How to Write for B2B Clients

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The question of getting into B2B content writing comes up frequently with our 30 Days or Less to Freelance Writing Success alumni.

So we invited Sarah Greesonbach (our guest in the Freelancer Spotlight last week) to share more about how to break into the B2B niche and how to price your services to make it worth it.

That’s right, we’re talking prices and we’re giving numbers. Take it away, Sarah!

You’ve heard about B2B writing, right?

The kind of content business-to-business companies use to support their sales and marketing process, like white papers, case studies, and thought leadership articles that focus on a business buyer’s needs?

We’re all familiar with B2C (Business to Customer marketing) because we see it all the time – we’re consumers ourselves.

But B2B is all the technology and products that make our world work. It’s the 90% of the money and content that’s out in the world for software programs, manufacturing equipment, etc. 

Well, now that you know what it is, many writers wonder how they can take their current writing experience and break into this industry to serve clients with B2B writing needs.

While B2B writing is a specialized field, it’s not just for ex-business executives sporting trendy Benjamin Franklin glasses.

Specialization is just a process of educating yourself and practicing what you learn.

With a little elbow grease, you can specialize in B2B writing and become an excellent candidate for businesses looking to introduce their products and services to potential customers.

Here’s a look at how to get started in the B2B content writing niche.

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Step 1. “Spec” Your Portfolio

One of the biggest roadblocks to landing B2B clients is the fact that you haven’t written for businesses before. But we’ve got some good news for you. Every writer who is successful in this space today started out with exactly the same amount of experience that you have – zilch!

In fact, the phrase “every master was once a disaster” is quite accurate when it comes to B2B writing. The best B2B writers today weren’t born with a case study in their hand – they just kept working on very bad drafts until they gained the experience they needed to write a great one.

You don’t have to be paid to write in order to write for a business – you just need to educate yourself about writing for a business and set aside some time to develop clips “on spec.”

“On spec” means that you generated these clips as an experiment or example of the work you can do. It’s a common term for graphic designers, but writers can use it, too.

Here’s how it works:

1. Create a portfolio site using WordPress, Contently, SquareSpace, Pinterest, or whatever works for you. The only requirement for this site is a professional photo, a short paragraph about how you can help people, and space for your future clips.

2. Get an idea of the niche or ideal customer you’d like to write for by reading business websites like the Harvard Business Review, Tech Crunch, Smart Brief, Morning Brew, and others. Pay special attention to the topics and industries that lead you down the rabbit hole and absorb you for hours.

3. Stop thinking about B2B writing as a topic of writing, and start thinking about it as a perspective of writing. You’re looking at the world from the perspective of a large business with a complex product that solves a complex solution – so what does that company need to know about your product to help them make a purchase?

4. Use these niches to brainstorm articles or white paper ideas these companies can use to educate customers and sell products.

Here are some possible areas of B2B content writing, though the possibilities are limitless:

  • Healthcare (Marketing, Big Data, New Research)
  • Technology (IT Security, IT Software, Compliance)
  • Data Analytics (Analysis Software, Data Analytics in Healthcare, Retail, etc.)
  • Finance (Compliance, Taxes, Business Management, Virtual CFOs)
  • Marketing (All topics have niche marketing requirements, such as law, medicine, social media, etc.)
  • Business (Leadership, Human Resources, Organization)

For example, I might want to write for a Healthcare Marketing company (a marketing agency that helps Healthcare organizations market themselves online).

Hubspot could work, or Healthcare Success could work to gather background information.

Then I’d think of an article that the company should write to attract clients, such as “How to use SEO to get more patients” or “Why you should use social media to build your hospital’s online community.”

And then comes the hard part – creating a 600-800 word article on a topic of your choosing. And investing time and attention in working through your own content development process, such as the following:

  1. Create an outline of all the information you want to include in the piece
  2. Develop a first draft
  3. Run that draft through writing programs like Grammarly, Hemingway App, etc.
  4. Develop a second draft
  5. Publish on your portfolio site with a title like “SPEC WORK: HubSpot Article,” or something that indicates this is a sample and it is not commissioned by or affiliated with that company

If you still feel you don’t have a good idea of where to start, check out your niche brands and read their blogs.

They are already doing content marketing, so the opportunity is there for you to “study up” on what they like and try out that voice and approach to content on your own.

(This is where your natural talents as a reader and writer can really shine. Because you can learn a whole lot from reading a B2B company’s active blog and emulating the topic and style they use.)

How to write for B2B clientsStep 2: Use Your Work to Start a Conversation

Once you have a clip you’re proud of, you can use it to start a conversation with that company. Seek out B2B companies on LinkedIn, or use other strategies from 30 Days to Freelance Writing Success, and connect with marketing managers and other writers.

Just say hello at first and follow what they put out on LinkedIn.

A week or two after you connect, let them know how you found them and that you’re building your portfolio as a writer in their space. Invite them to read the article if they’re curious – but make it clear you don’t have any expectations of their time.

This is a low-pressure way to make an introduction and let them see that you can think critically and communicate about their industry.

The bigger the company, the more work this strategy may take.

However, many medium and small-sized companies don’t get the attention that large ones do.

They may be pleasantly surprised they were picked out of a crowd by a writer who is passionate about their business.

It seems like a lot of work at first (after all, you’re technically writing for free), but if you do this two or three times, you’ll have some solid B2B clips and a few reasons to email prospective clients or reach out on LinkedIn.

Step 3: Sell Your Talent, Not Your Time

For some reason, it’s a natural default to try to bill hourly for your time. It’s a universal metric that makes it easy to exchange time for money – but that’s actually not a good thing!

While it’s normal to bill anywhere from $50 an hour to $100 or $125, this still limits your income to how many hours you can bill in a week or a month. This is why, even if you start out billing hourly, your ultimate goal in B2B writing is to move to a project or value rate.

Writing for B2B clients is on a whole other level compared to writing regular blog posts when it comes to pricing your work.

Multi-million dollar companies are placing their brand in your hands, and with that comes a higher level of professionalism and, yes, higher rates.

No one can speak to exactly what to charge, because your situation will be so different every time you pitch your work. Your pricing will be based heavily on the industry you’re writing about (healthcare and finance pay more, content marketing a bit less) and your experience level (the client may want to take a chance on you because they’re getting a good deal on a growing writer).

However, businesses that set aside a budget for marketing (a good indication is the fact that they have a Chief Marketing Officer or a Content Marketing Manager) and that believe in high-quality writing will not pay less than $250-425 for a targeted blog post of 500-800 words on the low end.

On the high end, these articles might command as much as $525 to $850 or beyond, especially if it is for a particularly large client or difficult topic to write about.

Other factors that come into play here include whether or not the article is ghostwritten (so it should pay more) and whether or not there are interviews involved (which will require more of your time and expertise in interviewing a subject matter expert).

White papers run even higher, from $1,500 for a short project of 1500 words to $3,000-$6,000 for a more complex paper of about 3,000+ words.

As you can see, this is how you can start to piece together your freelance writing business as a B2B writer. You build your portfolio and your online presence, securing more and more customers until you’re writing 5-7 articles each month (at $500 each) and 1-2 white papers each month (at $3,000 each), commanding a healthy monthly income in the process!

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How Easy/Difficult is B2B Writing to Learn?

Because we’re all already consumers, it’s very easy to learn. You just need to be empathetic and interested in how people buy things!

For example, you can explore the customer buying journey and start to see that people need different kinds of information when making a big decision. It’s just really specific kinds of information (and problems) that are being solved. 

I think this is why moms and teachers especially tend to be good at this. Once you swap out the language and the environment, many of the principles are the same – empathy, education and providing information.

What Foundation Should You Have as a Writer Before Niching Down as a B2B Writer?

Two things:

  1. You know you’re a naturally talented writer – either someone’s told you that or in your gut you know you like to do it and do it pretty well most of the time.
  2. You are curious about how businesses work and how they make money – if you don’t have this, you’ll likely find the work boring and and it will be hard to really help people.

How Do Most B2B Writers Get Started?

We fall into it! Everyone I’ve ever asked got into B2B by accident. An opportunity came their way, and they jumped on it – to write a case study, a thought leadership article or a white paper or brochure. 

They tried it, even though they were afraid they wouldn’t nail it the first time around, and it went well!

What Characteristics Make for a Good B2B Writer?

Well I’ve already said this, but it bears repeating – being curious about businesses. If you aren’t curious about how a piece of technology solves a problem and are excited to talk to people who have used it to great success, the piece you write from that will be boring and not worth reading.

That’s a great way to figure out the right niche for you. I felt that way about construction, as in I could.not.care.less. But talk to me about HR technology and I get my nerd glasses on and I could interview someone all day about it. We all have unique interests like that,  and all of those interests have B2B applications. 

What Kinds of Opportunities Are Out There for B2B Writers and How Hard is it to “Break In?”

This is the most beautiful part. These are big numbers that are hard to imagine, but 

  • $9 trillion B2B-Ecommerce (Forrester) – still only 12% of total B2B economy
  • Compared to $3.46 trillion B2C ecommerce (Digital 360), just 17% of total B2C retail
  • The IRS received about 32 million non-farm business tax returns. About 30% of these returns represent legal entities (shell companies)… with no significant assets or operations. However, this still leaves about 22 million active businesses (DM Databases). 

So that’s just to say – for as many stores and brands and companies you can think of as a consumer, there’s three to four times that many B2B companies. You just don’t know about them yet. 

There is a lot of opportunity here, and a lot of opportunity being invented as we speak, because these are all innovative business. When I think about opportunity in B2B writing, I think of the writer as a surfer. The ocean is big and deep and is literally built on creating new things and advertising and marketing htem. 

Writers just need to grab a surf board (prepare themselves for the opportunities) and then go swimming to see what they can find!

What Are Some Ways to Market Yourself and Build a Business as a B2B Writer?

In my course B2B Writing Career Kickstarterfocus on creating your website (calling card), your mindset (how you talk to people and about marketing) and your clips (getting examples out there, even if they’re not perfect). 

Reading a ton of examples and creating your own – especially with the help of those of us who have “been there done that” – is a powerful way to get yourself successfully launched as a B2B writer. 

You can also spend some time with this article, B2B Writing Thought Leadership & Ghostwriting, to learn more about five trends B2B writers can use to secure clients and deliver value with their content.

Is B2B For Everyone?

Can everyone write for a B2B audience?

No. We all have different preferences, strengths, and gifts we can share with our clients.

But absolutely everyone can work through this process and see if they have what it takes (and if they like how it feels) to be a B2B writer.

Want to learn some more about B2B writing? Check out Sarah’s free B2B Writing Foundations Course! 

Sarah Greesonbach is the founder of the B2B Writing Institute, which prepares the next generation of B2B writers to own their marketing impact. Click through to take the forever free Foundations of B2B Writing course and learn more about writing formats like white papers, case studies, and thought leadership articles.

31 thoughts on “How to Write for B2B Clients”

  1. Hi Sarah! Thanks for this informative post on B2B content writing. As a graduate of Gina’s course, and an avid fan of your site (and your Find Your Sweet Spot ebook), I’ve decided to target B2B/professional services. As a successful B2B writer for three years, what other advice can you give on finding that first well-paying B2B client? Did you mostly cold pitch or use job boards? And, a big congrats on the upcoming course!

    • Hi Michelle, Thank you so much on all accounts! I’m definitely a fan of cold and warm pitching for clients, as I haven’t found any good B2B job boards (though I’m open to recommendations if anyone knows some. This post is really the heart of what I know about getting the clients: refine your pitch, spec up some samples, and have at it. There are hundreds of thousands of registered businesses in the US and they all have websites and marketing teams, so you’ll never run out of opportunities to pitch!

  2. Hi Sarah, thank you for sharing your tips! I especially appreciated your comments about how to connect your work to potential prospects in number two. My background is nursing/healthcare. I wrote white papers while working at a large integrated health system. I really enjoyed it! I would love to do that again. How could I do a sample for that? Thank you for your insight!

    • Thank you, Lisa! With a background in nursing and a love for writing, you are a dream come true for a CMO in that field! I’d take the white papers you wrote for your old job, put them in a word.doc and make them downloadable on your website as samples! Or think of a white paper opportunity you always wanted to do and didn’t get around to doing and whip that up in a week.

      • Thanks! Does CMO mean chief marketing officer? I don’t have access to my old white papers, unfortunately, but I can work one up. I did not sure how to make it available but I will definitely use it as a sample. Thanks and have a great day!

    • Hey Christie, I’d focus on industries that really interest you, and industries that you get into “flow” when you’re writing about them and the time just passes. For me, that’s career and digital marketing. For you, that might be healthcare and finance. Figuring out what really makes you love to write will make your career a lot more painless and give you an edge with your clients, who will really be able to see that passion.

  3. This is a great post. I have been trying to break into the B2B industry, and now I know what I have been doing wrong. Thanks for this insightful post.

  4. Fantastic advice, you should mention that before you get to those rates, you’re going to be doing a lot of much smaller jobs. Building a reputation is key; it’s a crowded market and there’s some very talented people out there.

    • Hi Lewis, There’s a ramp up period in every career, so yes, you should plan to put in your time working “whatever you can negotiate.” But the goal is to get the experience and the skills and then quickly bring your income up to a rate that takes into account the value of what you bring to the table. I wouldn’t focus so much on the other talented people as I would on making yourself one of those talented people!

  5. Hi, Sarah! I learn so much from you about B2B writing; the article above, your FiveFigureWriter site, and your recent B2B webinar with Andrea Emerson! I’m a fan! Thanks for sharing with us newbies!

    Regarding finding a B2B specific job board, do you have any experience with B2Bwritingsucces.com and their postings? I’ve just become a member, so not sure how it compares to other job listings, but it seems pretty accessible.

    I look forward to learning more from you! Thanks!

    • Hey Terra! Thank you so much for your kind words. B2Bwritingsucccess.com is a great site! It’s run by AWAI, which has a lot of professional writers associated with it. I may have a guest post coming out this year there, myself! I don’t have any experience with the job board they run, but I do like their writers like Steve Slaunwhite and Ed Gandia and the blog has tons of good free info. Let us know how the job board goes!

  6. Hi Sarah, I have many years of experience in the insurance industry and an interest in the healthcare and education sectors. What I want to do is write for technology companies who provide solutions to the insurance, healthcare and education industries.

    Do you have any thoughts on the angle I could take to create some B2B samples for me to pitch?

    Thank you.

    • Hey Raquel, Wow it sounds like you have a great background to help those companies put out clear content! I also want to send you to TheMightyMarketer.com with Lori DeMilto

      Hi Sarah, I have many years of experience in the insurance industry and an interest in the healthcare and education sectors. What I want to do is write for technology companies who provide solutions to the insurance, healthcare and education industries.

      Do you have any thoughts on the angle I could take to create some B2B samples for me to pitch?

      • Hi Raquel,

        Sorry about that — I hit enter while I was still drafting!

        Lori De Milto shared her book “Making more money as a freelance medical writer” (Which is a healthcare writer) with me and it was filled with great getting-started tips for that specific niche.

        As for samples and clips, I’d start with something from your personal experience. Based on your insurance and medical insight, what tech solution is really valuable and which are overrated? Could you make a list of the top 7 tech solutions for the insurance industry that really work? Or maybe 3 important things to look for in a EHR provider for a medical company. Things that show that you can think from the perspective of your client will make you stand out.

  7. Hi Sarah. I really enjoyed your informative post. Unfortunately, I don’t have any business experience. I have a PhD in history and was a college teacher for 16 years. I’ve written two books (one a biography and the other a historical true crime, both published by reputable publishers), a few travel pieces for the local paper, and articles, web copy, and press releases for a university. Any ideas about a niche that would be appropriate for me? What can I do to overcome my lack of business background? I’m interested in case studies and ghostwriting.

    • Hey Miriam, thank you so much for your comment. You say you don’t have any business experience, but colleges are businesses! You know how internal politics go (which professors are leaving, which are staying) and what a student looks like if they’ve really learned a lot from your course (by the way, that’s a case study right there!). So that’s just a quick warning not to discount your experience — you’ve lived a lot of life in those 16 years, and learned a lot!

      As for finding your niche, the only way is to write a ton of stuff and see what you like and what you get good feedback on. You honestly have to jump and see what comes out of it — there is no proven, scientific way to arrive at a niche and know “THIS IS MY NICHE.” I’ve just never heard of it, and I’d be skeptical of anyone who said it!

      (AKA I wrote about every topic and price point imaginable for two years before I found my niche in HR tech and data… I could NEVER have identified that niche from the start!)

  8. Hi Sarah,
    This was a great article for someone like me, who is just starting out as a freelance writing. I am a self-taught designer in WordPress, and Joomla. I am also a former elementary teacher and also am a homeschooling mama now. I am interested in turning my knowledge into a part time income and then scale up to full time. Any suggestions you can give would be nice. I just went over and signed up for your Top Incomes report and look forward to stalking ( in a nice, friendly way) your blog. Thanks in advance for any help.
    Warmest Regards,
    Tracey

    • It’s nice to meet you, Tracey! It sounds like you’ve got a nice, varied set of skills, too, between writing and designing online. The first step is just to get your first paid client — you’ll learn so much and get so many ideas from that! Gina’s “get clients” advice is stellar, and you should also check out The Careful Cents Club at http://www.carefulcents.com.

  9. Hi Sarah,

    I’m trying to find my specialty and B2B feels like it could work. I left the Broadband/Cable television industry after 8 years. In that industry, I was a new-hire trainer and a commercial account executive.

    There’s a lot of cable industry knowledge stored up in my brain that would be a shame to waste. I’m just not able to get a clear picture in my mind of how to apply that knowledge to B2B writing. I’m trying to think of who my former industry would need to communicate with so that I can figure out how to write an effective sample. Is that the correct path?

    I appreciate your help and your information was great!

    • Hey there Kim,

      Cable and broadcasting would be an excellent niche! Just think back to being an employee — every official company document you touched (onboarding, brochures, instruction manuals) was created by a professional writer. So you could do any of those things with the right contacts.

      Personally, I’d start by reaching out to the HR department of a cable/television studio with a sample onboarding piece, or a white paper about an HR topic related to broadcasting. Or a guide for new account managers, something like that. A short article like “5 traits that make excellend account managers in broadcasting” would be appealing to both an account manager and someone who hires account managers!

  10. Sarah,
    So glad you’re still responding to an article published back in May! I’m an old-school freelancer getting back into the field after many years home schooling. My children both went into cyber schools, and I served on the board of one as well. I feel like alternative education should be a good niche for me, but not certain how it fits into the B2B model. Any ideas are greatly appreciated.

    Thanks,
    Deborah

    • Hi Deborah,

      The area of technology + education is hot right now! To help you brainstorm, think of what kind of companies offer cyber education (school districts, online colleges, etc). All of those companies need to market their programs to get people to sign up, so you could start there. Also, think of companies that cyber education companies work with (IT support, internet providers, etc). All of those options give you a niche!

      I talk a bit more about this part of the process in the Booster Shot course… Here’s a link to that course so you can check it out: https://gumroad.com/a/495989875

  11. Hi Sarah,

    Thanks for this great article! It’s very informative and I enjoyed reading it. There is so much opportunity in B2B writing. I appreciate you getting into “the numbers” because the truth is, sometimes it can be hard to quote professional rates (especially when your first starting out).

    But like you mentioned, larger companies are used to spending more to get the type of articles that will bring in more business and get them more leads in the long run. This article was so encouraging. Keep up the great work 🙂

  12. Thank you for really breaking it down, I found this post very informative! I’m a freelance writer, and recently have taken the plunge into the B2B writing niche – so this post was extremely helpful.
    I especially like how you broke down the different B2B niches.
    Alee

  13. Hello, Sarah!
    This was super helpful! As a healthcare professional, I am new to freelance writing. I am seeing that many non-healthcare businesses ( IT in particular) are unfamiliar with how the decision-making system works in this industry. As a result, their content usually cannot have the desired impact. Thank you for showing me a new way to help people!
    Amelia
    Twitter, IG, Snapchat @RN_Solutions
    http://www.solutionsbyamelia.com

  14. Hi Sarah,

    I’ve been writing in the blockchain and cryptocurrency niche. I have worked for quite a few clients and have many of my articles published on various websites and blogs.

    How do you think would be the best way to go about starting as a B2B writer in the same niche? Do you think that blockchain would be a suitable industry to start with?

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