If most people’s No. 1 fear is speaking in public, and dying is their second biggest fear, then their third biggest fear must be writing about themselves. Or maybe it just feels that way when the assignment of writing a bio comes up.
These days, it’s common to be asked for a blurb about your personal history for websites, apps, conference materials, etc. Ultimately, the point of a bio is to sell yourself in a more personal way than a résumé could, or should, accomplish. The following will help you craft the right message in your unique voice, to get readers to say, “I want to meet this person!”
Identify Your Audience
The key to effective marketing copy (remember, you're selling yourself here) is to figure out who it is you’re talking to. If you’re writing a bio for the website of your financial services company, think about your current clients. Don’t pick one person to write to, but instead, use the traits of several clients to create a universal persona. Jot down characteristics so you can refer to them as you're writing and revising. For example, people who are interested in maximizing returns on their money are probably educated high earners in a leadership role. By understanding this, you can speak their language and shape your bio to meet their needs and interests.
Provide Valuable Information
People usually get hung up on writing their bio because it seems impossible to fit a mini-memoir into a few paragraphs. The good news is that’s not the point of a bio. The goal is to connect with customers by giving them information they can use to assess you and get to know you. In the financial services example, potential clients probably aren't going to care so much that you spend your weekends volunteering at the local animal shelter. The target client wants to hear that you're capable of increasing their net worth. On the other hand, if you’re writing your profile for a dating app, potential dates will be interested in your goodwill, so go ahead and mention your volunteer work.
Now that you know the people you're writing to and what they want to hear, how do you figure out what to write? Put yourself in your reader’s place. What would the reader want to know about you? Make a list of those questions before you write down anything about yourself. Financial services clients probably want to know about your education as it pertains to your ability to invest and advise successfully. You should also include any awards you received in the financial services realm. Treat yourself as a candidate for the job you want (in this case, to be someone’s financial advisor), then answer the questions you created in a way that would get you the gig.
Let the Real You Shine Through
Customers who've read your bio shouldn’t be surprised when they meet you. Make sure your blurb represents who you really are. Type as you talk aloud, so the language sounds like you. If you're a professor with a doctorate, your vocabulary is probably more sophisticated than, say, a comedian's, whose bio should obviously be funny. A bio or profile is the chance to let people know not just what you’ve accomplished, but a little about your personality, too.
Get a Second Opinion
Ask someone who knows you to take a look at what you’ve written. They should look for missing information that's important for readers to know. Your editor should also make sure you haven’t included too much information, and that nothing comes off as bragging. Encourage your “second pair of eyes” to look for instances where you’ve used too much industry lingo. You know what it means when you say you “facilitated the product team’s innovations to the client-focused operations to build units to further the global brand,” but no one else does.
You’ll likely be writing to a word count maximum, but challenge yourself to come in well under it. Edit until you have the strongest information, then look at the language. Read our posts on trimming prepositional phrases and eliminating bloat for tips on making your writing the most impactful.
Once you have your long-form bio complete, it's easy to revise it to fit whatever other opportunities may come your way. Trim it to the three most important sentences for a short word count requirement, or modify a few lines if you’re preparing to speak at a conference with a niche theme.
See? Nothing to fear at all!