Some people are natural self-promoters. Others would as soon stick a bag over their head rather than toot their own horn. No matter what side of the fence you fall on, the truth of the matter is that you’ll likely have to write a bio for yourself – or another – at some point. It’s important to understand what goes into making a good bio so you can strut your stuff and send the right message to your clients.
There are many reasons why it’s important to be good at self-promotion. The first is obvious – if you’re a small business owner or you work for a small business, you’re not just selling the brand, you’re selling yourself. Unless you get up to the level where your brand name becomes a behemoth – like, say, Amazon or Microsoft who really don’t need human faces at this point to sell the product – your clients are going to be interested in who you are as well as who your business is. And if you’re running a small operation, well, you are the business.
The good news is that writing a bio – and we’re assuming here that you’re writing one about yourself – really doesn’t have to be that difficult. The biggest blocks to it are usually mental more than anything else; after all, it’s not as if you don’t have enough information about yourself, right? You don’t even have to do any research!
Just like with other forms of content marketing, it’s all about the right spin. If you need to write about yourself and don’t know where to start, follow me through these 7 tips that can make a bio bang.
Remember that the goal is to make yourself distinctive.
A bio for a website is not a resume or a CV – it’s more than just a list of your accomplishments. In order for a bio to really work for you, you’ll need to figure out what exactly makes you different from the rest. This can sound difficult, but, really – you’re a unique person, right? There’s something in you that makes you your own special snowflake, like your kindergarten teacher said. It can be useful to start thinking about your awards, products, and other things you have done that make you unique. You don’t just want to be another CEO. For some great tips on this, check out Georgiana Cohen’s post at Work Awesome.
It’s not all about work.
Again, a bio is supposed to be a snippet of who you are as a person, and who you are goes beyond your work. Make sure to include a couple of personal elements. Consider writing a bio the way you might have light conversation at a cocktail party. The conversation might start with work, but could meander into topics involving hobbies or the ever popular “what did you do over the holiday?” You don’t need to – and really shouldn’t – get into a 2000 word treatise about why you like underwater basket-weaving, but throwing in a sentence or two about what you do when you’re away from the business (however rare that may be) makes you seem more, you know, human.
Keep it uniform.
There is considerable debate about writing the perfect bio – some say that it should be in first person in order to give a more “conversational” feel to the bio, and others prefer third-person distance. Again, both approaches have their merits. If you are uncomfortable with writing or with selling yourself, I would suggest going the third-person route since it allows you to place some “distance” between you and the subject. Additionally, first-person bios are generally assumed to be written by the subject, while third-person bios could have theoretically been written by anybody. So if you’re shy about self-promotion, hiding behind the relative distance of third-person really could help you be more honest about your accomplishments. No matter what, just remember to keep it uniform across the board if there are going to be other bios alongside yours. If your bio is in third-person but your accountant’s is in first, it’s just going to look unprofessional and uncoordinated. Need some help getting those writing juices flowing? Check out this post by my dear colleague Andrew which outlines 37 Tools That Will Make You a Better Writer.
Watch your adjectives.
Self-promoting in the right way often requires special attention paid to adjectives. There is most certainly a fine line between being honest and proud of your accomplishments verses, well, pig-headed. This goes doubly if you are writing in first-person, as that generally has a more conversational tone and, as mentioned above, is assumed to be coming directly from the subject. Good adjectives to avoid include “the most” and “the best,” since it’s really hard to objectively prove that your widget company is the best widget company in the world. Sure, you might feel that way (and I would argue that as a proud small-business owner, you should!) but to an outsider it just seems… well, overly self-congratulatory. You can hoist up your accomplishments without bragging about them – and this is all in the adjectives. Need some help? Check out Copylicious’ aptly named article 16 Questions to Help You Write a Douche Free Bio.
Update. Update. Update.
Your life changes. Things move around. People, well, evolve. Make sure that you take the time to update your bio at least once a year for best results. No doubt that over the course of a year new things happen to you and the scope of your business will shift. Make sure that your bio moves along with you and reflects your new accomplishments. This goes doubly so if you reference things like interviews or awards – make sure to keep your bio fresh by regularly updating to reflect your latest achievements!
Use a picture.
No, not all of us are photogenic. (I, for one, would probably win an award for “most awkward photography subject.” All of my smiles when photographed either come out looking canned or manic. It’s a problem.) But if you really want your bio to hit home, suck it up and go sit in front of a camera for some headshots. Make sure that you are working with somebody who is using quality camera equipment – you don’t have to go to the professionals for it, but it’s not a bad idea. If you don’t want to go to a studio, you can always find a budding photographer off of Craigslist and pay them $50 to sit around and snap photos for an hour. Guaranteed, at least one of them will come out looking dashing. When you put a photo beside your bio, it makes you more of a real person rather than just words on a page. Being able to associate a face with a name also ups the level of trust potential clients put in you because they can see you!
Get an outside opinion.
Spend some time writing your bio and then show it to friends. Yes, this will probably be at least a little bit awkward because you’ll have to admit to your buddies that you spent two hours sitting around and writing about yourself. But, well, it’s a good time to build a bridge and get over that since friends are going to give you their brutally honest opinion and won’t be afraid to tell you if you need to tone it down a bit or pump yourself up more. Assuming that your friends and family know your personality and generally what you’ve accomplished, this is a great way to gauge how your bio sounds and how well it reflects your personality.
Another important tip to keep in mind is not to overthink it. Really, a bio probably isn’t going to be longer than 200 words (or at least, it really shouldn’t be unless you have some incredibly compelling reason). As this article from Chron suggests, writing a bio shouldn’t take more than an hour. It might be helpful to set a timer. When the timer dings, stop.
Effective content marketing is more than website content. You’ll need to write about yourself, and write about others, and learn how to share with the whole world. It’s not just about selling your business, after all – it’s about selling yourself, too. If you’re really stuck and can’t get started? Well, using a writing service is always an option, too.
What tips do you have to promote the self without overpromoting?
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