How to Land White Paper Writing Jobs with Huge Pay

Editor | 46 Comments
white paper writing

One of the biggest moves a freelance writer can make to earn more is to move into better-paying types of gigs, like white paper writing jobs.

When you go from, say, writing $20 blog posts to writing white papers that can pay $1,500-$10,000, it’s a big leap.

But just how do you may that leap? How exactly do you get into writing white papers? Where do you even find white paper writing jobs? And what are some mistakes to avoid along the way?

In the post below, you’ll get all the info you need to start your successful foray into white paper writing.

 

What is a White Paper?

A white paper is a cross between a magazine article and a corporate brochure, sharing an organization’s often-complicated message in an easy-to-understand, formal, and persuasive manner. Most clients want to read the educational magazine article part of the white paper to find out the solutions to their problems — but the persuasive brochure part of the white paper does its job too, and convinces the readers to buy the product or use the service.

 

How Much Can You Make on White Paper Writing Jobs?

The unique balancing feature of the white paper — to both educate and sell — makes it one of the most powerful marketing tools. This is the reason why clients are ready to pay $3,000-$10,000 for a 6-14 page white paper writing job. It’s a great way to make money writing!

The huge upside of writing white papers is why we did a comprehensive training bootcamp on the topic over on the Freelance Writers Den. You can access this entire 4-week bootcamp plus over 300 hours of other trainings by becoming a Den member.

Affordable Learning & Support banner ad for freelance writers

 

How to Get White Paper Writing Experience

If you know how to write articles or marketing materials, you should be able to learn how to write white papers with a little effort and practice.

The first thing you need to do is read all you can about writing white papers from books, blogs, articles, etc. That also means studying some white paper examples so you know what’s expected (check out this example of a white paper). More and more companies are posting white papers online to build their authority — download a few and give them a read.

Now start writing…

After you learn how to write white papers, you can start practicing your skill on a hypothetical or real company. Choose a business-to-business company, as this type of business tends to commission more white papers. They usually have complicated offerings and need to convince business owners to buy their product or service.

Or create a white paper to sell your writing, about how businesses benefit from using freelance writers. Post it on your site as a free download for prospects.

Sharpen your skills by writing white papers as often as you can. Once you feel that you’re ready, start looking for real paying white paper jobs.

 

Where to Find White Paper Writing Jobs

  1. Let your existing clients know what white papers are, how they work and why their business needs one. Show them the sample white papers you’ve created. If you can convince them that they need a white paper, you will be on your way.
  2. Look for business owners who are getting articles or brochures written. Explain what a white paper is and why it’s better than a regular article or brochure. Propose possible white paper topics that would be appropriate to their business. Hopefully, you will be able to entice them into asking you to write one.
  3. Write one for less. If it’s your first white paper job, then it doesn’t matter if you charge less. Maybe you will not earn enough for all the effort you put in, but you will get a sample that will help you land lucrative jobs.

Once you have a few samples in your portfolio, you can look for better jobs.

The best thing is to advertise your services as a white paper writer through your website, cold calling, and other marketing methods. It’s important that you target B2B companies, as they need white papers. Look for companies that are involved in fields like technology (cloud computing, CRM, content management, IT healthcare), or finance (insurance, banks, re-insurance).

Of course, you can also look for white paper jobs on sites like LinkedIn and even on the Den’s job board.

 

White Paper Writing Mistakes to Avoid

While you’re gaining experience taking white paper writing jobs, there are some critical mistakes you should try to avoid as you enter this market.

Here are some mistakes our own Carol Tice made on a white paper writing gig:

Mistake #1: Not vetting the client

When a writer-friend tells you, “Hey, this is a chance to work with an amazing end client that’s a Fortune 500,” I don’t know about you, but I tend to get stars in my eyes.

It turned out that I’d be working not directly with this client, but with one of their approved marketing agencies. The guy who headed it was a former staff speechwriter and marketing writer at this F500. Once again, I was wowed.

“Man, this guy must know *exactly* what he’s doing,” I thought.

What I didn’t find out? He’d just recently quit the company and set up this agency…and had no experience running an agency. He’d never had writers working under him before. He hadn’t written white papers, either.

That turned out to be something he sucked at. In the course of my project, everyone he had hired as a ‘staffer’ for his little agency quit.

He would have his staff minions give assignments to the writers — and guess what? It was like a big game of telephone.

Almost every single thing I was told, from deadlines to wordcounts, turned out to be wrong. A lot of frantic rewriting ensued.

Takeaway: If I’d asked around about this guy, I might have learned he was a legendary prima donna — and would have trouble delegating writing work.

Mistake #2: No direct client contact

Everything I did on this white paper writing job came down secondhand. I couldn’t even have told you who at the big company this agency reported to.

I’d receive word trickle-down style, about who to interview about what. Then, after I interviewed them, I’d be told I didn’t ask them the right things, or that I needed a different source. These kinds of miscommunications are an epidemic in agencies that keep their clients close to the vest.

In his efforts to keep us from poaching the client work (not even possible with this company, since they only used a few approved agencies), he would parcel out parts of projects to different people. You never knew who else might be touching different parts of your same elephant. The result: chaos.

Takeaway: I should have gotten clarity off the bat on who I’d be reporting to for this white paper writing job, who was on my project, and who I’d be able to access.

Mistake #3: Skipping the research

I basically worked with what I was handed, instead of doing my own research to learn more about the types of charity programs I was documenting. I might have had better backup ideas for interviews, or programs to compare it (favorably) to, if I’d taken the time.

More than once in the course of the project, I was sitting around for days on end, and then having to do a rush job on an interview, where I probably could have more quickly found sources on my own and just asked for approval.

Takeaway: Don’t sit with your hands folded waiting for info from your client — do your own legwork, so that you have more to work with.

Mistake #4: A key question omitted

One big question I really wish I’d asked is, “What is your writing process like?”

After all, I’d never written a white paper before. So I didn’t realize that I needed a few key things:

  • Approval of each of my sources from higher-ups
  • A signed release from each of my interview subjects
  • To let each interview subject read their copy before turning it in
  • To obtain stock photos from my subjects

Long after some of my interviews, toward the end of the project, I was suddenly asked to “turn in my releases.” To which I replied, “What releases????”

I’d never been given a form or told my interviews had to fill it out…but suddenly, I looked like a clueless fool. It had been weeks since some of my interviews, and it was extra work to dig some of them back up and get them to sign off.

Takeaway: Find out what *all* the elements are that are your “deliverables” in the project — and be sure you get them as you go. Don’t leave paperwork to the end.

Mistake #5: Running in circles

One of the things that was dangled in front of me on this white paper writing job was the idea of foreign travel. Their program is global, and they were including some stories from other countries.

When it was strongly hinted that I might snag one of these assignments, I turned my life upside down to run out and get an expedited passport. Which, of course, turned out to be a total waste of time. In fact, I never left my house, even.

Takeaway: Don’t chase phantoms on a gig. If someone’s hinting you might need to do something for the project, get more details and find out if it’s real, before wasting time.

The good news is that the project did eventually get finished…and it came out real nice. I got a great clip out of the deal. It was definitely worth doing, despite all the problems.

But I wish I’d taken a more thorough attitude to scoping this out before I dove in. Then, I might have had a smoother road and ended up getting more white paper writing gigs for this client, instead of having a relationship that went down in flames.

As it worked out, it was a long time before another white paper writing job opportunity came around.

Got questions about writing white papers? Just ask in the comments below.

Affordable Learning & Support banner ad for freelance writers

46 comments on “How to Land White Paper Writing Jobs with Huge Pay

  1. Dharmik Shah on

    Dear Carol

    Can you help me with who in the company should one approach for offering whitepaper writing services ?

    Thanks !

    • Carol Tice on

      Dharmik, at least at first, the best way to get whitepaper gigs is to approach existing clients who might use them. You’ll already have a contact. Unless you have extensive experience in this niche, it’s hard to simply pitch this service. These are high-ticket, complex projects, and it’s doubtful you’re going to get them, going in cold, especially if you have no white paper experience.

      But if you want to try, I’d usually start with the marketing manager.

  2. Praveen on

    Thanks Carol, for your comments.
    I am a developer and I wish to write papers on the day to day complex technical tasks that we handle.
    My primary concern is for references. I would like to list the references in my paper but I am not sure if I have to take the approval of the articles I refereed to.
    Please let me know.

    Thanks.

  3. Praveen on

    I am very interested in writing technical papers but I do not have any experience in this context. For the same, I have couple of question in writing technical papers. Can you please suggest or guide me to the right contact?

    1. When I include the references in my paper, Do I need to have an approval from the author of a published article?
    2. How do I get my paper included in any other citations?
    3. Any template that I can use?

    Thanks,
    Praveen

    • Carol Tice on

      Most technical writers are former coders or engineers, Praveen. If you don’t have that background, it’ll be difficult to write at this level of complexity. What you’re describing sounds more like writing a college paper than writing for a business, for pay. Most white papers a company puts out, they’re not focused on getting citations of it in another paper — they’re looking to get it widely shared with prospective leads.

  4. Nadia McDonald on

    I was writing from I knew myself. I had no idea that there was a thing existed called
    WHITE PAPER WRITING. I read the above caption, but I need a more detailed description how to effectively master this art of white paper writing. What kind of topics should a newbie look for to write about? Furthermore, what is their niche?

  5. Angela Weber on

    Wow! As a newbie freelancer there is still so much I have to learn – luckily I love learning, so this is definitely my calling. πŸ™‚

    Thanks Mitt for explaining what a white page is – I’ve flirted with Copywriting and through that flirtation the word “white paper” is one I’ve heard bandied about, but before today I had only a vague idea of what one was.

    I subscribed to your blog because it looks like it has a ton of useful info for me.

    One question I have about writing white papers – I love researching and I’ve been told my writing tends to be more technical than creative (wasn’t really a compliment) But perhaps it may make me well suited to technical writing?

    That isn’t my question though – my question is about interviewing people. This is something I would struggle with – is this absolutely vital to excellent white paper writing, and is it possible to do all your interviewing through email?

    • Carol Tice on

      Angela, emails are not interviews. That’s a common confusion these days. Email is email. An interview is someone speaking to you, in person or on the phone.

      I have to honestly say I think the ability to do interviews is quite essential for white papers, case studies, articles, and lots of other types of writing work. It’s a skill you can learn though — and I’ve done a couple tips articles including this 7 Stress-Busting Interview Tips.

      • Angela Weber on

        Thanks, Carol for responding, and for the link. I went back and read your article. It was very informative and made a lot of sense. I can see how learning to interview in person or over Skype could yield a more natural response than email answers would. And of course I don’t want to make more work for my clients. πŸ™‚

  6. internet marketing program on

    Pretty section of content. I just stumbled upon your weblog and in
    accession capital to assert that I acquire in fact
    enjoyed account your blog posts. Any way I will be subscribing to your augment and even I
    achievement you access consistently rapidly.

  7. Mitt Ray on

    Hi Alice – I have to agree with what Carol says here. White papers are supposed to be un- salesy. Most of the white paper is actually useful content which will help the reader solve the problem. Only a fraction of the white paper (maybe just 3/4th of a page) is salesy and lets the reader know that the company provides a service and can help them solve their problems.

    And I love writing white papers. When I research the company, the market and the product I learn a lot of new things. This really excites me. They are my favorite kind of marketing material. – Mitt

  8. Alice on

    Hey Mitt.
    Before reading your article I didn’t even know what a white paper was, but the concept is quite interesting. Since your goal will be to both sell and give information, it must be tedious to find exactly the right balance between giving information and selling.

    • Carol Tice on

      Don’t know about Mitt, but I find white papers a lot of fun! I like doing big projects with a lot of research. And I don’t find it hard to balance the info and selling. In most white papers there isn’t much selling. It’s simply the company presenting their authority voice on a topic related to their industry, which builds their rep and makes you more likely to trust and hire them. So it’s fairly un-salesy.

      For me they’re very journalistic…I’m just reporting facts about how their product worked for clients, or the impact of their philanthropy on recipients, or whatever.

  9. Neeraj Sachdeva on

    I became a whitepaper writer by accident! Since then I have been writing many. The problem is finding clients who would want these (and what is the correct price?). I think marketing is the way to go, shall definitely adopt the approach you suggested!

  10. Robin on

    I know a lot of newbies and I am looking forward to share this to them…For sure they will like this and they will learn a lot as well..

    • Carol Tice on

      Hi Leatha —

      Not sure if you mean me or Will?

      I’m fully booked — actually have a CRM client, too, so I’d be a fit, but really don’t have time until around end of October earliest. I’ll let Will answer for himself.

    • Mitt Ray on

      Hi Leatha – Is that question for me or for Carol?

      If it’s for me – Yes I am interested in writing the articles for you. Being a white paper writer – I have written on the subjects of CRM, Content Management, Cloud and many other technical subjects. You can contact me from my website – the link to which can be found below. Please let me know.

      Thank you

      Mitt

  11. David Goldman on

    This post was very interesting to me. I have always considered writing white papers. In the high-tech industry, a white paper is often where technical writing meets marketing. Many times someone will write a white paper describing a new technology and then say why their product is the best (or only) way to implement it. As a matter of fact this discussion just came up at my work. I am a technical writer at a software company and one of the programmers just asked me what a white paper was. I have been looking to branch out into other types of writing and eventually become a freelancer. Writing white papers seems like a good fit for me.
    David

  12. Dan on

    Great post, as per usual for posts on this site — Carol and guests alike. I’ve been hearing a lot about white papers and have always wondered just what they are and how I can learn more about them, so this was perfect. Well done.

  13. John Soares on

    Mitt, thanks for this very informative post.

    Question: do you concentrate on writing white papers in just a few B2B fields with which you are already familiar, or do you target all fields and just learn what you need to about an unfamiliar industry as you’re completing an assignment?

    • Carol Tice on

      I’ll be interested to see Mitt’s answer on this, but personally the white papers I’ve done were all on topics where I learned it from scratch — things like computer recycling programs, and city-union relations. You just interview people and get an education, do research, learn your subject.

      Hmm…well I guess most of them were — just realized I’m doing one now on business finance methods, which I do already know a lot about. But I guess I don’t think it’s important as much as the research and interview skills, and the ability to organize a lot of material — organization is key in white papers so that they scan well and are easy to follow through 10 pages or more.

      I had written long features of like 3,000 words or so before, which I think is a big help. White papers are another long form, essentially.

    • Mitt Ray on

      Hi John – Thank you for your comment.

      Just like Carol I have written many white papers on subjects I didn’t know much about initially. You might not know much at first, but once you do your initial research through reading and then more through interviews, you actually learn a lot.

      You actually write better white papers when you are new to the field because you will do everything to find out more about it so that you can understand it better. You normally go through the basics, the history, all the latest research and views of experts and when you write it down you can include all that you have learnt. This will help you create an easy to read white paper even the layman can understand. – Mitt

      • Carol Tice on

        Mitt brings up a great point — often, a company wants to reach new prospects who are ordinary people, not tech experts or anything. So if you’re not a tech expert either, you come to it with the same level of knowledge as the customer –which means you know what needs to be explained for an ordinary person to understand it.

        Often, that’s exactly what companies are looking for — just someone with strong writing, research and reporting skills who can help them translate their gobbledygook into something non-technical small business owners can read to understand why they need this product or service, in plain language.

    • Ruth - Freelance Writing Blog on

      John,
      I’ve written dozens of white papers mostly for enterprise software companies (or software consulting companies), and in almost all cases, I’ve been completely clueless about the subject matter. I wrote one recently titled “The Impact of Medical Loss Ratio Regulations on Sales Compensation Practices in the Insurance Industry”. Shoot me, right? But the truth is, if you can write, you can do it. You have to ask pointed questions of your client and make sure that you are armed with the technical material you need to generate good copy. And I’ve found that the learning curve is pretty swift. Mitt is right, the pay for White Papers is excellent.

    • John Soares on

      Thanks Mitt, Carol, and Ruth for sharing your perspective; your answers about being able to write a white paper on most anything were what I expected.

      It does seem that you’d get a white paper done faster if it’s in an area you already know a lot about.

Comments are closed.