How to Write Winning Case Studies and Score More Work
So there’s this guy who runs a business. Let’s call him Joe. Joe runs a contest on 99Designs and has shiny PSDs for his soon-to-be-built WordPress site.
But he needs a developer and somehow he lands on your portfolio and he likes what he sees.
He browses through your website and notices a resource called “How I helped ABC turn their PSDs into a WordPress website (that loaded in less than 2 seconds!)”.
And Joe thinks, “Wow!”
That’s exactly the service he needs.
Joe reads up the full story and decides to contact you.
Now: Don’t you really want to be the developer in this story?
You can be. And it’s easy.
All you need to do is develop a few case studies around the services you offer. Clients use case studies to understand how you approach projects and decide if you’re the right fit for their project.
If you haven’t added any case studies to your portfolio yet, start now. Here’s a simple five-step guide to help you write a case study in no time.
Step #1: Choose a Candidate
The first step to developing a case study is picking a candidate. If you offer just one service, select any interesting project and go to step #2.
But if you offer multiple services, before choosing the client it’s a good idea to pick the services you want more clients for.
For example, if you’re looking for more clients for your WordPress maintenance service, choose a client who has outsourced maintenance to you.
So, think if you want to especially push for any of the following services:
- WordPress Development
- Theme/plugin development (or customization)
Alternatively, if you specialize in development and maintenance of a few select niches, choose a client from each of these niches. This will give you a chance to show your expertise in all your target niches.
Once you’ve chosen the services or niches to promote using case studies, list all the projects you’ve done on those and choose the most interesting one.
Step #2: Come Up With Interview Questions
After selecting the project to feature in the case study, your next step is to write the questions that will help you write a case study on it. And you’ll use these questions to interview the client.
Different projects require different inputs to create a great case study. And so the interview questions differ from project to project. However, some questions are relevant irrespective of the project. Here are three such questions:
Q1. What did you need help with?
The answer to this question will help you write the challenge part of the case study (which we’ll get to in step #3).
You might think that you already know the answer to this question. After all, you solved the client’s problem by developing a site, theme, or plugin. Or, perhaps with your other services. True, but it’s still good to to ask this question because client may express their problem in a way you hadn’t thought of. They’ll give excellent answers here, and your potential clients will be able to relate to your previous clients – and you – better.
Q2. How did you learn about me/us?
The answer to this question will help introduce the solution, in your case, you or your agency.
Q3. If you had to recommend me/us to someone with similar needs as yours, what would you say?
The answer to this question will work as a direct testimonial that you can use word-for-word. Plus, you can use it when you conclude the case study.
Other than these questions, here are a few more specific questions based on service types:
Service Type: WordPress Development
Why did you choose WordPress?
If you have a potential client who’s on the fence about using WordPress, responses to this question can help them decide.
Why did you choose to go with custom development and not a premium theme and some plugins?
The answer to this question will help you elaborate on the challenge part of the case study.
Service Type: Performance
How did your site do before I/we optimized it? How do the old and new loading times compare?
The numbers from the answer to this question will help write a better headline for your case study, and will also make a meaty results section.
How has a fast loading site improved your revenue, SEO rankings, or traffic engagement metrics?
The response to this question will show a potential client how investing in your service can get them some great ROI.
Service Type: Maintenance
What are your website’s routine maintenance needs?
The tasks your clients lists in response to this question will ring a bell in the minds of all the potential clients who are considering your maintenance services. They’ll also get that you can help them with those needs.
How has hiring me for this service helped you? Does it save you time? Or, do you stay calm that your site is always optimized and up to date?
This question’s answer will convince the potential clients that outsourcing maintenance can make their lives easier.
Service Type: Migration
Why did you choose WordPress? OR Why did you decide to switch to WordPress?
Again, this question will be helpful to people who’re deciding on switching to WordPress.
What were your biggest fears about the whole migration process?
The concerns a client expresses in response to this question will match the concerns of all your potential clients. Also, they’ll see that you moved a site safely without any of these fears turning true.
How did the migration work? Was it seamless? Was everything intact after making the move, or did you face any issues?
Potential clients will be curious to know if there were any hiccups during the migration. It’s okay to share honestly if there were (because hopefully you would have solved them immediately).
Service Type: Theme/Plugin Development (Or Customization)
Why didn’t you go for a custom theme?
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What was the need for developing a plugin?
With those questions in mind, you’ve goes quite a bit there to begin with. So, pick the ones that make the most sense for your project and add any other relevant questions you can think of, and create the interview questionnaire.
Step #3: Reach Out to the Client
Once your questions are ready, send the following case study request email template to the client.
Subject line: Would like to feature you in a case study?
Hey [first name],
I’m looking to add a new case study to my portfolio and would love to feature your project.
All I ask from you is that you fill out this form (shouldn’t take more than 30 minutes).
And as a gesture of thanks, I’d love to give you *a XX% discount on your next project.
Once I’ve written the case study, I’ll send it for your approval. If you’re happy with it, I’ll go ahead and publish it.
I’d be really grateful for your help.
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Step #4: Write the Case Study
As soon as the client gets back to you with their answers, you’re ready to write the case study!
If you’ve read other case studies, you’ll know that they typically take a three-part structure: the challenge, solution, and result. They aren’t always labelled as the same, though.
This three-section case study format can be easily fine-tuned for web development projects. With a little more detailing, a good web development case study takes the following structure:
- The Brief
- The Process
- The Results
- Client quote
- Call to action
Let’s now see how to fill out these sections.
Case studies generally follow a variation of the ‘How-to’ style headline.
Here’s an example: How [client name] saves X hours/week with my WordPress maintenance services
The about section gives a quick client introduction. (See the about section in example #2 to get a better idea.)
Here, you’ll use content from the project brief. Focus on the project objective or goal. In addition to this, quote the client’s answer to the first question from the questionnaire.
The process section of the case study lays down the steps you did to solve the client’s problem. You can use details like the different project stages from your proposal to add here.
The results section states the final deliverable like the website, plugin, theme, or an on-going service like maintenance.
Quote the client’s answer to the third question from the above questionnaire.
The call to action can be a simple sentence asking the client to contact you.
For instance: If you too are looking for [service type], submit your project brief or email me/us for a free consultation.
Step #5: Get Approval to Publish
Once your case study is ready, show it to the client and ask if they’d like any changes. You’re ready to publish it on your portfolio as soon as the client gives the go-ahead.
Case Study Examples of WordPress Development and Maintenance Services
#1 : TechCrunch’s WordPress site redesign case study via 10up
According to WordPress agency 10up, “During TechCrunch’s 2011 relaunch on WordPress.com VIP, they invited 10up in as development partners to help meet an aggressive build and launch schedule.”
The company’s case study for the project includes a rundown of the technologies used, an explanation of the project, and a great quote from the client:
“We could not have done the redesign without you, and your continued support is critical … I know our team appreciates you.” – Heather Harde, former CEO of TechCrunch
#2: A publisher WordPress site development case study via Moove.
Moove’s case study for its work redesigning and developing the new InvestmentEurope.net website is a beautiful and comprehensive one-pager website in itself.
The case study includes:
- The brief and deadline,
- The results,
- Quotes from the client,
- Photos of the team that carried out the project,
- The 10-step process for the redesign,
- Images for different responsive designs,
- Advanced WordPress development, including paywall integration,
- Migrating data from the old site to the new one,
- Security for the site, and
- Ongoing maintenance work.
Overall, this case study is impressive, comprehensive, and shows that the folks at Moove really know their stuff when it comes to WordPress design and development.
As you can see, all these examples are very different from each other. 10up goes for a compact format; Moove goes for a visually stunning style; whereas the Plugin Development case study focuses on content alone.
When you’re just starting out, it’s okay to start with a simple ‘How-to’ style post. You can keep improving it as you go.
It’s Time to Write Your Case Studies
So there you have it, the steps you need to take to write great case studies, along with sample questions, an easy format, and examples.
But easy though the process is, it won’t work if you just read this post and move on without actually putting pen to paper, so to speak. So right now, why not add a draft to your portfolio and name it “Case Study.” Then spend 10 minutes each day on this draft. And in no time at all you’ll start making yourself more hireable and land more clients and projects.