The internet is a busy community, full of writers, creatives, artists, and business owners all clamoring to be seen and heard. A good bio can be your handshake to the world, a “hello” that serves as an initial conversation starter for jobs, partnerships, networking and other moves to further your career.
Whether you are trying to get the attention of a literary agent or someone to hire you for a creative service, your bio can make or break a potential deal. A good bio establishes your credibility, certifies your expertise, and convinces people that you are the right person for whatever job or opportunity you may be seeking.
The importance of a bio is evident, though what makes a great bio may be a bit more complicated. Bios can differ by outlet and audience, and what may work for, say, a magazine placement may not work very well for your professional website.
Crafting the perfect bio for your needs takes some finesse. Here are some tips that can guide you down the right path toward a bio that will knock their socks off:
Your Bio Should Be a Highlight Reel
Where many go awry in writing their bio is making it needlessly wordy. Bios should be short and sweet, contain the information necessary for your intended audience, and get straight to the point. A good rule of thumb is 150 words or less. Anything more, and you’re drifting into “long-winded” territory, where you risk losing your audience’s attention.
Start With the Good Stuff
Think of who is reading this bio and hook them with your best work. Top-tier placements pack a bigger punch than, for instance, lower-rung publications. Consideration of your audience is vital. If you’re trying to get a freelance writing placement with Rolling Stone, it doesn’t make much sense to tout your placements in smaller, more localized business publications. Rolling Stone wants to hear about what you’ve written that is subject matter adjacent to their focus: music, pop culture, and entertainment.
If you’ve won any awards for your work, be sure to mention that as well. Accolades solidify your position as a top talent and an expert in your field.
Keep the Personal Information to a Mimimum
You may feel compelled to get cheeky in your bio, especially if the outlet you are pitching to or writing for is a more relaxed publication. While most bios will include a bit of personal information about the author — for instance, “Jane enjoys a good mocha latte” — it’s best not to overdo it on the personal tidbits. Your personal bio is not the place to reveal that you have a dozen speeding tickets to your name or absolutely hated “Hamilton.”
The exception to this rule comes in when you are writing for a specific niche. If you’re trying to get hired by an outlet specific to something that personally applies to you, it can make sense to include it in your bio. For example, if you are writing an entire article about how you love pop-punk music, it makes sense to include that your favorite album is “So Long, Astoria” by The Ataris.
Make Them Curious to Know More
Bios should be short, sharp, and make the reader curious to know more about you. Always write in the third person and include only the most essential and relevant information. Remember: you want those who read your bio to reach out and learn more about you.
Once you have written your bio, be sure to get a second or third set of eyes on it to see how it reads to others. Don’t be afraid to return to the drawing board if your initial bio attempt isn’t proving successful.
Engineering the perfect bio takes skill and creativity, but is also an exercise in trial and error. Prepare yourself to change your bio on the fly in order to better fit it to your specific audience, and update it regularly as you collect higher-tier placements and accolades. A great bio can separate you from the pack of pitches and queries and place you on the top of the proverbial slush pile.
About the author
Melanie Parncutt is a publicist at Otter PR in St. Petersburg, Florida. In Baltimore, MD, Parncutt studied writing, technology, communication, and design with a focus on leadership studies. She has extensive experience in public relations, marketing, and advertising including media planning, content writing, and marketing, ghostwriting, corporate partnerships, and broadcast productions.
She has worked with clients in over 10 different industries. She enjoys clients who are actively making a difference in their community and driving innovative change. Parncutt has developed strong media relations experience working with journalists from around the country. Some of her clients are contributors for the Forbes Councils and Entrepreneur Leadership Network and others have been featured in Fortune, USA Today, MarketWatch, LA Weekly, Tech Times, NY Weekly, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, CBS TV Miami, and more.