This article is adapted from a talk given to first-year university students earlier this year. If you are not a student — be warned — this might be a little patronizing.
It doesn’t matter who you are — the most important aspect of any brand or business communication is always understanding who your audience is and what they are looking for.
When you start putting together your ‘about’ page you should begin by understanding the audience it’s intended for.
The people who actually read it are not the general public but potential clients or collaborators.
The tone of the information included should be tailored to what they are looking for not what you want to personally share.
Obviously, people want to know about you — that is why they are there. The problem is that the standard advice that gets rolled out is “make a window and not a wall”.
This isn’t entirely bad advice — but the reality is no one has
any interest in your life story the time to read your life story.
Bucking the trend with a wacky about page could make you stand out from the crowd but realistically it probably won’t and only end up frustrating your reader.
How long should a biography be?
Analytics on the sites I manage have an average session duration for an ‘about’ page of less than a minute. A persons average reading speed is 200wpm.
This means it makes sense to have a total word count of no more than 200 words… so lets just assume then it is a given that your chosen field is your ‘passion’, and you first picked up a camera, paintbrush, or Wacom tablet at the age of two and skip the usual waffle.
Name, location, experience.
This information is going to be the only thing that is practically relevant to someone looking at your biography. If you lead with anything beyond this and people are going to skip past it.
“Hi, I’m Tom, a Web Designer & Developer based in Bath, with over 10 years of experience I specialise in creating branding and websites for people in the creative industry.”
This is completely sufficient to explain who I am, what type of work I do and give a client a good indication of if I would be a good fit.
This core statement can now act as the lead paragraph or in some cases be completely sufficient.
If you are confident in what you do, you might want to leave it at that. Simply add some contact details and you are done.
Dive into Detail
While awards, clients or publications lend themselves to being presented in a clear hierarchical format (bullet points are ideal), it can be difficult to decide what detail to include within the about text.
Types of clients
Listing the type of clients you work with rather individual clients works well within the about text.
If you have a couple of crackers in your client list you want to show off ? Add them to a bullet point client list outside the main text.
For someone reading the about page it is always going to be preferable to read prose rather than a long list.
For example stating that you work with ‘national newspapers’ or ‘international brands’ will reinforce where you sit within the industry.
Approach and Values
Tell people what you believe and what your professional values are. This can be especially valuable at connecting with clients or explaining your style.
The assumption is that if your brand is your name you are going to be a one-man-band. However, plenty of creatives are equivalent producers.
If you have spent time assembling a team around you, talk about them. Similarly, if you have a studio space, office or other overheads that set you apart list them.
You can help
If someone has got this far, they could need an extra push to reach out to you.
Just stating that if someone has questions, wants more information or has an idea they think might be a good fit for your work they should get in touch can be enough to start a conversation.
Including a photograph of yourself is essential to the function of an about page.
Being able to look you square in the eye is allegedly the first step to establishing trust. Yet simple practical terms — if you have ever had a meeting with someone you have never met before or gone into a private view hoping to corner the artist you will realise how valuable knowing who you are looking for can be.
… but I am just a student?
Listing reams of experience, awards or clients is a fantastic way to establishing your credentials — but what if you don’t have that yet?
There is no point in pretending you are a more established operation.
Potential clients or collaborators will instantly see through any pretense when they contact you, and it will be a deal-breaker.
Being honest about the stage you are at in your career is a better approach.
Social links are an excellent way to show off personality (as long as they’re safe for the office) and demonstrate interest and insight into what you are doing.
Twitter or Instagram can showcase what you are doing, how you approach or produce your work and your level of insight into the industry.
Your advantage is time — use it to establish a strong social presence, connect with people you are interested in working with or for, and use it to open doors so you can start building up your experience.
“Hi, I’m Tiny Tom, I recently graduated from X with Y. I am based in London and looking to shoot freelance fashion and editorial portraiture, and currently working as an assistant. To see what I am up to connect with me on Twitter or Instagram”
Use those Twitter and Instagram links then demonstrate that you are busy and you are shooting or producing fresh work (even if it is not commissioned).
Show you are ‘passionate’ about your field rather than just stating it.
- Keep your audience in mind when you write.
- Always open with a tight and relevant lead paragraph — this should include your name, location, experience and skill set.
- Useful detail to include should include the general type client you work with, your approach and values, team (if you have one), professional journey, a call to action to get in touch, and a picture of yourself.