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Chapter
4

Interview potential clients

Now that you have your hypotheses and interview guide, it’s time to talk to customers. You’ve finished steps 1-3 in the customer discovery process, and now you’ll complete the final step, arming you to begin honing your freelancing niche with confidence and dig deeper.

This is what you’ve been preparing for! Talking to potential customers is what will reveal the actual insights that will help you hone your niche.

You should be repeating this process for every archetype you’re interested in. It’s important to take the time to do this so that you are able to get a well-rounded look at how your niche can map onto different customer needs.‍

How many interviews should I do?

There is no magic number here. The objective of this is to identify consistent themes and pain points amongst your customer archetypes. Pay attention to patterns that show up across conversations. Follow your intuition as you start noting these patterns and iterate new questions that arise from them.

They can lead you to hone in on follow-up questions. If you hear the same kind of answers from more than a few people, you will be able to identify a pattern. Once you feel confident that a pattern exists at a high frequency and you’ve learned a lot about it, then you can move on.‍

In the beginning, seek to set up 6-8 interviews with different customers of the same archetype. Interviews can be done in person, over video conferencing, or on the phone.

How do I find customers?

Using the customer archetype you created, start looking for people to interview who appear to fit your description. There is no one way to go about this. Here are some places to start:

  • Ask friends, family, and colleagues to introduce you to people who fit your customer archetypes. This means referring to the archetypes you created and asking to talk to people in certain industries or roles.

  • Look in Facebook groups and Slack channels.

  • Explore keywords and industries on LinkedIn, Upwork, Instagram, etc.‍

Setting up an interview

Once you begin compiling a list of potential customers to interview, send an email or introduction:

  • Promise to be brief and clear about your ask.

  • Make it easy for them to say yes! Suggest times to meet or include a link to schedule with you.

  • Prioritize finding people you don’t know. People you already know often hesitate to be honest and that can be misleading.

  • Cold emailing works! Here’s an example email:

Hello John,

I see from the Facebook group that you recommended Maria Smith’s tutoring business. I would love to speak with you and learn about your experience with SAT tutoring.I am doing research on how students are handling the SAT preparation process and the frustrations they are experiencing.

Would you be willing to have a 20-minute conversation with me so I can ask you a few questions? I am free this Friday all day but am flexible with your schedule.

Many thanks for your time and I look forward to hearing from you.

Jane

How do I run the interview?

Make your interviewee feel comfortable by introducing yourself and sharing why you want to speak with them. Be honest and transparent, but don’t share too much in the event you may bias people in their answers. Let the interviewee ask any clarifying questions, but don’t be too specific about what you are trying to learn, or else you may influence their answers. Give them a sense of how you want to structure the conversation and then dive in.

Remember, the interview guide you created in Step 3 is just a guide. Drill down and ask follow-up questions. The best insights often come from asking “why” or saying “can you say a little bit more about that?”‍

Take notes and document the interview. Use the workbook if you would like to organize your questions and notes. You want to be engaged, so if you have a business partner, it is helpful to assign someone to take notes while the other asks questions.

  • Write down key “ah-ha’s” as they happen.

  • Take notes, pictures, or videos (always ask for permission!).

  • Note questions that worked and didn’t work.‍

Tips and things to watch for

  • Avoid doing demos, presentations, or selling your product.

  • Ask open-ended questions and let people talk.

  • Remember that It’s about them, not focusing on your product or service.

  • Get comfortable with silence—sometimes people need a minute to gather their thought or think through an answer.

  • Dive deep and find the hidden motivations! This is the “why behind the why” part of an interview. For example, if you ask an SAT student if getting a tutor is important to them, they might say yes. To dig deeper, you might ask them why, and learn that it’s to get a good SAT score. Ask for the “why” behind getting a good SAT score, and you’ll discover that they want to get into a good college. Ask for the “why” again, and you will discover their core motivation, such as societal pressure or wanting to be successful. Keep asking “why” until you discover a customer’s motivation.

  • Send a follow-up thank you note for their time and ask for any introductions.

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