How to talk about yourself on your website without sounding like a blowhard

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I just finished a draft of a bio for a life/work coach. It represents a pretty radical departure from how she’s currently talking about herself on her site. I’m hoping she’s feeling excited right now because it’s definitely the right step to take. It feels good. It feels like her. And most importantly, it feels real.

I’ve done bios for people before, but usually in the context of writing a whole site for them. Being really focused on just doing this one thing really made me appreciate the power of telling a good story about the person behind a product or service or whatever.

Here’s what I learned that might help you if you’re struggling with the About Me (a/k/a “Hey, look how great I am!”) tab on your site.

Step 1: Imagine you’re talking to just one person.

When you’re writing your bio, it’s tempting to try to talk to a broad audience about who you are and what you do. But when you talk big, you often start using corporatese, one of my BIGGEST pet peeves.

(Want to see corporatese in action? Try a Craigslist job posting, especially for something in the b-2-b world. Ack, it drives me insane. “We’re committed to delivering optimal solutions for technology-based businesses on the cutting edge of state-of-the-art systems protocols.” Um, what was it again that you do?)

But when you talk to one person—preferably your ideal client—you’re having a conversation. You’re giving them a sparkly, feel-good mixture of both concrete facts and the things that evoke emotion. People love that.

(For a different take on this concept, see this excellent post from Laurie Foley.)

Step 2: Can I have a little context please?

I often see bios that are stuffed full of lists: awards, fancy job titles, training certifications, and so on.

(Now sure, if you’ve gotten a MacArthur Genius Grant or a Nobel, go ahead and feel free to include it. In fact, that’s probably all you need to say about yourself.)

Proving your mettle is good, of course, but what the reader really wants is your story: how you got here, what you’ve learned along the way, and how all of that wisdom is theirs for the taking.

If you’re a chocolatier, tell us about how you grew up helping your grandmother in Nebraska make her trademark fudge.

If you’re a designer, tell us about going to New York for your high school trip and seeing your first Mies van der Rohe chair.

If you’re a marketing consultant, tell us how you got 10,000 people to watch a video about a new yogurt brand you helped launch (yeah, that’s right, you got 10,000 people to watch a video about yogurt).

These stories not only give us your background, they give us insight into how you see the world and what’s important to you. They help build relationship and that will make it a thousand times easier for them to buy what you’re selling.

Step 3: Be yourself.

If this is all feeling a little too squishy for you (“I got my J.D. at Harvard for crying out loud. I’m not going to go all chatty Cathy with this thing!”), relax. You don’t have to give up the more traditional bio.

Just make sure your personality comes through somehow—your favorite quote, a book you read that changed your life, something—so that when we read it we feel like you’re greater than the sum of your degrees (even if your degrees are pretty darn impressive).

Feeling good about this? Here's a Bonus Step!!!

Besides telling the story of you, think about giving the reader the story of how you work or what it's like to work with you. It's another great way to connect and make a potential customer feel like you're simpatico.

What change could you make to your bio right now to make it more you-like?