experiences going on in a mastermind situation. I mean I've done both and done both running alongside each other. I think there's space for both, but you get a much more personal, deeper connection with co-mentoring I find.

F: That's what I was about to say. I haven't done a mastermind, but I would imagine, maybe I'm wrong, that when you have a larger group, you don't necessarily get into the more personal stuff. We've been doing this through Covid, and my mom died a couple of months ago, there's been a lot going on in our lives that you might touch on in a group setting, but we really know each other's lives, which is relevant when you're self-employed, because it's all intertwined, and one thing impacts on the other. We have a very good understanding of what's going on behind the scenes and therefore we are in a better position to say, maybe now's not the time to do that thing, maybe when this is blown over might be better. You might touch on that in a group setting, but I feel like you get that really personal level with just two of you.

L: That sounds like a good place to wrap up then, I wonder if you've got any final thoughts, any lessons learned, any tips that you'd like to share with people who might be interested in trying this themselves?

S: I'd say just give it a go. If this sounds like the sort of thing that you would like to try, and like Frankie said, start thinking about who that person is because they’re probably already there. Suggest it, give it a go, because what have you got to lose? You'll probably only benefit, you’ll only gain from it, and if it doesn't work out, that doesn't mean it won't maybe work out with somebody else either, might just be the wrong person.

F: I would go further than that. I'm gonna go over the top and say doing this co-mentoring thing has actually changed my life. It's true, though, I wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if we hadn't started doing that. I think the crux of it is finding the right person. And that's going to be potentially quite challenging depending on what's going on. I think what Steve said earlier is important in that you don't have to be in the same industry necessarily. I wouldn't limit yourself by only looking at people who are doing similar stuff to you. We're similar in that we run a freelance business, we also have an epic side project of some sort, a passion for podcasting, and we've got family life that kind of surrounds all of that stuff. That's how we found each other but it doesn't need to be as black and white as I'm a designer, therefore, I need to speak to a designer. Actually you can get a lot of benefit from speaking to somebody who isn't in the same industry as you. So yeah, do it.

L: That's amazing, that's so encouraging to hear, I'm gonna go and look through my list of freelance friends.

F: We've got loads of people who message us who say that they've started doing it and it's really good.

L: That's brilliant. Thank you so much for your time, it's been really fun chatting to you both. If people want to find out more about what you do and your podcasts, where should they go?

S: For Being Freelance if you go to www.beingfreelance.com, that's the podcast and the course for new freelancers, or in your first year, and the mastermind, the book club, it's all there at www.beingfreelance.com. Then for Doing It For The Kids…

F: www.doingitforthekids.net, the podcast is on there and currently you can sign up for updates on my new community that’s just launching literally in the next two weeks. 

S: Yes, it’s very good.

L: I'll make sure I've got all the links in the show notes for those, then. Thank you so much, and thank you to everyone for listening, until next time, happy freelancing. 


You've been listening to 15 Minute Freelancer with me Louise Shanahan, freelance health copywriter and content marketer at thecopyprescription.com. If you enjoyed this, please hit subscribe, leave a review or share it with a freelance friend. And if you've got a freelancing question you want to be answered on the podcast, find me and say hi on Twitter, LinkedIn, or Instagram. Thanks, and until next time, happy freelancing.