Writing a personal bio requires you to look inward at the passions, goals and desires driving your work. For that reason, even just thinking about writing a bio can cause a flurry of fear and self-doubt.
Despite this, one truth remains: Having a professional bio that you’re proud of can open new, fulfilling doors for your creative career.
Whether you’re a maker, a designer or simply someone who feels creatively driven, this non-intimidating guide will make it easier to explain yourself and your life’s work.
If your bio writing efforts have never gotten further than a blank page or a blinking cursor, I totally get it. Fortunately, writing about yourself is much easier when you have a little bit of inspiration and direction.
These are questions I’ve devised to help you think deeply about your personal and professional passions:
- Think back to your oldest memory of using this passion or skill in action. (If you can’t think of a specific moment, a general timeframe is just fine. Ex: I loved writing personal essays in the sixth grade.) What was happening in your life at this moment? Why did this particular thing mean so much to you?
- What people have inspired you throughout life? It can be a parent, a friend, teacher or mentor. This person doesn’t have to be real, either. It could be a hero/heroine, or a character in a book or movie.
- After you’ve chosen your muse(s), you might consider: what would your career path look like without this influence? This might help you better compartmentalize this figure’s contributions to your creative life.
- How does it feel to do the work that you do? Why do you do it? Consider the aspects of your daily life that are enhanced by this special talent or passion. How does this inform and enhance your creative mind?
- How does your work benefit the lives of others? Why is their life a little bit better after experiencing your work/products/services?
As you explore these questions, try not to get too caught up in writing something perfect. As author and columnist Meghan Daum once suggested in a memoir writing workshop I took: write with the liberation of complete privacy.
Articulating your skill sets
Every professional bio should discuss creative skills, knowledge and expertise. I’m not just talking about including your college degree, either. In fact, the knowledge you’ve gained out in the world and in a professional context is likely more impressive.
Despite the importance of a well-articulated skill set, however, this is an area where we humble creative folks often struggle. I know this both from personal experience and from working with creative professionals and entrepreneurs. One reason this is so difficult is because skills sometimes feel intangible. For example, let’s say you formatted a PDF in InDesign once – does that mean you can put graphic design under your list of skills? Maybe you oversaw an important design project at your last job – are you allowed to put project management on your resume?
Its normal to feel unsure about whether or not you’re qualified in a certain area. To make the process easier, only include a skill in your bio if it meets the following criteria:
- It plays an important role in your creative goals
- Knowing the skill makes you more competitive or helps you stand out professionally
- You have a specific example of how you’ve employed it in a professional capacity
- If someone were to ask about that skill, its easy for you to explain how you used it and what effect it had (and can provide visual examples where applicable)
Write with the liberation of complete privacy. -Meghan Daum
Formatting your professional bio
Now that you’ve worked through some (if not all) of the questions above, its time to make these ideas coherent. One way to organize your thoughts and ideas is to separate them into different categories.
Try to copy/paste or rewrite the ideas you’ve penned into the following categories:
ex: my grandmother handed me a paint brush at age 8, we often went to plein air oil painting classes together, this cultivated my love of painting nature scenes
ex: freelance designer working with multiple agencies in the health and fitness space
ex: Social media curating, digital illustration, gallery management, Adobe Creative Suite
You’ll then want to put these notes and ideas into a hierarchy within each category. You’ll likely have to cut some things out in order to keep your bio short and sweet, so prioritizing them will make that process easier.
What’s the standard bio length?
I’ve found it helpful to first write a longer, more detailed bio that’s around ~200 words (try not to go longer than that). Once this go-to bio is nailed down, you can repurpose it into short tag lines or briefs when needed.
Using the same base text will help you create a consistent and powerful brand identity across social media, LinkedIn, creative portfolios, company about pages and the like. Plus – it’ll save you the stress of writing a new bio every time someone asks!
Next, its time to articulate your passions, work and skills into smooth, coherent sentences.
Personal and creative bio examples
Looking at examples of other people’s personal bios can help your own creative vision take shape. Here are a few examples of how bios can differ across different creative categories:
The creative business
The about page for Swig of Color – a two-woman social paint party business – is a helpful example for creative businesses. Before worrying about structure or format, I had Susan and Rita answer a number of questions regarding their passions and inspirations. I used this information as the skeleton for each bio. Then, I fleshed these spaces out with details about skillsets, education and professional backgrounds.
For an example of a bio in the consulting and marketing world, visit Marie Forleo’s fresh and inspiring about page.
I’m especially proud of Spelunk Jewelry’s succinct and passionate small business bio. It does a great job of explaining Alyssa’s history, maker skills and creative vision. These personal details are then balanced with a heartfelt promise of what her jewelry can offer. Achieving this balance is a great way to overcome that fear of oversharing.
For a sleek and minimal creator bio, check out the about page of multi-talented product designer Katerina Jeng.
A personal bio you’re proud of
Perhaps you’ve stalled on publishing your website, because you can’t get your personal bio just right. Or, maybe you’ve let an opportunity slip by because your artist statement didn’t make you feel proud. These tips will help you finally publish a bio so that you never miss out again.
For more guidance on writing a creative professional bio, feel feel to contact me – I’d love to help!