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The Easy Way To Write About Yourself (Without Feeling Like A Jerk)
It’s the cruelest of tricks.
Your whole life is one long lesson in the importance of being humble (me? My husband recently said “well, it wouldn’t be a date if you didn’t spill water on yourself.” Yep. I’m skilled like that).
And socially, you’re punished from an early age when trying to talk about your successes (showoff! hotshot! braggity-brag face!).
No one likes hosting a parade in their own honor.
Then – whammo!
You’ve got to create an “about me” page.
And screech go your mental brakes, because you feel like you have to talk about yourself like you’re the GREATEST THING EVER. With jazz hands.
Writing about yourself is hard.
There is no objectivity, plus you’re engaging in a socially-punished activity, plus all your insecurities are like “hey are we late to this party?” and sit down next to you wearing conical hats and chomping their popcorn loudly.
Every sentence you type makes you feel like a jerk. You want to wither and shrivel and run away.
But anytime you’re attempting something hard, why lunge for the hardest thing right away? Do you pick up your kid and throw them in the 10-foot depth of the pool? Or you strap on the water wings and lead them in from the shallow end gently?
If writing an about page feels nightmarish, don’t start there.
Warm up first. Go through the motions on dry land. Dip a toe in.
Let me lead you through three little mini-exercises, and then we’ll put it together before you plunge into the real thing. Grab a notebook or open up word/Google Docs.
I’ll sit and look at the ocean while I wait for you to do that:
Mini Assignment #1: Write a letter to your ten-year-old self, describing everything you’ve accomplished in your business so far.
I mean it. Here, I’ll start for you – “Dear ten-year-old __(name)_____,”
There are no bonus points for length, just honesty.
How would you explain what you do to this kid to get them excited and interested? How would you show your 10-year-old self how cool her/his life turns out to be? What can’t you wait for them to do/experience?
You’ll find this exercise forces you to use words that will make sense to someone who might not know everything about what you do.
You wouldn’t tell a fourth grader that you “specialize in natural light engagement photography” – you’d say “I use warm sunlight to show couples loving each other.”
(See this post about writing concretely if you need more explanation on that point.)
And don’t be afraid to be silly and fun. Don’t worry about how you’ll apply this later. This is just you with fourth-grade you sitting down for a chat.
Mini Assignment #2: Draw a line down the center of a page.
On the left, make a list of ways someone’s life will be better after working with you. On the right, list how they’ll feel about those things.
This is for your eyes only, so be honest.
For now, feel free to include both tangible and intangible things.
If you’re a photographer, maybe – they’ll have whole wallfuls of gorgeous images reminding them of their family and true priorities, their magazine-ideals of beauty will be challenged, their self-esteem improved, etc.
And how will they feel about that? Maybe – they’ll feel blessed, more patient with family by having all these happy reminders around, more confident, etc.
If you’re a small business accountant, how will their life be better? Their books will be ship-shape, they’ll have a greater understanding of the deductions they’re entitled to, and you’ll save them from wasting money that’s rightfully theirs.
How will they feel? No longer terrified of audits because they know it’s been done correctly, elated at the possibilities they can enjoy with the saved money, and confident in keeping records moving forward.
Get to it!
Mini Assignment #3: Oscar time! Write an acceptance speech for your business. You’ve already “won” just by opening your doors – who/what has helped you get this far?
I mean it. Clutch your hairbrush like an award if you have to. Get all teary. And forget it, no one’s going to play you off the stage, so keep going.
Start with the big, obvious things:
I’d like to thank my mom for being there, and always letting me sleep in on Saturdays and read in bed because now I write books for a living.
Move to more subtle things that influenced you:
I’d like to thank Disney for making Paperman because it taught me about wordless stories on film.
And feel free to get ridiculous – did something happen that inspired you in a backwards kinda way?
I’d like to thank that time I failed Chemistry in college because it made me get out of that stupid major and study what I really loved.
Don’t be afraid to speak to inanimate objects:
I’d like to thank black and white film for inspiring me to create more slowly.
Go on, make a big old “I’d like to thank ______” list.
Then add three more.
I want you to pretend you’re sitting in my office, right over in that chair, see?
Let me tell you a secret about bios and about pages.
Yes, it’s often true that people are hiring you more than your work, particularly in creative fields. And yes, you want to get your personality across.
But while you’re doing that, you can never forget that a client hasn’t dropped onto your virtual doorstep to hear you talk about you. They’re there to hear you talk about them.
Information about you serves to tell them not “Look how cool I am,” but “look how well we could work together.” Think about that difference for a moment.
Working well someone means showing them how your personalities match, giving them a preview of how you handle yourself, and yes, your qualifications.
So when you’re approaching writing about yourself, don’t look at this as a brow-sweaty exercise in bragging.
Look at it as another chance to say “Hey, I’m just the person to solve your problems.”
Reframe it in your mind from “I have to talk about how great I am” to “I get to tell them a bit about myself so they feel comfortable letting me help them.”
And guess what – you just gathered most of the needed information in the three exercises above. Neat, huh?
The nature of every about page will be slightly different, depending on how you set up your site, your brand, and your goals.
But the components are the same.
You just wrote down what it is that you do, in plain language.
You wrote down how it will make their life better, and how they’ll feel.
And you wrote down bits of your history that are relevant to your story and development as an artist or business owner.
Pulling from that material, you can fashion something great.
Maybe, to start –
I photograph couples who love each other in the warm sunshine. I’ve been doing this ever since I sneaked a shot of my best friend and her boyfriend in junior high, and that image hung in her locker with a lipstick heart around it until they graduated. Now it hangs in their home. I’ve won the National Awesome Photographer Award for my work, but really, my greatest honor is placing albums in the hands of couples who will later place that same album in the hands of their grandchildren.
See how we pulled from the letter to your 10-year-old self (plain language), the list of ways you will make their life better (heirlooms to their grandchildren) and your Oscar speech (history that influenced you)? We did mention a qualification (national award!) but immediately spun into why this benefits them (you’re truly honored by them).
Now that you’ve gathered the perfect raw material, I dare you to see if the going doesn’t get easier.
Want more help?
You can also read this post for one powerful way to frame and tell your “about me” story.
When just getting started is a challenge, check out the free sample chapter of Irresistible Words for a technique that makes a magnetic opener.
If you didn’t know, Irresistible Words is a four-week course in heart-soaked business writing and persuasion, with cheeky emails delivered to keep you on schedule. Here are some comments from some folks who recently finished Week 3, just to give you an idea of what people think…
And here’s a little Facebook chat I just had with someone who completed the course:
Neat, huh? Check out Irresistible Words here, and you can get an immediately useful sample for free!
As someone who’s about to revamp her website, you’ve just made this portion WAY easier for me! Love love love what you say about how we can serve our clients. That was definitely the missing element, and I adore these mini-steps that culminate to the final product. <3 Can't wait to blog my experience to share with everyone – thanks for being so amazing! 🙂
I’m honored to be featured on your blog!
One of the things I’m most turned off by on a professional About Me page is insecurity or apologies. I love the concept you reiterate that you don’t need or even WANT every person who comes along to be sold on your services; you only want people whose needs are compatible with your ability to serve them. My husband is a dentist, and he recently told his boss that he refuses to sell dental treatment to people who don’t want it because those are invariably the patients who are unsatisfied and keep coming back with complaints. The patients who WANT what he has to offer generally truly value his time and service, and they are the most grateful and the easiest to work with. Even though he may make more money by trying to sell to every patient, he and his patients are happier when he focuses on those who value his particular personality and skill set.
(Also, I loved the jazz hands and insecurities imagery. Nice job.)
I’ve been working on updating my about page for 3 months now, and haven’t been able to start. Your exercises got my fingers moving, so now I just need to put it together. Thank you!
My About page really needed a bit of sprucing up. Thank you for writing it! I used to get that “feel like a jerk” feeling when talking about myself on these sorts of things. You made it easy and not too painful! 🙂 Thanks again!
I found your post really helpful -particularly ‘Write a letter to your 10 year old self’. This really helped me cut out the confusing explanations and get back to basics. I think I will have that technique in mind for all my writing. Thank you!
It has been too long since touching base with you, but I always remember your amazing writing. This is such a good article and so helpful. I know the “About Me” page is a challenge for many. Me, included. Thank you, for this.
gosh I loved this!!
This is truly and honestly the most fantastic outline for writing an autobiography I have ever encountered. Brilliant. Pure brilliance.
First of all, thank you for this. Not only did it help me form the story about me, and how I became a photographer, but it also opened some emotional doors. Had you asked us to write to the 9 or 11 year old us my letter would be much different. Fourth grade was one of the hardest years of my youth. I wrote the letter to the ten year old self telling her how much stronger she is than she even realizes. Then it was like I was writing this letter to my current self. “Being strong and humble like your mother, finding the voice in your heart and following it; these lead you to wonderful things. Every moment of feeling lost and insecure will lead you to being a photographer – an artist.”
These are things I should be telling myself every day, not just pretending to time travel and tell kid I used to be.
“We all grow up so fast. Remember to live in the moment and embrace every stage you are in your life – It’s going to lead you to something amazing. Before you know it, that moment is going to pass you by (even if it feels like it is taking for-ev-er!).”
Again, thank you. Opening up and getting words out is typically a struggle for me, and you made those thoughts (and some tears) flow through me and create something beautiful.
Writing an “About” page was certainly a difficult task. You’re very right. Writing about yourself without sounding braggy is tough. The good thing for me was that I wasnt trying to “sell” myself or services. I didnt have to get into how “talented” I was (good thing too… phew.. 🙂 )