Talking with Tyler from Medium, photo by Matt Quinn

How Ways We Work interviews are created, from start to finish.

A question we often get asked from readers of Ways We Work is how we go about finding the people we interview. I’ve also been asked a few times how we conduct the interviews, and the tools we use, so I thought it might be time to write a post on how a Ways We Work interview comes together.

1. Finding someone to interview

This is truly an ongoing process. We’re always looking for interesting people to learn more about. I’ve found interview subjects through Instagram, Medium, Twitter and IRL. Defining “interesting” is a challenge, but here are some characteristics that usually catch our attention (by no means does someone need to have all or any of these, just some things we’ve noticed):

  • They write and share their process online — people who write are usually quite self-aware and reflective, and those types of people make great interview subjects.
  • Some level of experience — this has nothing to do with age. The best interviews come from someone who has gone through something and learned from it.
  • They’re doing unique and interesting work. While we love interviewing designers and entrepreneurs, every now and then we come across someone with a really interesting role we’ve never heard of before. Like Director of Product on the Hillary for America campaign, or Director of Global Adaptation for Buzzfeed (coming soon).
  • They’ve gone against the grain and overcome adversity/odds to do the work they love and make a living doing it. They most likely moved away from decent employment to pursue a different way of life.
  • They’re relatable. Often times I’ll scroll through someone’s Twitter feed or Instagram and just develop this burning desire to get to know them better. When I get that feeling I know the interview will be good because I have a genuine interest in that person.
  • They’ve been highly recommended. Either one or multiple people have recommended them or said they really want to hear from them. Recommendations are huge and have led to some of our best interviews.

Again these are just a few guiding ideas but we’ve interviewed lots of people for all kinds of reasons.

2. Reaching out

After we’ve done our research and are gung ho to interview someone, the next step is reaching out to them. Sometimes I’ll send a tweet but more often than not I’ll send an email that looks something like this:

Hey awesome person,
Something about how I came across them and their work and why I find it so interesting.
I run an online publication called Ways We Work where we interview people about how they do the work that’s meaningful to them. Here’s some examples of a few recent interviews we’ve done:
[some links to recent interviews]
If you’re up for it, I would love to hear more about what you do and interview you for the site. We do the interviews over Skype and they normally take around 45 mins to an hour.
Let me know if you’re interested and we can find a time to chat!
Thanks!

3. The interview

Usually people tend to get back within a few days but there’s been the odd time it’s taken days or even weeks to schedule time for an interview. People are busy, it’s just the reality.

From scheduling to first interview draft I would say on average it takes a total of 2–3 weeks. It’s a bit of a juggling act keeping the pipeline full, but not scheduling too far in advance that it’s a month before someone’s interview is published.

The interviews usually follow a similar structure but as we’ve gotten better at the art of interviewing we’ve started incorporating different questions and making them a bit more conversational. We talk a little about their path to where they are now, but the main focus is how they do the work they do, everything that involves and what it is they truly love about it.

An hour before the interview I always get insanely nervous, despite having done over a hundred; you never know how it’s going to go. We always use video unless for some reason the person isn’t able to or isn’t comfortable with it. The tool I use for recording calls is eCamm, it’s fantastic and has never failed me (*knock on wood*), it’s great because it records both the video and audio (maybe one day we’ll release all those). Matt uses a Zoom H1 recorder that he grabbed off Amazon, which we also use during team visits.

Amandah interviewing Aarron Walter via Skype.

4. Transcribing and editing

Thanks to a very generous sponsorship from Zapier, we’ve been able to use a service called Rev.com for the last 6 months for transcribing all our interviews and team features. It costs $1 per 1 minute of audio and you can even upload video files which makes using it with eCamm so easy.

This saves SO much time and energy. Sidenote: we are looking for a new sponsor for this, if you want to help out, send us a note!

I’ve got a zap setup that once the transcript is ready in Rev.com, it sends it to Google Drive and converts it to a Google Doc. Then it pings our Slack to let us know that a new transcript is ready (again, thank you Zapier!)

From there I usually open up a new Google Doc and my first run through is copying and pasting parts from the transcript in a rough structure.

The second run through is about reorganizing sentence structure to make it easier to read and removing filler words.

Generally the third time through is fine tuning and just making sure that everything reads nicely and there’s no spelling or grammar errors.

5. Putting it all together

Editing is definitely the longest part of the process and can range from a couple hours to an entire day. We generally ask more questions than what ends up in the final interview, so taking time to shape the flow of the conversation is an important step.

Usually after or even before the interview we’ve emailed the interviewee about assets and the types of photos we like to include. By this stage they’ve sent those and it’s time to put it all together.

We use a custom CMS that we built using the Statamic platform. So, I open that up alongside my edited Google Doc and start copying in the content, formatting photo grids and finally adding pullquotes. I’ll also usually write the intro in the CMS.

This part takes anywhere from 1–2 hours.

6. Final edits and publishing

Once it’s good to go, we save the interview as a hidden post in the CMS and send the link to the interviewee. We always let people see it beforehand. We want them to be as happy with it as we are and make sure we’ve gotten names and facts correct. For the most part the changes that come back are minor.

When everyone is happy with it, the next step is getting it out to as many people as possible.

On Mondays or Tuesdays I’ll write the newsletter, Buffer tweets and Facebook posts, and get some Instagram posts ready for Wednesday. I also usually try to think of other sites or publications that might be interested in sharing it.

We schedule it in Statamic to go live on the Wednesday and hit publish.

Tip: We don’t share the new interview till 9am on Wednesdays, but it’s live at 12:01am every Wednesday.

Overall I would say the entire process takes 8–9 hours total, and the moment we hit publish on that week’s interview, we’re already in the process of the next one.


If you enjoyed this, please give it some ♥️. We publish a new interview every Wednesday on Ways We Work, you can subscribe to our newsletter to get it delivered to your inbox.

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