How to write a bio that doesn’t make you cringe

Photo by Camylla Battani on Unsplash

Raise your hand if writing a website, LinkedIn, or other professional bio gives you anxiety? If you didn’t raise your hand you’re either a liar or a serial killer. (Maybe both.)

As writers or content strategists it often feels easy to write for or about someone else. But when it comes to revealing our personal voice and credentials it feels like that magic fourth wall between us and the reader crashes down, leaving us on stage in our underwear.

No matter your personal feelings or attempts to avoid it, at some point in your professional writing career you will be asked to submit a bio for publication. And you absolutely should! It’s your one opportunity to introduce yourself to the reader and explain why they should continue reading your writing. So how can we overcome this anxiety and write a professional bio that doesn’t make us cringe?

First, stop obsessing over perfection

Perfection is the number one cause of procrastination. That’s not a proven fact, but it is a good reminder that sometimes we spend too much time thinking about perfection and not enough time writing. Instead of staring at the blank page and thinking about how you need to get the right tone, key points, etc. into your bio, just start writing. You can always edit your bio before hitting submit. But you can’t edit what’s not there. To help get the writing juices going consider adding these things to your bio:

  • Current role or position
  • Areas of expertise
  • Volunteerism
  • Challenges and how they shaped you
  • What differentiates you from others in the industry

Second, consider your audience and let it guide your voice

Good advice for any writing project–identify your audience and determine the best way to reach them. Yes, even something as ubiquitous-seeming as a bio has an audience. Having trouble identifying your audience? Consider asking yourself:

  • Who is most likely to read this?
  • What platform is this bio going to be published on?
  • Who do I want to read this?

If you want to go even deeper into identifying your target audience, check out this cool article by Mandy Porta at Inc.

Once you’ve established your audience, use that to guide the voice and tone of your bio. Ask yourself how your audience speaks (formal vs. informal; professional vs. colloquial) and also how they want to be spoken to. Do they want to be reassured or cautioned? Do they want fast facts or insightful quips? Use this decision to steer your word choices, grammar, content, and even visual layout of the bio.

Third, demonstrate your value

I have no explanation for why it took me so long to realize this, but for a long time I was writing a professional bio that didn’t include why people should care about my writing. I tried to be modest when instead I should have been direct. Now that I’m old and my knees crack every time I stand up, I realize why it’s important to include your value proposition.

People aren’t reading your blog, website, article, etc. because they want to know all about your cute yorkshire terrier or collection of gnomes. (Even though those things can add a nice personal touch.) They’re reading your writing because they’re looking for something they can’t find anywhere else.

So make sure to include your value proposition and state directly what you can offer the reader. Whether that’s listing your impressive credentials; giving an example of how you help other clients surmount obstacles; or simply what sets you apart from others in the industry.

Fourth, don’t avoid it!

Ghosts are cool. Ghost writers are boring. People want to know where they’re getting their information from just like you want to know who’s on the other end of your Tinder convo. If you run your own website/blog/portfolio page make sure to include an About section.

If you’re guest writing or contributing to a publication you don’t maintain, ask about options for including a bio. Most (if not all) publications and websites already have a format in place to include an contributor bio. If they don’t, ask if you can include a few lines at the end of your piece to help identify yourself and direct readers to your external sites. Already have a contributor bio? Consider revising it periodically to keep it fresh and relevant.

Don’t have a website/blog/portfolio or contribute to another publication? Then make sure to update your LinkedIn or other professional networking profiles with a curated bio.

No matter how you feel about writing or publishing a bio, it’s a great opportunity to introduce yourself to your readers and explain why they should love your writing. So don’t panic, because you got this.

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