When building out your website or blog, one of the most important—and frustrating—tasks at hand is creating your bio page. We can write for days about our topic of expertise, but when it comes to writing about ourselves, it’s tempting to cower under the desk and hope the need will pass.
Your bio page, however, is arguably the most important page of your site. It’s where you define and contextualize yourself to an audience of strangers in a concise and accessible format—it’s your landing page, and it’s where a big chunk of your traffic will end up. Understandably, the fear of not getting it right can be paralyzing. But rather than being daunted by the blank page with no idea how to proceed, here are some questions and tips to help structure the creation of your bio page.
Before You Even Start Writing
- The most important thing to do is to think about your audience. Your bio is not an exercise in self-esteem building for you; it is a tool for your audience to determine if your expertise and interests align with their needs. You want to signal to your reader early on if your bio is relevant to them.
- Think about the impression you want people to have upon reading your bio and the action you want them to take. How can you craft a page that will shape these goals?
Writing About Yourself
- The biggest goal your bio can accomplish is to communicate what makes you distinctive. Of all the people out there in your field, why should someone keep reading your bio? Do you have a prestigious award or ranking to your credit? Are you an innovator in a particular respect? Do you have an impressive product (e.g. a book) to your credit? Consider leading with what makes you special.
- To that end, remain credible. The best way to do this is to make sure you remain specific. If you make a claim, back it up with the facts (via hyperlink, if necessary). For example, if you say your company is “award-winning,” clarify which award or hyperlink the term “award-winning” to the award announcement.
- A bio is not a CV or a resume. While you may certainly summarize your professional history, you also want to give a sense of your professional philosophy, your areas of interest and expertise and your personality. Be human.
- One of the best ways to be human is to tell a story. In this case, it’s your story. Consider all the things that make a story compelling. Engage your audience in the tale of how you became who you are, or how you do what you do. Even if it doesn’t end up published in that format, approaching your bio as a story may be a helpful exercise.
- Remember, having someone read your bio page may be the beginning a relationship. This is where story and personality are critical, as those are some of the building blocks of relationships.
- Incorporate some of your non-work life into your bio. If you are a triathlete, a Humane Society volunteer or a member of an improve comedy troupe, share it at the end of your bio. It adds another dimension to your personality and gives your audience a fuller sense of who you are.
Tone and Style
- Third person vs. first person is a big debate when it comes to bios, but I don’t fall on one side of this argument. I think it will be different for each person, depending on goals, audience, tone and comfort level.
- Be honest about your accomplishments without coming off as self-congratulatory. One of the easiest ways to do this is by watching your adjectives and adverbs. Your work and accomplishments should speak for themselves. You don’t want to call yourself the best, the most XYZed or the ABCiest in your field. A bio that reads as a giant pat on your own back will be a huge turnoff.
- It may be tempting to try to be clever and humorous, but your first consideration should be your audience. Is this the tone you want to present? Depending on your line of work and the personality you want to convey, it may be very fitting. But unless you are skilled at that type of writing, it can be very difficult to pull off.
- Make sure you keep your bio fresh. Schedule a quarterly, if not monthly, review into your personal calendar. As a failsafe, avoid phrases like “last month”; say “June 2010” instead. The reader may be encouraged by a bio that feels alive and current, but if it smells stale, they may bail on your site.
- Use your words meaningfully. Don’t use words that mean little and say nothing concrete (e.g. “goal-driven”). Avoid jargon that may confuse or alienate people who are unfamiliar with its meaning.
- Including a quote you feel is relevant to the way you think about your line of work can be a nice personal touch, but steer clear of an overused or generically inspirational quote. Depending on your audience, a song lyric may come off as trite. Avoid quoting a controversial figure who may polarize your audience or give an impression about you that may be inaccurate.
- Seek honest feedback from a trusted friend or associate before publishing. It’s also a good idea to get a thorough copy edit for your bio (and any other page on your site) from a skilled editor. Even the most skilled writer and communicator needs a good editor.
- Including an up-to-date photo with your bio page can draw people into the page and help them make a connection with you. Avoid using a random snapshot from your vacation or a camera phone shot and get a headshot or environmental portrait professionally taken. (The type of photo you want may depend on the nature of your work or the tone of your site.) The investment will pay dividends if other needs for a photo (e.g. a conference program) arise down the line.
- Third-party reviews and recommendations can be powerful to feature on your bio page, be they from LinkedIn, Yelp or personally solicited from clients, customers or colleagues. Just be certain you are curating the positive comments and not drawing from a raw feed that may contain negative feedback—unless, of course, you want to provide a very open and accessible portal into what others think of you, but do so wisely. Relatedly, have you been quoted or referenced in an article or blog post? Either include those mentions here or link to them prominently.
- Give people pathways to connect with you. Even if you have a contact page linked in your site navigation, link to it again here. Hyperlink any website or organization you mention; if you have a personalized page on that site (e.g. an author byline page), link to that. Include icons that link to your social media accounts (e.g. Twitter, LinkedIn) if applicable, but think twice before embedding your social media feeds on your bio page, as to avoid potential clutter.
- Just as with any web content, make the text scannable with headers, bullets and paragraph breaks. Consider boldfacing key terms, but do so in moderation.
- After you write your bio, consider aligning it with other bios you have on LinkedIn, other websites (such as Flavors.me), even Twitter. Of course, you may need to vary your bio depending on the context.
- While it’s always important to keep search engine optimization (SEO) in mind while creating pages on your site, don’t err on the side of having your bio read like keyword bait as opposed to a personal summary.
Need more guidance? This questionnaire from Copylicious may provide some helpful direction, as might this analysis from the Content Marketing Institute on what makes a remarkable ‘about’ page.
What else have you found helpful when crafting a bio page?
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Thanks for this great post! I’m in the process of updating my bio so this will be very useful. Would you mind elaborating on what you said about the use of 3rd vs 1st person?
“Third person vs. first person is a big debate when it comes to bios, but I don’t fall on one side of this argument. I think it will be different for each person, depending on goals, audience, tone and comfort level.”
Which tense do you think suits which audience? I think that 1st person sets a lighter, more casual tone, and I wonder why that would not always be preferable to the more removed, colder tone of 3rd person.
Yeah I agree Sam. I think first person is always better.
I mean how weird does it look when on the Bio page of Sam, it says ‘Sam is a freelancer who has done work with clients such as x,y,z”
I think first person is much better: “Hi. I am a freelancer and I have done work with clients…”
That’s true Nabeel; it’s much easier to believe that the person wrote it themselves when they use I. The “He/She” biography could be written by anyone, such as a PR agency, so it’s perhaps less genuine. It’s also more difficult to put yourself directly behind something. Saying “I did this” takes more courage than saying “He did this”.
Sam and Nabeel, I think you make great points. I’ve seen people be uncomfortable about writing in the first person (just as I’ve seen people be uncomfortable writing in the third person), and I wanted to be sensitive to that (plus the possibility that, depending on your organization or whatnot, a more business-like tone might be more suitable). But I agree that first person is a lot more accessible — and to the point about building relationships and being human, probably more desirable. Thanks for the discussion 🙂
Georgiana, That’s true it can be difficult to write in either tense, so that’s a fair reason to stay in the middle. Thanks for the article 🙂
Good advice, though at the moment I still see my bio as a “work in progress”. Its either too long or too short, but now I’ve added a few “quick answers” at the top so that someone will have a basic idea of who I am, and then a bit of background info at the bottom so people will know why my blog is the way it is…
What a fantastic article (and timing)! Thanks so much for this information.
So far as writing in first person, I prefer to stay away from it when writing about myself especially, but had someone suggest the other day that I do so more frequently, at least in my bio and descriptions of products, so as to help people feel more connected. It’s a different world than the one I learned to write in!
Great post, really useful tips and will definitely come in hand at the moment.
The pitfall to guard against is that business, particularly journalism, is supposed to be impartial, objective. I don’t know what journalism schools teach in this Web 2.0 world with iPhone and iPad apps, but The Golden Rule before all that was this: the writer does not enter the story. Readers and listeners should never sense the reporter’s preferences (feature stories and Op-Eds are a different matter altogether). Great “Bio Pages” defy that impartiality BIGtime.
My take on this state of flux is that online businesses now cater to niche markets, appealing to customers already interested in what a given vendor sells and believes. Those customers or clients are assumed to be prone to coaxing colleagues, friends, relatives and neighbors to buy those thought processes and resulting products or services, too. The entire news industry has thus come to resemble a chorus of “I believes” augmented with loaded questions or comments and other insults to interviewees. Listeners and readers are either suffering from sleight-of mind tricks or willing to go along with the undeclared propoganda game. The business world at large is figuring out how to work with the anti-imparitality shift in preferences.
It’s a whole new way of marketing. Then again, it’s the way peddlers started out: hawking homemade wares by bragging about alleged benefits and the creativity of the inventor/vendor. News reporting started that way too: gobernment-created and opposition-sponsored tabloids, pamphlets, sheets. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newspaper
What a world.
Excellent article and timely as well. Currently I am agonizing over my about page.
I also like Winston’s idea of have concise, pertinent info at the top of the page.
Thank you for this post. I have yet to create a bio page for my blogs as I was letting my content and writing speak for itself. But perhaps the people want a little more, maybe they want to know what they writer thinks of ‘herself’ in addition to just what the writer thinks on a continual basis.
Good work. I like this tips.
Bios are even harder, and often more boring, than resumes. How embarrassing, as a writer, to have such difficulty putting one together.
My various versions all need work.
What I found most helpful was to assemble a small group of individuals who know me (not necessarily friends) and help each other by recommending key points. Others seem to have a much better (and flattering) insight to what makes me special.
I’ve also found that it’s important to have a blending of lengthy text and straight-forward context. On my business About page I have a few paragraphs of text concerning my background and experience contrasted with a picture of me and bullet points giving them the crucial information: contacting info, testimonials, etc.
Good article! I would love to see an example though, like John Doe’s bio.
This is where I always get stuck when filling out a profile. Thanks for the tips, they should help make the whole process quicker.
Thank you for this post! I really am truly grateful. I wasn’t even looking to write a bio box, but after reading this, I’ll have it done and on all my posts by the end of the week. Writing ‘about me’ is very painful enough, but I’ve bookmarked your site so I can come back for the advice. I find it so cringing to write about myself like this, you said to write in the third or first person to consider goals, audience, tone and comfort level, which for my website means I’ll have to write it first person. It’ll be easier to do with your guidelines 🙂
This is a great post Georgiana!
I really appreciate how you put this together….
Easy read and inspirational at the same time! 🙂
Good article. I came across it while I was writing an article for somebody else about ‘how to fill out an effective biography’. Interestingly enough, there wasn’t a whole lot of other sites with specific information about such a common task.
I know one tool that ties in with your suggestion about putting links to your other sites in your biography.
It’s a site called http://about.me (not an affiliate link!). It’s totally free, looks very nice and is very flexible in listing an aggregation of all your other social sites, blogs, or whatever else you might want to put on there.
They even give you some business cards (you pay postage) with the site. I didn’t get the cards because I live in Manila right now.
That’s Good 🙂