If you have ever had page fright, you are not alone. If you've never had it, maybe you've never had to write a bio. You have probably stared at your screen in an attempt to write your bio looking like can this cup pass over me more than once. Let's not even talk about posting status updates or Twitter's 160-character count for bio. Arrggh! Anyway, you can keep calm because I'm about to drop some tips so you can write your bio like a pro.
Most likely, you have a bio somewhere on the Internet already. If you blog, it is your About page. If you are on LinkedIn, it is your summary. If you are on Instagram, it is in your profile. If you are on Twitter, it is your Bio. Many people hate talking about themselves, but that’s what you have to do get noticed (or hired or whatever your goal is). More often than not, your bio is the first thing that someone will see before meeting you, so you need to make it count! Keep reading to learn how to write killer bios that make you stand out and sound important.
Write various versions: Some people type out a summary that they use repeatedly on every platform. They literally copy and paste the same thing every where they write their bio. No. Please don’t. It is not in your best interest, for two reasons:
1. Unique content is search engine friendly. Google and other search engines like to give users variety of information. Your profiles will rank better if they are not all saying the same thing.
2. You need bios of varying length and versions to suit the site where it will eventually be published. Also, as far as personal branding is concerned, you should vary tone and voice depending on your audience. You just can’t say the same thing in the same way to different people.
LinkedIn Summary: For your LinkedIn summary, start by deciding how you would like to use LinkedIn. Are you looking to expand your network? Are you aiming to get your foot in the door of your dream company? Are you just trying to attract recruiters? Whatever the case, your summary should read in a way that is fit for purpose. Before you worry about how your personal details will fit together, start with a list of must-haves eg. relevant certification, title, years of experience, etc. Think about your job title and the purpose of your position. List your specialization if any. Write your top 3 achievements. Add all these to your list. Then weave all the material you have into a story.
Short Bios: On Twitter for example, you need to leave story and produce a snazzy 160-character count bio. Add something that reflects why your tweets should matter to your followers; Let us know if you are at expert at something (you can play around with this, eg. expert football analyst) or show achievement eg. Proud 5-year member of ‘something important’ or use your work title eg. Lead Photographer @company’stwitterhandle. When you have very little space, aptly write what you do, and for who eg. I help/empower/support (type of people) to (what you help them do) so that (the benefit they get when they hire you). Tightly reveal some humanity: eg. Liverpool fan, chocolate lover, computer whiz, pantsuit aficionado :), aspiring baseball coach, etc. Remember it has to be tight as there is no space for long sentences.
Put first things first: Ensure that the most important details relevant to the platform go in the first paragraph. Important details include your current job title, industry and location so that people looking for you in a professional capacity can find you associated with those words immediately. eg. Tolu Michaels is a Content Strategist in Nigeria. Note that important details depends on where this bio is being published.
Humanize your story: When you have the space, share something more personal. Talk about your hobby, passion or perspective to life. You can add extras like your personal mission statement or adjectives from nice things that other people have said about you. Be professional, but human enough for the reader can get a holistic sense of who you are. It’s okay to mention that you only fell twice when you took ballet lessons. The goal is to paint a clear picture of who you are, what you value and what makes you special. Special doesn’t mean you must be a rocket scientist. Special means what makes you unique, that’s why everyone is special.
Link to your work: Do you have samples of your work that are relevant to the audience reading about you? Blow your trumpet and sell your market by linking to your work. Remember that the reader came to learn about a person, so include links to your organisation, product, or service in a natural way that illustrates what you are writing about yourself. If you don’t currently have a lot to link to online, don’t worry. Start by publishing information about yourself first. If you don’t have a website, read this post to see other ways to push up your profile in search engine rankings. After that, you can write an article on Medium, submit a post to a site that’s related to your industry or get your pet project’s website live. And once that happens, link to it in your bios. Check often that all your links are not only relevant, but that they actually work. Broken links frustrate readers and annoy search engines.
Professional bio and About pages:
- When you write a professional bio, introduce yourself like a real-life person starting with your name. Who you are comes before what you do or what you have gained.
- Aim to write your professional bio in 3rd person and your ‘About’ page in 1st person. People will use your professional bio to describe and introduce you, by writing in the third person, you make it easier for others to talk about you using information straight from your bio.
- Don’t discount your achievements. Did you double any targets? Did you successfully lead a software transition? Feel free to spritz seemingly small accomplishments all over your bio.
- If you are a superstar or A++ student with plenty of work and accomplishments to choose from, be selective! Highlight work that is impressive, relevant, tells your story and makes you proud.
- When in doubt about word count, use up the character limit of the section you are filling out. If you are writing your website ‘about page’, you can go to town because SEO likes plenty words. However, remember the golden rule and read through to see if it is tiring. If you’re tired, your reader will be tired. Know when to stop.
- Don’t write a list, your bio is not a resume. Weave all the information you’ve written out into a story so that your biography engages your reader. If you don’t connect with the reader, they won’t remember you.
- Read the profiles of other people in your industry for inspiration – Please focus on your purpose earlier stated. The profile of someone that is just marking register on LinkedIn will read differently from that of someone aggressively hunting for a job.
- Don’t sweat. You will change this bio many times. It doesn’t have to be perfect.
- Read your bio aloud to yourself, sleep on it, read it again. Would you like to meet you?
- Spellcheck for errors, lookout for grammar mistakes and avoid jargon. I use the Hemingway app often and aim for Grade 6 readability when I do.
Remember to share your contact information: On most social media sites, this is done for you. Make a point to include your most preferred mode of communication at the end of your bio such as your email address, a link to your contact page, or a link to your LinkedIn account. By including this, you not only let your audience know how you prefer that they get in touch with you (which is sending the message that you’re approachable), but you direct them to a place where they can learn even more about you. Think about what you want your audience to do after they have just been introduced to you through your bio.
Edit unapologetically and update often: A bio is never finished because we are all in the middle of progress. When you publish your initial version of the ‘about’ page on your website, know that you’re not done writing it. As you gain more experience, or change your professional focus, include these changes in your bios. It is better to constantly update than to tell a redundant story.
Finally, it is your bio: If you like it simple and short, so be it. If you want to write an essay of your achievements, so be it. Only remember that your bio is an opportunity for you to tell your own story, yourself. So take your time to craft something that makes you proud and gives your audience an accurate view of who you are. If you want to show up as high as possible in Google search for your name, ensure your bios across all profiles are relevant, up-to-date and sound like you.
[UPDATE] I got lots of questions about whether to write LinkedIn summaries in 1st or 3rd person. That’s entirely up to you. I noticed that people in STEM industries seem to prefer 3rd person while creatives prefer 1st person. This is understandable because writing in 3rd person allows you to stuff in all your achievements and certifications without appearing braggadocios. For me, I’m a cheerful storyteller so my LinkedIn summary is in 1st person.
I make a living from writing professional bios for people and have since learnt that your personal bio is the cornerstone of your personal brand. Your biography goes to places you have never been. By understanding how to write one, you can create new and valuable connections. I hope the tips above make the process of writing about yourself less painful.