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How to Get Paid for Interviewing Executives and Celebrities

Did you know that you can get paid for asking questions? It’s true! And in the process, you’ll meet interesting people, make powerful contacts in various industries, and, most important, be doing “work” that is fun and easy.

In fact, I made more than $10,000 in my first three months with this niche business. I simply interviewed executives and “tech gurus” in the beginning days of the dot-com hysteria.

All of the interviews were conducted by phone or, for those difficult to schedule by phone, by e-mail. (With an e-mail interview, you send your questions in advance and your interviewees can answer them at their leisure. Some of my best interviews were done this way. I think it’s because it gave my interviewees a chance to craft really good responses.)

I then sold the interviews to business publications, news-driven websites, general-interest magazines, e-zines, and specialty publishers for $100 to $500 each (and a few of them for much more). In some cases, I sold the interviews back to the people I’d interviewed in the form of reprints. (To get up to speed on this niche, Google “magazine reprints.”)

On top of that, as I became seasoned in this business, I started to receive “publisher requests” for specific interviews.

Though the dot-com bubble has long since burst, I’ve found this is still a very viable business opportunity. CEOs, hotshot entrepreneurs, and celebrities love getting the attention and publicity.

Here’s a small sampling of some of the interviews I did:

Mr. T.L. / CEO (leading software company)

  • Sold interview to trade publisher for $200.
  • Sold a package of six reprints of the interview to the software company for $300.
  • Total time invested: 2 hours (30 minutes for pre-call prep, 30 minutes for interview, 1 hour with prospective publisher, pre-press for reprints, shipping)

Ms J.M. / SVP (leading shopping portal)

  • Sold interview to trade publisher for $300.
  • Total time invested: 2 hours (30 minutes for pre-call prep, 30 minutes for interview, 30 minutes editing, 30 minutes selling publisher)

Mr. J.B. / Founder (top bookselling website)

  • Sold interview to trade publisher for $375.
  • Total time invested: 2 hours (30 minutes for pre-call prep, 30 minutes for interview, 30 minutes editing, 30 minutes selling publisher)Mr. H.R / CMO (online security expert)
  • Sold interview to trade publisher for $125.
  • Sold a package of reprints of the interview to the company for $150.
  • Total time invested: 2 hours (30 minutes for pre-call prep, 30 minutes for interview, 1 hour with prospective publisher, pre-press for reprints, shipping)

My biggest interview, and the one I received the most money for was with Bernie Ebbers of WorldCom fame. I secured the interview about a year before the company went down in flames and Bernie was sent to jail. I received $2,000 for that one.

How to Secure “Hard-to-Get” Interviews

The “best” interviews (those that publishers will pay for) are typically people in the news or people launching new companies, products, or services. So search the newswires for press releases, especially those announcing major company changes or other newsworthy events.It’s easy to doon sites like Google News, BusinessWire, and PRWeb.

Jot down names and company Web addresses, and go to their websites to find specific contact information.

Then send the person you’re trying to reach a friendly but professional e-mail. Introduce yourself as a freelance columnist and request an interview.

Keep your request simple and to the point. (Two or three sentences, total. These people are busy.) Often, you will be referred to the company’s corporate communications or PR department. They’ll help you set up an interview date and time.

If they ask you where the interview will be published, tell them you have an extensive contact list of editors and publishers who may be interested once the interview is completed. (If you don’t have a contact list, start one today. Most newspaper, magazine, trade, and Internet publishers have people in charge of editorial. Get their names and address them by name when you contact them.)

Yes, it’s as simple as that.

The Best Interviews Are Free-Flowing Conversations

To prepare for the interview, start by checking out interviews on sites like and and in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal. Study the questions the interviewers asked as the interviews progressed. What sorts of questions led the interviewees to reveal the best information? What questions did they not like?

You might also want to check out this book by Larry King, one of the great interviewers: How to Talk to Anyone, Anytime. Anywhere: The Secrets of Good Communication.

The next step is to do some “pre-call” research. This will help you understand the person you’re interviewing, what they do, what keeps them up at night, and their competition. (If you don’t do this, the interview will not go well. Trust me.)

You also need to come up with a unique angle — a “big idea” that will interest readers and convince publishers to buy your interview. One of the best ways to do this is to tie the interview to hot current events.

Let’s say you’ve secured an interview with the CEO of a top software company. Their software enables users to make telephone calls over the Internet without any special hardware. If you search Google News under the Technology section, you’ll find that Mobile VoIP is a hot technology. So you might tie the interview to Mobile VoIP.

If the executive prefers to do the interview via e-mail instead of over the phone, just send him a list of your questions. But make sure you ask him to be as specific as possible with his answers. And never ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no. That doesn’t make for a very puissant interview.

Whether the interview is done over the phone or via e-mail, you usually have to do some editing to make it appropriate for publication. If you’re not a writer or editor, you can find a freelancer to help you.

Of course, no matter how good the interview turns out, it does you no good if you don’t have anywhere to publish it… and get paid. That’s where your contact list comes in.

I built my initial contact list of managing editors, writers, and publishers by searching Google and other top engines.

I also used dozens of trade directories, like the Gebbie Press All-In-One Media Directory.

Most publishers will ask for “exclusive rights” to an interview. That means you can’t turn around and sell it to another publication. That’s okay. In fact, as I gained more experience, I charged extra for exclusive rights.

Eventually, I built up a good reputation — and publishers and editors started sending me assignments for interviews they desperately wanted (but were unable to obtain). I conducted those special-assignment interviews for $350 to $750 each (and up).

It’s a blast obtaining “impossible” interviews with executives, hotshot entrepreneurs, and celebrities. I approached this business like a game, and you should too!

[Ed. Note: Marc Charles is an expert at discovering low-effort, low-cost business opportunities with high profit potential. And he reveals a new one each month in the Liberty Street League newsletter. Plus, you get the latest strategies for making money off Wall Street in commodities, futures, currencies, real estate (at home and overseas), retirement planning, government grant programs, and much more. Find out more here.]

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Marc Charles is often referred to as "The King of Business Opportunities", and he has launched more than 40 successful businesses over past 22 years (and advised on many more). One business (ad rep agency) produced more than $6 million in sales in 36 months with a start-up budget of less than $2000. Marc began his Internet adventure in 1993 by reviewing websites for Yahoo! Unplugged, which became a best selling book, online resource and interactive CD. His website reviews (more than 7500) were featured in Wired, Bloomberg Personal, Internet World, Internet Edge, Web Digest and Business 2.0. In 1999 he developed the first email newsletter advertorial. Email advertorials continue to be one of the most powerful marketing tools on the Internet. Marc's passion is identifying great digital and Internet business opportunities for start-up entrepreneurs. He has written dozens of top selling ebooks and money making courses including China Wholesale Secrets.