How to write a winning bio – without the struggle

You’ve been there. Staring at a blank computer screen. Writing a few words… Deleting… Writing again… Deleting… Getting up to get a glass of water/pet the cat/clean the bathroom/arrange your sock drawer. Anything to not have to go through the excruciating act of Writing Your Bio.
Why is it so hard? And how can we make it easier and more productive. Even, dare I say it, more fun?

Why most of us struggle:

  • You feel uncomfortable singing your own praises and tend to undervalue your own experience…
  • It’s hard to know what to leave out when you’re standing inside the magnitude of your own life.
  • You aren’t clear on your audience! (This is a big one… when you haven’t clarified who will be reading it, it’s harder to know what to say, and how to say it).
  • It can be hard to know the “right” balance between sounding professional, and letting your unique YOU-ness shine through. It can feel risky to veer from the conventional – and boring – path of creating a bio that is really just a summarized resume.
So…I figured it was time to create some more ease around this process.

What is a bio?

It’s the short story of YOU, your qualifications, and experience – a more interesting and conversational version of your resume.  But, it’s also more than that.
The About Me page is the most visited page on your website. People want to know you’re qualified to help them, but more importantly, they want to get a sense of who you are as a person.  The main goals of a bio are to give the reader an accurate sense of who you are and what you do, to establish expertise and credibility, and to qualify your experience and background. All of these elements combine to develop trust in you and your brand.

When do you need a Bio?

People in the field are calling bios “the new resume” (see Michael Margolis, for example).  The average hiring manager takes 6 seconds to read a resume. Likewise, a visitor to your website needs to have their attention grabbed instantly – before clicking off on the next distraction.  Two good reasons for a snappy bio that summarizes the relevant info and gives a sense of who you are as a person.
In this article, we’ll focus on writing a bio for your website or online profile. However I recommend you have a couple/few different versions of your bio for different purposes – eg a shorter mini-bio of a paragraph or so to use for speaking engagements, bi-lines for articles you write, etc; and a longer version for website/promotional materials/proposals. Of course you can always tweak your basic bio to suit your particular purpose as you go.

10 Tips for Writing a Kickass Bio:

1.  Know who your audience is!
I can’t stress this enough. It’s much easier to write if you know who you’re wanting to engage (and you DO want your bio to engage your reader!). It sometimes helps to think of a particular person or client and imagine writing it to them. This will also help determine if you write in third or first person.
It’s customary to write bios in the third person – as if someone is speaking about you. This is thought to promote more credibility and professionalism. However sometimes you may want to engage your reader more personally and you may decide that “I” works better. I’ve read some super engaging bios/About Me pages that are in first person – especially in the personal coaching/creativity field.  (For example, see my dear friend and colleague, Andrea Scher’s, “Meet Andrea” page.)
2.  Grab your reader’s attention from the start.
Start with what you’re passionate about – your mission – rather than your credentials. This will have your readers connect straight off the bat – and pay more attention. You can then weave your credentials (education, experience, accomplishments) throughout the rest of your bio.
3.  Tell your story – what was the turning point that got you here?
Describe what led to your interest/passion for this work – in a sentence or two.
4.  Include a great photo of you!
Please, please… invest in a professional head shot.  It’s worth it!  Sad but true:  fuzzy, unprofessional photos give people the impression that you’re less professional, no matter what your qualifications.
5.  Include some personal or unique information about yourself  
Ideally this will be something your readers will either relate to, or be intrigued by. For example:
Christina’s passion for creating a world where all women thrive is matched only by her love affair with dark chocolate.
That’s not actually in my current bio – but you get the point.  This would work for my client-base of women entrepreneurs and career-changers. It helps them connect more with me as a person.  If they’re put off by the humor in my bio they’re probably not my ideal client anyway. Of course, you might not want to include too much “quirkiness” in a bio designed to support a research paper proposal.
Moral of the story? Again, know your audience.
6.  Use a tone that reflects who you are – your brand. 
Use language that is clear, professional but relatable… not stilted or too dry.  (And don’t forget to proof-read!  Nothing is as off-putting as seeing typos on someone’s site or marketing materials.)
7.  Be succinct! 
You don’t have to include everything you’ve ever done – leave them wanting more. Split it into short paragraphs to make it easier to digest. You can provide links to supporting information if necessary.
8.  Do it with a friend.  Let them ask you questions, interview style, and write down your answers.
9.  Find bios of other people that stand out to you.
What do you like about them?  How do you feel when you read them? Likewise, find bios that don’t grab you so much…why not?
10.  Tell your story, but make your reader the hero.
Show your reader why you understand their struggle or desires, and that you’re qualified to provide the solution they’re looking for.  (If you haven’t already identified your target audience’s pain points or challenges in your own mind, now’s the time to do it.).
Ok, now that you’re all excited about Bio writing (!), it’s your turn…   😉
I recommend following this basic flow when writing a bio or About Me page:
ONE:  Your aspirations/goals (personal mission statement) – especially as they relate to the work you do!
  • This grabs the reader’s attention, and sets you apart from others with similar qualifications.
TWO:  Your relevant experience and what qualifies you to solve this problem for your potential clients (Establishes trust and credibility).
  • A little about your personal/professional journey and how it led you to this point
  • Current job, business or professional experience
  • Publications or presentations you have completed
THREE:  Education and Credentials
  • Degrees/Diplomas
  • Certifications
  • Professional memberships you currently hold
  • Awards, honors and certifications you have received
FOUR:  Personality, strengths and quirks (your Uniqueness Factor)
  • Include a couple of nuggets that show you’re a person – again, know your intended audience and share accordingly.
  • Add a bit of humor, even! This creates more connection, and makes you more memorable.
Most of all, remember that you want to stand out from the crowd of equally qualified folks. Let your own flag fly and you’ll attract your ideal clients. For more on the art of bio writing, listen to this awesome TED Talk by Michael Margolis.
Feel free to contact me for more focused support with – and feedback on – writing your kickass bio.
Now go write!