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How to Write A Bio


Does your bio reflect the right you?

When you need to write a professional piece or get noticed on LinkedIn, one of the hardest things is to write the blurb about you.

But bios are almost unavoidable.  Whether you’re promoting your first book, querying for an article, applying for a job or getting on social media—everyone wants a bio.

So what to do?  Often people ask for a bio in third person.  Sometimes it’s easier to write when you think of yourself as a character or as a different person.  But what do you say?

1. First, you need to know:  who is your audience?  You are made up of millions of complex parts—family, friends, work, hobbies, beliefs, emotions, and so on.  Which of all these things do you need to share?

When you know your audience, you then ask: What will be most valuable for them to know?

What do I need to share to persuade them?  Hmm.  Persuade them about what?

Good question.  This leads to question #2.

2. What do you want from you audience?  What do you hope to gain from your bio?

If it’s in a query letter, you hope the editor will realize you’re qualified to write the piece.  A bio on an application—you’re interesting enough to want to check out further.  When you think about it, typically a bio says:

  • This person is worth listening to or hanging around
  •  I want to spend time learning more from this person
  •  This person is qualified, knowledgeable, and capable.
  •  This person is fun, interesting, and informative.
  •  This person can do the job

3. What, of all your experiences, will most likely persuade them?  You want to pull from your experiences and life choices those things that will have the most impact on your audience.

If you’re writing for motorcycle enthusiasts, they’ll be more impressed with your touring of Egypt on a Harley than about your Harvard degree.  If you’re publishing a book about psychology, however, that degree will matter.

Don’t fret about a lack—lack of publishing credits, lack of degrees.  Spend your time focusing on your strengths.  You have strengths!  Put them out there in your best light.   Don’t lie.  Please.  Stick to the truth.   But speak that truth boldly and with confidence.

4. What tone should I use in my bio? Your bio needs to reflect you and your audience.  I know there are many facets to you—the fun-loving friend, the caring spouse, the nurturing parent, the hard-charging business person.  Again, you need to match the correct facet to the right audience.

You know what happens when the hard-charging businessperson comes up instead of the caring spouse.  Fireworks.  And if you present the fun-loving friend as your bio in a job… kiss it good- bye.  This is why Facebook is so dangerous.  Your employer sees that side of you and judges you.

So use your bio to give people a flavor of who you are, in the context of what you will be doing for them.  A blog writer’s bio can be quirky and humorous.  A travel writer’s bio may be breezy and fresh.  The business person’s bio of course will present qualifications.  In addition it can present warmth, ethics, power, hard-charging, caring, organization, team-building—or some of a host of other qualities that make you unique, interesting, and desirable.

5. How do I keep it short?  Often bios are 150 to 300 words.  AKK!  How can you condense your life into 150 words?  Some call it an elevator speech or a “30 second me.”  You can briefly say who you are, what you do, something interesting about you, and a major accomplishment and the results of that situation.

http://www.squidoo.com/howtowritebio  has some really great fill-in-the-blank bios for extra short bios.  And it has other good tips.

Have some fun bio writing. Try writing your bio as if you were writing it for a blog.  Then write it for a job. Write is to promote yourself as a parent, a friend, an educator.

Try writing in first person.  Then change it to third person. Relax and be creative!  Revise it as you want–the web is fluid.  Use each query letter or job application to refine your bio until you feel confident it reflect the true you.

Let me know how it goes.

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