White Papers

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?

Response 1:
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.

Response 2:
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.

Response 3:
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.