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Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Four Tips to Better Interviews

Blogathon, day 11. 

Nothing strikes fear into the heart of new freelancers like interviews. There's the anxiety of finding the right person to speak with, the anxiety of getting what you need from the interview, and the anxiety of the interview itself!  

The manner in which you conduct an interview will depend on the subject matter you're writing about, and the type of expert you're interviewing. But there are several proven ways to get more from your interview. Here are four tips for both new and veteran freelancers: 

1. Double-check the date and time of the interview. Time zones can be tricky things. So I don't say, "I'll call you at 10:30 a.m." Instead, I say something like, "Okay, great. So I'll call you at 10:30 a.m. Central time, 11:30 Eastern time, on Wednesday, June 11." That hopefully ensures that both of us are on the same page. 

2. Tell your source what you plan to ask. No, you don't have to provide every question, but you'll get more productive interviews if your sources know in advance what you'll be covering. so I might say, "Jennifer, thanks for agreeing to this interview. As I said, the piece is on the health benefits of fiber. So I'll ask you about the different types of fiber, why it's important for good health, and how people can get more fiber into their diet. Sound good?" 

3. Do what you say you will. That means calling when you promised, not 10 or 15 minutes afterwards. It also means sticking to the time you planned for the interview. I usually tell sources that the interview will take 10 to 15 minutes, and I stick to that. If for some reason we're going to run over, I'll ask the source if we can take a few minutes to talk. 

4. Go the extra mile. For me, that means sending a personal thank-you note to my source after the interview. It also means letting the person know when the piece runs, even if it's months later. Sound like a pain in the butt? It can be, but it shows the person you spoke with that you appreciate his time--and if you have to interview the person again (which often is the case with experts in their field), I guarantee he'll remember you. 

Your assignment: Next time you do an interview, give the source an idea of what to expect before you speak with him. You'll get better answers, and stronger quotes. 

**Want more advice about successful interviewing? Check out Dollars and Deadlines: Make Money Writing Articles for Print and Online Markets, which walks you through the process of pitching, researching, and writing 10 actual articles.