Viewing entries tagged
Personal Branding

How To Write A Personal Bio in 8 Steps

Photo by Michael B. Maine

1.    Identify your purpose and audience. Before you begin writing carefully consider who will be reading your bio. Also, spend some time thinking about why are writing it and what you intend to convey and accomplish. I keep two general bios (casual and professional in tone) prepared in the event I have to send one right away. However, when I have the time, I always draft a clean one with a specific audience and purpose in mind.

2.    Curate your information. Be critical with the information you include. Allow your audience and purpose guide the information you share. Generally you should include something about who you are, what you're about, important accomplishments, hobbies, and contact information. Spousal information (if needed) should be included only after all of your personal details.

3.    Outline your bio. Create an outline of the information you plan on including. This will make writing your bio easier as well as provide you the opportunity to quickly see if anything is missing or doesn't fit. At the very least include:

  • Your name
  • What you're about
  • Claim to fame
  • Recent and important accomplishments
  • Contact information

4.    Write your bio. Begin writing your bio. Most resources recommend writing the bio from the third person perspective. This is preferred for most situations (especially formal ones), but I think the first person perspective also works well. This is my preferred perspective for personal websites and social media profiles. After all, you are a real person, right? My personal solution: write both versions and keep them easily accessible in a text document. To make things easier for you I’ve started one you can download here.

5.    Proofread and Revise. After you've taken the time to write your bio, make sure it's perfect. Check not only for grammar and typos, but also for flow, ease of reading, and content. A great bio will increase your credibility and provide a more professional appearance if it is free of common writing errors.

6.    Proofread and Revise. Wash. Rinse. Repeat. Every time I proofread, I find something I overlooked the first time. Normally, I overlook something the first two times. Maybe you're better than I am, but I recommend being safer than sorry. I’ve checked this document three times and I’m sure I could still find an error. People often base their first impression on your bio, especially on the web.

7.   Get a third party to proofread it. Once you've checked for errors and content, try and have a friend, colleague, or trusted professional take a look at it. Chances are they will find something you missed or have some insights that could make your bio stronger. Besides, it's always good to have an outside perspective.

8.   Maintain your bio. Your bio, like your résumé, is a living document. As you progress in your career and life, make sure your documentation reflects those accomplishments and changes.

Additional Tips on How To Write A Personal Bio

1.    Keep (4) versions of your bio.: Twitter, Short, Medium, Long

  • 160 characters
  • One sentence
  • 100 words
  • 250 words

2.    Introduce yourself. There's a good chance that if someone is reading your bio, they don't know you personally. Lead with your name.

3.    State what you do. Let people know what you do. This may be a good place for you to exercise the 3 question activity:

  • Who are you?
  • What do you do?
  • Why does it matter?

4.    Include recent accomplishments. Let people know that you are currently doing good work. It's great to have important accomplishments documented, but don't allow people to think you are living in the past.

5.    Include your contact information. Ensure that people are able to reach you. Save it for the end, but leave out your contact information. If I see your bio out of context, I might still want to be able to reach you. If you are worried about having your personal information floating around on the Internet, get a Google Voice phone number if you don't have a business or professional line.

6.    Use both 1st and 3rd person. Most people say to write bios in third person, but I find it awkward to read a personal website in third person. It just doesn't feel natural. However, for professional bios you're sending with cover letters, workshop proposals, etc., keep it formal.

7.   Always get feedback on it. If at all possible, get a friend or somebody else you trust to provide honest feedback.

8.   Keep it up to date. You're always doing something new. Your bio should reflect that.

9.    Use your short bio in your email signature. Use your short bio in your email signature. It’s a good place to share a little about yourself.

10.   Write your bio in a text editor, not in Word. I always write documentation in a text editor. The free ones work well (Notepad for Windows, TextEdit for Mac). The files are smaller and it strips the formatting so that, when you send it, it's much easier for the recipient to use in their documentation. It makes copying a pasting a breeze and you’re not limiting your content to specific platforms or programs.

What is Personal Branding

I’m almost afraid to use the term “personal branding” when I talk or write about it. After all, the meaning of the words: branding, marketing, communications, strategy, and others have largely been diluted due in part to their overuse and in part to how some people and organizations have abused their functions. In the show notes/blog post for today, I hope to explain what I mean when I use the term “personal branding.”

What is personal branding?

Most books and websites about personal branding or career development reference the following definition:

“Personal branding describes the process by which individuals and entrepreneurs differentiate themselves and stand out from a crowd by identifying and articulating their unique value proposition, whether professional or personal, and then leveraging it across platforms with a consistent message and image to achieve a specific goal. In this way, individuals can enhance their recognition as experts in their field, establish reputation and credibility, advance their careers, and build self-confidence.”

Although I think this is a good definition, I can never remember the entire thing. So, I define personal branding as simply: The process of understanding exactly who you are at your essence, what your values are, and how to put things in place to live as authentically as possible.

In my definition I intentionally use the term “process” and leave out the term “work.” I think it is important to look at branding as a process that never ends. In its truest sense, a brand is the collective sentiment held by others. Since that sentiment is always subject to change, the process of branding is never complete. This helps us avoid the pitfalls of feeling finished once we’ve printed glossy business cards, updated our resume, or attended a few networking events.  Also, I leave out the term work because I feel that one of the biggest misunderstandings about personal branding is that it is a process used exclusively to find employment or work-related opportunities. Personal branding is a tool that, when used appropriately, can help an individual find quality work experience, but also friends, volunteer opportunities, and a deeper understanding of oneself.

Personal Branding is NOT:

  1. Shameless ego-stroking and self-promoting
  2. Just a buzz word or passing fad
  3. An attractive logo, tagline, and/or elevator pitch

Why Does It Matter?

Personal branding matters for a number of reasons. Here’s a short list:

  1. When you truly understand your values you are more likely to make decisions and seek and discover opportunities that align with those values
  2. If you don’t know who you are, you can’t begin to communicate who you are to the rest of the world
  3. 5 in 6 adults in North America are considering changing jobs
  4. A strong personal brand can restore the security we once had in our careers
  5. You are more empowered to positively affect yourself and the people around you

Personal Branding Tip: Revisiting the 3 Questions

Can you answer these questions clearly, concisely, and consistently?

  1. Who am?
  2. What do I do?
  3. Why does it matter?

If you can, you’re one of the few. If you’re like most people, these questions are extremely difficult to answer. You might have an idea, but the ability to clearly articulate that idea may escape you. Don’t worry. Honestly, almost every company I’ve asked these same questions fail to answer then too—at first.


Why These Questions Matter

This is the fundamental stuff on which everything else is based. However, most of us never stop to really think about it. I know I didn’t. It wasn’t until I started breaking down brands with clients when I grasped the importance of understanding really knowing yourself. I remember asking, “what does your company actually exist—really?” When they couldn’t answer that I knew we had to go back to basics.


What I learned from those experiences is applicable far beyond the business world. As it turns out, we have been socialized not to truly know ourselves. I definitely believe that recently our culture is more tolerant of people exploring the things that make us happy and allow us to be our authentic selves. Historically, though, we have been trained to ignore or suppress our inner desires in order to procure secure work and provide for families, often at the expense of our health, sanity, and health. Times have changed. We now live in a world where we have the ability to craft our identity far beyond “what we do,” race, ethnicity, etc.


However, new worlds requires new talents, skills, and understandings. The average U.S. citizen will have ten jobs before they retire (if they retire). 3 in 4 of us are actively seeking new employment. We no longer identify primarily with our work or companies. Understanding these facts will help solidify the important of being able to know why you exist in this world (and it IS important that you exist in this world), what you bring to the table, and why you are the person to bring it.


How To Answer Them

When answering these questions, it’s important to hold close your values. The idea here is to uncover your essence. “I am a copywriter” is NOT the correct answer to “Who am I?” “I am a person who values clear communication and bridging the gap between people and their needs” is a better response. Try asking yourself theses questions and see what you come up with. Don’t identify with your job. Identify with you. Think back to your childhood. What brought you joy. What could you do for hours that made you forget about everything else. What do these things uncover about yourself in yourself? Once you think you have a solid answer, challenge yourself to go deeper and get even more real.

Personal Branding Tip: Should My Bio Be In 1st or 3rd Perspective?

The Question - Should I write my bio from the 1st or 3rd perspective?

The Simple Solution - Write Both

  • 160 character

  • One sentence

  • 100 words

  • 250 words (1st person)

  • 250 words (3rd person)

The Three Guiding Principles

  1. What is the message I’m trying to deliver?

  2. To whom am I delivering this message?

  3. Through which media am I delivering this message?

However, these are just guidelines, not hard rules, so do whatever feels right to you. What do you think? Let me know in the comments below or on twitter at @michaelbmaine. Until next time…peace.