How Much Can a Writer Earn for White Papers?
White paper writers work either in-house or as independent freelancers, most often called copywriters. Unfortunately, labor statistics don’t break out this full-time job as a separate profession; it’s even lumped in with screenwriters and poets, who obviously work on quite different projects from white paper writers.
Write white papers as an in-house copywriter
You don’t likely have a steady diet of white papers to write. More likely, you write a mix of blog articles, case studies, press releases, tweets, and an occasional white paper as a big project. You may work either for a B2B vendor or for a creative agency that does the whole range of advertising, PR, and other campaigns.
According to several salary surveys, junior in-house copywriters in the United States typically earn $30,000 to $45,000, while senior copywriters make up to $85,000. Intermediates rank somewhere in the middle, with benefits on top of salary in all cases. As so many other things do, these salaries fall into a bell curve, with most copywriters clumped in the middle and a few exceptionally high- and low-paid people at the edges
Write white papers as an independent copywriter
You can focus entirely on white papers, or you can write them as one of many types of documents and projects that you take on. Most full-time independent copywriters aspire to earn more than $100,000 because they must pay for their own benefits and retirement.
Calculate your white paper income from four factors
Four factors determine your income as a full-time white paper writer, and the good news is that you’re pretty much in control of all four:
How many white papers you can land
How long it takes you to complete each project
How much you work in a year
How much you charge for each white paper
Here are three realistic scenarios for a beginner, an intermediate, and a senior white paper writer. Say you’re a beginner in the field, without a developed network, an established presence, or any strong specialty you can claim. Because you’re just starting to master the white paper format, the typical project takes you 60 hours, spread across four weeks or so.
You’re not booked solid and you spend a lot of time working on your website, your social media platform, and other marketing. And you charge a beginner’s rate of $3,000 each. So all told, you do 12 to 15 white papers a year for $3,000 each to gross around $40,000. That’s one possible scenario at the low end.
At the other extreme, suppose you’re a seasoned freelancer who decided to focus on white papers a few years ago. With a strong network, an established specialty in a sector that uses many white papers, and great marketing, you now bring in as many projects as you can handle.
Say you master the white paper format, so you get to the faster end of the spectrum where you can finish most of them in about 30 hours. So if you avoid distractions, you can comfortably finish one white paper in the equivalent of a week.
You take 6 weeks of vacation, so you work 46 weeks a year, although you still have to allow time to do some marketing, maintain your network, and manage your business. And you charge a realistic $6,000 per project. That means you can handily complete 30 white papers a year, for gross revenue of $180,000. Maybe you can push a bit to do a little more. Not bad at all!
There are two examples of possible freelance scenarios, at income levels of $40,000 and $180,000 a year. A third scenario, for an intermediate writer coming in somewhere between these two extremes, would mean revenues topping $100,000. You can surely earn that kind of money if you master the white paper format, bring in enough projects, complete each one diligently, put in an honest day’s work, and charge a competitive rate.