If you enjoy helping people tell their stories, case studies might be a good fit for your writing business.
Companies seek professional writers (and pay well) for these effective marketing tools known as case studies.
Basically, case studies tell the story of how a customer decided on, purchased, and is using a particular product (or service) to improve their business.
Case studies can be as short as a few paragraphs (but the shortest I’ve done is 1,200 words), to four or more pages.
Tasks involved in writing case studies include:
- Choosing a niche (medical, manufacturing, and so on), doing some research, and finding a company to work with. LinkedIn is a great tool for finding companies and contacts within those companies. Start with a keyword and then fine-tune the results until you have some companies you are interested in working with and reach out with a letter of introduction.
- Getting the details of the assignment. Once you land the job, know the length of the case study, ask for details on the product so you can become familiar with it, and ask for samples of past case studies so you can understand the tone the company strives for.
- Taking time to prepare. Whether the company gives you some questions to ask, or you have to create them yourself, be ready. You don’t want the customer to feel interrogated, you want to be professional, yet conversational and intelligent. This is usually a one-shot interview by phone, so it’s important to know what you need before the call begins. (Tip: Sometimes questions are submitted to the customer before the interview, but that doesn’t mean the customer will prepare ahead of time. And many times, great sound bites come from a simple “tell me more” during the conversation.)
- Conducting the interview. The most critical part of creating a case study is interviewing the key people involved in making the purchase decision as well as those who are actively using the product (or service). Even though time is precious during this interview, relax and build rapport. Let the interviewee(s) know you’re there to help them tell their story. Start off with confirming the spelling of their name(s), title(s), and roles(s) in the project. Move into the interview questions and end with an open-ended query, such as: “Is there anything we haven’t touched on that you feel is important to your story?” (Tip: Record the call so you can review answers later on — it’s a great time saver for all parties involved.)
- Writing. I find it best to write the case study immediately after the interview while the conversation and notes are fresh. Then revisiting the paper the next day for flow, first edits, and identifying holes; listening to the recording and filling in more information; and polishing until the case study is in the best shape possible.
- Submitting. The company will submit the case study to the customer for approval (but sometimes the writer is asked to work with the customer for fine tuning) and may come back to you for final edits, if any.
Case studies do include technical jargon, but it’s your job as the writer to make the story flow, no matter what the subject is.
What do you think? Do case studies sound interesting to you?
Lisa J. Jackson is an independent writer and editor who enjoys working with businesses of all sizes. She’s wearing green today, not because she’s Irish or particularly celebrating St. Patrick’s Day, but because she needs color while the ‘long white winter’ continues in New Hampshire. You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn.