White Papers: Freelancer or Agency? Don’t Roll the Dice

White Papers: Freelancer or Agency? Don’t Roll the Dice

Part 4 of a 4 part series on white papers – for more information on the subject please visit part 1, part 2, and part 3.

You’ve got too much riding on your white papers to take big risks. Even if you generally like the idea of taking business risks, this might not be the right place to gamble the farm. This post discusses how you can reduce risk, get to market quickly, and position yourself and your company as a leader when writing white papers.

“In business, pick your spots to take risks. Because there are plenty of opportunities for failure.”– Steve Hoffman

Say you have a launch for an important business-to-business (B2B) product, solution, or service coming up, and you’ve invested a great deal of time and money in it. You want to get it to market quickly. Business decision makers need to learn about your offering, understand it, and make a decision whether to buy your product or engage your services. A lot is at stake in how you communicate the motivation for this offering, what you’re providing, and the benefits of it. Ask yourself: do you want to take the risk of saving a little money and trying to produce it in house, or hiring a white paper freelancer or unproven agency, and run the risk of this document being substandard or late?

A high quality white paper can position you as a thought leader, make the reader want to learn more, and establish trust that leads to a sale. A mediocre or subpar white paper at best is ignored, and at worst can erode your credibility and your offering’s appeal. A timely white paper can get your offering to the market quickly and allow you to outpace your competitors; a late white paper can put you behind the curve.

In the 30 years we’ve been producing high quality, timely white papers, we’ve learned a few things about what works for clients, including the pros and cons of the following options:

  • Write the paper in house
  • Hire a white paper freelancer to write it
  • Send the project to a reasonably priced, highly experienced agency

Developing the document in house

Your team is probably already overtaxed trying to complete the product/service/solution development, handling marketing coordination issues, coordinating your sales forces and your channel, and everything else of strategic and tactical importance that you do day to day. And maybe you’re a little behind schedule. Does your team have the bandwidth to also develop crucial documents to communicate your offering? Here you run the risk of ending up with a late or ineffectual white paper, because your resources are already stretched thin and up against deadlines.

And it may seem counterintuitive, but another pitfall of producing white papers in house is that your subject matter experts or in-house writers may be too close to the offering to effectively write about it. There are two reasons for this. First, someone who is immersed in the topic on a daily basis or has written about it extensively does not have the same perspective as the target audience, who is familiar with the topic but not living and breathing it every day. For this reason, a good outside writer may write a document that better resonates with the audience. Second, a writer who has written extensively about the topic at hand may actually be a disadvantage. A good writer that is not fully versed in a topic can bring a fresh perspective, ask “obvious” questions that others may not have considered, and hence, can produce a higher quality paper. We have found that a skilled writer who knows what questions to ask, learns quickly, conducts effective interviews on the phone, and can synthesize information into a compelling narrative is more likely to produce a high quality white paper than a writer who focuses on writing primarily in this subject area.

Hiring a white paper freelancer

The solution of hiring a white paper freelancer is attractive because they minimize overhead and so, can be less expensive than agencies. But a freelancer is just one person. And all sorts of things can happen to one person that may prevent them from completing your paper on time or at the level of quality you need. Freelancers get sick, decide to disappear and take a full-time job, retire unexpectedly, go on vacation, take a pregnancy leave, need to serve on jury duty, etc. What if they’re simply not motivated and don’t provide the high quality paper you need? When you hire one person, you never know what you’re going to get. You might save a little money, but you’re buying a lot of risk.

Send the project to a reasonably priced, highly experienced agency

While the experienced agency option may cost a little more, when you find an established firm with long-term relationships with prominent companies, you’re not just buying a white paper, you’re buying peace of mind that your paper will be delivered on time and will make you look good. (After all, don’t we all want to look good for our director or VP?) An established agency can assign a seasoned writer to bring a fresh approach to your project and translate your subject matter expertise into engaging, informative content that resonates with your target audience. Established agencies draw from a stable of writers, ensuring on-time completion. And such agencies are more likely to continue to be there for you in the future, ensuring an ongoing resource upon which you can rely going forward. It all adds up to a less risky proposition.

At Hoffman, we’re specialists at this. Not only have we written hundreds of white papers, we’re still working with our first client. Our clients appreciate us for being a no headache, no drama solution that makes them look good. So why take the risk? Send us your next next white paper project and let us handle the rest.

What do you think of our suggestions in this blog? What has been your experience with white paper freelancers and agencies? Your feedback is welcome!

For the last 30 years, Hoffman Marketing Communications has created white papers, collateral, and more recently video and multimedia, on complex business issues and technologies.