How To Write A Professional Bio Without Pulling All Your Hair Out
Are you the CEO or president of your company? Watch this summary.
There’s a debate raging about the “professional bio” found on your business’s About Us page. There are two sides to the argument: Should you write your bio in first person or in third person?
Unfortunately, there are downsides to both.
If you write in first person, you can’t really brag about yourself, because it can come across as conceited.
If you write in third person, that can get weird, too… especially if the rest of your website is in first person. Because then people know you’re bragging about yourself and that you just wanted to disguise the fact that you were doing it by pretending someone else wrote it.
So what do you do? It’s a painful decision. And beyond that, it’s just plain hard to write about yourself.
Whether you’re someone who likes to brag about yourself or not, the point of a bio is to tell people about your experience and expertise. It should be about selling yourself. After all, that’s the end goal. But there’s a way to do it so that it’s well-received by your potential customers. And there’s a way to do it without pulling out every last strand of hair you have. Here’s how to write a bio that will capture your reader’s attention.
1. Choose a point of view and don’t look back.
In my introduction, I outlined some of the negatives of both first- and third-person professional biographies. But, unfortunately, there aren’t really any other options. (Because second person would just be really, really strange.) You have to choose one or the other.
Really, either is totally fine. You may be able to get away with listing more of your accomplishments in third person if you have a lot of things you’d like to mention. But is that what it’s really about?
My personal opinion is that first person is the way to go. My guess (since you’ve gotten this far in the article) is that you’re someone who wants to go the extra mile to make sure that what you write is going to connect with your readers and potential customers. And first person gives you more of an opportunity to make that connection, because it’s a direct message from you to them. (More on this in #6.)
2. Ask someone you’ve worked with in the past to write a reference letter for you for inspiration.
Like I mentioned already (and like you already knew), it’s difficult to write about yourself. You know your strengths and past accomplishments and achievements better than anyone else. However, what you think about yourself may not really resonate with a potential customer like the perspective of someone who’s worked with you in the past.
Is there a co-worker, a boss, or a client that you’d use as a reference if you needed one? Ask them to write a reference letter for you, as if they were recommending you for a job. That person will likely bring up personality traits and strengths that you would’ve never written (or even thought of) about yourself. This is a great way to get a fresh perspective on you. It may be strange to think about needing inspiration to write about yourself, but this can really lessen the burden of the bio writing process.
3. Craft it in a group with people who know you.
Maybe all of your co-workers are in the same boat as you are and all need to write bios for the company website. What a great opportunity to help each other out!
Call a meeting specifically to help each other think about what would be great bio material for each of you—then go from person to person and come up with a list for each. (Giving time for everyone to prepare before the meeting will help people feel like they aren’t being put on the spot by having to “say something nice” about every person in the room.) And, while it may seem odd at first, you’ll get over the awkwardness when that “Bill-tripping-in-front-of-the-client” story surfaces again. Plus, hearing a variety of answers and thinking through what you’d write about someone else for their bio will give you fantastic inspiration to write your own.
4. Use testimonials that have been written about your company to get ideas.
While customer testimonials may not be written about you specifically, reading through them is a great way to put yourself in your customer’s shoes.
What did your past clients and customers want from your business? What were they most pleased with about their experience with your company? What details about their interactions with the people in your business did they bring up in their testimonial?
It’s likely that what your current customers are pleased with is what your potential customers want. So, you can use all of this information to figure out what your bio readers would connect with and like most about you. Then, you can highlight those character traits in your bio. This is just another way to make a real connection with your potential customers.
5. For Pete’s sake, make it interesting.
And not just for Pete… for everyone. Be “the reader” for a moment—have you ever gotten to the end of anyone’s entire professional biography? It’s likely that you haven’t, because most businesses are a real snooze-fest when it comes to their About Us page.
Listing awards, accomplishments, medals, blue ribbons, trophies, and honorary titles make you look accomplished in your field—but most people couldn’t care less about that stuff. Especially if your accomplishments are industry-specific, it’s likely that your customer doesn’t even know what any of it means. So, stick to stuff that your potential customer understands. Speak their language. And not only that, make it fun, interesting, and engaging. That’s what will catch their eye.
6. Research some professional bio examples.
Speaking of “interesting and engaging,” do a little research and find some professional bio examples you think are well-written, easy to read, and even fun to skim! If you don’t know where to start, check out the websites of some of the thought leaders you look up to in your industry and see how they’ve written their bios.
Here are some professional bio examples I love:
- The bios on the Nectafy team page. Yes, I may be a little biased, but I think our Nectafy bios are a great mix of professional and fun! We each wrote our own in a straight-forward manner, and they’re authentic (which we think is super important at Nectafy). We are real people (not just faces behind a computer screen), so the information we’ve provided in our bios reflects that fact!
- The bios on the Buffer team page. You can learn a lot about a person in one paragraph—and most of the time, that’s all you need! Those that work at Buffer have all written first-person paragraphs about themselves that give the reader just enough information to get to know them and what they do at the company.
- The bios on the Link Labs team page. The great thing about these bios is that they get straight to the point. They list the backgrounds of each of the Link Labs executive team members without droning on and on. A potential customer could easily peruse these bios and learn all they need to know about how experienced the team is that they could potentially be working with. Plus, these bios have a really fun element—“What Do Fellow Link Lab-ers Say About (Name)?” This gives a glimpse into each individual’s personality.
- Chris Brogan’s bio. While Chris Brogan’s bio page isn’t structured exactly as I’d lay it out, I do like that there’s some larger text at the top of the page that gives all the quick information readers really want to know about him. Then the user can delve in and learn more if they’d like. What I really love is his “Personal Note” at the bottom. (Take a look—it reminds the reader that he’s a real person, not just a mega-marketing star!)
7. Be real.
After you’ve collected all of your inspiration, ideas, and examples, it’s time to write. What will help you most when it comes to this stage is realizing that you don’t need to try to be impressive or braggy. Just be real. By being real, I mean, just be honest about who you are. That doesn’t mean being “meek” or that you need to put your emotional baggage out there. Just let your readers and potential customers know that you’re a normal, real person that’s interested in helping them with their problems.
Fill your bio with both professional and (appropriate) personal details about yourself. Give people a well-rounded idea of who you are as a person. When someone finishes reading your bio, you want them to feel like they know the real you. The more a person feels like they know and like you personally, the more comfortable they’ll be trusting you with their business.