This past summer, Macnaughton and Werhun launched Mentorly
, a website that connects creatives looking for guidance (or mentees, in the site’s parlance) to established members of their fields (or mentors). The company is the first of its kind in its focus on artists and other creatives, and since its launch has amassed 515 users—a number growing by the day.
The site works similarly to Airbnb, except “instead of booking an apartment, you’re booking a session with a mentor,” explains Macnaughton. Mentees can join through a simple sign-up process, after which they can begin to browse potential mentors in a broad range of fields, from visual arts, film, design, and music, to art history, comedy, dance, and writing, among others.
Searches can be further refined through subcategories that describe a mentor’s profession or area of expertise. In visual arts, for instance, you might choose a painter, illustrator, or street artist. In the film and video category, you might narrow your search by selecting an actor, cinematographer, or someone working in casting.
A mentee can also choose the level of mentorship they’re looking for. All mentors are vetted by Macnaughton and Werhun and must have at least five years of experience in their field, as well as proof of professional work online. Beyond this baseline, they’re organized into three levels—Bronze, Silver, and Gold—depending on their experience and renown.
These categories also distinguish the cost of a hour-long mentorship session, which clock in at $45, $75, and $150 respectively. (Mentorly takes a 30 percent cut of this cost.)
While the concept of mentorship isn’t often associated with a fee, Macnaughton and Werhun established this payment structure based on feedback from their initial group of mentors. “We had many, many conversations with artists who said that they really want to give back, but they could also see a value in being paid for their time,” explains Macnaughton.
The fee also responds to an chronic issue across creative professions: the expectation that artists will work for no cost. “So often artists are expected to make work for free, and we want to play our part in making sure people really value artists for their time,” she adds.
If those costs sound hefty for an emerging artist, however, Macnaughton and Werhun offer alternatives. For one, mentors can choose to donate their payment to a scholarship fund, dubbed the InKind Fund. (Ariana DeBose, a Broadway star known for her role in the musical Hamilton, gives all money she makes through Mentorly back into the InKind pot.) Every month, Macnaughton and Werhun choose two mentees who’ve applied to the program to receive a free session with a mentor of their choice. The founders note that often, mentors slotted into the Silver or Gold level will also choose to lower their tier on order to be more accessible to artists who need guidance.