Are you a technically minded and detailed oriented researcher? Do you love to dig through facts and come up with engaging writing on otherwise dull subjects? It doesn’t sound all that exciting, but it could be your ticket to a flexible schedule doing something you actually like.
I love long form content and I loved writing essays in high school and college. I was always teacher’s pet, nerdly and awkward with high honors in English even though I couldn’t spell or understand the peculiar idiosyncrasies of English grammar. I loved to read, and it showed in my writing.
It comes naturally to me to write 5000-word guides and long form posts as a freelancer so I knew I would probably like the process of putting together a white paper.
If this sounds like something you would like, you might want to check out B2B writing and especially white paper writing as a specialty.
I took a white paper mentorship with the ultimate white paper professional, Gordon Graham of That White Paper Guy and here is what I found out about white papers:
What Makes a White Paper a White Paper?
Sometimes you need more than a blog post, but less than a book.
- A white paper is at least six pages long, but usually less than 30 pages, (if it’s longer you might as well write a book).
- A white paper is engaging narrative storytelling, (not a boring government document).
- A white paper is full of educational content rather than a sales pitch or a glossy brochure.
- A white paper is used before a sale (otherwise you have a product brochure or a technical manual).
- A white paper provides facts not just opinions.
- A white paper usually includes an introduction or an executive summary.
There are three basic types of white papers
1. The Problem Solution:
Used at the beginning of your sales funnel to generate leads and guide those searching for an answer to a nagging industry problem.
- Executive briefing
- Evaluators guide
- Deep research
- Has an authoritative tone
2. The Numbered List:
Used at the middle of your sales funnel, a numbered list is a light refreshing guide, set of tips, or a quick roundup of facts.
- Cast doubt on competitors
- Easiest to create and repurpose
- 5 things to know
- 7 questions to ask about your topic
- 4 best practices for your topic
3. Product Backgrounder:
Use a backgrounder at the end of your sales funnel to fill in details for the final decision-maker.
- Here is our offering
- Here are the key features of our product or service
- Here is how these features benefit you
Why do companies publish white papers?
- To generate New Leads: a white paper can help improve SEO with detailed authoritative content, and a strong download page.
- To nurture a prospect through a complete sales funnel: white papers allow prospects to get to know, like, and trust the company by positioning them as a helpful advisor.
- To cast uncertainty and doubt on competitors: Help close sales without attacking your competition. Show beyond a doubt that your solution is the only logical one.
How much can you earn for your white paper services?
- Researched outline with executive summary or Intro to start the white paper process: $1000
- Full white Paper from $2500 even when you are just starting out
- White paper layout and design starting at $250
- Landing page design and copy $250
- Repurposing portions of the white paper as press releases, and articles starting at $200 per piece
- Bundled services starting at $3500
Many companies are used to budgeting a certain amount of money each quarter for advertising and writing and often are used to updating or creating new white papers each year.
How to tell if a company really needs a white paper for their business or product
White papers work best when the firm is selling something that’s new, complex, or expensive. People are motivated to read a white paper when something big is at stake.
If you it is consumer-based business selling something that’s lower stakes, the customers are not going to take the time to read a white paper. Give them shorter, scannable data instead. Even if what is offered is a large-ticket item, a brochure with technical details would be a more logical approach to the end of a sales funnel than a white paper for a consumer product.
Uses for White Papers
To Reach the Decision Makers
Most B2B companies use white papers and special reports to reach businesses and decision-makers who want to understand an issue, solve a problem, or gather information about a large purchase, service, or methodology.
Two out of three decision-makers within companies read white papers to follow the latest trends in their industry. White papers are used to compare different but similar products and gather information to justify a large expenditure or detailed new methodology. White papers are also useful for businesses that are building a list of resources and vendors.
To Reach B2B Peers
Government agencies, non-profits, and educational institutes use white papers. Only about 10% of B2C companies use white papers.
White papers are usually not appropriate for consumer-based companies because a white paper is not an emotional piece of sales copy but an in-depth essay about a product, service, technology, or methodology.
A White Paper is a Dignified, Logical Essay
White papers are strong on logic, facts, impeccably statistics, and quotes from industry opinion-makers. White papers are dignified, substantial, and informational rather than flashy or salesy.
The term “white paper” originated with the British Government, which produced documents full dry facts and figures. White papers have evolved into useful guides with convincing arguments backed up by factual data to help your audience reach a buying decision. A white paper can support the beginning, middle, or end of your sales process.
In some industries, the term “white paper” is a turn-off. If the mention of a white paper sends your team running or makes them drop off to sleep at their desks, you can call your white paper a “guide” or a “special report”.
That’s a wrap
If I didn’t put you to sleep with all this talk about white papers check out Gordon Graham’s book White Paper’s for Dummies and whip up some samples for your freelance site and start pitching! One you have written some long form content you might want to check out the course. I took the 8-week course with live calls and feedback directly from Gordon through AWIA.
I honestly do not like the AWIA platform. It has a dated cheesy feel, and they are constantly trying to upsell. They are still very enamored of the hard-sell copy writing that was popular years ago.
But white papers are one of the few things that does not use exaggeration or hype sales style writing at AWIA. I only signed up because that is the platform Gordon uses for his course. The material Gordon teaches is of excellent quality.
What does it really look like when you transition to a freelance lifestyle?