Entries Tagged 'Interview techniques' ↓

Freelance Copywriting Help – There’s no ‘I’ in Interview

As a freelance copywriter you will, at some point in your career, have to interview a client. Interviewing copywriting clients

Ideally, you’ll be doing it a lot, as it is by far the best way to get the information you need to create winning copy.

So, what do I mean by there being no ‘I’ in interview?

Well, you’re conducting the interview to gather information; you need to come away knowing:

  • Who your client is and what they do
  • Why they do it?
  • Who they do it for?
  • How they help their clients
  • How they want to come across in their marketplace
  • What their brand image is
  • How they want to sound

And that’s just for starters.

But have you noticed something about that list?

It’s all about them – your client. There is nothing in that list about you and that’s just how it should be.

Being your client

There are people out there who see copywriting as simply writing about a company and its products or services.


For starters is should be about your client’s customers and the benefits they receive as a result of dealing with your client.

But it’s also more than that; when writing for your client you have to forget about how you would phrase things or the vocabulary you would use and instead write as though you were your customer.

Obviously, you would use the techniques within your writing that you know work, because you’re a copywriter and your business is writing great copy. But every piece of work you do should be different, because every client you work with is different.

Taking on someone else’s persona is not an easy task, but if you want your copy to appear genuine, it’s what you have to do.

So don’t go into a client interview with preconceived ideas of how you’re going to write for them. Just because they’re an IT company and the last job you did was for another IT company, doesn’t mean you can get away with writing in exactly the same style because they’re different companies.

Forcing a client into a preconceived idea or template is asking for trouble. As a writer you have to be able to mould your writing style to the personality of your client and, if necessary, blend perfectly with the existing voice used on their other marketing materials.

There’s no room for egos in copywriting. It’s your job to meld perfectly with the company’s personality and brand image.

Preparing for Meetings – Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome

Regardless of what business you’re in, conducting a meeting is bound to be part of your marketing process.

Whether you are meeting a new client, pitching an idea to a new investor, or conducting an interview, you will be on your own, selling your business.

The vast majority of people fall into one of two camps in these situations:

  • They thrive on it and relish the challenge, or
  • They’d much rather find a dark cupboard somewhere and hide

If you are in the second group, how can you overcome your nerves?

You could try hypnotism, or you could just act.

Imposter Syndrome

No, I haven’t just made that up. It’s something I was first introduced to at a course I recently attended run by Andy Maslen:

Imposter syndrome…is a psychological phenomenon in which competent people find it impossible to believe in their own competence.

Although anyone can experience it, it’s especially true of women.

Picture this – you’re in a meeting, you’re answering questions competently, your audience is nodding in an encouraging way, they’re sold on what you’re telling  them and yet, deep down, you feel like a fraud, just waiting for them to see through you.


If you have those feelings, there’s one sure fire way of getting over them (or at least keeping them under control)…

And the winner is…

It’s time for your Academy Award winning performance.

That’s right – if you act in a confident manner, you’ll come across as being confident. Deliver your pitch with conviction and you’ll be believed.

But if you stand there dithering, fidgeting and stumbling, no one is going to take you seriously.

So, what can you do to create an air of confidence?

  • Prepare for your meeting, don’t try to wing it
  • Practice your pitch in front of the mirror
  • Dress to impress
  • Visualise a successful presentation or outcome
  • Don’t make it up  – if you’re not sure or don’t have an immediate answer, tell them you’ll find our and get back to them (just make sure you do)

And then, give the performance of your life.

You can be confident if you stand tall and deliver your well-rehearsed pitch. No one in that room (apart from you) is going to know how many hours you’ve spent in front of the mirror practicing your delivery.

So, when the time comes for your next meeting, presentation or pitch, if you can’t be  yourself, be someone else – the confident, smart and competent you.

Over to you

Has this struck a chord with you?

How do you prepare for meetings?

Do you have any special rituals that get you through?

Leave a comment below and share them with us.



Interviewing for Copywriters

This is a guest post written by Tom Albrighton, a freelance copywriter and founder of ABC Copywriting. He writes regularly on copywriting issues for the ABC Copywriting blog.

Of all the ways to obtain source material for your copywriting, interviewing must be one of the easiest and most productive. A half-hour phone chat or meeting with a client can easily generate enough material to write a thousand-word brochure, or develop a really strong tagline. But you have to do it right – so here are a few tips for getting the most out of interviews.


It’s always worth writing a set of questions in advance. Even if you end up wandering way off topic, they’ll provide a useful structure to your interview and help you remember the points you want to cover.

Interviewees are reassured when you send them questions in advance, particularly if they’ve never been interviewed before. They can also spend some time thinking about their answers, or getting hold of data to back them up. (In my experience, material promised during the interview itself often fails to turn up, obliging you to chase your interviewee, which is awkward.)


Give yourself the best possible chance of hearing every nuance of your interview by investing in some decent recording kit.

For in-person interviews, I use a good-quality tape recorder. It’s not advanced but it gets the job done, and I like the reassurance of seeing the reels revolving. You might prefer to use an electronic recorder – certainly, having the interview as an MP3 is handy.

For phone interviews, I use a device called the THAT-2, which is connected between the handset and the phone (so you need a phone with a plug-in handset). You can connect it either to a tape recorder or to your computer, where you can record with an application like Audacity.

For quick and easy transcription of MP3s with iTunes on the Mac, use something like Sizzlin’ Keys, which lets you play, pause and skip backwards and forwards using keystrokes. Personally, I always use headphones, to get as close as possible to the original experience.


For copywriters, interviews are about exposition, not inquisition. You’re looking to get your interviewee to open up and give you everything they’ve got.

To achieve that, ask open questions, which typically begin with either ‘what’ or ‘how’. For example, ‘what does this product do?’ or ‘how will this service benefit customers?’


In person, it’s important to physically signal your interest by making eye contact, leaning forward attentively, nodding and so on. But that doesn’t work on the phone, so it’s worth making little affirmatory interjections like ‘mm’, ‘yeah’, ‘uh-huh’. ‘sure’, ‘right’ or whatever works for you, so the interviewee knows you’re still listening.

Don’t be afraid to ask for more information if you need it. Many interviewees feel self-conscious when talking for a long period, particularly if they are natural introverts. Reassure them that you’re still interested by saying ‘Can you tell me a little more about that?’ or something similar.

Make sure everything you say is oriented towards getting the interviewee to express themselves, rather than impressing them with your knowledge. Even the cleverest observations must be suppressed – this isn’t about you.


Sometimes, people get hung up on making a particular point that’s very important to them. Signals include rephrasing it again and again, or using more than one example to explain it. To show them you’ve understood, rephrase the point and say it back to them, starting with something like ‘So as I understand it, what you’re saying is…’

I also find this a very useful way to capture potentially useful phrases that come to me while people are speaking – for example, metaphors that might liven up the finished copy. By throwing them into the conversation, you make sure they’re in your recording.


Sometimes, interviewees ramble badly, leaving your intended topic far behind. This can be frustrating, but you just have to wait for your chance to gently guide the conversation back on course.

The classic problem for copywriters is getting the client to think about customer benefits rather than the features of the product or service they’ve created. But sometimes, people just have to get all that feature stuff out of their heads before they can translate it into benefits – so give them some room.

Only interrupt the interviewee as a last resort – if you’re running out of time, say, and don’t have what you need. If you talk over them by mistake, say ‘sorry, go on’ and let them have the floor.

Wrapping up

Always thank the interviewee for their time and, if appropriate, give them the opportunity to review and approve what you write. Some people will ask for this up front, as a condition of being interviewed. In my experience, 95% of people will rubberstamp what you write. But be prepared for the exception who takes the opportunity to rewrite the whole thing – badly.


When you transcribe, don’t be afraid to either (a) use the interviewee’s words verbatim or (b) chuck them out and use your own. People sometimes use the perfect phrase in conversation, but would never write it down – your job is to give them the authority to use it. Conversely, people’s own pet phrases might be completely inappropriate for the task at hand – but, after all, that’s your job!