White papers are powerful tools for both businesses and freelancers and are generally used to address a specific problem and the proposed solution to it. White papers are put together in an organized, professional manner and writing one usually requires a good amount of time spent researching.
In this article, we’ll talk about what white papers actually are, the skills required to write one, the benefits of white papers for freelancers and a step-by-step overview on what the process of writing white papers looks like.
- What is a white paper?
- Six skills needed to write a white paper
- Field expertise
- Good structured writing style
- Willingness to dig deep into a topic
- Academic background
- Interviewing skills
- Organization and time management
- Benefits of writing white papers for freelancers
- Writing a white paper: The 3 main steps
- Examples of white papers
What is a white paper?
White papers, as business tools, are documents that inform. They present an issue and thereby present a specific solution to it. They can also, however, be used as a marketing tool. Today, many companies use them with an aim to generate leads and increase brand awareness.
White papers analyze a topic in-depth and can take several weeks to write. They are ideal for advertising yourself as a freelancer. But instead of clumsy advertising, you showcase your talents using knowledge, numbers and facts. They are often written in a technical, sometimes even scientific style.
White papers can help provide potential clients with valuable and professionally prepared information that offers your solutions to any problems they may have. Clients who are already in the decision-making process for an investment will find the well-founded information they need in white papers.
White papers can be a good source of revenue for freelancers that have the right kind of knowledge. The same applies with writing an ebook! The main difference between a white paper and an ebook is the audience that each format is trying to target. While ebooks are generally targeted to a more general audience, white papers are targeted to an audience of experts and professionals of a specific industry.
Ebooks are comprehensive guides intended for larger topics whereas white papers, on the other hand, are reports that educate the reader on a certain topic. White papers are written in a detailed way that provides proof of the author’s expertise.
Six skills needed to write a white paper
1. Field expertise
To begin with, writing convincing and thought-out white papers requires expert knowledge about a certain field. Sure, you are going to be researching the topic a lot and thus, learn new things, but having prior knowledge determines where you start with that topic.
If you haven’t worked in IT or are unaware of the market as a whole, writing a white paper on a topic related to the industry is not the best way to go about things. It might be possible, sure, but it will take a considerable amount and probably won’t be worth it financially.
2. Good structured writing style
You must be a good technical writer to be able to write white papers. White papers are all about convincing your readers of your expertise. This can be achieved using two things: A strong argument and a well thought-out structure.
A white paper has to be written clearly, be technically accurate and have factually correct information. It should also be written in a way that entices the audience to continue reading. Having worked as a freelance writer for a decent amount of time is a great starting point for writing white papers.
3. Willingness to dig in into a topic
There are differences between writing blog posts and writing white papers. One of the most obvious ones is the length. While blog posts rarely exceed a couple of pages, white papers are generally anywhere between ten and twenty pages in length.
To write something that long, you will need patience and mental endurance. As a writer, you might find working on a single text for a prolonged time frustrating and exhausting at times, but you need to be willing to dig into a topic as much and for as long as you deem necessary.
4. Academic background
An academic background can provide all of the three skills listed above. Many university subjects involve writing long, structured and in-depth papers. If you have a degree, you will have a natural advantage as a white paper writer since you’re used to the process.
It should be noted that while having an academic background is in no way a prerequisite to writing white papers, it will just make the whole process a tad easier.
5. Interviewing skills
A major part of writing a white paper is interviewing subject matter experts and professionals. For this, you’re going to need strong interviewing skills. Whether it’s a virtual interview or an in-person one, the ability to do a really good interview is critical to writing a good white paper.
6. Organization and time management
Setting up interviews, writing up a draft, researching, editing, all of these things can overwhelm you if you aren’t organized. Strong organizational and time management skills are therefore very important if you want to write a white paper.
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Benefits of writing white papers for freelancers
The main benefit of writing white papers for freelancers is that it has the ability to showcase your expertise to potential clients. You establish yourself as an authority and expert in your field and are able to showcase your skills and potential to solve any problems that clients may have.
White papers also have the ability to increase your visibility as a freelancer and can help you get access to notable people within your own industry. It can also help set you apart from other freelancers and give you an edge over your competition.
Because of their general length, whitepapers usually attract people who are genuinely interested in the topic you are writing about. This means that the people reading your white papers are experts and decision-makers and thus call upon you when and if they need a freelancer.
Writing a white paper: The 3 main steps
1. Do in-depth, objective research
Every single white paper starts with the same first step – research. This is not only the starting point, it is also often the most important one. Comprehensive research must be done in order to write a paper that’s valuable and data-focused. Focus on getting your content from authoritative sources and industry experts.
A white paper should also aim to be objective and unbiased. Remember, you are merely informing your audience about a topic, not sharing your opinions.
2. Provide facts and examples
White papers are not only there to convince someone of your expertise, they are also there as a source of information and thus should be descriptive, concrete and supported by a multitude of facts throughout.
Keep in mind that your audience hasn’t done the amount of research you have – give them examples whenever possible to help them understand what you really mean. With every paragraph that you write, try and look at it from an outside perspective to see if it’s understandable and concise.
3. Present your arguments, but don’t hide their weaknesses
The final step to writing a white paper is presenting people with your arguments about why your solution is the best option for them. These should be clearly derived from the information you have provided in your paper and should be honest.
If you can think of any obvious counter-arguments to what you’re writing, don’t exclude them. Address them and show your audience why your arguments still stand strong. The best way to deal with criticism is tackling it before it arises
Examples of white papers
Check out these examples of white papers to help you get started:
Have you written any white papers? Are you considering it? Share your thoughts on the topic in the comment section down below!