A short professional bio has become increasingly important as most of us suffer from information fatigue and cannot be bothered to read lengthy documents about anybody. Experts such as Matthew Levy reckon your bio is the most important document you will ever write.
A bio is useful for a host of reasons such as applying for a job, publishing an article or guest blog post, general networking etc. It’s basically a great vehicle for quickly communicating who you are and what you do.
You are likely to have a bio somewhere on the Internet already. If you write a blog, it will be your About page. If you are on LinkedIn, it will be your summary. If you are on Twitter, it will be your, wait for it… Bio! These three most probably have different lengths, with the minnow being Twitter that only allows for a 140 character bio.
As writing a professional bio is the hottest thing since sliced bread, you best get on with it and follow these simple steps to do your personal brand proud. Here are the a few tips followed by a sample bio by Chris Brogan.
1. Identify your purpose
Why are you writing this bio? Who will read it? You need to take some time to think about your readers and what you want them to think about you. People write anything from professional bios for getting free lance work, a comedy bio full of in-jokes for your friends or a bio for the back of their next piece of pulp fiction. Keep your audience in mind when authoring your bio.
2. Third person perspective
This is your Harry Lime moment. Your bio should sound as though it were objectively written, although it is obviously anything but. If you look at any book cover, the bio will be in the narrative mode even though the author has probably written it themselves. So instead of writing “I have lived in Switzerland and I speak 3 languages”, try “John has lived in Switzerland and he speaks 3 languages”.
3. Micro, Short and Long
You will need a micro, a short and a longer bio for different purposes. You will find that your bio will be requested in different lengths and therefore it’s advisable to keep three or even more versions. The micro bio is basically a sentence that you can use as your elevator pitch and on your Twitter profile. The short one should be one paragraph long and cover all the need to knows. The longer one adds the nice to knows and should sum you up completely. As a rule of thumb, the shorter one should be roughly a hundred words; the long one could be up to one page.
4. Start with your name
You will want to put your name in the first sentence of your bio so the reader catches on and realizes what they are reading. Just like when you are introduced to somebody, you will start with your name and then move on to pleasantries.
5. State your business
Just like a resume, you want to drop your occupation and accomplishments in there early. The reader needs to be hooked and enticed to keep reading. An example would be to write that you are an “open market sales person” and you have “increased sales by 200%” in your current position – music to the ears of any sales manager.
6. Throw in some personality
Add some flavor to your bio by including something unexpected. This can be a bit of humor or just curious information that you think people will be interested in, such as you being a fine wine connoisseur – already a topic for conversation. I am sure you have read words to this effect at the end of a bio: “and in his spare time, he really enjoys writing about himself in the third person”. A little witty twist at the end can tell a lot about your personality.
7. Contact details
End your bio with your contact details or hyperlink the content to ways of contacting you like your email or your LinkedIn profile.
8. Read and rewrite
Get your friends to proof your bio before you publish it anywhere. Remember that your bio is a living document and you should review it on a monthly basis. As it’s fairly short it won’t take you too long to make changes that can be quite important to the reader.
Now let’s have a look at how a pro does it. Chris Brogan is a well known social media guru and on his eponymous blog he has a micro, a short and a longer bio.
This micro bio is a good example of an informational sentence, starting with his name, what he does and ending with his contact details (from the blog front page):
Next are both the short and long bios from his About page. The first paragraph on its own serves as a short bio, all four paragraphs constitute Chris’ long bio. He has cleverly stuffed his bio with hyperlinks, so that the interested reader can learn more instantly by clicking on the links.
The text again starts with his name, tells more in detail what he does and lists a number of achievements Chris has to his name. Most of us won’t have as many accomplishments to stick on a bio so here is our chance to add our own character to it. Big thanks to Chris Brogan for letting me use his bio in this post!
Your bio is getting more and more important and you should make sure it sells you and brings out your personal brand. I hope these tips and sample bios have been helpful, do let me know if you have any other thoughts and ideas on bios. Now that you have a great bio, remember to reach out to the right people and make sure they read it!