6 Steps to Writing a Successful White Paper and Raking in Nice Fees
If you're looking to make a great living as a freelance writer … here's a high-demand writing skill you may have missed or even dismissed.
It's a project called White Papers … which is a marketing content cornerstone that can bring in tons of sales leads for Business-to-Business (B2B) companies and others.
If you like doing clever research — along with the idea of distilling it into smart, fascinating, and persuasive business essays — this project is for you.
But here's another big reason why you may want to take a close look at white papers.
In one word: money.
White paper writers get paid a LOT of money for their work. Here are just a few online references I found about the going rates for white paper writers.
From this source: "You can expect to pay between $3,000 and $6,000 for a decently produced white paper (depending on the length and other factors). However, it is not uncommon for high-end white papers to cost more than $10,000 to produce. It's also possible to find freelancers willing to produce relatively short white papers for less than $3,000. You will want to make sure you know what you are getting before you get started. It's better to pay $5,000 and get a great product than it is to pay $1,500 and get a passable white paper." (DDIY)
"Our research shows that the ‘average’ cost for a white paper is around $4,500. Writers with specific professional knowledge and experience more often charge from $5,500 to $7,000." (Demodia)
Here's another good find: "The cost of creating a white paper varies greatly depending on the scope of the project and the experience level of the writer. Here’s a general round-up of costs associated with white papers:
Writer’s fees: $2.5K-$10K
Illustration, Design, Printing, Translation: $0-$10K
Wondering why a company would pay upwards of $30K for a single piece of content? It’s simple: Return on Investment." (Better Marketing)
The upshot of all this? If you're a skilled white paper writer, plenty of companies will pay you up to $10K for a 10-page paper. That's $1,000 per page!
Think about it. As you become a pro at this, you can write a couple of $5K white papers (the average for papers under 10 pages in length) each month to bring in $120,000 per year. If you land those $10K white papers, you only need to write one per month for the same annual income. Or do more than one each month and keep boosting your annual income even more!
Do I have your attention now? :-)
To give you a feel for whether writing white papers is a freelance focus you want to pursue, here's a quick overview of the white paper marketplace and what's required — starting with the basic question:
What Is a White Paper?
A white paper is a document that both enlightens and persuades, presenting a new solution to an industry-wide problem.
For instance, cybersecurity and how companies can protect themselves against data breaches. This is a huge, ongoing issue, right?
So, a company offering an innovative cybersecurity system for corporations can publish a white paper about the problem and the unique, fresh solution. You can imagine that tech managers would be extremely interested in that white paper.
White Papers Are Ideal for the Following Business Missions:
- Introducing new innovations, such as the cybersecurity system noted above …
- Addressing trends, such as how to manage the growing demand for work-from-home jobs …
- Predictions and how to prepare for something big, such as sweeping changes in the housing market due to a climb in mortgage interest rates …
- Survey findings (always popular), such as the results of a survey on sustainable manufacturing practices or compliance with The Americans with Disabilities Act …
- Breaking news, such as the sudden explosion of AI-generated content and how it's affecting all kinds of business functions …
White papers that address industry concerns will help key decision-makers or influencers make informed choices about implementing a particular solution. In other words, buying the product!
White papers are also great for generating awareness about a company and its products and services. Plus, they help a company stand apart from their competition and establish itself as a trusted thought leader.
As a White Paper Specialist, your objective is to get prospects thinking about the problem and the solution featured in the white paper, and to then introduce one of your client's products or services as the best choice for that solution.
Is Writing White Papers Something You'd Enjoy?
While you can make great money, writing white papers is not for everyone.
You have to be part writer, part investigative reporter/detective … because research is a very important element of the job.
A lot of your time will be spent digging up facts, talking to a few experts, and scanning through data.
You should also be comfortable interviewing business experts both inside and outside your client's company. It's important that you have a knack for asking the right questions so you can quickly unearth the answers you need to make your case.
You'll be required to write in an easy-going, informal style, just like any kind of copy or content. That won't change. But with white papers, you're writing informational, authoritative documents with a neutral voice versus writing something with a sales spin.
Do I Have to Have a Working Knowledge of B2B Copywriting to Do This?
The answer is that while it's not absolutely necessary, it's strongly recommended.
In addition to it helping you write copy that really connects with your audience, having a strong knowledge of B2B copy will allow you (should you choose) to take advantage of your client's other related B2B requirements.
B2B is a multitrillion-dollar industry. According to an article in Forbes, "2023 is a 'pivotal year' for B2B as spending in the U.S. approaches $15 billion on digital advertising alone."
That doesn't even include corporate spending on trade shows, conferences, sales meetings, and other live events … along with trade journals and other print media.
And here's a great thing for you, if you pursue white paper writing.
When most people start out to learn copywriting or content writing, they initially focus on Business-to-Consumer (B2C) copy. So, there tends to be much less competition among copywriters in the B2B arena. That means more work for you!
How Big Is the Demand for White Papers?
According to a study by B2B magazine and Junta42 Match, about a third of a marketer's budget is spent on custom content and creation — and half of that portion of the budget is spent on white papers.
In the United States alone, there are 240,000 B2B companies with over 50 employees.
I couldn't find the exact figure of how much money is spent on white papers every year, but I think you can see from the above statistics, it's in the billions and billions of dollars.
Why Is the Demand for White Papers So Huge?
The simple answer is … they work.
According to a recent report by DemandGen, research/survey reports and white papers were the top two content categories when surveyed B2B Buyers were asked, "What are the most valuable content formats and sources for researching your B2B purchases?"
Research/survey reports and white papers are both considered part of the general white papers category — so you can see the power of these documents!
(The following graphic comes from that DemandGen report.)
What You Should Do Before You Start Writing
First, define your target reader. You need to know who your white paper is helping.
Now, it's possible that you'll have different potential readers of your white paper. In fact, it's quite common.
Just know that each reader's hot buttons are usually quite different. For example, if you're writing about accounting software, the CEO will want to know that it has a huge ROI (Return on Investment) while the CFO (Chief Financial Officer) or Accounting Manager needs to know that it's easy to learn and is backed by excellent technical support.
It's not unusual for businesses to hire you to write multiple white papers, each one addressing a different segment of their audience. Which means more work for you! (Note: In these situations, clients may expect a discount of 20% to 25% on the alternative versions of the "same" white paper.)
Next, plan to interview key people. Ask your client who the best people in their company would be to interview about the white paper topic. Also ask for industry leaders or authorities who might be helpful to speak with. Do online research to identify anyone who can help your cause and might be interested in talking with you.
Up next: research. Gather information such as analyst reports, other white papers, industry articles, industry trade associations, case studies, etc. Check out the competition's website, white papers, and news releases.
Here are some Google sites that will help you with your search:
- Google News — to search for recent news about your topic
- Google Books — searches a wide variety of books
- Google Scholar — searches scholarly and academic publications
- Google Groups — searches newsgroup content
- Google Uncle Sam — searches U.S. government sites
At Last: 6 Steps to Writing a Successful White Paper
Now that you know who you're writing to and what you want to convey … and you've done your research … it's time to write!
Keep in mind that when writing a white paper, it's important to back up any claims you make with examples and information from third-party sources. When appropriate, you should include any charts, diagrams, or graphs that will drive home the points you are making.
The following is a breakdown of the six main components of a typical white paper:
- Executive Summary: Identify the problem your reader is facing and explain how the white paper will address that problem in a unique and helpful way.
- Introduce/confirm the problem in detail — Offer proof that the problem exists and highlight the pain that will result if it's left unattended.
- Talk about any additional problems that may arise — If there are additional problems and issues the reader should be aware of, mention them here. The bigger and more numerous the problems, the more likely they are to invest in a solution.
- Talk about the solution — Explain how the problem can be fixed. Don't get specific in terms of your client's products and/or services; offer a general solution to the problem.
- Talk about your client's solution — Describe the benefits of it and why it's better than the competition’s solution.
- Add a call-to-action — Close by telling the reader about the next step they can take to explore the solution further. Maybe it's downloading a demo version of a software package, going to a website to look at case studies, signing up for a free webinar recording, or calling a toll-free number if they have any questions.
Bonus: Help Your Client Promote Their White Paper
You can earn extra fees when you write the support materials for your client's white paper.
For instance, you could write the content to help readers find the white paper — such as, social media posts, news items, blog posts, trade articles, emails, landing pages, and more. Companies want readers to find and download their white paper because more readers equal more potential sales leads.
Plus, the white paper call-to-action may lead readers to the following marketing components:
- A landing page where readers sign up for the company's newsletter.
- A blog where they can review deeper information about the solution.
- Case studies that feature real customers talking about the outcome of the client's solution.
Wherever your white paper leads readers next — you can write that content!
In Conclusion …
For all the reasons outlined here, you might want to consider becoming a White Paper Specialist.
The money is excellent, and the demand for well-written white papers far outweighs the number of freelance copywriters who call themselves "White Paper Specialists."
To learning more about this interesting, well-paid writing project, go here.
How to Become a Professional White Paper Writer gives you everything you need to meet the demand and start having success as a B2B white paper writer in record time.
The rare combination of premium fees, high demand, zero competition, no sales pressure makes for a writing opportunity that’s as good as it gets. Click here to get started.
How to Become a Professional White Paper Writer: Earn Big Pay for Papers that Bring in Quality Leads for your Clients
White papers are the most overlooked projects in the writing world, despite paying upward of $8,000! These formulaic reports are needed by hundreds of thousands of companies in every industry, with 91% of them calling white papers “one of the two most influential marketing tools” in their arsenal. Learn to write them and earn a “professional-level” income as a writer right out of the gate. Learn More »