Recently, I’ve been talking to a lot of people about what they have trouble writing, and the same answers keep popping up. One of these answers is “myself.”
It’s tough writing when you feel like it’s all about yourself. It feels dirty. It feels conceited. It feels wrong.
The problem is a little deeper than just struggling to find the right words or knowing what direction to take, though. A fine line lies between discussing your achievements and bragging, and so many people feel like they look conceited when they mention their education or awards or years of experience in a certain field. Though we should be proud of what we have achieved and how we can benefit others with our knowledge, we may feel like we are boasting and, consequently, feel like we will be judged.
Women especially feel like they should take on the job of the self-less nurturer, and sometimes, we feel strange accepting our strengths as something that can benefit others, something worthy of discussion. It can leave us confused or embarrassed, and often leads to sparse character sketches when we most need to reveal our true selves.
Instead of feeling self-conscious that you are bragging when you write an About page or bio, consider that this type of writing is not about you. It’s about what the audience wants to know.
Own a business? Your audience cares about how many years you’ve been in business, any awards you’ve won, your experience and education, and if you have staff, their attributes as well.
Are you a writer? Your readers want to know why you are the expert, or for fiction writers, why you might be a good writer for them to read. Don’t be afraid to compare yourself to other authors (just not Shakespeare, please, good grief) if you have a similar writing style and fall into their genre. And don’t be afraid to mention that you worked as an award-winning investigator if you write crime novels or English teacher of the year if you write novels for young adults.
Doesn’t that pique your interest when you hear it about someone else?
One good way to write about yourself is to pretend you’re writing about someone else. If you’re writing your About page for your chiropractic practice’s webpage, for example, think about what your ideal customer wants to read about a chiropractor to encourage them to make an appointment. You want them to trust you, so list your experience. You want them to believe that other chiropractors value your service, so tell them about awards you have won from the national association or when you’ve been asked to address a group of professionals. And you want people to know that you have happy customers, so talk about what they are saying about your work. If you don’t know, just ask. Really. After eight years of working with my chiropractor, through two pregnancies and recoveries, I would be happy to provide a testimonial for my doctors. They have worked miracles on my train wreck.
Writers too shouldn’t be afraid to talk about themselves. Consider what you want to hear about an author when you are deciding to buy their books.
Nonfiction authors should think exactly like business owners in this case. You have an expertise that you want people to purchase. Fiction authors may have a more difficult time talking about themselves if they don’t have a lot of awards or author-centric experiences (I’ve had trouble in that realm myself), but don’t let that discourage you. As you progress, you will be able to talk about events where you were featured, the number of books you’ve sold, and groups you have presented to.
Caitlin Bacher has some great suggestions for your About page, as well as a plethora of amazing business resources. She mentions that, on her own About page, “instead of leading with the silly bits about me, I have explained that my blog & website are for babes in business who are looking to live more glamorous, happy and generally glitter-filled lives. I also explain that this specific reader can continue to come to my website for tips on living a simpler freelanced life, for branding advice, for self-love pep talks and for inspiration and resources to be happier & sillier.” For bloggers, it’s important to communicate to readers what you will be talking about so they will stick around, and hopefully, you consider your audience and write in a style that will appeal to those you want to attract.
If you’re looking for a fab roadmap for developing your About page, also check out Val Geisler’s blog on the topic.
A bio has many similarities to an About page, but it can be a different beast altogether. Your audience is still the most important deciding factor on what to write, and pretending that you are writing about someone else can go a long way on inspiration. Award applications frequently require bios, so researching the awarding organization and what’s important to it can help guide your writing if the application doesn’t ask for you to cover certain things. For example, if the organization provides awards for Hispanic scientists, you should mention your specific heritage and how you remain connected to your family, as well as your scientific accolades. Always speak to your particular audience for the best results! I have some examples of award-winning award applications in my portfolio.
So the next time you need to write about yourself, plunge ahead. Think about how you are helping your audience. Consider the benefits of your experience. Determine what your audience needs to know to pinpoint the exact info to share!