Question: What do writers charge for white papers? I’ve never written one, but the subject matter is right up my alley and I know I can do it. When contacted by a new client yesterday, she said that I would obviously charge more for writing a white paper than for editing and proofreading. If I charge $75/hour for technical editing, what should I charge for writing a white paper?
In a white paper titled “Writing White Papers for the US IT Market,” James P. Cavanagh gave a “…general industry guideline of $1,500 to $2,000 per page for the white paper content…for 7 to 8 pages.” That was in 2003. I’ve written technical white papers for the localization industry, but never been paid anywhere near that per-page figure. I charge US $80 per hour, but using flat-fee project pricing for white papers I ended up with an actual rate of closer to $60.
I charge my regular hourly rate for writing white papers, and that covers time spent on research as well as writing. I do not charge different hourly rates for different types of work because that could lead to situations where I might give priority to projects that carry higher rates — instead of to their deadlines. It’s much too complicated to charge different rates for different services. No matter what the project, the client is getting the same expertise and capability.
I charge my regular hourly rate for white papers. As my experience and by ability to create value grows, I will charge more, no matter the output. A recent (purchased) survey by Stelzner Consulting (http://www.stelzner.com/copy-HowTo-whitepapers.php) states:
“At the bottom of the price scale, approximately 35 percent of independent writers in the US charge $1,999 or less for a typical 10-page white paper. In the mid-priced range, nearly 41 percent charge between $2,000 and $4,999. At the top of the scale, approximately 25 percent charge $5,000 to $10,000 or more.”
“… More experienced white paper writers command a significant premium for their services. Among U.S. writers with 5 or more years experience writing white papers, 55 percent charge between $3,000 and $6,999 for a 10-page white paper. Among U.S. writers who have written more than 80 white papers, 75 percent charge between $4,000 and $6,999 for a 10-page white paper.”
Another excellent white paper resource is Gordon and Gordon’s “State of the White Paper” (http://www.gordonandgordon.com/white_papers.html).
Out of five responses, three said they charged their regular rate for white papers and two said they bumped up their rate. I told the client I would give them my usual rate of $75/hour for the first white paper, and after that, I would charge them $120/hour. They agreed.