How to Do Interviews for Your Freelance Writing Article
Now that you’ve got the job and have come to an agreement with the editor regarding your feature article’s angle (how the article is to be written), and the business side -– payment, etc., it’s now time to do the interviews which will provide the material for your feature article.
Basically, you will need the following equipment: pen and notebook, a cassette recorder, and cassette tapes of course (90-minute tapes are ideal and cheap), or a digital recorder if you have one (haven’t tried using one).
If the publication requested for photos, then bring a digital camera with you. If you don’t have a digital camera, your run-of-the-mill point-and-shoot film camera will do. (Of course, you will have to scan the photo prints afterwards).
The night or day before your interview, think of all the questions you can ask and list them down.
Check if you have all the necessary equipment with you. Make sure to bring spare batteries and tapes.
Make a list of all the persons you are going to interview. Again, this list is a guide. You will eventually be directed to other people to interview, as you begin interviewing people.
During the interview
Choose the most quiet location possible for your interview. This will make transcribing your interview later much more easy. If possible, make an appointment at the interviewee’s home or office. Or if you’re interviewing in a public place, say a restaurant, politely ask your interviewee that you move to the quietest nook.
During the interview itself, it is best to use your list of interview questions as a guide than to follow it strictly. In other words, let the interview flow. That is, engage in conversation, and listen to the interviewee. The questions will come naturally if you listen well. This is because your list will already have done its job, and your subconscious would have stored the necessary questions for you to ask. More likely than not, you will only use your questionnaire to check if you already covered everything.
Use your pen and notebook to note down important facts, such as the correct spelling of places and names, etc.
After or during the interview, don’t forget to take photos of the interviewee and other subjects related to your article.
Interviewing by phone
Sometimes, perhaps due to time and other logistical constraints, there’s no other choice but to interview your subject on the phone. And sometimes too, this is desirable since you get to save on travel and food expenses!
To interview by phone, all you need is a phone with a speaker. You will then record the conversation on your cassette or digital recorder. After you have contacted your subject, ask her if she wants to be interviewed by phone, and tell her that you will be recording it. If she agrees –- interviewees usually do because phone interviews save them also the trouble of setting an appointment -- just follow the guidelines outlined above, that is, listen well, etc.
Transcribing the interview
It is important to make a transcription of the interview, because it will save you time in looking for pertinent quotes or facts. It is relatively hard to rely on your memory alone, and you will also discover that the minutest of details, or pieces of conversation, will serve you well when you’re looking for a point of attack for your article or at times when you are stumped. Speaking of being stumped, the process of transcribing an interview also enables you to transition easily to the writing of the article itself. That is, the psychological reward is two-fold: first, you realize, subconsciously, that there’s enough material for you to write the article, and second, you find out during the act of transcription which material can possibly be included in the article.
When transcribing on your computer (that is, if you don’t know shorthand –- I don’t), it is preferable to use a headset or earphones since it will be easier to make out the words. To save time, it is not necessary to write down the interview word for word. Rather, try to type as fast as you can, encoding the keywords of each sentence. This first transcription draft will then serve as your outline as you begin to write your article. That is, the initial transcription will guide you as to which part of the interview to go back to and you need to transcribe in full.
Tying loose ends
If after writing the first draft of your article, you see that you need to clarify things or realize that you failed to ask some important questions, then don’t hesitate to contact your interviewee –- by phone or text message perhaps, and clarify things. By and large, interviewees would rather that you disturb them than get the facts about them wrong.
Interviewing is one of the most fun aspects of freelance writing, because you get to meet new and interesting personalities, go to places and events, and learn a lot of new things in the process. You will find out that as you interview more and more people, the better you will get in this aspect of the job.
Dino Manrique is the owner/publisher of FilipinoWriter.com. You may reach him at filipinowriter (at) gmail (dot) com.