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10 Questions for a Profitable Interview
by Melissa Mayntz

Interviews do many things: inform the public, judge expertise, and provide a record of an individual's comments. Writers, however, have only two purposes when conducting interviews: gathering information and acquiring quotations. A well done interview will not only fulfill both purposes, but it will also help increase a writer's income.

While a basic interview adds a personal touch to an article that will command a higher price with most markets, the best interviews can substantially enhance a writer's bottom line by opening new opportunities for additional articles, networking, and ultimately, profit. The following questions not only help the writer gain critical information or exceptional insights to successfully quote, but they can add more profit to every minute of the interview.

1. Is this a good time for a brief interview?

With this question, the writer demonstrates professional courtesy.
Time is money and even if the interviewee is busy, they will appreciate the gesture and may continue with the interview. If they cannot, it is easy to reschedule to a more convenient time. Ensuring that this is a good time helps the writer avoid wasting their own profitable time with a distracted source.

2. Would you please spell your full name?

This is a comfortable warm up question and reassures interviewees that the writer cares about accurate details. A person's name is a critical part of their identity and esteem, and an incorrectly spelled name can result in rejected articles, complaints, or potentially expensive lawsuits. This question can also be expanded to include company names or personal titles, both of which will be valuable for future networking.

3. Why did you decide to…?

This question is applicable to nearly any situation. Why did you decide to… Start a business? Organize a protest? Dye your hair purple? No matter what the situation, this open-ended question allows the interviewee to explain insights that add that most valuable personal touch to any piece. Getting such background information may also lead to additional markets—for example, an entrepreneur who began a business from their college dorm room may not only be a good subject for a small business magazine, but also for alumni newsletters and the relevant college newspaper.

4. How did you…?

This is a meat-and-potatoes question for writers. Asking how something was done can lead to a feast of information including process steps and inside details that might not otherwise be apparent. This is also one of those questions that can lead to much more material than the writer needs, but good writers will turn that excess into excess profits with additional articles.

5. What has been your biggest challenge and how have you worked to overcome it?

Readers enjoy conflict and delight in protagonists overcoming the odds. By determining the interviewee's greatest challenge, the writer uncovers hidden conflicts that may not be noticeable when compared to the individual's current success. This answer can provide insight, inspiration, and encouragement to add an emotional element to any article. Exceptional challenges can also lead to exceptional profits for the writer, as unique successes are highly desirable personal profile stories for many special interest publications.

6. What is the most rewarding aspect of…?

Many times this question leads to a heartwarming anecdote or detailed example that makes an excellent quotation. Rewards and benefits are particularly useful for conclusions, and a quote that makes the reader smile is a perfect ending to any written piece. Anecdotes can also lead to good human interest stories that may be useful for additional markets, thereby generating even more income from a single interview.

7. If you could change one…

This is another question designed to uncover hidden conflicts. Everyone learns from mistakes, and this gives the interviewee the opportunity to reflect on their position and speculate on how they wish it was different. With this speculation, the writer is able to see beneath the surface. Insights offered from this type of answer can also lead to exploration of how-to topics and additional articles or sidebars that will increase the writer's bottom line.

8. What is your best piece of advice for…?

This question allows the interviewee to project their success onto others, offering tidbits for readers to absorb. This also acknowledges their expertise and exemplifies that they have something to offer the audience that no one else can give. That one piece of advice can also be a topic for the writer's next article, with the interviewee serving as the perfect source.

9. Can you think of anything else you'd like to add?

No writer knows a topic better than the expert they interview. Closing an interview with this broad question allows the interviewee to reflect on the previous questions and add completely new information if applicable. Unexpected answers can add a new slant to an article, making it suitable for different markets without additional interviews.

10. May I follow up with you if I have any other questions?

This critical question allows a writer to contact the interviewee at a later time for additional questions, even for a completely new interview if necessary for additional articles. In this way, not only can writers guarantee a way to follow up with a source, but they can solidify a networking connection for future work.

Any of these ten questions can fulfill an interview's dual purpose: gathering information and providing quotations. By delving deeper into the subject of the interview, more than enough information will be available to create a superb article filled with essential facts and powerful quotations. Savvy writers will use that extra information to their advantage with future articles, paycheck-padding sidebars, and other techniques to turn one interview into many dollars.

© Copyright 2009, Melissa Mayntz

Melissa Mayntz is a freelance writer and editor from Utah. Her work has appeared in numerous publications and websites, including About.com, Arthur Frommer's Budget Travel, ByLine Magazine, Bird Watcher's Digest, the Orlando Sentinel, LoveToKnow.com, and WritersWeekly. She has edited more than 20 fiction and non-fiction manuscripts for publishers and independent writers; for current project rates and additional details, visit www.MelissaMayntz.com.

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