Writing job interview success is key to a successful freelance career. In fact, you’ll experience being interviewed for jobs more than almost any other career path. Which means you’ll only get better at handling being interviewed as time goes on.
Most of the time you’ll be interviewed over the phone as a result of your marketing efforts. A prospective client may call without warning or may email asking for a phone appointment.
If you’ve thought about what you offer, have your website in place and know what your fees are you’ll be in good shape.
Once in a while you’ll actually have a face-to-face interview. In fact, Peter Bowerman suggests in his Well-Fed Writer meeting with the potential client is the goal of cold calling. Which is certainly an approach that works. I find, however, I don’t have to meet with clients in person unless they’re local. Then I clean up and dress for the place we’re meeting – usually a coffee shop. (I’m in San Diego where shorts and shirts are fine when the weather calls for them).
You can, however tell almost as much about a person by deep listening over the phone as you can in person.
Here are the top five to-dos that will help you achieve freelance writing job interview success and get the kind of gigs you want.
You’re interviewing the prospective client
Although they’ve asked to interview you, another truth is you should also be interviewing them. Sure, they need and want to know about you and your writing ability. You need to find out exactly what their expectations are and if you really want to work for them.
Acting on the idea that the interview is really you interviewing the prospective client as well as the client interviewing you is one of the most overlooked and effective techniques to freelance writing interview success.
Find out what you can about the client
Mileage will vary on how much you can find out about the client before the interview. If the interviewer is representing a company, spend a bit of time on the company’s website. That will give you some feel for their style and what they actually do.
Often, however, if it’s an individual how may hire you it will be harder to ferret out much useful information. A google search on their name coupled with their industry if you know it, may be helpful. So can a search on LinkedIN.
Don’t worry if you don’t find much – you’ll get the answers you know in the interview – as you also interview them.
Be prepared to answer the usual questions
Generally you’ll be asked to describe the type of writing you do, or your approach to it. Respond honestly – if you’ve done their type of project say so briefly. If you haven’t tell them about something as close to that as you can. Don’t hesitate to ask for clarification if you don’t understand what they’re asking for which will happen more often than you suspect.
You’ll also be asked either for your hourly rate or how much you’d charge to the project they want to hire you for. You need to know what your hourly rate is, even if you, like me, prefer flat fees. I usually respond by asking what their budget is or with a laugh saying something like “I promise not to charge you more than a million a day… plus expenses.”
It’s totally fair to insist on a fuller description before you quote a fee. I often ask for a sample of the kind of product they want, or a couple of pages of their rough draft. In other words, don’t name a price or accept one until you’ve got a solid idea of exactly what it is they want.
There will be other questions, ranging from ‘how long have you been in business’ to ‘who can I call for a reference.’ Answer briefly, and honestly.
Ask for the job
As the interview winds down, ask for the job or tell the interviewer that you’d really like to do the work for them. In fact, if you can begin to take ownership of the gig during the interview, you’re truly on your way to getting hired.
Using phrases like “we can…” or “I’d handle it this way…” and a sentence “I’d really like to do this for you” let the interviewer know you’re a serious candidate. Back when I was a headhunter we were told that candidates that said they wanted the job were much more likely to get hired than those who didn’t.
Ask about what’s next
It only makes sense to ask the potential client what’s next in their process of finding a writer. Another way to get at this is to ask what they want next from you. This can be asking if they want more information or just how they’d like you to followup.
I sometimes will ask about my competition. A question like “how do I stack up against the other applicants?” can reveal anything from you’re likely to get hired to the fact they’ve already almost decided to promote from within.
Asking about what’s next and/or about the competition tells the client you’re serious about the business side of your freelance writing… that you’re a pro. Surprisingly, many freelancers fail to ask these questions – set yourself apart by including them.
Soon I’ll have a new ebook on Freelance Writing Jobs – get early notice plus a discount when you sign up.
Write well and often,