You’ve come up with a brilliant idea for a white paper.
It’s so good, it will bring tears of joy to the CEO’s eyes when he sees all the leads it produces.
But, before you can bask in the glory of your brilliance, you need to get the white paper written. This is the tricky part.
If you make the wrong choice, that can have a negative impact on the entire business… not to mention your own career.
To get your white paper written, you might be tempted to pick one of these options:
Option 1. Get a developer to write the first draft
The problem is that many developers are terrible at explaining things in a concise and elegant way. So your results will likely be spotty.
And this option requires the developer to stop doing valuable development and write the initial draft. After they say they’re done, a marketer will have to clean up their draft to make it readable (not a task for the faint of heart).
This frequently requires several trips back to a frustrated developer—distracting them once again from their “real job”—since the marketer doesn’t understand the cryptic descriptions of the technology.
Option 2. Get a marketer to write it
In this approach, you have a marketer ask the developers for info.
The marketer (is this you?) tries their best to decipher what the developer said and then create a first draft. After the first draft is done, they send it back to the developer who gave them the initial info.
This is often when the developer demands the marketer change the wording back to tech speak (even though the marketer knows no one in the intended audience of decision-makers will want to read it).
Option 3. Get a junior writer to write it
You throw the project to a junior in-house writer who quickly gets stuck, chews up hours with your development team, and elicits groans every time they ask for more clarification.
None of these three approaches work very well
Maybe you wanted to write your white paper in-house because you feel your employees know your products/services better than any outsider?
Or maybe you feel that white papers are so important that you should keep those in-house to retain more control? Or to better match your company voice?
But are you really sure your in-house people can deliver what you need? And meet your deadline?
- How many white papers have they ever worked on?
- What do they know about content marketing?
- How will you keep them working on your white paper when they’re constantly being pulled back to their “real jobs”?
There’s a better way: Outsource to an outside white paper writer. What if you could hand over this Manhattan-sized headache to a professional and let them deal with it?
Here are 5 good reasons why you should seriously consider outsourcing your next white paper.
Why outsource #1: Outside writers work faster
“Unless they’re experienced white paper writers, your in-house people will take longer and experience more false starts, writing blocks, and scrap and rework than a professional outside writer,” says That White Paper Guy, Gordon Graham.
Graham says he regularly hears from clients who are desperate for help after their in-house efforts ran out of steam.
In fact, outsourced writers can be more than twice as fast as in-house writers.
Since freelance writers are more experienced, they can work more efficiently, spending less time doing research and writing.
These facts are backed up by Michael Stelzner’s survey of 600+ white paper writers, The White Paper Industry Report, 2nd edition (2007).
This survey showed that the average freelance writer takes 8 hours to do research, while an in-house or non-professional takes 20 hours.
Let’s face it, writing your first white paper can be a headache-inducing experience.
Outsourced writers have typically written many more white papers over their careers than in-house or non-professional writers. The typical experienced outsourced writer has written 11 or more white papers over the last 2 years .
All this means an outsourced writer can bring your white paper to market faster. That means more leads or more mindshare for your company sooner.
Why outsource #2:
Outside writers cost less
Remember, your employees are well-paid with overhead costs on top of their salaries.
Overhead covers things like federal and state taxes, paid vacation, insurance, training, heating and air conditioning, and the cost of a computer, desk, and cubicle for every employee.
Consider the fully-loaded costs of the kinds of employees you would ask to write a white paper.
That could be a product manager, sales executive, developer or engineer. Maybe even a tech writer.
Here are some stats from the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics about how much people in each role typically earn:
- Sales executives (Sales Representatives, Wholesale and Manufacturing, Technical and Scientific Products): $91,830
- Software Developers: $104,480
- Computer Hardware Engineers: $117,840
- Technical Writers: $75,500
So maybe you decide to hire an in-house copywriter with experience. The average salary for an experienced copywriter: $71,500.
However, there are several challenges with hiring an in-house writer.
It takes time to hire a new writer. A survey by Glassdoor, an online recruiting site, found the average length of time required to hire a new employee is 23.8 days.
And it takes money to hire an in-house writer. According to The Center for American Progress, the estimated cost of finding and hiring a higher-paid employee can be up to 213% of the employee’s annual salary.
This means your $71,500 copywriter just became a whopping $152,295 new hire.
To compare, the average price for having a white paper written by an outsourced writer is between $5,000 and $7,000.
This means you could get at least 21.7 white papers done for the cost of hiring one full-time writer as an employee.
(I don’t know what you would do with 7/10s of a white paper, but I’m sure it would be a snap for Thanos.)
Why outsource #3: Outside writers let your critical staff stick to their real jobs
Developers and engineers can’t work on content and build new versions of your product at the same time. Their jobs take concentration.
You don’t want to divide their attention by making them work on content projects instead of focusing on the projects that can help your business grow.
The idea of working on a white paper for a couple hours a day, or a couple days a week, is just not realistic.
“Every day your employees are working on your white paper, they’re not attending to their regular duties to build new products, attract more customers, and generally drive the company forward,” says Graham.
“Can your company afford to take a developer or engineer out of their regular role for 2 or 3 weeks at a time?”
By outsourcing your white papers, you can free up their time and allow them to focus on more critical aspects of the business. An outside writer can interview them briefly if needed; this usually takes at most an hour or two.
Why outsource #4: Outside writers can meet your deadline
Years ago when I worked as a developer, I was regularly pulled in more directions than Stretch Armstrong at a children’s toy convention.
Rest assured, when any developer has to hit a deadline, your white paper will get pushed to the back burner.
What are you going to do about that? Fire them?
An outsourced writer, on the other hand, can focus on your project and your timelines.
They won’t get distracted by support calls, the latest bug in the software that needs to be fixed immediately, or doing an all-nighter to prepare the next release.
As a professional writer, they can focus on your project to meet your deadlines.
Why outsource #5: Outside writers look at your product with fresh eyes
Sometimes your project needs a set of fresh eyes.
An outside writer provides an experienced set. They will ask the kind of questions a prospect would ask and challenge you to go back to the original mission of the company.
They won’t use the shorthand, jargon, or company-speak that insiders often indulge in.
By putting themselves in the shoes of your prospects, an outside writer will deliver more effective answers to the questions that naturally occur to your prospects.
It’s up to you…
In the end, whether you go in-house or outsource your next white paper is up to you. And make no mistake: you are the biggest success factor.
Whether you work with an in-house writer or an outside freelancer, you’ll need to support them with some key items, including:
- A clear purpose for the document
- A good understanding of your audience
- A compelling topic that your audience cares about
- A proper briefing from some knowledgable SMEs
- A solid and sane approval process
- A skilled designer who can create a professional-looking document
- A sensible plan for promoting the white paper after it’s done
A seasoned outside writer can likely help you with many of these items.
They have experience defining the purpose and pinpointing the audience for many white papers.
They can help manage the approvals and work closely with your designer.
They may even be able to suggest the best promotional tactics.
An in-house writer pulled away from their real job? Not so much.
What do you think? Is it better to try to write a white paper in-house or to outsource it to an outside writer? Please leave your comments below.