How to Write a White Paper When You Have No Time (3 Proven Methods)

how to write a white paper

Sergei Rachmaninov was one of the greatest pianist-composers of his time. 

An incredible piano virtuoso, he fled Russia with his family during the revolution and settled in New York City. Abram Chasins recounts (in his book Speaking of Pianists) how he showed up for a piano lesson with Rachmaninov one day and heard him practicing. Standing outside Rachmaninov’s door, Chasins was shocked to hear him practice Chopin’s etude in thirds at such a slow pace it was barely recognisable.

This ultra-slow practicing of music is a common way to improve playing ability. And it’s an amazing technique for serious pianists who have the time to put in the work. 

But as a marketing director, time is often not on your side 

You have deadlines looming constantly, and often need content created yesterday. So what do you do if you need something like a white paper created ASAP? 

In this article, you’ll learn how to create a white paper fast

The three methods we’ll go over are:

1 -Repurpose from a webinar 

2-Create a white paper foundation first 

3-Transcribe from subject matter expert interviews

Let’s begin with method number #1…

How to write a white paper fast – Idea 1: Repurpose

This is the first thing you can do to create a white paper fast. Instead of writing one from scratch, which can take weeks, you can take a webinar and repurpose the slides and audio into a white paper. 

For the audio, you can use a transcription service to get it converted into text. You’ll then need to have someone run through the text and clean it up.

Next, format the text so it flows naturally from one section to another. These sections will depend on the kind of white paper you need. But a typical white paper used for lead generation at the top of the funnel will have Introduction, Problem, Previous Solutions, New and Better Solution, Conclusion, and Call-to-Action sections. 

How to write a white paper fast – Idea 2: Use a Foundation

The foundation for your white paper is your plan or outline. Planning out a white paper first is always a great idea for several reasons: 

– It gets all project stakeholders on board and in agreement before writing the full piece

– It helps streamline your thinking

– It saves time when you write. Time management experts say that every minute planning saves 10 minutes in execution

– It ensures you get your full paper off the ground with minimum hassle

– It helps your white paper achieve its goal

A useful foundation for your white paper will outline the business goal, the target audience, SEO keywords, potential titles, a list of official reviewers, where the paper fits in the sales cycle, the call-to-action, the timeline, and sources for research. 

So that’s the first two techniques. What’s the third?

How to write a white paper fast – Idea 3: Transcribe

According to a recent article in MarketingProfs, there are several things you can do to extract great content from your subject matter experts (SMEs). 

First, your SMEs are likely involved in calls, interviews, and conversations regularly. So why not take advantage of this? 

Take a recent interview or call that your SME was on

And use a transcription service to convert the audio into text. Have someone run through the text and see if there’s anything you can use for a white paper.

Obviously, you’ll want to use a call or interview that was specifically related to the subject matter of the white paper you want to write. Or you can jump on a future call the SME has scheduled. Beforehand, make sure you confirm with everyone that it’s OK to have the call recorded and transcribed. 

Finally, you could interview the SME yourself and make sure they’re aware that the content will be transcribed and used for a white paper. 

Now… two common objections tend to pop up at this point.

The first is, “won’t outlining a plan for my white paper take even more time?”

Yes, this is true. Planning your white paper first will take a little more time. But it will actually save you time in the long run.

When you have a plan, you can get all project stakeholders in agreement before writing the full piece. So there won’t be any surprises for anyone when the draft is finished, saving you time-consuming and costly revisions. And as mentioned above, every minute planning saves ten minutes in execution. 

Which brings us onto the second objection…

You might be thinking that using these “quick fix” ideas to create a white paper fast will result in lower quality.

But this doesn’t have to happen.

Here, we’re talking about using shortcuts to gather the material for the paper. But the material itself should still be high quality. You usually won’t have to worry about this if you’re gathering data from SMEs or transcribing a webinar.

Time is our most valuable resource these days

And as a corporate marketer, your time is precious since you’re always up the walls. But you can save a lot of time when creating content like white papers by using one or more of the ideas above. These include:

1 – Repurposing from a webinar

2 – Using a Foundation or plan first

3 – Transcribing from SME interviews

Practicing ultra-slowly might have worked for Sergei Rachmaninov, but you probably don’t have time to slow down your writing. Use one of the above methods instead :). 

Your next step…

Struggling to keep up with your marketing education. There are so many resources out there and not enough time to read them. Who wants to subscribe to another email newsletter, right?

Well, Science Marketer Weekly is designed to save you time, not take up more of it. Each month, you’ll get the best hand-picked marketing resources for scientific technology delivered straight to your inbox. Enter your email address below, and click Subscribe.

Struggling to Find Time For Content Planning? Here Are 5 Ways to Make it Easier…


Creating a content calendar is hard work. In fact, if there’s one problem I hear over and over again from my clients, it’s a lack of time to get their content planned out.

Everybody is swamped and they have 101 things to do and countless fires to put out. So if that’s you, how do you find the time to create a content calendar? 

You probably don’t want to hear this..

But the marketers who manage to plan out their content in advance don’t have more time than you do. And they’re not any less swamped than you are either. 

These marketers have simply found creative ways to get their plan or calendar done – even with everything else they have to do. 

Unless you MAKE time for planning, then nothing is going to happen. 

So I’m going to give you some options you can use to make time to plan your content. And remember, every minute planning saves 10 minutes in execution. So this is time well spent!

5 options for finding time to create a content calendar

A word of caution before we start. You might think these 5 tips are too simple or obvious. 

But that’s the point. It’s often the case that the most effective solutions are also the most obvious. There’s genius in simplicity. You don’t need some complex time management tool or fancy technique to finally find time to get this done. You have to make time. 

With that said, here are 5 different ways that can help you squeeze in the time you need to finally outline that calendar:

1. Schedule a half day once a week for the next 2 weeks. 

Can you take a half-day to create your plan? You should be aiming for 3-4 hours of uninterrupted time where you can focus completely on planning your content. 

One tip here is to use Friday afternoon. Let’s face it, if you work Monday-Friday, then chances are that you’re probably not working very hard on a Friday afternoon anyway (or is that just me?). So you may as well use this time to your benefit and use it for planning the next few months of content. Do this on a Friday afternoon for two weeks and you’ll have a calendar ready to go. 

2. Put the job in your calendar. 

Again, this might sound too simple, but many people don’t bother to schedule their priorities. For me personally, if it’s not in my calendar then I’m not going to do it. Period.

So take 5 minutes and figure out the day and time you’re going to do this. And put it in your calendar. I use Google calendar, but use whatever system works for you. 

One useful piece of advice I was given a while back was to use time-blocking. This is where you divide up your calendar into blocks dedicated to specific things. So for my own business for example, I block off the hours of 05:00 – 08:00 for marketing and writing. And then I block off 13:00 – 16:00 for client work. I’d also have specific blocks for exercise, relaxing, etc. 

It’s a useful tool that can help you control your time. 

3. Dedicate one whole weekend to get it done. 

Yeah this one isn’t ideal – who wants to work on the weekends, right? 

But here’s the thing: sometimes we’re putting out so many fires during the week, Saturdays and Sundays are the only times we have to get the important stuff done. 

Someone told me this recently… they’re so swamped during the week, they have to wait until the weekend to tackle their priorities. And planning out your marketing content should be a top priority. 

4. Do it early in the morning

This is my personal favourite. If something is a #1 priority for me, I get up a couple hours earlier in the morning – before I start work – and I get that #1 thing done before anything else. 

I did this when I was working as a scientist full time and wanted to start this copywriting business on the side. I’d get up at 5AM (sometimes 4AM) and put 2-3 hours into my business before working my 9-5 science job. And I still do this today, where I focus on writing and marketing first thing in the morning, before moving onto client work. 

So… if you’re struggling to find time to plan your content, maybe consider getting into the office an hour or two earlier in the mornings and doing it then. 

5. Delegate it. 

Sometimes the easiest thing to do is just offload the entire thing. Give it to someone else. Once it’s off your plate, you can focus on other priorities. 

And if you can’t delegate completely, can you get some help? Are there other people on your team you can bring in? Turn it into a game where the first person to get their calendar done gets a reward.

A content calendar helps you in several ways.

It can help you feel motivated, confident, and clear about moving forward. And it’s much easier to create content once you have it planned. It’s also easier to get buy-in from key people when you have a plan.

If you’re wondering which one of the above tips to start with, I’ve found the time-blocking strategy to be universally effective. This might mean putting everything else on hold for 3 hours so you can get your calendar finished.  

Your next step:

For more information on my services, take a look here. I offer a full content planning and calendar service for science & technology marketers. You’ll get 3 months of content planned out in less than 3 hours. For more information, email me at colm@sciencecopywriting.com  

You can also subscribe to Science Marketer Weekly – a curated email newsletter with hand-picked events, technology updates, industry trends, and educational resources for science & technology marketers. Subscribe here or enter your email in the box below and click Join Us.