One of the things we often agonise about as business owners is writing a bio, ‘about’ page or mission statement. I find myself going backwards and forwards with clients over these little blighters more often than a cat owner at the back door on a wet day. Information goes in… and is taken out again. Stories are emphasised and then sanitised. First, it’s too detailed. Next, it’s too hazy. My clients worry what people will think. Will people they know read it? Might they be offended? Or skeptical? So, we soften things up a bit. But then, it still needs impact, right?
Usually, my clients are happy with my work and, beyond a few minor tweaks, I am rarely asked to change a thing. (I know – I’m as surprised as you are 🙂.)
But when it comes to the really personal stuff – why we’re doing what we’re doing, how we got here and what mistakes we made along the way – we get very nervous indeed.
I remember writing my first little bio piece for a magazine I was helping to edit. The editor just needed a snippet about me for the team section.
But suddenly it seemed I had no skills, knowledge or achievements worth mentioning. Nothing! What had I been doing all this time? Frittering away my time by NOT EDITING, that’s what. My experience of NOT EDITING was vast and varied. I was a fraud, I decided. A fake. A flibbertigibbet. Someone might look me up and realise that my contribution to the world of niche magazines was a forgery, even though I was running one of my own.
Suffice it to say that writing about yourself can cause a LOT of anxiety.
And once you’ve calmed down enough to realise that you do have experience and skills to offer, you worry about tone. What if you come off sounding arrogant, self-satisfied or aloof? Should you refer to yourself in the third person? What if you’re a soul trader – is it better to say ‘me’ or ‘we’? WHY ISN’T ANYTHING EVER SIMPLE?
Firstly, I’ve got to say from experience, nobody you know is going to read your website or blog posts. Your mum, dad, old boss, children and best mates are too busy to read what you have to say. Sounds cynical, maybe. But – with the exception of my mum, who religiously reads (and loves, regardless of quality or content) everything I post on my Facebook page, nobody else bothers (love you, mum). And that’s OK! It’s not that they don’t care. They do. They just have their own sh*t going on.
In the words of Steven Pressfield:
This is good news. It frees you up to say what you want to say, how you want to say it. Go for it! You CAN stay true to yourself without hurting feelings or embarrassing yourself. Here’s how to get it right:
My guide to writing the perfect business bio
- Start writing, in a stream of consciousness style.
That means a warts and all, no holds barred, all bases covered writing spree. Fun! DON’T edit it as you go along. You can (and must) edit it later. Preferably after at least 24 hours’ distance from it. If you’re worried, you can password protect your document so that nobody can read it but you – until you’re ready. Put this aside for now.
- Identify who you’re talking to.
If you’ve been in business for a little while, even if you only have a handful of clients, you already know who you’re talking to. You’ll know what concerns your ideal client – what she needs help with. If you don’t have any customers yet, there’s loads of info out there on how to identify your core audience. This handy post by Sonia Simone talks about marketing to one person, which I find extremely helpful.
- Write a list of what you’ve got to offer.
Notice you’re doing this after you’ve already written your first draft? Forget that for a moment, and focus on your skills, qualifications, interests, passions and experience, especially if these could help your customer. Don’t be vague – always show, rather than tell. ‘Many years’ experience’ is less convincing than ‘Three years’ experience’. Consider using glowing testimonials from past clients or employers to back you up.
- Combine everything and edit.
Now you have three pieces of information – your story, your customer’s needs and the benefits of working with you. The magic happens where the three overlap. Time to scour your original piece with a ruthless red pen. Keep the aspects of your voice and personality that you like. Remove anything unnecessary – anything that would make your reader think ‘huh?’. Strengthen your points with all the evidence you found earlier.
If after doing all this you’re still worried you might hurt someone’s feelings (a horrible ex-boss, for example), simply prune anything personal and make sure it’s about you, your experience and your feelings – no-one can tell you that you didn’t feel unfulfilled in your old job, but if you tell the world that your old boss didn’t care about you, you could cause offence and burn bridges.
Finally, before you publish – sleep on it! It’s amazing what comes up when you look at your words with fresh eyes. If you need any help with your bio, mission statement or ‘about’ page, I can help – just let me know.