How to Write an Effective Bio Using 5 Simple Questions

You’ve just read an impressive bio. It was succinct, smooth, and made you want to do business with that person. Now you realize your own bio needs a rewrite. That was so simple, you think to yourself. I can write a bio like that!

So you sit down to write and…{POW!}…bump right into a wall of writer’s block.

Sound about right?  Writing a bio is hard. Writing your own can seem impossible.

Using the concept of the 5 W’s—who, what, when, where, why—here’s how to approach it:

Who?

Who seems obvious: the whole point of a bio is to describe you, right? But to write it effectively, you also need to know who you’re writing to.

Here are a few questions to ask yourself before you sit down to write:

Who will read this bio? Who do I hope to hear back from (staffing managers, clients, fans)? Who cares? How can I make the reader of my bio care about me? (Hint: address their pain point.)

To reach your intented audience effectively, you need to the answer the question: “Who am I writing to?”

What?

What, exactly, is the most important piece of information you want your audience to know about you? What skills do you bring to the table? Think about that one type of person who can give you everything you’re looking for and, in three sentences or less, tell that person exactly what they need to know before they engage with you.

What do you do? What awards or accomplishments do you want to highlight? What tone of voice is appropriate for your audience? What point of view is appropriate?

Tone of voice and POV are critical components of an effective bio. These elements are the foundation of your online presentation, so it pays to get them right.

When?

When did you become whatever you are? When did you do that spectacular thing you want everyone to know about? You can use dates to indicate when you graduated from college if you want to be on-the-nose, or you can blur the line by calling out an event that taught you the necessary skill set to do this thing you now do.

If you don’t have a degree, don’t get hung up on it. Bypass that hurdle by using language that briefly proves your ability to do the job. Remember, the goal of a bio is to play up your strengths, not highlight your perceived knowledge gaps. It’s perfectly alright not to have a degree—just ask Richard Branson, Sean Parker, and Paul Mitchell.

Where?

Where have you worked/volunteered/done spectacular things? Where did you learn your craft? Where will your bio appear?

Your bio should cater to the specific audience type attracted by each platform. To portray yourself appropriately, consider preparing more than one version. Your tone should reflect the specific audience on each platform, but remember: you’re not talking to everyone, only your ideal type of person through the lens of the persona they would use in that same space (funny or irreverent on Twitter, polished on LinkedIn). And keep word count limits in mind. You can find them here.

Why?

Describe your passion, raison d’etre, or goal. Whatever drives you, mention it. If you’re trying to get hired, use an appropriate tone of voice. If you’re selling a product, that’s a different tone. Looking to gain a follower? Attract an investor? Find a spouse? All different tones. Knowing why you’re writing this thing will help you figure out how to write it.

What Else?

What personal/funny/interesting thing describes or defines the real you outside of the 9-to-5? Go ahead, briefly mention your quirky fascination with (insert hobby here). It will humanize you and possibly even start a conversation with the people you’d most like to meet.

And if you get hung up, hire a copywriter to write a professional bio for you.

 

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