Telling Stories: How Freelance Writers Can Earn Big From Case Studies

Carol Tice

by Carol Kaemmerer

Do you like to tell stories?

Case studies tell the story of how a customer used a product or service, and their great result.

Companies like to use them because they’re an effective marketing tool. That’s also the reason they pay well for case studies.

Case studies require that you interview the person who used the product/service before you write. The length of the story can vary from a couple of paragraphs (for which pay might be $100+) to four or more pages with charts, graphs and other graphics to help tell the story (for which you might receive $2,500+).

If you are interested in breaking into this lucrative niche, here are some steps to help you succeed:

1. Identify prospects — then, reach out. To find companies that want case studies, contact the marketing or communications department.

2. Thoroughly understand what your client wants from this story. How long should the case study be? Do they have other case stories they want you to match in tone? What are the marketing messages the case study is to reinforce? Familiarize yourself with the product, how it’s used and what it’s used for.

3. Prepare, prepare, prepare. You’ll be interviewing one of the company’s most precious resources: one of their customers. Treat them as such. You’ll get one shot to interview this person, generally by phone, so make it count. Write the questions you’d like to ask them and identify the factors that can be used to tell the story of improvement. Identify what graph or picture will help tell the story.

4. Submit your questions – first to your client for sign-off, then to the person to be interviewed. When reviewing the questions with your client, ask what you’ve left out. Incorporate any client changes and send your questions to the person to be interviewed so that they can also be prepared. Suggest that they use notes during the interview.

5. Establish rapport and conduct interview: Tell the interviewee that your job is to help them tell their story and that they will have the opportunity to approve your draft before it’s published. Then start in a relaxed manner with the spelling of their name and any other identifiers you’ll use like company, city and state, etc. Move to the interview questions they have in front of them. End with an open-ended question: “Is there anything else we haven’t discussed that is essential to the telling of your story?”

6. Write and get approval. Using the information from steps 1 and 4, write your case study and prepare the accompanying visual. When it seems ready for your client’s eyes, submit it, noting that after they are pleased with it, the interviewee still needs to sign off. Make any revisions required; then communicate with your interviewee. Follow up as necessary to assure that the company receives permission to publish.

Carol J. Kaemmerer tells stories about corporations’ life-enhancing therapies and products through powerful case studies and white papers. Learn more at Kaemmerer Group.

Got questions about writing case studies? Ask in the comments below.

Image: Stock.xchng – robtostes

11 Comments

  1. Jean Gogolin

    I agree case studies are a great market. I’ve written a bazillion of them and even managed the case study program in one of the companies I worked for.

    I found, though, that it usually works better for someone in the company’s marketing or communications department — probably whoever hired you — to handle approvals with the customer. It’s also helpful if the same person emails the customer before you do to give them a heads up about who you are, asking them if they would make time for an interview. That helps them overcome any misgivings about who you might be.

    And be sure to sign an NDA before you begin, so when the customer or account exec asks if you’ve done so you can assure them you have.

    • Carol Tice

      I actually got into trouble once with that exact issue, Jean! But it was the company’s fault really, they had given me no procedures to follow, then after the fact said, “Now turn in your NDA forms.” And I was like, “WHAT forms?”

      • Jackie

        Could you explain this further? Who requires NDA forms? Thanks!

        • Carol Tice

          Jackie, many businesses want to make sure you don’t reveal company secrets to competitors…so they have a contract you sign that you won’t disclose any information you learn in writing for them.

          Others will want you to not disclose you wrote for them at all.

          • Jackie

            I’m sorry for asking so many questions about what seems to be a simple issue, but I just want to be sure I understand. Just to be clear, you are referring to businesses who hire you to write the case study, correct? Not the client/business you’d be interviewing?

            On that note, as a freelance writer, is it your job to make sure the client signs a contract allowing the company to use the case study or is that up to the company you are working for?

          • Carol Tice

            Yes and yes, Jackie. 😉

  2. Kim Humes

    What a great idea! I didn’t even realize this was a freelance writing market. Any ideas as to how to track down companies who might be looking to have case studies written? I wouldn’t even know where to start…

    • Carol Tice

      Look for companies that already have a few case studies posted online, or in their company magazine or annual report. Then you know they do them.

      Of course, you can also look for companies where they DON’T have any yet, and propose them…one of my favorite ‘missing pieces’ to point out in pitching web content projects.

      Stories sell…people love to read stories, and they’re a great soft-sell way to show why a company is great. Since hard-sell is very out of style these days, case studies are a great avenue for reaching customers who might be turned off by a traditional hard pitch.

  3. TrafficColeman

    If you have a story behind your message then you know someone will listen.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  4. Adam

    How to actually land a case study job? Is it possible without leaving your home space?

    • Carol Tice

      It can be — I’ve certainly connected with clients on Skype.

      We now have a Freelance Writers Den bootcamp that has a 1-hour training on how to find and market to good case-study prospects — you can sign up to join us here: http://freelancewritersden.com.

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