Storytelling that Pays $125 – $300 an Hour

I had just taken the first bite of my sandwich when he popped the question:

“Ed, I’ve been tasked with publishing at least one case study per month for the next two years … and I’d like you to write them. What’s your fee?”

I almost choked!

After all, I didn’t know Scott had this much work in the pipeline. And even though I had already done some work for his company, I had never written a case study for them. So I was surprised by the request.

“Well … normally, I charge $1,250 for a two-page case study,” I replied. “But if you can give me a purchase order for 12 or more, I’ll write them for $1,100 each.”

He accepted my offer. And the following week, I began writing what eventually turned into almost 50 case studies over the course of a few years.

This contract also led to other projects. Which brought me to the attention of other marketing managers in the company, some of which hired me for other writing projects. (In fact, this past November one of them gave me $7,700 worth of work … all in one week!)

And it all started with a lunch meeting, a tasty chicken sandwich and a series of case study projects.

What Are Case Studies?

Case studies (or “success stories,” as they're known in some industries) are short pieces that describe how a company or organization solved a challenge with a product or service — and what the results of solving that challenge were.

Unlike white papers — which are longer documents that define a business or technical problem and present a new or better solution to solve that problem — a case study is basically a short “before and after” story:

Acme Corp. had a problem with X. They looked for a solution until they found Product Y. They bought and implemented that product. And since then, they’ve enjoyed A, B and C benefits.

Case studies can vary in length from one to four pages. Some companies will even distill their case studies into short one or two-paragraph summaries. But the “sweet spot” for these pieces is about one or two pages once they’re designed and laid out (or about 800 to 1,200 words long).

So what’s the big deal about case studies? Why are companies rushing to get so many of them written?

There are three big reasons.

It’s Hard to Resist a Great Story!

The first reason is that it’s hard to resist a great story. That’s why we love a good novel, movie or play. And it’s why we’ll watch a classic film over and over again.

But tales do far more than entertain us. They connect with us at a deeper level. In fact, neuroscientists have now proven that stories can deeply influence our beliefs and decisions. Mainly because stories appeal to our emotions and our capacity for empathy.

Businesses have caught on to this in a BIG way. They understand the huge role stories play in their sales process. And because of that, they’re willing to pay writers $1,250 – $2,000 to draft a case study.

When you’re starting out, if you have a good system in place, you can complete these projects in about 10 hours. Which means you’re essentially earning a cool $125 – $200 per hour.

I have the system down, so I can complete these projects in five to seven hours. That means I’m netting $200 – $300+ and hour every time I write one.

That’s at least two to four times what the average journalist today earns on a story!

What Do Others Think?

The second important reason why the case studies have become such important marketing tools is the fact that they’re excellent credibility builders. And this is why your client’s prospects turn to these pieces when making a purchasing decision.

In fact, a study conducted by MarketingSherpa and KnowledgeStorm a few years ago showed that 67 percent of technology buyers read case studies. The study also showed that case studies have a very high pass-through rate, meaning they get forwarded quite frequently. Forty-seven percent of technology professionals admitted to passing along case studies to their colleagues and co-workers. (And that’s just in one industry. You see similar activity in many others.)

When evaluating products and services, we tend to place tremendous importance on the experience others have had with that product or service. And that’s true whether someone is evaluating a $1 million piece of equipment for their employer … or trying to decide which flat-screen TV to buy for their living room.

More than specifications and technical details, we want to know what others think. Because if their experience with the product has been lousy, the technical details don’t really matter!

This is why product reviews have become such an important part of retail websites. If you’ve ever shopped online, I’m willing to bet you’ve read product reviews before making a purchase — even though you’ve never met the people writing the reviews! Which goes to show that what others think is incredibly important, even if we’ve never met them.

The Ultimate Credibility Builder

Case studies show potential buyers that other people have bought and tried that product or service. And they detail what their experience and results have been with that purchase. It’s the ultimate credibility builder.

Brochures can’t do that. Neither can the website, the salesperson, or a fancy PowerPoint presentation. White papers can get close. But a real story of another company solving their challenges with that product or service does several things well: it educates, validates and helps the buyer make a better decision faster.

In many cases, just having a few case studies available to show potential buyers — and having some of those case studies be from companies those buyers are familiar with — can be enough to influence their purchasing decision significantly.

Get the Media’s Attention

The third reason why case studies are so important is that they make it much easier for B2B companies to get media coverage.

Flip through any business, industry or trade publication and you’ll see story after story of companies overcoming challenges by using specific products, services, strategies or methodologies.

The whole public relations (PR) industry in B2B is built around the idea of getting their clients’ stories published in the media. And PR firms understand that the best way to do that is not through fancy technical details or specifications. It’s through customer stories.

In fact, case studies dramatically increase the chances of a story getting picked up by the media. Your client’s product or service may be the best thing since the invention of the World Wide Web. But if there’s no story of how an actual customer has used that product or service to overcome a challenge or improve their situation, your client is going to have a very hard time getting any interest from the media.

The Ideal Writing Project

There has never been a better time to add case studies to the services you offer. Case studies continue to grow in importance. They’re also the type of project for which a client has a constant need. Plus, they often lead to other related projects, so it’s the perfect way to get “in the door” with a new client.

And considering the fact that — with the right system — you can pocket $125 – $300 (or more) per hour working on these writing assignments, case studies are the ultimate income booster for today’s B2B copywriter.

Writing Case Studies

Writing Case Studies: How to Make a Great Living by Helping Clients Tell Their Stories

Businesses are willing to pay writers up to $2,000 to write case studies. Find out how you can tap into this market and earn $200 – $300 PER HOUR for every project you take on. Learn More »

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Published: February 8, 2011

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