Archive for the ‘Learn from my mistakes.’ Category

Wrangling Interviews

In Learn from my mistakes. on October 20, 2009 at 11:52 am

Just as deadlines are a fact of life for a writer – in most cases so are interviews.  I can’t imagine that any successful writer has gone their entire career without having to do at least a few interviews.  Which brings me to today’s lesson learned the hard way: make sure the bulk of your work is done before you begin soliciting interviews, or t the very least be able to give your interviewees a realistic finish date.

I have been working on an article to be featured on my web zine for a couple months now.  I put the horse before the carriage a bit and started contacting people for interviews before I even had a complete list of people I’d like to interview.  As a result I landed the first interview in August expecting to be finished in a couple weeks, and wasn’t. 

It’s taken longer than expected to get the interviews I wanted for this piece.  Just finding the right people for my needs has been harder than I expected, and then a  few people weren’t interested or didn’t have the time to participate. 

Why is this so important?  Your interviewees may want to see the finished product, and you don’t want to seem unprofessional by delivering it late (in my opinion it’s good form to offer to send the finished product or notify them after publication – preferably the former).  If that’s not reason enough, you want to be reasonably certain that this article is going to happen.  Imagine taking the time to participate in an interview with the expectation you’d be quoted in an article, only to find out that your time had been wasted.  That’s exactly the situation you want to avoid with your interviewees.

Finally, If you conduct your interview in a professional manner from beginning to end and the turn out a well-written article that provides your interviewees with some promotion you may build a worthwhile business relationship.  If you don’t conduct your interview professionally, well…you won’t.

What do you do if you find yourself in my position – with one or more interviews under your belt but behind schedule to meet the date you’ve given your interviewees, or even worse the finish date you’ve given them already passed?  Do what I did.  Be sincere, and apologetic.  Remember, they are doing you a favor and their time is precious.  I sent an e-mail to the person I interviewed explaining that I fully expected o be finished by now but it;s taken longer than expected to complete the interview process for my article.  I let her know I was still moving forward with the piece and would notify as soon as I was finished.

It’s a lot easier said than done.  But to avoid this situation altogether try taking these steps:

  • Do your research and compile a list of possible interviewees.
  • Write out a list of juicy questions considering what kind of quotes you’d like to include in your article.  You may even want to consider slighly varrying the questions for each person on your list.
  • Consider how many interviews you think you’ll need and then add a few, just in case some decline.  (as a general rule interviewing 1 person only works if it’s an article about that person)
  • Create your outline and write as much of the article as possible before hand so you can insert quotes in some places.  You can probably get your introduction written if nothing else.  Getting started can be the hardest part.

BIG Freelancing No-No

In Learn from my mistakes. on August 23, 2009 at 3:42 am

If you’re reading this then you qualify to be one of my valued readers – and as such I wish with all my heart that you will learn from my mistakes and not be doomed to repeat them.

So I’ll let you in on a little secret….as a freelancer your job is to complete your assignment in the allotted time (or before if you really want to impress some people) and adhere to the client’s specifications.  This is true even before you’ve landed the job when you promise your prospective client some samples.

A few weeks ago I called a woman that I’d met and asked if she needed any assistance writing a newsletter for her organization.  She asked is she could see some of my work and told her I’d have some samples to her within a couple days.  Here’s the rub – I don’t have the samples.  So I have to write brand new samples and get them to her in a couple days.  With a 12 month old in the house under my care 24 hours a day that was impossible, as I would soon learn, since I still have not gotten those samples to her.

I am still working on the samples and I will send them to her along with my sincere and heartfelt apology for taking so long.  I will try to make her understand that this is not how she should expect me to handle business in the future, and that I am usually very punctual with my assignments and deliver quality material on or before the time discussed.  But needless to say I probably will not be getting her business, no matter how flawless my samples are or how sweet my apology is.

The lesson to be learned here?  Don’t take on a project you can’t handle.  And always under promise what you can deliver.  Even if you’re absolutely positive you can have that piece done in a week, promise to have it done in two (or three)- just in case.  Either something will come up and you’ll be right on time, or you’ll finish early and your client will be pleasantly surprised.

In the future I will be taking my own advice.