I saw a question in a Facebook group today that I thought you might have, as well. It went something like this:
When you research a story that requires interviewing sources, how do you introduce yourself? … Do you just say you’re freelancer writing about a particular topic? Thanks!
This is a great question! And, it’s an important question. You want to have the authority of a publication behind you so that the person is willing to give you their time. But, as a freelancer, you cannot ethically identify as an employee of a particular publication. Yet, when you have an assignment from a particular publication, you are working for them. So, it’s kind of a conundrum.
Let’s break it down a bit.
What to say to an expert when asking for an interview
Asking for interviews for a magazine story
You have an idea, and you know who you want to pitch it to, but you do not yet have the assignment. This is what I say:
“I’m a freelance writer working on a story idea I plan to pitch to X magazine.”
I then continue with my intentions:
“I just need a brief interview to help me formulate my pitch.”
“I don’t need to schedule an interview now. I just need to know if I can count on you if I get the assignment.”
However, if I’ve already secured the assignment, I say:
“I’m a freelance writer on assignment with X magazine.”
Asking for interviews for content for a business client
I write researched, informative content for businesses to post on their websites. They use this content to attract readers who, hopefully, become customers. The content I write is similar to the journalism pieces I write for magazines. However, I’m not working for a magazine, so the verbiage is slightly different. Here’s what I say:
“I’m a content writer working for someone in the X industry. I’m writing an article for their website about XYZ.”
I don’t name the business client unless they ask, I just name the industry.
A word of encouragement
New freelancers frequently feel intimidated by approaching experts. Don’t be. I’ve interviewed farmers, doctors, scientists, a contemporary Christian music artist, business owners, a billionaire that saved a town, city officials, artists, the host of a show on The Animal Planet, and my next door neighbor. You know what I’ve learned from all those interviews? No matter what a person’s status, they are people just like you and me.
Of course, following protocol, respecting the person’s time, and keeping a professional image are important aspects of the job. What have you done to secure interviews with experts? I’d love to talk more about it in the comments.