My About page was just as outdated as everyone else’s. When I wrote the original draft of that page about eight or nine years ago I wanted something that didn’t sound like it was written by the T-1000. I’ve recently revised it to have two parts: an informal bio and a professional one at the bottom.
Most bios sound something like this in the first person:
After earning my Bachelor’s in Media Arts from Indiana University, I started my career with the Indiana Supreme Court. There, I was able to explore my passion for the web and design. In addition, I’ve been recognized by colleagues and later clients for my relentless commitment to better websites.
Gross. That ticks off a lot of boxes, but it’s just so inhumane.
A third person point of view struggles to sound slightly better:
Justin is an experienced copywriter and website strategist. Driven by a desire to make websites better, he takes pride in providing the best research and narrative nonfiction copywriting work for site SEO and growth. An avid cyclist, Justin has cycled over 75,000 miles in his life and is on a mission to become one of the world’s leading narrative nonfiction writers for brands, websites, and other research projects.
Gross, but at least it’s less showy.
There’s the Instagram or Twitter bio route where people write with emojis to explain various loves, interests, and hobbies. I actually do the same:
💪 Helping you sound and look better
🥇 Writer at justinharter.com
👇 See what I’m up to
But those are short and don’t have a ton of room, and are not at all useful for work or professional contexts.
My friend and mentor Scott Flood wrote this variation for me at my request many years ago:
An entrepreneur, writer, educator, and social organizer, Justin started a successful web development business before he was old enough to drive. By 21, he was managing the Indiana Supreme Court’s complex website.
Today, he helps clients optimize their online presence, teaches web design to students of Vincennes University at Ben Davis University, and has channeled central Indiana’s youthful tech community’s resources into community service, first through the successful RefreshIndy social organization, and now through the annual re:build web conference.
As personal and professional bios go, having someone else you trust write some or all of it is a great way to go. What made Scott’s variation for me so useful was how it captures what was unusual and unique about me at the time—my age.
But I’m not 19 or 22 anymore. My professional goals have changed, I’ve accomplished many more things and it needs some updating.
If you can get over the mental hump of thinking about yourself as a product, think about the best reviews on the Internet and what those things have in common:
- The best products provide clear benefits, not just features. E.g., “It toasts Pop-Tarts in 60 seconds” is a feature. “Sit down with the kids for breakfast in under a minute” is a benefit.
- There’s social proof from someone else in the form of a useful, believable testimonial or kudos.
- As writing goes, starting with a “you” focus instead of “I” or some first-person possessive is ideal. “I write the best code for businesses” sounds better as, “Get the best code for your business by hiring me.”
- The best writing isn’t who, what, when, where, and how or why. It’s character, scene, plot, and theme. Those are all hard things to include in a few sentences, but I wanted to try…
An example of a new bio for 2021
Justin Harter is awake and moving by 5:30 seven days a week. By 7 AM he’s writing some of the most compelling stories and advertising for places like Indiana University, game studios, and engineering firms.
An entrepreneur, writer, educator, and athlete, Justin originally started a successful web development business before he was old enough to drive. By 21, he was managing the Indiana Supreme Court’s complex website. By 33 he had grown and sold his web design agency.
He has helped shape young minds at Vincennes and Indiana Universities and has channeled Indiana’s tech community, first through the successful RefreshIndy social organization, and later through the three-time re:build web conference.
Past colleagues have described Justin as, “An excellent teacher and writer”, “A creative dynamo that helps our business be better”, and possess what his husband calls, “A force somersaulting him out of bed at very early hours” and “a weird knack for learning about obscure things.”
Today from his home in Indianapolis, Justin helps people like you optimize websites with brand journalism, search optimization and increased traffic, and copywriting. He’s on a mission to become one of the world’s leading narrative nonfiction writers by 2035 online and in print.
Justin is also the author of two books, including “What Does Your Website Do All Day?” Work is underway on a third book. He finds time to write on his personal website at justinharter.com and has begun a regular email series.
Steal these bio template example ideas
The professional bio idea
(Your Name) is widely considered an (“invaluable member of our team”) by her colleagues and clients and (“the person we trust the most to get things done”). Affable, friendly, and fiercely loyal, (FirstName) works from (Louisville) helping companies foster new talent.
A native of (Indiana), (FirstName) has been praised for her attention to (scholarship, understanding client needs, and being able to react to critical issues).
In a long but productive career, she has been (a counselor, a teacher, a Human Resources specialist, and most importantly—a mother). A familiar presence around (southern Indiana), she is often noticed (riding horses and supporting youth softball teams).
(FirstName) is a contributor to (several online forums and conferences), including (the popular Acme Conference each September). You can find her online at (LinkedIn).
The alternative personal bio idea for job seekers
Like 1/900th of the planet, (Your Name) was born in Indiana and wanted to be a (cartoonist). But owing to good sense and the fortune of having parents who thought he wasn’t very good, he became a (high school English teacher) instead.
He graduated (summa cum laude) from (Indiana University) with a Bachelor’s degree in (English literature) and later a Master’s from (IU) in (Education). While at IU’s idyllic Bloomington campus, (FirstName) gained a reputation for unrelenting kindness and dedication to young people. He once (helped tutor a dozen kids after school, bringing their average reading comprehension up four grade levels in one year).
(FirstName) has been awarded or recognized as (Teacher of the Year in 2010) and twice the recipient of the prestigious (Teacher of the Decade in 2000 and 2020). At the conclusion of receiving one recent award, his mother declared he is the (“most handsome man in the room”).
Mr. (LastName) can be found playing tennis and cooking—usually not at the same time—around (Indianapolis). He lives with his (wife, FirstName), and their (kid/pet), (Brewster).
A gifted speaker, Mr. (LastName) works at (Warren Central High School) and is open for adjunct teaching positions at colleges and universities.