How to write a sizzling bio, with no cheese or hype or BS
Well that’s a challenge. It’s ingrained in us all, when we settle down to write about our life and achievements, we fall back on the old clichés…and suddenly we’re all “pro-active individuals with a passion for success” instead of the distinctive, interesting people we really are!
If you’re writing a bio for a web page, please don’t fall into this trap.
Keep in mind, you’re writing something to showcase your achievements and personality – to persuade the reader that you’re more than just a competent pro. You’re an all-round great person to know and work with.
And that means throwing away the cheesy old CV statements!
OK, so where do you start with an online Biography?
In the modern web sphere, you’ll probably need bios of all shapes and sizes, adapted for your website, blog, networking sites and social media profiles.
Some will be long, some will be short, some will be just a few words. Some will be business-intensive, and some will be social with a businessy twist.
But whatever the platform, the aim is always going to be the same: to add a touch of aspiration and trigger some kind of response.
Before you grapple with multiple versions, here are 6 points to consider:
Specifically, what do you want the reader to do once they’ve read your bio? Click onto a web page, send an email or pick up the phone? Make an enquiry, take a trial or opt into a list?
Your bio is the tale of your life and work, but it’s there for some deeper purpose – so decide what that purpose is before you put pen to paper.
Your bio should answer the eternal questions: who, what, why, how, where and when? If you don’t address each of these, the reader can’t latch on to the real you. So right from the outset, consider:
• Who are you? Jot down your name, occupation and something about hobbies or spare time or family.
• What do you do? What does your work involve – in friendly, layman’s terms?
• Why do people need you? What’s their problem or goal, and why are you the best person to help?
• How do you do it? What’s the approach, what are the hurdles, what sets your methods apart from the rest?
• Where have you worked? List your main clients or employers, with some brief examples of duties.
• When did it happen? List approximate dates for the milestones in your life and career.
Now you’ve got the basic content, think about how you’ll tell the story.
For a ‘micro’ bio, like your Twitter profile, a useful structure would be:
[Your name] is [your profession] who works with [your type of clients] who need [what
Something like that – followed by why and how to find out more.
This structure is also useful for a single paragraph bio, but with the key points fleshed out to reflect more of your skills and personality.
If you’re writing an extended bio, try using a structure like this:
• Paragraph 1: an intro statement: who you are, what you do and who you do it for…linking in to how you do it.
• Paragraph 2: go back in time to the start of your career, and tell the story of how you got to today in 40-50 words.
• Paragraph 3: coming back to here and now, build your credibility. Mention notable speaking gigs, publishing credits, awards or other types of recognition.
• Paragraph 4: beyond work. What’s important to you in life, how do you spend your evenings, weekends or holidays?
• Paragraph 5: call to action. Don’t be tempted to lapse into hype – just make a pledge of what’s in store, and add a link for further info.
Bios always read better in the third person – probably because it adds a sense of objectivity. Plus, in the first person, most bios would sound like shameless trumpet-blowing, which is guaranteed to alienate. (We’ve all seen “The Apprentice”!)
So write with an editorial style. But don’t let it get too formal. Describe your work and achievements in the voice that you use with friends or family.
5. Review & Revise
Ideally, your bio will run to 200 – 300 words. But your first draft will probably run to 500 – 600 or more! So go back through it. If you can, set the draft aside for a day or two, to give yourself some distance…then cut any sections that slow it down or feel too much like waffle.
As a rule of thumb, avoid too much detail. The 10 years you spent with your last employer can be summarised in 10 words! That’s fine, because at this stage, no-one wants the full chapter and verse.
Above all else, revisit your original objective. Check through the content and make sure it’s in keeping with the end goal.
6. Is it you?
Maybe the finished work reads well, but is it really you? Is it an accurate summary of your achievements, and does your personality shine through? If the answer to either question is no, there’s still work to be done.
Go back to your list of potential content, and insert what needs inserting. Then tweak the wording, until you get a thumbs up from someone who knows you well.
If you follow these steps, you’ll avoid the bio writer’s usual pitfalls. It’s hard to write dull or naff copy when the voice is authentically you, and you’ve mastered the art of brevity.
For an example great social bio for Mick Say, click here.
To see a more business oriented bio of Mick Say click here:
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