I’m writing a bio for a new client. She is a lovely, bright, highly energetic person with tons of family, friends, and clients of her own that love her and recommend her.
When she came to me, she mentioned that her bio doesn’t sound like her. I asked her to tell me more about that. What do you mean when you say, “my bio doesn’t sound like me?” She went on to say that she is fun, high energy, and warm and nurturing. Her bio wasn’t any of that. It was informative, well-written, and on point. But to her and to her friends, it wasn’t “her.”
As I started doing a little research about bios that work well in her industry (always research first), something struck me. The bio had no information about HER. It was specifically written for website visitors, and spoke to them and their needs. But it didn’t really talk about who she was as a person and what made her the woman that she is now.
The great bios that I looked at all had one thing in common (really, only this one thing): they showcased the person behind the bio. If you make your bio about you, there’s no way it can ever be the same as someone else’s. It can’t be copied or duplicated. Great bios are unique, inspiring, and unquestionably human.
You can absolutely create a good bio without selling yourself (at all). It’s not about selling you. It’s about showing you.
Writing a Bio: Five Questions to Ask/Insights to Gain
The truth is there are many, many questions to ask before writing your own bio or someone else’s. These questions shouldn’t make up the entire bio. They are just a starter.
You have to uncover the basic things that make you who you are before you can start talking about why you’re the best fit for a customer.
I gain tons of insight just from these five questions/topics alone. For my client, specifically, I already had information about her business and what she brings to the table professionally. This information reveals more about the woman as a human being, mom, wife, and individual.
As you can see, they’re not all questions in the standard question format. They’re conversation starters. Feel free to use them or come up with your own. This is a great exercise for your own personal bio as well as helping someone else write theirs.
1. Tell me about your family. (You can show pictures, too)
Humans are social creatures and we assemble in families. That’s the norm. A few people will not have a family or will not want to talk about their families, but that is an exception, not a rule.
Generally, think of a few things to say about your family when writing a bio.
- If you’re married, talk about that.
- Tell us about your children, beloved siblings, or extended family.
- If you’re proud of your heritage, mention it.
- Did you start the company with your husband/wife/best friend/sister? Okay, then. Let’s include that.
It’s your bio. There are no identity politics here. Identity can be an amazing bonding agent.
People can connect with you and find common ground as they learn about your family structure. Unless you truly do live life alone, your family is a big part of what makes you who you are.
Pets count, too.
If you don’t have a family or don’t want to talk about it: don’t. That’s being authentic, because it’s what you want. But be sure to be very intentional about talking about you.
One of my favorite About Me pages is Adham Dannaway’s. He doesn’t talk about his family at all. However, he does list a bunch of random facts that are pretty personal.
On the other hand, on other site, Moz.org, they have a huge timeline and at the very start of the timeline is the fact that Moz was created by Rand and his mother. Boom. Family.
2. Tell me about where you were raised, if you’ve moved around, where you landed, etc.
Where did you grow up? Make sure you talk about that. In local business, this is valuable information and people are going to want to know about it. If you were born and raised in the town where you work, you can bet that this will connect with people. If you’re new, it’ll strike a chord as well (and home-towners will be itching to tell you all about how to survive there).
These questions help you shed additional light about your past, which is always something people are interested in. Try not to make it boring. You can use adjectives to describe the places where you’ve lived, rather than just saying them outright. You can also tell short stories within your bio to make them come alive.
Try showing it, instead of telling it. You can easily include a graphic with your state and an arrow pointing to your hometown. Or you can create a timeline graphic showing all of the states you’ve lived in, in order from first to last.
3. What’s your favorite quote? (This tells me about what matters to you)
It can be kitschy to include a quote on your bio just to say you did. I don’t ask for quotes when writing a bio just so I can publish them. The reason I ask for a favorite quote is because the choice says so much about a person.
My favorite quote is,
“If you don’t take care of your body, where will you live?”
I’m incredibly conscious of the need for health and to live a preventative lifestyle. I am rarely sick. However, I’m not a health nut. I just see the body as an actual, real temple that we live “in” and when I first came across that quote, I knew it would be my favorite for life.
Naturally, you might assume from that quote that I’m into health and wellness topics, exercise, yoga, and longevity. If you guessed those things, you would be right.
What’s YOUR favorite quote? What does it say about you and why did you choose it? Your favorite quote is a great indicator of your values and concerns.
4. Did you go to college? What’s your background?
Always talk a little bit about your professional background when writing a bio. If you didn’t go to college, that’s okay. I know that a college education is looked at as a status symbol, but not to everyone. As a matter of fact, you may actually score some points if you didn’t go to college and explain that you learned by doing.
This is one of the great parts of your bio that you can use to legitimately connect with someone else. A potential client may see that you went to the same school, or went to a school that their children attend now. Or, you may connect with someone who also attended the school of hard knocks.
Or, you might connect with someone on a patriotic level if you talk about your military background.
If you were a stay at home mom for 11 years and then decided to launch a career, say that. You’ll connect in ways you might not imagine. The story you may tell yourself is, “They’ll see me as inexperienced.” But really, the story they will be telling themselves is, “She’s just like me.”
5. If there’s one thing you want home buyers and sellers to know about the home buying process, what is it?
This one is specific to real estate but if you’re not in the real estate industry, you can still use it.
- If you’re a financial adviser, ask yourself what one thing you want potential clients to know.
- If you’re a motivational speaker, what is the one thing you wish you could tell future generations?
- As a personal trainer, if there’s one thing you want people struggling with weight loss to understand, what is it?
- As a landscaper, what do homeowners need to know about landscaping to preserve their homes?
What do you stand for? What is important to you? Tell me what would you say to your 15 year old self. What letter would you write to your great-great-great grandchildren? Those are all great questions that help you get to your core values. We tend to give advice about the things that really matter to us. Use this opportunity to learn more about who you are at your deepest level.
Bonuses: Random Facts, Writing in First Person, and Other Tips for Writing a Bio
Random facts are always interesting to read. Even one random fact helps your bio stand out.
Write in first person, especially if your page is called “About Me.” “About Tia” sounds way more standoffish, in my opinion. When you write in first person, you can get more personal. You can also manage to sound professional at the same time. Know your audience.
Talk about why you’re doing this. This is called the so-what factor. So you’re a realtor. So what? So are 7,000 other people in the region. Why did you become one? What does it matter to you? What’s fun about it? Why do you like it?
You can talk about why you’re doing what you do in simple terms. On Adam’s page, the very first sentence says it is, quite simply: “I enjoy turning complex problems into simple, beautiful and intuitive interface designs.”
Break up your page with images, quotes, call-out boxes, graphs, etc. There’s no reason to just create a word wall. Make it fun and unique (uniquely you).
Here are more of my favorites:
Writing a bio is fun, but tricky. If you are too casual, people might not take you seriously. At the same time, if you’re too professional, people might not be able to relate well to you. Most people are not actually as professional as their bios make them sound. Therefore, be authentic when writing a bio. When you are, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose.