How to write an awesome bio

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Writing about yourself is hard. It’s hard for a lot of people. I’ve had numerous clients come to me specifically to write bios (short biographies) for their staff. It’s a task that is often on their books for months but never gets completed in-house because no-one wants to write them. Everyone procrastinates.

Here’s why I think people find writing their bio hard: Blowing one’s trumpet is a bit icky. A lot of us have real issues with promoting ourselves and our abilities. But you have to get over the ickyness. Your bio is your virtual handshake – you absolutely need one if you’re doing business online. Sure, it takes a bit of time to write one but it’s doable if you follow these five simple tips.

1. Step away from the keyboard
The first thing you need to do is pinpoint why you’re writing a bio. What is it for? Who will read it? Where will it be displayed? Does it need to be short and sweet or long and detailed? There’s no point writing it unless you have a specific purpose for it.

2. Be succinct
Flowery prose has no place in a bio; you have to treat it like an elevator pitch. Explain what you do clearly and concisely. If you're finding it hard to express what it is you do and how it will benefit customers, you need to go back to tip one. The words you use aren’t arbitrary. Each word has a purpose.

3. Be friendly
There is a place for clinical copy but your bio isn’t it. On the web you have about 50 words in which to endear yourself to the reader. You want your words to give the reader a big virtual bear hug. The best way to do this is to inject a little personality into what you’re writing. Make it unique and fun. Include details like your favourite TV show theme song or a personal catchphrase. It’s also a great idea to include a headshot and your personal email address so people can contact you straight from your bio.

4. No jargon
You may be the top-selling flange salesperson in the country (congratulations!) but that doesn’t mean anything if people don’t know what a flange is. Jargon is cool when you’re dealing with people who live and breathe your industry, but for the layperson it can be confusing and annoying. Steer clear of it unless it’s absolutely necessary.

5. Take a step back
We are all invested in the image we convey: we want it to be perfect. One of the best things you can do when your bio is finished is give it to someone else to read. That extra pair of eyes will pick up things you miss (like typos and errant punctuation). Someone else can also pull you up on things that seem a little iffy.

Before you let your bio loose on the world make sure, at the very least, that it answers these questions:

  • What do you do?
  • How long have you been doing it?
  • What makes you better at doing it than anyone else?
  • Why should people trust you to do it for them?

For a little extra spiciness you can add:

  • Awards you’ve won.
  • Details of measurable ways you’ve helped clients.
  • Highlights of your life outside of work.

Don’t be put off writing your bio. It’s a valuable piece of your marketing collateral and once it’s done it just needs tweaks and edits to keep it relevant.

What about you? Do you have a bio? What info did you include and what did you leave out? Have you seen examples of great bios that you’d like to share? Leave the details in the comments.

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This post was first published as a guest post on Kate Toon's blog. Thanks Kate!

Photo by Fab Lentz on Unsplash

7 tips for writing content that counts

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As designers and developers we spend a lot of time (and client money) perfecting the form and function of websites. We slave over accessibility, standards compliance and cross browser compatibility but one of the most important aspects of a build, the site content, is often left to the last minute. Preparing content isn't necessarily a hard task but like design and development there are some rules to remember if you're going to do it well.

1. Write for your audience
When writing web content the most important thing to know is who your audience is. Spend some time researching who they are, what they like and dislike and what they're looking for - you can then tailor your content to suit. Read what your visitors read - i.e. trade related publications and websites. Look at competitor's sites to see what they do (or don't do) well. Familiarise yourself with industry specific terminology to help with your credibility. Constantly revisit who it is you're writing for to get the tone and style right.

2. Have a purpose
Not only is good web writing concise and to the point but it also gives clear direction as to what a visitor should do next. If a website is sales oriented, the copy should aim to bring visitors further along the sales cycle. If it's marketing based it needs to provide relevant answers to questions visitors may have. The minute your copy starts to lack clarity and direction your visitors will go elsewhere. Good web copy always keeps the needs of visitors in mind.

3. Don't be wordy
Web content needs to be brief and punchy - it also needs to be at least 50% shorter than print. Shorten sentences to 20 words or less and get rid of anything that doesn't need to be there. Wordiness puts off visitor. Say what you mean and do it quick.

4. Write scannable text
79% of visitors only quickly scan content which means unless they find what they're after quickly, they're gone. Organise content into chunks, separating each with sub-headings or using lists helps to make content more scannable. Front-loading - where important or goal oriented info is placed at the beginning of a sentence - is another useful tool for helping people find what they need quickly.

5. Watch your language
Neutral language is a no no. The only way to quickly attract and hold the user's attention is through active language. For example the following passive sentence, Daily updates can be found on the news page has less impact than the active, Find daily updates on the news page. Active language is generally shorter and takes less thought to process which is what you need to aim for.

6. Always proofread
Don't ever let any content onto the web before it's been proofread. There's no excuse for typos, grammatical errors or general sloppiness. Any mistakes will damage your credibility so be vigilant.

7. Team up with a designer
The design of a site, and the content that appears on it, rely on each other to convey messages to visitors. Neither can thrive without the other so it's handy to sit down with a designer and plan out how things should flow. A designer may suggest that a chunk of text would be better represented as an image or a downloadable document. Alternatively you might have some ideas on pull quote placement and formatting. Working with a designer will help the end product so be open to the experience.