6 Things I Love about
Writing White Papers

Man working with laptop at table

For close to 20 years, I’ve specialized in writing White Papers. Over that time, I’ve worked on close to 300 … and I’m not sick of them yet!

In fact, I’m just as happy to be writing White Papers today as when I first came up with the name That White Paper Guy.

Here are six things I love about writing White Papers.

1. An exhilarating challenge.

White Papers are hard to do. That means very few people do them right. That means anyone who can do them right can pretty much write their own ticket.

You’ve probably heard that the “average” White Paper fee is $4,200. (They’re generally 6-8 pages long.)

And I routinely charge $7,500 to $10,000 for one — about $1,000 a page.

But even more appealing to me than the money is the sheer mental challenge.

I’m always thrilled to help a B2B company figure out how to tell its story or explain its technology better than ever before.

I’m always elated to build an open-and-shut case using step-by-step logic backed up by irrefutable evidence.

And I’m always delighted to see a White Paper that stands head-and-shoulders above the crowd and know I played a huge role in making that happen.

To go from a vague idea to a bold, effective piece of content that generates many thousands or even millions of dollars — now, that’s exhilarating.

2. No need to watch the clock.

I have four clocks on my office wall. Plus several more gadgets that show the time.

But that’s not because I’m a slave to the clock. Far from it.

Those four clocks show the time in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, and London. I often have clients in different time zones, and those clocks help me keep them straight.

Many years ago, I realized that I like to write, but I didn’t want to do short little projects where I’d always have to watch the clock.

“Oh no, the client has some more comments to put in — that’s going to take 20 minutes more!”

On any short project for a few hundred dollars, I could see my money flying out the window any time there was a hiccup or unexpected change.

But I didn’t want to start complaining or nickel-and-diming my clients like some lawyer charging by the minute.

Do you know the feeling?

So I was looking for a specialty where I wouldn’t have to worry about every half hour that slipped through my fingers.

I wanted a few big, well-paying projects where the deadlines weren’t ferocious.

So I chose White Papers.

I still feel some time pressure — especially when I’m juggling five papers at once (which you won’t do starting out!) — but it’s nice to know I’m being paid thousands of dollars for every project.

That way, I don’t have to worry about an extra 20 minutes here or there.

3. Next-to-no competition.

Another thing I love about doing White Papers: I honestly can’t remember the last time I put in a competitive bid.

I usually ask my clients, “Are you talking to anyone else?” And they say, “No, we couldn’t find anyone else.”

So I can name my fee without worrying about anyone undercutting me.

If I’m enthralled by the company’s mission, I can reduce my fee.

If I’m super-busy and it’s a stretch to take on another project, I can boost my fee.

But I’m not doing that because there’s any competition for projects.

The truth is, there’s a shortage of good White Papers writers.

And it’s been that way for the past 20 years.

4. Cornerstone content to repurpose.

Here’s what I say to my clients, “Let’s pack the most in-depth research, the most persuasive arguments, and the most expressive language into your White Paper.

“Then you can use that as a cornerstone of all your marketing for the next year or two.”

That’s good for them, and good for me too. That opens the door to lots of follow-up work.

While a White Paper is a solid cornerstone, a company needs many other things to go with it:

  • Emails to tell prospects about it
  • Social media tweets and posts about it
  • A press release to announce it
  • A landing page to collect contact info from prospects who download it
  • Blog posts introducing the paper or lifted word-for-word from it
  • An infographic to convey the highlights visually
  • A slide deck
  • A webinar using the slide deck
  • An opinion piece for a trade journal or website
  • A video script based on it

When you do the cornerstone content, you’re the most logical person in the world to do any of this repurposing. After all, you already know the original content inside and out.

And repurposing White Papers has been some of the easiest money I’ve ever made.

5. A no-hype zone.

A friend in marketing told me about watching an engineer-type professional on the train after a trade show.

He started pawing through his bag and pulling out everything glossy: all the short salesy stuff that cost a fortune to print.

And he dumped all that on the seat beside him. He was going to toss it all in the trash!

But he kept everything that looked longer and more thoughtful.

Clearly, he was separating the technical material he wanted from the salesy stuff he didn’t.

White Paper readers are the same as that engineer.

They want a well-researched, factual, considered exploration of a topic to help them understand an issue, solve a problem, or make a decision.

There’s no room for hype in a White Paper. As a former journalist, I appreciate that.

I can stick to the facts, connect the dots with logic, and tie it all up with maybe a sentence or two of persuasive writing at the end.

White Papers are a no-hype zone. I like it that way. And so do the readers.

6. Getting paid to learn.

I love learning. But I never really liked going to school.

To me, college had it all wrong. I had to pay them plus do a whole lot of work for them in order to earn this currency called “marks” or “grades” they had invented.

I always thought it should work the other way round.

They should pay ME for doing all that work, all that reading and studying and learning.

Now that I work on White Papers, I have it my way. I get paid to learn.

I get paid to interview fascinating experts in all kinds of areas.

Then I help them bring their ideas down to earth with a clear metaphor, a strong example, a simple graphic, or a plain English translation of what they told me.

I get paid to dig for golden nuggets on the Web.

When I get into some serious web searching, I have 50 tabs open in my browser, like a terrier on the scent of something I really, really have to catch.

I often feel like I’m back in college, only this time I’m being paid to learn.

So, if all that sounds good to you, why not give writing White Papers a try?

Do you have any questions about getting started as a White Paper specialist? Please share in the comments so we can guide you.

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Published: October 8, 2019

7 Responses to “6 Things I Love about Writing White Papers”

  1. Thank you so much Gordon! :) Writing white papers checks more boxes for my ideal writing projects. I just completed an AWAI certification for writing copy for the health field, but I have many interests, especially when it comes to business, marketing and tech. A) Do you suggest we pick a niche initially? B) Do you offer recommendations and examples on the more lucrative niches that are easier to get your foot in the door in (to gain experience, a track record, referrals, etc.)?

    Thea W

  2. Wow. Didn't even really know there was a market for this, since I figured it was handled in house. Thank you this is intriguing.

    Guest (Molly)

  3. How do you get started in writing white papers? I have lots of writing experience in other styles of writing but find it hard to believe a company will give me a chance at working for them with no samples in this type of writing.

    Guest (kflemis)

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