Perhaps the most daunting aspect of freelance writing is in finding interview subjects. Many writers are shy or have no idea how to find folks to interview. The thing is, it’s a lot easier than they think. Everyone has something to sell or promote and you’d be hard pressed to find anyone who says “no.” Still, unless you have a specific person in mind you might be a little overwhelmed or unsure of the possibilities. Again, finding interview subjects is easy….if you know where to look.
Who to Interview?
Unless you have a specific person in mind, you might be unsure of who to interview. However, it’s as simple as researching your topic. Who are the experts and authorities in this field? Who is at the top of the search engines and best seller lists? Whose personal philosophy matches your own or who can provide an opposing point of view to a controversial topic?
You might also consider who has the most to promote. For example, authors with new releases or actors on press junkets are required to give interviews and help promote.. Bloggers who release new products and ebooks will want to talk about them. Anyone who releases products and services have to promote in order to make sales. Find these people and interview them.
Finding Interview Subjects in Your Favorite Places
I’m guessing that you want to interview prominent people in your chosen niche or that you’re under assignment to interview an expert for an article you’re writing. The more defined the niche, the easier interview subjects are so easy to find. For example, do you notice how the names of so many freelance writers sound familiar even though you may not have read anything they wrote? That’s because they all congregate at the freelance writing forums, job boards and various freelance writing blogs. Basically, it’s a matter of finding their favorite watering holes and pulling up a barstool.
Find your interview subject’s favorite haunts and reach out. Chat and build a relationship. Ask questions. When you’re comfortable with each other, ask if he would like to take part in an interview. Very few people say no.
Read Any good books lately?
My first couple of interview subjects were authors. I was writing on personal finance topics at the time and searched Amazon looking for people who authored books on my topics. Once I found an author I searched for contact information. If I could find an email address or website, I wrote to the author directly. If I couldn’t find the contact info I contacted the publishing house. Most publishing companies have information on their websites regarding interview requests, all you have to do is fill out a form and wait. The problem is, sometimes it takes months to hear back. I always prefer contacting the potential interview subject directly. Now, Twitter wasn’t around back then, but nowadays many authors have Twitter accounts. If so, try to reach out to them that way.
Here’s an anecdote for you, when I worked for BlogTalkRadio, one of our hosts landed an interview with Jimmy Fallon after talking with him on Twitter, so you never know.
H.A.R.O and ProfNet
Help a Reporter Out and ProfNet are two awesome tools for finding interview subjects. Both are similar in that you submit a request for interviews and if it’s approved, your request will be blasted to publicists, experts, bloggers and more. H.A.R.O sends thrice daily updates listing interview requests which means it reaches more people. ProfNet requires a fee of a couple of thousand dollars for professionals to subscribe to its service. Only those who pay for ProfNet will receive interview requests. Still, it doesn’t hurt to put your request for interviews on both channels.
More places to find interview subjects
- Search the Internet or your phone directory to find local experts such as accountants or attorneys and arrange for a phone interview or to meet face to face over coffee.
- Find experts at the blogs and social networks relating to your topic.
- Ask friends and neighbors.
- Join local networking groups.
- Attend conferences.
What to Say to a Potential Interview Subject
If you want to interview someone for a blog post or article, simply ask. Send a nice note explaining who you are and what you are writing. Tell the potential interview subject you’d really love to tap her brain and ask if you can ask a few questions. It’s very rare that you’ll get a “no.”
Shy writers like the email interview but phone interviews or face to face interviews allow for a more in depth piece. Offer your subjects the option. Picking up the phone may take your out of your comfort zone, but it can also make for a better interview. If it’s your subject’s preference, take a deep breath and make the call.
In our next post in this series, we’ll discuss questions to ask your interview subjects.
What’s in it For Them?
When requesting an interview, make sure you also outline what is in it for your subject. Let him know you’ll give him some time to plug his book or website and that you’ll offer links. Most interviews are used as marketing tools and your subject will be happy to talk in exchange for for the publicity. You might have to spill a few details about the place the interview will run. If it’s a household name magazine, you won’t have to do much selling. For blogs and websites you may have to recite stats and community demographic details.
Keeping it Real
You’ll find most potential interview subjects are very approachable. Be youself, be honest and be willing and the rest will fall into place.
Where do you find interview subjects?
Stephanie Smith says
This is very helpful. What about subjects that do not have a book to sell but are interesting to talk to?
Deb Ng says
Those are the best types of interviews because there are no ulterior motives.
Thanks for an excellent question.
Gemma Taylor says
I had never considered looking for interview subjects in places like freelance writers forums, job boards or freelance writers blogs.
Thanks for the tips
Deb Ng says
Not only freelance writer forums and blogs, but forums geared towards all niches. If there’s a place where topics are discussed, there are experts discussing topics.
Kelly Smith says
Thanks for the great article! It came at the perfect time for me since I just signed a contract to write a non-fiction book for hire and I have to have case studies. It’s in a field I know almost nothing about. I had already send out a request on HARO, but didn’t know about ProfNet. Just sent a request to them too.
I’m looking forward to part two!
.-= Kelly Smith´s last blog ..New class on Quilting Weekly =-.
Stephanie Smith says
Next question — what to do when you are being interviewed and can’t get a word in edgewise. Just had that happen when a radio talk show host — live — was a little too fond of the sound of her own voice. Or the interviewer is just really unprepared and doesn’t have a clue what you do?
Great! Having that problem now. Now I have an idea of who to talk to, thanks!
Sierra Black says
This is maybe the one thing I’ve never had trouble with as a freelancer. I guess I’m just ridiculously outgoing.
Most of my interview subjects I find through networks of friends or professional colleagues. I want to throw in another plug for HARO, though. I just recently started using this service, and it’s great. I expected a lot of junk, since its a free service. But I’ve found the signal to noise ratio very high: lots of smart people writing authentic articles about interesting subjects.
.-= Sierra Black´s last blog ..Link Round-up =-.
Steve Amoia says
Once you find interview subjects, it helps to treat them as clients to cultivate relationships for the future.
.-= Steve Amoia´s last blog ..Week/Giornata 25 of the Italian Serie A: Has Juventus Reached a Turning Point? =-.
Ravi Jayagopal says
Great article. I was trying to find an old site whose name I can’t remember, and stumbled upon your site. I love HARO! What a fantastic resource.
Good stuff. Cheers!
– Ravi Jayagopal