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How to get hired to write a white paper

Are you looking for work as a white paper writer?

Think about this from your client’s point of view. 

Why should they hire you? Your answer can help you create your ideal customer avatar or persona… and land more business.

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In fact, most white paper clients have to consider three basic trade-offs:

  • Time or money
  • Writing experience or domain knowledge
  • Full-service or text-only

Knowing where you stand on each of these points can mean the difference between landing a project and getting passed over.

Tradeoff #1: Time or money

Here’s how I size up people’s white paper experience:

  • Juniors have written 2 or 3 white papers, but still aren’t very sure of themselves
  • Intermediates have done up to 10, and are starting to get the hang of it
  • Seniors have done more than 10, and are pretty confident that they understand the form

Clearly, the more experience you have writing white papers, the faster you can work… and the more you can charge.

So ask yourself: Would your ideal client prefer to save money with a less-experienced writer who works slower, and eats up more of their time with questions?

Or can they afford a seasoned pro who works efficiently, hits the bull’s-eye on the first draft, and never asks any dumb questions?

Tradeoff #2: Writing experience or domain knowledge

Here’s the second trade-off. You may be an experienced white paper writer who knows very little about a certain prospect’s field.

Would your ideal client prefer a senior white paper writer or someone who knows their industry inside out?Or would they want both, and be willing to pay extra for that 1-2 punch?

How do you present yourself to clients: as a white paper expert, or as an industry expert? Or for certain industries, as both?

Tradeoff #3: Full-service or text-only

If your client is doing their first-ever white paper, they may want a writer to manage the process.

They may want you to create a plan, take the lead during interviews, and serve as the de facto project manager who tells them them what to do next.

They may want a supplier who can deliver a turnkey package with text, graphics, page design, and SEO, all wrapped up in a PDF ready to publish.

Or they may want a writer who can generate related content: press release, blog posts, slide deck, landing page, tweets, and so on.

On the other hand, if your client has published several white papers already, they may prefer to manage the project themselves.

In that case, they may just need a writer to do the research and put together the text. They may be happy to get an unadorned Word file they can send to their designer while their marketing team rolls out the promotions.

Can you provide a full service, or just text?

Don’t be too quick to answer. Any writer with a good eye can help make a white paper more effective by suggesting crisp graphics and a clear page design.

Hint: I recently landed a huge project, when I agreed to handle graphics and page design for a complex white paper on a tight deadline, for a client with little experience with these documents.

Another writer they were talking to said they didn’t do any of that. So I won the project, had a gas doing it, and sent the client a whopping big bill.

Decide where you stand

Before you start looking for white paper clients, figure out where you stand on each of these trade-offs.

Then when you’re talking to a prospective client, you can describe your experience, services, and fees crisply and honestly.

For example, I tell prospects that my fees are near the top of the scale, which I can justify with my unbeatable experience on 320 of these projects.

What do they get when they hire me? I explain that I have extensive domain knowledge in technology and a good general feel for business and entrepreneurship.

(If they need domain knowledge in another area, I often recommend another writer who specializes in their industry.)

If they just want top-quality text, I can provide that. And I can also provide flexible services, all the way from planning through project management to brainstorming promotions.

Try to be that clear about what you can do. That will definitely help you land the perfect white paper clients!


How do you land work as a white paper writer? Please share any other tips you have in the comments below.


This article is based on a section from White Papers for Dummies by Gordon Graham.

With dozens of tips and best practices for planning, producing, and promoting effective white papers, White Papers for Dummies is the most comprehensive guide to white papers ever published.

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About Gordon Graham

Worked on 320+ white papers for clients from Silicon Valley to Switzerland, on everything from choosing enterprise software to designing virtual worlds for kids, for clients from tiny startups to 3M, Google, and Verizon. Wrote White Papers for Dummies which earned 60+ 5-star ratings on Amazon. Won 16 awards from the Society for Technical Communication. Named AWAI 2019 Copywriter of the Year.

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