If you want to stand out in the writing profession, then writing white papers is the way to go. However, it’s not easy at all and that is why you need to invest time learning how to be good at it before getting started.
Lucky for you, through this article, you get to learn all the essential details that you need to know on white papers.
You get to learn what are white papers, how white paper writing works, the benefits of white paper writing, common mistakes when writing white papers, and frequently asked questions on white papers.
With that said, let’s get into it.
What is White Paper Writing
A white paper also called an industry report, special report, or consumer report, is a document used to convince as well as inform a target audience on a certain topic.
They are called white papers because according to Stanford Law School, “The term originated when government papers were coded by color to indicate distribution, with white designated for public access.
Thus, white papers are used in politics and business, as well as in technical fields, to educate readers and help people make decisions.” (1)
They are a good way to explain difficult topics and some of their uses by big companies include:
• Explaining how a certain service or product works
• Launching a new product or service
• Showing new trends in a certain industry
• Discussing about the problems of customers and how best to deal with them
3 Types of White Papers
Now, there are three types of white papers a writer can work on. They include:
Problem or solution white papers
With these, a writer uses facts to come up with solutions for a specific problem. The paper targets journalists, bloggers as well as analysts.
A writer should approach this white paper by seeking to provide helpful information to the audience about the problem in such a way that they are considered trusted experts on the topic.
This white paper can be used when a company is trying to inform the market on certain things, to build a reputation in a certain area as well as generate leads.
Their length ranges from 8-12 pages including the cover and content includes a summary, problem, possible solutions, a case study which is not a must, a guide for buyers, a call to action or conclusion, and lastly an about page of the company.
Backgrounder white papers
This type gives readers an elaborate explanation of the features and advantages of a product or service.
It targets (b2b) buyers who are close to the bottom of a sales funnel.
B2B stands for business to business and it refers to business transactions performed between one business and another.
A good example is transactions between a manufacturer and a wholesaler.
Sales funnel, on the other hand, refers to the steps that one has to take in order to become a customer.
The bottom of the funnel means that a customer has decided to finally buy a product.
So, when you combine these two concepts it means that the two businesses are finally deciding to purchase from each other.
A writer should approach this type of white paper by giving a true description of the business or technical benefits of a product or service.
Companies use this kind of white paper when they are trying to launch a product as well as showcase their expertise in an area.
Lengthwise it can be more than 8 pages, including the cover, and contents include an introduction, features, and advantages of the product or service, conclusion or call to action, and finally an about page of the company.
Numbered lists white papers
This category provides a numbered set of points, answers, tips, and questions about a certain issue.
They target anyone interested in the topic and a writer should approach this white paper by coming up with points about a certain issue.
Companies usually use this kind of white paper when they want to get attention on something.
Lengthwise, these papers can be 5 to 7+ pages including the cover and the contents include an introduction, numbered points about a specific issue and lastly the conclusion.
The about page of the company is optional.
When it comes to the writing of these papers, a writer should seek to provide credible proof on the topic as well as doing in-depth research.
Content should also be explained clearly, using simple language and steering off jargon.
How White Paper Writing Works
First, you have to understand the format of a white paper or rather what a white paper should have. I have detailed them here briefly so it’s shouldn’t be a difficult task.
• A good introduction
Here you give your readers a feel of what to expect in your content.
You should discuss the various sections that the white paper will have, just to aid your readers to scan the document easily and know if your content is relevant to them or not.
• A clear statement of the problem you will be handling
Make sure that you clearly explain what the problem is and why it’s important to address it. You want to explain this in the simplest way possible so that your readers understand the problem well.
• Good research
Here you want to be as resourceful as possible to your readers. Make sure you provide all details they need to understand the topic you will be addressing and using stats and any other form of evidence is advisable.
• Provide a solution
This constitutes the largest part of the white paper because you discuss the problem and then provide all the necessary solutions.
• Have a good conclusion
This is as important as the introduction and you want to avoid repeating ideas in the same words as you did previously in your paper as well as diverting to something different.
Just keep it short and straight to the point.
When it comes to venturing into white paper writing, there are two ways to look at this;
√ Writing White Papers With the Help of a website
This is where you build a website that shows you white paper writing skills and experience and get potential clients to reach out to you when they need your services.
If you are considering this options, there are a few questions that you need to ask yourself:
• How are you going to market your services so that potential clients can reach out to you when they have open opportunities?
• How many projects can you handle at a go?
• How much are you going to charge for each project. This is largely because you are responsible for paying yourself as well as any other cost your website may incur.
• Would you consider hiring other white paper writers so that you can distribute work and handle as many products as possible
Coming up with the answers to these elements is key because you get to decide the direction your career will take.
√ White Paper Writing Using Freelance Sites
When doing this, these are the steps that you follow:
First, identify legitimate websites that pay white paper freelancers. Some of them include;
This is a job board for any freelance work. It’s a credible site because it has been operating for a long time and freelancers love it so a writer looking for a white paper job can definitely find one there.
This website is among the best source for white paper writers and therefore assures clients that their projects will be handled by professionals. There are so many freelance white paper writers on their websites clearly showing how much they charge per hour. All clients need to do is decide on a writer that is a good fit and then hire them. So getting gigs here should not be extremely hard.
This is another trusted freelance site that connects freelance writers to clients. It is a well-known platform and you get good white paper writing projects
They not only provide opportunities for various clients but also provide them with strategies they can use to become better white paper writers. However, to access their information you need to pay $25 per month but you can cancel your subscription if you no longer want to use their website.
This is yet another freelance website that provide all kinds of white paper jobs to authentic freelancers just with a click of a button. You can sign up for an account and start looking for white paper writing jobs and get started working on them right away.
Benefits of White Papers
• Easy to get into it. As a writer, white papers give an extra edge over other writers because many writers venture into other forms of writing such as ebook writing, creative writing as opposed to white paper writing. This, therefore, makes it easier for white paper writers to find opportunities.
• Helps readers learn. If a reader needs help understanding a certain topic, they can use white papers because then they get an in-depth explanation of their issues. If for example, they had a bit of prior understanding on a topic, they get to learn something new and maybe even form a better perspective than they did before.
• Helps to build a good name for a brand. This is because most journalists use white papers as research tools in topics they have little knowledge of. So, if a company has a well researched white paper for a specific topic, a good reputation of the brand is established because they are seen as experts in that field.
• They pay well. Writing this kind of content can be very tasking causing writers to charge more and it’s amazing that companies are willing to pay well for these papers.
• They are good for generating leads. A lead basically means that a person is interested in a product or service. The reason behind this is mainly because a white paper can cause people to gain trust in a certain product or service.
To generate more leads using your white paper, you can try out the following;
~ Understand your target audience
~ Find out their problems and how you can help them as best as you can through your work
~ Use multiple platforms to promote your white paper such as emails, social media, and blog posts
Common Mistakes When Writing White Papers
Here are some of the mistakes that many white paper writers make when working on their projects
Failing to match a white paper with the reader’s needs.
It’s extremely important to ensure that the needs of the readers are seen on the white paper.
If you don’t do this, then it won’t be of much help for the readers to read your work because they don’t get any help in what they are looking for.
Completely fulfill their needs by deeply covering the area that they want so that they don’t feel left in the dark, or worse, put off by your content.
Providing low-quality research to readers
You need to set aside time specifically for researching before getting started with your white paper.
As you do that, ensure that your research is carried out using only credible resources and that it’s based on facts only.
Your topic is not creative enough
As a writer, if you don’t think through your topic, you might end up having a tasteless one that doesn’t generate any leads.
This ends up boring the readers and hence they are not interested anymore in what you have to say thereon.
If you want to write a good topic, you could try to come up with a few possible ones and then ask your clients which they prefer.
You could also try to ask yourself what some of the topics that will spark the attention of your readers right away are.
You are not good in the area you are writing about
White papers are very delicate because essentially you provide people with information that is aimed at helping them understand an area better.
Therefore, you must be knowledgeable on that specific field you are assigned to avoid misleading your readers or giving them false information. Establish before writing whether a topic is something you can deliver on or not.
Poor structuring of the white paper
This puts off readers because it’s hard to get through the specific content that they want and reeks of a lack of professionalism.
Before getting started with a paper, ask your client how they would like their work structured so that you know what to work with.
Tips to Being A Good White Paper Writer
The following top tips will help you become a better white paper writer;
1. Choose a good, suitable topic for your readers
This can be a bit of a challenge but pointers such as the audience you are addressing and the problems you will be tackling for them are good places to start.
2. Have a good introduction
Here, you must wow your readers and ensure that you capture their attention immediately.
Let them know what they are going to get from reading your paper and more importantly show them a list of the topics you will be handling as well as a brief summary.
3. Subheadings are very important
This is because they will help you break down your work as opposed to having very lengthy paragraphs that are hard to scan through.
However, make sure that they are well organized so that one leads to the other.
4. Come up with an outline before you get started writing
Plan out how you are going to write your paper.
How are you going to organize your paragraphs, how will they flow, and how many pages you will write.
Such guidelines will help make your writing very simple.
5. Resist the temptation of editing as you go
You should only focus on writing now and editing later.
It will give you time to collect yourself and have a fresh mind that will help you see the mistakes you have made as you edit.
6. Be professional in your work
Remember you will mostly be addressing people in business as well as other professional areas.
Therefore, use the writing style of the industry you will be writing for appropriately and ensure that for each section you are illustrative.
7. Conclude your work well
You can do this by giving your readers a summary of what you just discussed in your paper as well as having a call to action that causes your readers to act on what you’ve helped them through.
Asking how you can further assist them is also a great way to conclude your white paper.
8. Proofreading is a must!
Go through what you have written and check on what requires to be rectified or made better.
You can get other people to read it and tell you what is off and needs to be corrected, or you could read your draft aloud to catch wind of any errors.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) on White Paper Writing
Question: How much does a white paper cost?
Answer: Costs will be dependent on factors such as printing, promotion, designing of the white paper, research, writing, and editing
You need to know that white papers require investment in terms of both time and money and so for it to be perfect, you need to invest good money.
Question: How can I promote my white paper?
Answer: You can try using your social platforms such as Twitter or Facebook, blog posts, reaching out to numerous relevant websites and sending emails about it.
Question: Which companies need white papers?
Answer: There are a number of them and they include;
~ Consulting companies
~ Computer hardware companies
~ Technical services companies
~ Enterprise software companies
~ Communication companies
Question: What causes people to read white papers?
Answer: Readers are mostly looking for helpful information that can aid in the solving of their problems.
These problems can be for example learning about the technical details of a product that they are trying to buy or maybe trying to understand how a product works.
Question: How long should a white paper be?
Answer: Most white papers range from 3-20 pages but some may surpass this threshold and actually be longer.
Question: Can anyone write a white paper?
Answer: Quite frankly no, this is mainly because you need expertise in the area you are supposed to deliver on, and also some areas are very complex and so cannot be handled by just anyone.
Question: Can I earn a steady income from white paper writing?
Answer: Yes of course you can, white papers are very prestigious with most writers charging between $3,000-$10,000 based on their expertise(3).
However, there are certain factors to consider when it comes to earning an income, for example, how often are you going to get work?
How much is a client paying you? The answers to such questions will help you know if your will become will be full-time.
Question: What are some of the problems that white paper writers encounter?
Answer: Well of course like any other area, white paper writers experience difficulties. White paper writing is no exception and the following are some of the problems they encounter:
~ Their work failing to be approved
~ Clients failing to give a clear response
~ Clients changing the requirements of work along the way
~ Being unable to manage their time well
Question: Are there specifics industrial standards that white papers must meet?
Answer: Every company is coming up with their own type of white paper that is unique.
It can either be as long or short as they would like, or even colorful as opposed to plain.
Companies decide on what they want without being limited in any kind of way.
Question: Where do I find clients as a freelance white paper writer?
Answer: One way you can do this is to approach freelance websites that pay white paper writers, for example, Upwork.
The clients in there will be posting white paper jobs so from there, you could apply for them.
If you work well for the various clients, of course, they will refer other clients to you and that is how you grow your portfolio for the sake of other possible clients.
Next, you can come up with a website and then market your services as much as possible, to get clients.
If clients commend you for a job well done use that as testimonial and post them up on your website so that people know that your services are credible.
Lastly, search engines may be useful in looking for a job. If you type “available white paper writing jobs” there, am sure you will find some good jobs.
However, if you decide to use this method, you must carry out a background research on those companies to avoid falling for scammers.