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Resource Center / Online Reputation Management / 9 tips for writing an amazing personal biography

9 tips for writing an amazing personal biography


by Jennifer Bridges  @JenBridgesRD

Writing about yourself is hard.

If you sell yourself too much, then your bio can appear boastful. Yet, if you undersell yourself, your bio will be boring and won’t impress your audience.

To create a personal biography that people will remember, you need to make that all-important human connection while tastefully showcasing your bona fides. Here are nine tips that will help you do so.

1. Focus on what’s important

The best bios use the first few sentences to lay out what you do, how you do it, and why it’s important.

To accurately describe these things, you’ll need to be clear about why you’re writing a personal bio. If you don’t know why you’re writing it, then you can’t tell your readers why they should be interested.

As such, you need to decide two things before you begin to write:

  • Who your audience is—Customers? Employers? Your professional network?
  • What you want your bio to accomplish—Get you a job? Establish you as an industry authority?

Once you’ve done this, you’ll know what angle to take when describing the essential items in your bio, including:

  • How you can help people—This is the most important item to include in your bio because it is what will make your bio resonate with your target audience.
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  • Professional accomplishments—List any career goals you’ve attained, as well as any awards you’ve earned.
  • Personal background—Describe the circumstances and experiences that have led you to where you are today. This item is more important if you haven’t been working very long.
  • Education—State where you went to school and what subjects you studied. Did you earn any educational certificates or awards?

A good example of a bio that focuses on what’s important is Dr. Michelle Borba’s. The first three sentences in this bio contain the most vital information, while the rest of the page is broken into sections to help readers easily find additional information.

2. Write in the appropriate voice

You have two choices regarding which voice you should write in: 

  • The first person—For example, “I like apples.”
  • The third person—For example, “John likes apples.”

The voice you should choose depends on where the bio will exist. If it will appear on your company’s website, then your company is technically “introducing you.” Therefore, in this instance, it makes sense to use the third person. The same guidelines apply to bios on other third-party sites, like conference sites, job-hunting sites, or publications.

Using your full name in your bio also tells search engines to display a link to your bio in the results for queries of your name, which helps people find your bio online. However, be careful not to overuse your name. Using your full name too often will look spammy and ruin the natural flow of your writing.

You should save the first person for times when you are the one introducing yourself, like when you post a bio on your Twitter or Facebook profile.

Check out Julia McCoy’s YouTube channel bio to see how well a first-person bio can work.

3. Match the word count to the platform

How long you make your bio is up to you, unless you’re filling out the bio section of a profile and are allowed only a certain number of words. However, you need to keep the platform—and what its audience is looking for—in mind when deciding how much to write.

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For example, people reading biographies on an employment site are probably screening multiple candidates, so it’s best to keep bios for these sites on the short side—between 300 to 500 words. Otherwise, readers might be tempted to skip over them.

For bios on your own website, longer (between 1,500 and 2,000) is usually better because you can include many more details. Search engines also value longer bios, so they will usually rank higher in the search results, thus making your bio more visible.

A good example of the perfect length bio is the one on Sue Scheff’s personal website. It is long enough to convey the necessary information about Sue’s various projects—but not so long that the reader loses interest.

4. Use storytelling elements

A bio is not supposed to be a resume. Therefore, you shouldn’t just write a list of your jobs and career achievements. Instead, you should present your professional life as a story. 

A story is how what happens affects someone who is trying to achieve what turns out to be a difficult goal, and how he or she changes as a result.”—Lisa Cron, author of Wired for Story. 

According to social learning theory, people are drawn to stories because they want to learn things by going through the characters’ experiences with them. So, if you want your audience to pay attention, then you need to craft a good story. 

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The best stories do three things:

  1. Grab the reader’s attention right away.
  2. Keep the audience engaged during the middle part.
  3. Leave readers wanting more of the story. 

When you are telling your professional story, be sure to include examples of how you kept going when things got tough. This will help your readers empathize with you and connect with you on an emotional level. 

To see a good example of storytelling, check out Jeff Bullas’s bio.

5. Tell a joke

Another way to connect with your audience is to make them laugh. While you should maintain a professional tone throughout the rest of your bio, it can be a good idea to include a humorous note up front or at the end.

As long as it’s appropriate for your intended audience, a funny story or clever joke in your biography can make a lasting impression on your readers. It can also help set you apart from your peers.

One personal biography that you’ll remember for its humor is Stoney deGeyter’s. The first line is “TL;DR: Writer, speaker, digital marketer, dad, husband, sci-fi geek, 63% robot.”

6. Update your bio regularly

One of the worst things you can do is to write a bio and then never look at it again. You are constantly learning new skills and achieving new goals in your career. Keeping these accomplishments to yourself will only limit your opportunities. 

Instead, you should take a few minutes to update your various bios whenever you experience a major life event. This way, your bios will always accurately reflect who you currently are and what you have to offer, thus giving you a better chance of gaining visibility, earning the respect of your peers, and ultimately, getting hired.

The goal of your bio is to showcase who you are and what you have done—but it can’t fully achieve that goal unless it also includes links to examples of your best work.

For each link, make sure to use relevant anchor text (the blue words you click on). The words you use should tell readers what to expect when they click on the link. For example, it’s better to say:

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instead of 

  • “To see what he wrote about how a person’s online reputation affects his or her career, click here.”

Tim Ferriss is an expert at promoting his work. You can see how he links to his books, his podcast, and his personal and professional achievements in his bio.

8. Highlight your contact information

The point of writing a personal biography is to establish mutually beneficial connections with other people. If you leave out your contact information (or make it hard to find on the page), then you will frustrate readers who want to reach out or learn more about you.

Including a contact information section at the end of your bio can make you seem open and approachable. It can also encourage readers to connect with you. 

Make sure to include:

  • Your email address
  • A link to your personal web page
  • Links to your social media profiles

An example of a bio that contains all these things is Glen Gabe’s.

9. Create a unique bio for every site

Search engines value diversity. So, if you have pasted the same bio on every site, then chances are good that only one of them will show up on the first page of your search results (beyond which few people ever look). 

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However, if you have many different bios across a variety of sites, then it’s more likely that several will appear prominently when someone googles your name. This means that you will end up with a much larger online presence.

To see examples of unique, site-specific bios, check out Michelle Garrett’s LinkedIn bio versus the one on her website.

What not to do

Having the following in your bio can make you look unprofessional and untrustworthy:

Keyword stuffing

If you want your biography to show up in the search results when people google terms related to you or what you do, you might be tempted to include a lot of these words in your bio. While it’s fine to include a few of these terms if they fit naturally into what you’re writing, it’s not OK to jam in so many of them that they detract from the natural flow of your writing.

For example, don’t write something like this:

“x is a freelance website designer who has many years of experience doing freelance website designer work. In 2012, she won a freelance website designer award.”

Too many buzzwords

Relying too heavily on the latest buzzwords or industry jargon to make yourself more relevant can end up having the opposite effect: making you look like someone who is trying too hard to impress people. You will gain much more respect by communicating concisely and clearly with easily understood words.

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For example, instead of saying:

  • “My core competencies are x, y, and z.”

you should say 

  • “I’m good at x, y, and z.”

Filler words and phrases

Your biography will be more engaging and easier to understand if you eliminate any fluff. Filler words and phrases like the following only slow the reader down and make your bio less interesting:

  • Basically
  • Very
  • Just
  • Really
  • Needless to say
  • For what it’s worth

In the following examples, you can see how removing filler words improves the flow:

  • With filler words—“Basically, Jane Doe just really loves taking pictures of all kinds of people. Needless to say, this is the reason behind why she started her business, Portraits ‘R’ Us, in 2010.”
  • Without filler words—“Jane Doe’s passion for photography led her to establish Portraits ‘R’ Us in 2010.”

Misrepresentations

Avoid embellishing your accomplishments. You might not exactly be lying, but misrepresenting yourself as something you’re not is always a bad idea. Eventually, someone will call you out for exaggerating your qualifications, which will damage your reputation.

Your entire life story

As a rule, your personal biography should start with your current activities and achievements and work backward from there, highlighting only the important milestones in your life. Don’t go overboard with too many personal details. No one will want to read a bio that starts with “I was born in a small town …”

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Now that you know how to write an amazing bio, you can start building and expanding your online presence. If you have any questions about how to make the best first impression online, feel free to give us a call. We offer complimentary consultations on the most effective ways to address your particular situation.