5 Lessons from my experiment with interviewing (not-so-famous) freelance writers
We often read interviews of famous people.
For example, I am a writer so I often read interviews of famous writers (and try to learn a thing or two about my craft).
Some time back, I realized that we get to read only about proven, established writers — who actually may have little to prove. But what about growing, budding, not-so-famous writers?
I felt it might be interesting to interview writers who have yet not made it big, so to say.
I was sure that many not-so-famous writers would have something worth learning.
So I decided to run an experiment.
I decided to interview freelance writers who were not so famous.
(I’ll need to explain the process first, but in case you want to skip all that, feel free to jump at the bottom of this article where I’ve summarized the lessons.)
As a part of the experiment, I set down two basic requirements:
- There would be no money or favors involved. Anyone I interviewed, I’d do so without asking for any favors. No selling, no fees, no courses to sell, nothing.
- I’d try and give these writers maximum exposure. So I would (a) not reject anyone who wanted to be interviewed, and (b) try and put them on as many channels as possible (i.e. print, audio interview, video interview etc).
Step 1: AmDoingBetter
As the first step, I announced on LinkedIn that I was interested in interviewing budding writers.
I specified that I was looking for freelancer writers who’ve “yet not made it big”.
For anyone interested in that, I requested them to hashtag #AmDoingBetter.
Step 2: Collecting their info
To collect the basic info about anyone who was interested, I set up a Google form.
In all, I received 45 complete responses before I closed the form.
I asked for some basic information, two of which is shown below:
Step 3: The first email
No prizes for guessing; the first email I sent to each of these 45 email addresses was a thank-you-cum-confirmation email.
While thanking them for their interest in being interviewed, I wanted to make sure the email address was correct and that it was them — and not somebody else — who had submitted their email address while filling up the Google form.
Two emails bounced, indicating the email address was wrong.
Interestingly, both these people had shown great enthusiasm in response to my LinkedIn post so I sent them a direct message on LinkedIn to send me their correct email addresses.
Both immediately sent me their correct email addresses. (Sadly, they both dropped off later.)
Of the remaining 43 writers, 7 never got back to me.
Perhaps they had lost interest. Or maybe their priorities had changed.
Step 4: More channels, more exposure, but…
As mentioned earlier, I had no intention of filtering out anyone; everyone was welcome.
I assumed that a writer would look more professional if they had the following:
- a blog of their own (even a free blogspot account was fine)
- an Instagram account
- a LinkedIn profile
- a Twitter account, and
- a Facebook account
That way, any potential client would have numerous ways of reaching out to the writer.
In the next email, I mentioned I wanted these writers to have a blog, social media accounts and all that.
I clearly mentioned that a free blog (say, BlogSpot) would be good enough.
I even mentioned that if they didn’t have a blog, they could sign up for BlogSpot and that it was free. (all but one had a gmail account, so it shouldn’t be a problem using BlogSpot).
These were not filters in any sense. Whether the potential interviewees had the above was to have no bearing on whether they’d be interviewed.
Basically I wanted the writers to have a proper profile, all complete with a blog and social media accounts and all that.
I believe that turned out to be a mistake.
In the next email, I sent them a link to my Calendly account, requesting them to choose a time for their interview.
I also mentioned I’d be happy to help if they had questions.Quite a few writers chose not to fix up an appointment for the interview.
I was surprised.
The same writers, who had earlier taken the trouble to fill up a detailed Google form, suddenly weren’t keen to do a simple activity like clicking and scheduling an interview — their interview — with Calendly.
They were the same people who had sounded very excited with the idea of being interviewed when I had announced the idea on LinkedIn.
So now I had a lot fewer than the original 45 writers to be interviewed.
I’ll probably never find out why the rest of the writers dropped out. My guess is that the ones who didn’t have a blog/social media account thought having one was all mandatory and that the trouble of setting up a blog/social media account wasn’t worth the trouble just for an interview.
Step 5: Actual interviews
This was the part I was most looking forward to — interacting with the writers.
I had let the writers decide whether they wanted to be interviewed:
- over a video call
- over a voice call
- over an email interview
I finally got to meet 10 writers over audio/video interviews and 6 writers over email interviews.
Put simply, about one-third of those had initially shown interest stayed with me till the interview.
Where all the interviews are
I have been writing about technology, AI, data privacy, and related stuff on my blog Almostism for nearly two years now.
As I studied more industries and more organizations, I found nearly all sites listed and ranked major names and corporates but there were hardly any rankings (read exposure) for the relatively smaller companies or professionals.
So about a year back, I purchased another domain SahiRank and wrote some posts there. (‘Sahi’ is Hindi for ‘correct’).
My objective was to give write about companies or professionals that don’t always get recognition but might be as good.
I soon found ranking diverse things (books, coaching institutes, companies, bakers …) wasn’t making sense.
So I decided to concentrate on a category I myself was in: freelance writers.
All the email interviews I published on SahiRank. The audio/video interviews, naturally, went to YouTube.
Email interviews: SahiRank
Videos interviews: YouTube
The 5 lessons learned
I learnt the following things over the interviews, and I think they apply well in sales just as well:
- Priorities change. Not everyone who shows interest will actually turn up. Remember the prospect who had sounded so thrilled at the beginning? Well, she might not become a customer after all.
- People drop off. Every email I sent saw a decreasing number of responses. Pretty much like a sales funnel.
- You’ve got to ask questions. As I’ve mentioned above, many people mistakenly thought having a blog was mandatory for being interviewed. However, only 3 people responded saying they didn’t have a blog and whether that was okay. I said sure and interviewed each of the 3. When in doubt, ask. Asking, after all, is the only way to make a sale.
- It’s not always water-tight. Though I had clearly mentioned I wanted freelance writers, one person who applied was a budding sales consultant for writers. I interviewed him anyway because he sounded quite interesting. Inquire with the prospect if they’re willing to make exceptions, if your product has some features missing.
- People are grateful. After I interviewed them and published the interviews, there was no need for people to write to me. Yet many did, like the one below. We all have the potential to help others and make people happy; whether you’re selling something is not important.
I learned a great deal of stuff from them individually, but that will be another story — and that too will be told.