Have you ever had a friend (probably not for long) who was always trying to impress you? Your desire to not be “that guy” might be preventing you from writing an interesting About page for your website.
Maybe your friend was a name dropper. He let drop his associations, real or imaginary, with famous people. A guy I knew in college claimed to play lead guitar for Ryan Adams, you know, just whenever he felt like it.
Maybe in his quest for respect, your friend told barefaced lies. Another guy I once knew claimed to be a bodyguard for Kim Jong-Il. The sheer improbability of North Korea’s supreme leader entrusting his life to a tubby white guy didn’t shake Will’s commitment to that farce. Oh no. In fact, he showed up to a game of Texas Hold ‘Em with a Japanese sword, and when he caught one of my friends goofing off with it, he claimed he needed to “purify” it. He proceeded to slice open his own forearm.
Or maybe your friend has a annoying tendency to turn ordinary conversations into a recitation of his LinkedIn profile. Richard Branson is a client. Taylor Swift is a personal friend. He once beat Dwayne Johnson in a hot dog eating and arm wrestling contests at the same time.
Why do most About pages suck?
No wonder we have trouble writing about ourselves. The specters of braggarts and buffoons haunt our minds, and to avoid coming across as a total tchotch, we play down our accomplishments.
The About page on your website ends up reading like a court summons, or worse, an obituary. Judging by those two or three perfunctory paragraphs, one would assume you had a lobotomy at a young age and haven’t laughed since.
We react so strongly against being Braggy McBraggadocious that we leach all of the color out of our stories.
So let’s remedy the situation, shall we?
Ask the right questions.
If you’re wondering how to write a good About page, you can start by asking the right questions.
Interesting questions are tools that pull out interesting facts and anecdotes. For example, here is a question that I use to break the ice at Mastermind dinners: “What is one professional accomplishment and one personal accomplishment you’re proud of that you rarely talk about?”
You wouldn’t believe what the stories that a single question can unlock. For example, I learned that Brandon Bruce, the COO of Cirrus Insight, finished a 350-mile cycling race across Death Valley. Fatigue hit him so hard toward the end that he started to hallucinate. Good thing his brother was providing support, and they had walkie talkies.
Amazing stories like that typically don’t come out at dinner parties without a little coaxing.
We’re often reluctant to share significant chapters or experiences because boasting is bad manners, right?
It’s your website. You can be honest without being bombastic. Here are some questions-tools to unearth the gold in your story:
- What do you care about?
- What do you want to create?
- What are you committed to?
- What is your vision?
- What is your life’s great ambition?
- What got you into business?
- What’s a big mistake you have made?
- What happened that caused you to commit to this company or this line of business?
- What is the worst job you’ve ever had?
- How did you get your business idea?
- What are your frustrations with your industry?
- What are three little-known facts about you?
- What are two accomplishments you’re proud of but rarely talk about?
- Where did you receive your education? Did you go to college? Grad school? Did you finish? Why or why not?
Pick an overarching theme.
Once you’ve got raw material to work with, you can ask yourself another question to help identify the theme: “What’s the one major point I want people to remember?”
If you’re worried about saying too little or saying too much in your bio, then I have some good news for you: Most people will forget most of what they read anyway.
But your bio can shape or color their general impression of you. For example, a potential client managed to find my About page on AustinLChurch.com: http://austinlchurch.com/about/. In fact, he mentioned it to his business partner during our paid, formal Roadmapping session.
Don’t get me wrong: I like the page. But up until that conversation, I’d always thought of it as obligatory, throw-away content. No one is paying much attention, so why should you?
Yet, when I think back on my years in business, a number of similar conversations come to mind: the client who, like me, was a fly fisherman; the client who graduated from my alma mater, Lipscomb University; the ones who shared my affinity for mobile apps, running, and Jesus.
Common threads and small affinities emerge, and before you know it, people have formed a positive impression of you before they really even know you. They make a decision based on your likability, not your expertise.
You make decisions based on affinities. Your clients do too. We’re human beings, and our minds are looking for efficient ways to categorize and file away new people. The overlap of a few common interests is often enough to tip the balance in your favor.
So once you’ve got some stuff about yourself written—your dancing career, your collection of used wigs, your Chandler Bing-like nubbin—you can tease out one major theme or point to emphasize.
In messaging simplicity is power.
When I was working on my bio, I wanted to communicate my humor and creativity. I chose the timeline format because it stands apart from more predictable paragraphs—especially for a writer—and I chose to highlight some parts of my story that were funny, if not always flattering.
Why humor and creativity?
In writing to show is better than to tell. Putting my sense of humor on display is a more memorable than saying, “You’ll enjoy working with me.” As for creativity, that’s what I sell: my creativity in the form of strategy, writing, and problem-solving.
So to break outside of the box of ordinary bios makes a subtle point: I can and will approach challenges and opportunities from unusual angles.
What about you?
You’ve got experience and expertise. You’ve got skills, both hard and soft. What do you want people to remember about you?
Once you get past both the need to impress and false modesty, you’ll find that your story has veins of gold. Curate your own story by picking and choosing the pieces that best support the major theme.
Your goal with your About page is not to describe all your experience or share all your credentials and expertise but rather to impart a single, cohesive narrative.
You want it 1) to be honest, and 2) to attract the right people.
Be attractive on purpose. Talk about your accomplishments. But make them relate back to something that is relevant to your audience. The overarching theme will make your story resonate with people or make it smell like last week’s shrimp.
How to Write a Good About Page
If you’re not sure how to write a good About page for your website, follow these six steps:
- Ask interesting questions to unearth the gold.
- Pick an overarching theme.
- Emphasize likability.
- Curate your story to support that theme.
- Be honest about your accomplishments.
- Be attractive on purpose.
When in doubt, keep it simple because simplicity in messaging is power. Your company’s About page and your personal bio are two parts of your brand. Give them more attention but not more than they deserve.
And please don’t carry a katana into business meetings.
Do you want to build a profitable business you love?
Duh. Pony up that email address, and you can learn from my failures. You can laugh at my mistakes. You can envy my success at croquet, slow running, and modest bank accounts. Let’s make good money and leave the world better than we found it.
No-nonsense business advice for content writers and freelancers. Served warm with a side of dad jokes.