3 Tips for Finding and Interviewing Experts for Freelance Articles

Thursday, September 10, 2015
If you are a freelance writer, chances are you will be writing about subjects you are not an expert in or the publication you are writing for will want experts' quotes in your article. How do you find, approach, and interview these experts?

Tip #1 Make a list.
If you want to write about how to find the best bargains at antique shops, but you’ve only been antique shopping twice, you can tackle this topic by finding some experts. Where do you begin? Make a list of people or places you could ask. I always start with my friends, family, and business associates. If you think about your topic, you may be surprised at the number of people, whom you know and who can also answer your questions about the subject.

When you’ve exhausted opportunities with people you know, add to your list anyone you can think of, including nationally known professionals, organizations, or businesses. You don’t have to contact everyone on your list, but the more names you have, the better options you give yourself.

Tip #2 Don’t let fear or doubt stand in your way.
The worst someone can tell you is, “No, I don’t have time,” or “No, I’m not interested.” Then you go back to your list, and try the next name. Many writers seem embarrassed or scared to contact experts. If you feel this way, here’s something to make you feel better. People LOVE to offer their opinion, knowledge, and expertise. In life, we are very seldom asked to share our opinion. Even better, you are asking an expert to share something that will be in print about a subject they are passionate about.

When possible, I usually email contacts first also, even my friends and family. I want them to know in advance that I need to talk to them about an article. When I use email first, it gives the expert a chance to gather their thoughts about the subject and prepares them for my call. Sometimes, I will ask the expert if they would prefer me to email questions in advance or even if they would prefer to answer me in email.

Tip #3 Research before the initial contact and definitely the interview.
Preparation is the key. When you make your first contact, you need basic knowledge of your topic, so your conversation or email is intelligent and shows you care about your topic.

When I was assigned to write an article about a dressage rider for my local newspaper, I had no idea what dressage was. Before I emailed him and contacted some of his students, I researched dressage on the Internet. I also read his website and took notes.

When it came time for the interview, I already knew his horses’ names, competitions he had won, and how he spent his days with his students. Then during our interview time, he explained to me more details about these basic facts I already knew. I also received emotional answers because I had time to ask deeper questions. I proved to him I cared about my subject when I used his horses’ names and details I had read on his site. The interview was a success, and he sent me a thank you card afterwards.

With a small amount of research before you conduct the interview, you can show your subject you know something already. Prepare questions ahead of time based on what you know. Don’t spend the person’s valuable time going over facts that can easily be found somewhere else.

Experts can make your article even more valuable to readers, and these tips will help you find and talk to the people you need.

Margo L. Dill is a freelance writer and children's author, living in St. Louis, MO. Find out more at http://www.margodill.com .

photo by alexkerhead on Flickr.com


Anonymous said...

Margo--What a wonderful interviewer you are. I'm sure the "dressage guy" enjoyed being interviewed, since you had done all the research beforehand.

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