How to Write a Bio
- Start by writing a professional bio.
- Personalize your bio with values you care about.
- Consider adding humor, personal anecdotes, and an extended version.
A short, professional bio is one of those things most people don't think about until, all of a sudden, we've been asked to "shoot one over via email" and have approximately one afternoon to come up with it.
That's when we scramble.
And when we scramble, our bio ends up reading like this:Rodney Erickson is a content marketing professional at HubSpot, an inbound marketing and sales platform that helps companies attract visitors, convert leads, and close customers. Previously, Rodney worked as a marketing manager for a tech software startup. He graduated with honors from Columbia University with a dual degree in Business Administration and Creative Writing."
... Woof, that was dull. Are you still with me? I swear, not even adding a tidbit about his cats would liven that bio up.
To be fair, in certain contexts, your professional bio does need to be more formal, like Mr. Erickson's up there. But in many cases, writing a bio that's readable -- even conversational -- is actually a really good thing. That means dropping that traditional format of listing your accomplishments like a robot and cramming as much professional-sounding jargon in there as you can.
Remember: The people reading your bio are suffering from information fatigue. If you don't hook 'em in the first line, you'll lose them quickly.
Alright, I know what you may be thinking ... So what? It's just a bio.
(P.S. Want to give your professional brand a boost? Take one of HubSpot Academy's free certification courses. In just one weekend, you can add a line to your resume and bio that's coveted by over 60,000 marketers.)
Why Does Your Professional Bio Matter?
I mean, how many people actually read those things, anyway?
The answer: A lot of people. More importantly, though, there's no way to tell exactly who is reading it -- and you always want it to be ready for when the right people to come across it. And when they do, you want it to catch their eye. In a good way.
You see, while your resume is only useful for when you're actively applying for specific positions, your professional bio is much more visible. It can live on your LinkedIn profile, your company's website, your guest blog posts, your speaker profiles, your Twitter bio, and many other places.
And, most importantly, it's the tool that you can leverage most when you're networking.
Bottom line? People will read your professional bio. Whether they remember it, and whether it makes them actually care about you, is a matter of how well you present yourself to your intended audience.
So, what does a top-notch professional bio look like?
Let's take a look at some great examples. We've curated some of the best real professional bio examples we've ever seen online. Check 'em out, and use them as inspiration when crafting your own.
6 of the Best Professional Bio Examples We've Ever Seen
1) Phil Gutowski
Phil is a real estate broker for the East Boston neighborhood, and he's mastered the art of adding a warm personality to the professional bio on his website.
First, check out the header of his bio: "Promoting positive community and economic growth in our neighborhood."
The header isn't all about him, nor is it a hard sell about his business. Instead, he's chosen to start with a value proposition. Why? Because Phil knows that his value proposition is the core of his competitive advantage. In header text that stands out on the page, he clearly articulates why someone would want to hire him instead of a competitor: This guy doesn't just sell houses to make money; he promotes community and economic growth in the area.
The rest of his bio includes personal touches that make him more human. He does talk about his business history and accomplishments, but he does so while including personal details that invite readers to relate to him as a person.
For instance, he talks about where he's from (a relevant detail for a real estate broker), his love of the water, why he started his business, and how he's committed to the local community. His bio indicates he's friendly and probably a pleasure to work with, which is important for a real estate broker someone would be working with one-on-one.
2) Ann Handley
If you're a marketer, you've likely heard of Ann Handley. Her list of credentials is lengthy, and if she really wanted to, she could go on and on and on about her accomplishments.
But when people list out all their accomplishments in their bios, they risk sounding a little egotistical. Sure, you might impress a handful of people with all those laurels, but many people who read your bio will end up feeling either intimidated or annoyed. Think about it: Is that how you want the majority of your readers to feel when they read your bio?
To minimize the egoism that comes with talking about yourself, think about how you can list out your accomplishments without sounding like you're bragging. Ann does this really well, choosing a tone in her bio that's more approachable.
It starts with the excerpt in the footer of her personal website. Give it a quick read, paying close attention to the opening and closing lines:
"This is Ann Handley's website, and this is a bit of copy about her ... That's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So read more here." This is the kind of simple, friendly language that invites the reader in rather than shutting them out.
Follow the link and you'll be led to a page dedicated to a fuller bio, which she's divided into two parts: a "short version" (literally a bulleted list of key facts) and a "long version," which includes traditional paragraphs. There's something in there for everyone.
3) Mark Gallion
As a venture capitalist and an executive at several start-ups, Mark Gallion has different versions of his bio all over the internet. You can imagine some are more formal than others. But when it comes to his Twitter bio, he carefully phrased his information in a way that helps him connect with his audience -- specifically, through the use of humor.
Why would he choose humor when he runs four start-ups and constantly seeks funding for them? Well, Mark's tactic is totally intentional: it's a lever he pulls to refresh his brand while maintaining his already impressive and established identity as an entrepreneur.
Mark leverages his Twitter bio because it’s place where he can be human. And it helps him relate to his followers and potential investors.
When crafting your own Twitter bio, consider your audience and the personal brand you're trying to create for yourself. Use it as an opportunity to be relatable. (And check out this list of amusing Twitter bios for inspiration.)
4) Lena Axelsson
When it all comes down to it, your professional bio is no different than any other piece of persuasive copy -- no matter where it lives. One of the most common mistakes people make is thinking of it as its own beast, separate from other pieces of writing. If you think about it that way, you're far more likely to write something painfully uninteresting.
When you sit down to write your professional bio and you're watching that cursor blinking on the screen, think about how you would introduce a blog post. You don't just dive right into the meat of the thing, now, do you? No. You start with an introduction.
The best bios are often concise (around 200–300 words), so you don't have a lot of room to play around. But a single sentence that tees your reader up and provides context for the accomplishments that follow could make the rest of your bio that much more persuasive.
Take Lena Axelsson's bio, for instance. She's a marriage and family therapist -- a job where empathy and compassion are a big part of the job description. That's why she chooses to open her bio with a great introductory sentence: "When human beings experience trauma or severe life stressors, it is not uncommon for their lives to unravel."
Then, she goes into why she's passionate about her job, how she helps her clients, and how she caters her approach to each individual patient. The necessary educational information is left for the end, after the reader has been hooked.
Your bio doesn't have to be super serious, nor does it have to start with a joke. This bio shows how you can capture your reader's attention by being empathetic or telling a brief story.
5) Mark Levy
Mark Levy is a small business owner who's taken a more traditional approach to the professional bio on his website -- but in a way that takes care to speak to his intended audience.
What we love about his bio is the way he's set it up: On his business' "About" page, he's listed two biographies, which he's labeled "Mark Levy's Biography #1" and "Mark Levy's Biography #2."
Click here to see the full version.
Like Ann, Mark's given his readers two different options. The first biography is a "short version," which includes a combination of bullet points listing his credentials and a few short paragraphs.
Every small business owner should have a short, succinct bio that can be used for various purposes. The bio should be authoritative and positive, and should reflect your level of professional achievement and status. Write the bio in third-person rather than first-person, so the bio reads as informative, rather than self-serving.
Even if you have a well-structured resume, there are many times when a short bio will come in handy. For example:
- As a brief executive profile for a website
- As a career clip on your professional social networking sites
- When you’re speaking at an event, and the emcee requests a short bio to reference in your introduction
- When you’re being included in an event program or membership directory
- When you author a paper or article and it includes a brief bio and photo
A short bio can range from one paragraph to a page. Many professionals have different lengths for different purposes.
What to Include
Unlike a detailed resume or a CV, a short bio should encapsulate the professional information that you consider most vital. Consider the following structure:
- Current position
- Career highlights
- Professional designations and education
- Optional Tags (wrap-ups of choice, such as personal information or career objectives)
James Roberts is the CEO of Big Co. During his 10-year tenure, Roberts oversaw operations and strategic planning that resulted in net profit increases in more than 20 percent. Before this role, Roberts was executive director of Small Co., where he directed the activity of three regional branches. Roberts holds a master's degree in management from Any University. In his spare time he enjoys fly fishing and gourmet cooking with his wife, Elise.
Writing multiple short bio versions
You may find it useful to write slightly different versions of your short bio to use for different circumstances. For example, the bio you use for an emcee to introduce you at a charity fundraiser might focus on your contributions to the organization, while the bio you use at the end of an op-ed on management strategies in your local paper would focus on your career expertise. Examples:
Charity: James Roberts is the Executive Director of Big Co. He has been an advisory board member for Charity Name for 15 years and an active member of the annual fundraising gala.
Business article: James Roberts is the CEO of Big Co. He oversees executive training for the organization's internal staff and board of directors. Roberts holds a degree in management from Any University USA.
In addition to the above-mentioned purposes, short bios can also be used for things like business loan or grant applications, as part of email signature blocks or even used as the basis for self introductions at networking events. Consider the short bio as part of your professional presentation materials, and update it, as needed, to ensure that it’s always at the ready.
About the Author
Lisa McQuerrey has been a business writer since 1987. In 1994, she launched a full-service marketing and communications firm. McQuerrey's work has garnered awards from the U.S. Small Business Administration, the International Association of Business Communicators and the Associated Press. She is also the author of several nonfiction trade publications, and, in 2012, had her first young-adult novel published by Glass Page Books.
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