An exciting part of working as a freelance writer is the chance to interview people for the pieces you’re writing. However, the prospect of doing an interview can also be a little intimidating. This is especially true for new freelance writers, who may have never conducted an interview before. Fortunately, doing an interview is easier—and more enjoyable—than you may think. It’s also an opportunity to get to talk to people you may not typically encounter. Shake off your nerves and get ready to handle your first interview with confidence with these tips.
There’s nothing worse than trying to conduct an interview when you haven’t done the appropriate amount of research about the person you are talking to and the subject you’re covering. Always err on the side of being over-prepared. After all, you never know what direction the interview will take.
If you are asking for responses about a topic from a few sources and only need a short quote, then you may not spend a lot of time learning about each person to whom you will speak. However, you should still know the topics well. If your piece is an interview piece in which you will speak to a single person and prepare an article based on your conversation, you should do in-depth research about the person and the topics you will be covering. This holds true even if you are performing your interview via email rather than in person and will have time to formulate your responses.
Before you can think about preparing questions, you have to decide what your main objectives are for the interview. Do you hope to get a comment about a specific topic? Are you trying to get new information about something that will give you an exclusive scoop? Is the intention of the piece you’re writing to promote something?
Keep in mind that the person you are interviewing might have his or her own objectives as well. This is especially true if you are interviewing someone who is a political candidate, activist, or entertainer. The subject of your interview may want to promote a new project, advocate for a specific viewpoint, or clarify misconceptions. You can help with this by framing your questions accordingly.
Some interviewers prefer to allow questions to flow naturally during interviews and don’t ask them off a set list. However, every skilled interviewer has at least a few questions prepared to guide the conversation. For your first interview, you should prepare a full set of questions that cover all of the ground you need to during the interview. Even if you deviate from the questions, having them will ensure that you don’t forget to ask something important. You will also feel more confident knowing that you have your questions to fall back on if the conversation falters.
Although writing questions in advance is important, don’t think of your interview in terms of running down that list. If you watch journalists work, you will notice that they react to the conversation and ask follow-up questions based on the responses that they are getting. Consider your questions to be an outline of the conversation you want to have, with plenty of room for following it wherever it goes.
It may sound silly to practice your interview skills, but it can be helpful. Sit down with someone with your list of questions and go through them until you feel comfortable saying them. When you’ve read your questions aloud several times, they will come across as more natural during your interview. Encourage the person you’re practicing with to respond to you, even if they don’t actually know all the facts about the discussion. This will allow you to get comfortable guiding the conversation and engaging another person without giving up control of the direction of the interview.
Obviously, you can’t fully prepare for all of the ways your interview subject may respond to your questions. However, your practice sessions will help you feel confident enough about the interview to make adjustments on the spot.
How do you get assignments that include doing interviews as a freelance writer? It all starts with a Writers Work membership. You’ll find a wide selection of writing opportunities on our site for your career. Take the first step today by signing up for a membership. We offer a 30-day money back guarantee, so you have nothing to lose and a brand new career to gain. Want to learn more? Contact us today!