“I’ve worked with a lot of writers on white papers, and you are the best.”
That’s what one of my clients told me yesterday while we were discussing a new white paper project.
Naturally, I was flattered. I was also happy and relieved (thank god, I’m doing a good job). As a freelancer, I don’t always get job performance feedback. If the client keeps hiring me, then I know they like what I do.
But, I was also curious. What had I done right that the rest of the writers hadn’t done well? So after saying “thank you” and telling her that I enjoy working with her too (which was true), I asked her, “What do you like in particular about working with me? What am I doing right?”
Without hesitating, she said, “You are so collaborative, get what we’re trying to accomplish, and produce quality work.”
This interaction made me think about two issues: What it takes to be a great freelance service agent who clients like, appreciate, and hire over and over, and what it takes to produce great white papers.
Producing great white papers today is not an easy task — especially in our increasingly demanding content marketing marketplace. Anything ordinary isn’t going to cut it. There’s too much other great content out there. To stand out, white papers need several features, including focus, verve, and valuable insight.
To stand out as a freelancer, you need to produce exceptional content across the board — in white papers, case studies, blog posts, emails, and more.
Strong Freelancer-Client Relationships
So what does it take to build strong and productive freelancer-client relationships? Yesterday, my client mentioned three qualities in our relationship. She wasn’t asking for much. Just three qualities — collaboration, “getting it,” and quality work.
Thinking back on my many other long-term client relationships, I’ll bet those clients would value the same three qualities. Who wouldn’t?
I’ve known many freelancers over the years, and even worked with some, such as graphic designers. Among them was a handful who didn’t deliver on those three foundational points. I was embarrassed for them. But mostly I was worried about the “freelance brand.”
Today, the freelance brand is alive and well — however, it means different things to different people. One of the things it often means is “cheap content creation.”
To be a true professional, who resides at the top of the heap — where you’re producing the best-possible content and earning the highest possible income, you need to be collaborative, get it, and produce quality work every time.
Here are some ideas on how to nail these three qualities.
Wow Tip 1 — Be Collaborative
How can we all be more collaborative with our clients? Being collaborative as a freelancer boils down to three capabilities:
- Do your homework. Once you start on a project, research the topic to see who’s writing about it and what they are saying. Read broadly to get the full lay of the land. Then read a few of the best resources deeply to understand the nuances. In the same way that you would extensively research a writing project, learn all you can about a potential client. Study their LinkedIn profile and other online profiles. Read every bit of content the company has produced.
- Communicate well and often. Good communication is an important part of every successful project. Ask any and all questions to make sure you fully understand the scope of the project and the client’s expectations. Do. Not. Assume.
- Graciously accept feedback. Feedback is vital. It doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer. No matter how well the project went there is always some room for improvement. So welcome feedback from your clients. Ideally, you’ll have at least one and, hopefully, two or more stages for feedback, such as at the outline and first draft stages. When you get feedback, drop your ego and strive to really hear their issues — and work to fix them.
Wow Tip 2 — Bring Your “A Game” to “Get It”
The second quality my client liked was that I “got it.” In other words, I quickly understood what they were aiming to accomplish on each project.
To get what your clients are trying to accomplish requires you to bring two capabilities to the table: Understanding your client’s businesses and deeply understanding the type of content they want you to produce. So, if they want a white paper, you need to know at a high level what it takes to produce the best white papers, including structure, voice, style, and content hierarchy.
Thanks to the deep research I conducted into the art and science of writing powerful white papers, I know I can create documents that will help my clients meet their content marketing and business goals. Further, because I have extensive experience in their market niches, I know where to go to gather the most impactful information for their projects.
Without deeply understanding the intricacies of the content format you’re producing and the industry you’re writing for, it will be difficult — if not impossible — to deliver the “A Game” your clients want and deserve.
Wow Tip 3 — Produce Quality Content
Naturally, this is where the rubber hits the road. Every single worthwhile client wants quality content.
Achieving this bottom-line objective requires two capabilities: (1) The right education on how to write in your clients’ niche, and (2) practice (which really does make perfect).
Way back before freelancing was so popular, I became good at my job as a freelance writer at a very young age through intense independent study of my craft. It was a slow and painstaking process.
I did try to find someone to teach me — but I never found one great resource that could tell me everything I wanted and needed to know. So I learned on my own.
Along the way, through extensive practice, I’ve increased the depth of my understanding of what it takes to produce the absolute best content for clients, including white papers, eBooks, emails, case study, and more.
How to Produce Kick Butt White Papers that Your Clients Will Love
My independent training on each content structure was a slow, painstaking process. For example, to produce the highest quality white papers, I first needed to gain insight on several fronts including:
- What is a white paper exactly?
- What’s the ideal structure for a white paper?
- What are the best practices for creating white papers?
- How do white papers fit into broader content marketing strategies?
- What are the different purposes of different types of white papers?
- What kinds of white papers are the most in demand today?
- What separates the good from the bad white papers?
The answers to these and other important issues about producing quality white papers your clients will love are critical to your success as a writer. That’s why I’ve decided to share all of my white paper writing secrets in my new 7 Writer Skill Building Lessons in 7 Days.
Introducing “7 Writer Skill Building Lessons in 7 Days”
I’m really excited about this course, because, honestly, it’s the kind of course I would have loved to have found years ago. Since I never found my dream course, I decided to create it myself — and share it with my fellow writers.
What’s more, I’m including all of my white paper hacks in the course — the tips and tricks I’ve developed over the years to streamline the entire process of writing white papers, which can get very unwieldy. I’ve developed hacks for everything from researching to interviewing to writing.
I’m putting the finishing touches on my new course now and aiming for a late-June launch date. If you’re interested in joining me — stay tuned. I’ll be sharing the course outline and registration date in upcoming posts.
Fun Fact: Did you know that the term white paper is an offshoot of the term white book, which is an official policy publication of a national government? A famous white paper example is the Winston Churchill White Paper of 1922, which addressed political conflict in Palestine. Today’s best marketing white papers are worlds away from boring government policy documents — thank goodness!
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