In this week's blog, we've got Kimberley Anderson of Red Curl Creative giving us useful tips on how to write your bio for our website and what NOT to write!
Why is writing a few paragraphs about yourself so hard?
“There is nothing to writing. All you have to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed” ~Ernest Hemmingway.
Of all the things I am hired to write for people, biographies or “About Me” pages are their biggest struggle.
We all understand that words have power. When we read something that we deeply connect with, it’s a primal emotion. Our brains flood with oxytocin, the same chemical that produces a “love rush.” We all would like our potential clients to feel that when they read about us, wouldn’t we?
Most people start by writing their bios by surfing around the web reading other people’s bios in their industry. Then they copycat the feeling, tone, and layout of the bio with their own words. The problem is the bios have become increasingly formulaic.
These five things are ways to dive deeper and create a bio that looks, sounds, and “feels” like you.
#1 You are Not The Queen
Creatives; hear me out. Never write in the third person if it’s your business.
If you are a studio and have multiple photographers, then using the term “we” is fine, but still write like one human being talking to another. But if it’s just you behind the camera, using the word “we” is confusing to the reader. “We” is not your brand. Third-person biographies may be fine for the Queen and brain surgeons, but as a creative entrepreneur, you need to connect with your audience.
Third-person writing distances you from your work and the heart that you have for your profession. Here’s my rule about third-person bios: One simply does not.
#2 Deep Dive for Words to Guide You
When I write a bio for someone, I have my clients fill out a discovery form; then, we do a video call to hear them describe in their voice and cadence what they want their bio to project. After that, I dig deep into their social media accounts and reviews.
Of all the parts of this process, the most revealing information is always in their social media. Why? Because that’s where people interact with people the most naturally. I can often find out more about a wedding professional from their Knot Reviews, their Facebook reviews, the comments on the photo galleries, and their interactions on Instagram than anywhere else. There is always, ALWAYS, a theme that resonates about their services.
For example, a photographer I wrote for spent a lot of time talking to me about how she felt her USP (unique selling proposition, if you’ve never heard of this term) was that she wrote timelines out for her couples.
When I read her reviews and testimonials, I didn’t see one person who mentioned the timeline.
What they did talk about, over and over, is how her presence was a calming force on the day. Every single one of those clients attributed that feeling to the photographer’s personality, not the timeline.
Think about those words. She was a calming force on our wedding day. BAM. Golden nuggets. That calming force they felt was a by-product of the timeline, not the reason for it.
If you’re tackling your bio, how can you accomplish this for yourself? You’re going to need to take that deep dive into a place many people don’t find comfortable: reviews, testimonials, and feedback from your clients.
If you don’t have one place where you keep all of these gems, you should. Testimonials are extremely powerful and are a great way to go bragging on yourself without bragging on yourself. Go gather all of them up and put them in a simple Google Doc. All of them! The ones from the Knot, emails you’ve gotten, handwritten notes, comments on Facebook. (Also, reading these the next time you’ve got a raging case of Imposter Syndrome? Free therapy, my friend)
Dump all those sweet words of love and affection into that doc, and as you read, start highlighting the powerful words and phrases that make you feel like a rockstar. Your former clients are handing you all the information you need to know on a silver platter! They are telling you, quite literally, what your services meant to them and why you are the best at what you do. Now you can use that targeted information to relay to potential clients looking for someone like you. Is it that you have the best variety of cakes in the city and their guests raved about their wedding cake years later? Did the boudoir session you did make women realize how truly beautiful they are for the first time in years? Did you exceed expectations with your custom-made invitations over and over? What are the words and phrases that people are using to tell you what you are really good at? What is your SUPERPOWER?
Now that you’ve got some keywords, it’s time to look for the stories to tell to support them.
#3 Tell the Right Part of the Story
Stories resonate in our brains, they help us remember things, and they connect us to clients. I randomly went to different About Me Pages and found the same cliched phrases on many of them:
“I was the one always taking photos; I love how photographs freeze moments in time.” “Our wedding planning services will help take the stress away from planning your wedding day.” “I’ve always loved flowers, so becoming a wedding florist was a natural career for me.”
I guarantee your potential clients are reading the same phrases on websites all over. What if yours was the one that took that story a little bit farther? Give them the story within the story. “My earliest childhood memories of what love felt like was flour in my mother’s hair, the soundtrack of Fleetwood Mac’s Rumors, and the smell of vanilla. Those hours I spent with her standing on a stool in our kitchen making cakes are what led me here. Those cakes baked in my childhood kitchen may not have been as artisanal as the wedding cakes I make today, but the love that inspired them is still baked right in.”
Share the story with your potential clients to tell them why you do what you do.
#4 Banish the Listicle
Personality-based marketing led to “listical” bios a few years ago, and some people have never gone back. “Yoga lover. Extroverted Introvert. Dog mom. Cashew eschewer. Black and white fanatic. All the cheese, please. Lattes and laughs. My little girl's dimples. The look on the groom’s face during the first dance.” While pithy and easy to write, these types of bios tell your client something and nothing all at once. Their intent to connect with like-minded clients isn’t completely misguided, but they fail at one important thing; they don’t make you stand out from everyone else who is doing this.
Personally, I find them lazy and dated, and I bet after a potential client reads a few of them, they have serious word fatigue on top of all the overwhelm of choosing wedding vendors. I mean, almost everyone likes cheese. What makes you different from the next cheese-loving videographer?
Including personal items in an About Me? A resounding hell yes. But if a listicle is what you are relying on to sell yourself, you’re likely going to be passed over for the next videographer who likes cheese and Classic Nintendo.
#5 You Don’t Have to Write Chronologically
It’s our natural tendency to start at the beginning. I got a camera, became obsessed with photography, went to college, started a business, expanded my business, stopped being a photographer, became a copywriter. It’s linear, and our brains understand this.
However, sometimes the beginning is kind of boring! For the most impact, bring your potential client right into the heart of your business. Is it when you became obsessed with taking photos? Start there. Tell a story about the first time you made a photo that made your heart stop. Use descriptive and powerful words to describe this moment.
This is a story from my life that could easily be included in my bio:
“I downloaded the cards from the wedding I had just photographed, exhausted. This was my twentieth season as a wedding photographer. I backed up the photos to an external drive and began my ritual of blogging about the wedding. By Monday, the wedding would meld into last weeks, and I wouldn’t be able to recall the groom’s name. I always wrote the night of the wedding, no matter how tired I was, so the memory of taking those photos in the sun-drenched field was fresh, and when I could still recall what filling the wedding cake had. The writing was the icing on top of being paid to take pretty photos. The day that I realized I liked the writing better than taking the photos was the day I decided to change careers.”
My last bit of advice beyond these 5 things is this: just start writing. It really is the hardest part!
“You can always edit a bad page. You can’t edit a blank page.” ~Jodi Picoult
About the Author
Kimberley Anderson is a copywriter, which is a fancy way of saying she writes things for people, mostly photographers and people in the wedding and events industry. She lives in Phoenix, Arizona, after decades of living in the Midwest, and yes, she knows it’s a dry heat.
For more information, or if you want her to write your bio--so you can get on with your life, visit www.redcurlcreative.com or join her group on Facebook where she helps photographers and wedding pros write better words.