I get asked to help with a lot of different projects and pieces of copy. However, one thing that makes my clients visibly ‘squirm’ when they ask for help with it, is an ‘About’ page on a websites.
It’s very weird, especially considering the top piece of writing advice is:
“write about what you know!”
Why do people hate it? Because whilst they might know themselves very well…people hate writing about themselves. I totally get it! Being British, I am moulded to be modest and unassertive. I hate shouting about my achievements or even giving a hint that I am ‘the best’ or simply ‘better’ at something than anyone else. And I hate to admit it, us women are the worst. I am terrible at even telling people where I went to university or who I have worked for, depending on the situation.
However, sometimes (and more often in business), you absolutely need to shout about all of the wonderful things you have achieved, the experiences you have had and your skills. And you really do need to…especially on an About page. Readers are looking to be convinced why they should buy from you, hire you or use your services. It’s no good being meek and mild then!
To help you get over this block, when it comes to writing about yourself, I have offered some tips below.
Please note I have focussed on writing About pages for business websites, but much of the advice will apply to a LinkedIn summary and also an opening paragraph of a CV.
Now, having said people hate writing about themselves. Strangely, it does seem that when people do actually start writing they can get a bit carried away. Put simply – many About pages are just too long.
Therefore, try to stay relevant. On your About page, you are trying to convince prospective clients to buy from you. They might enjoy reading about your ‘childhood in Cornwall’, but is it relevant to your business? If yes, then fine. If not, then cut it.
Focus on experience, skills, qualifications that are truly relevant to your business.
Every year, LinkedIn release a list of ‘Buzzwords’ that are basically the most used words across all of the profiles. This is because words like ‘passionate’, ‘experienced’ and ‘skilled’ are used so commonly. Therefore their effect is diluted. Don’t tie yourself knots trying to avoid these common words, however, do think about what makes you a bit different from the rest.
There are possibly millions of people with the same job title as you, but every single one of those people has something unique about the way they do the job…whether it is because of what they are driven by (for example, environmental issues, family background, past experience), how they ended up in the job (by accident or by design) and how they ‘administer’ the job (i.e. their approach, who they work for, who they work with and when they work).
It is really worth sharing what drives you. It will be what underpins your mission and vision for your business. It will probably help identify who your target audience is because they will share something similar to what drives you, be interested or compelled by it and it is why they will want to work with you or buy from you.
As mentioned above, whilst many of us hate writing about ourselves, by starting the process we seem to unleash some kind of barrier and start oversharing every detail of our life history.
Alongside being relevant, it is ok to be relatively concise. Most website visitors will quickly scan an About page. They want to get a quick flavour of who they will be buying from.
Think about big corporations. Unlike sole traders, their ‘About us’ page might contain 100s of employee profiles – therefore, all limited to a paragraph at most. This can be actually just enough!
As mentioned above, think about the qualifications, skills, experience and passions that help you do what you do….and that’s probably about it.
Remember you can use headings on an About page too to help guide people to the information they are most interested in.
Finally, if you feel strongly about giving a whole work and education history, consider giving a link to your LinkedIn page. Make sure it is up-to-date and informative (with as many summaries and descriptions filled in as possible) and ensure your summary (using many of these same tips) is on message and relevant to your business.
Be Future Proof
There is two ways to apply this tip – one is to update your About page regularly and the other is to write for the future.
Future proofing your copy is incredibly important for something that ‘will last a long time’. I learnt an important lesson in future proofing when writing back cover copy (blurbs) for textbooks. As an inexperienced assistant editor, I used what I thought were exciting and eye-catching terms, such as ‘brand new text’; ‘latest findings’ and ‘ground-breaking technology’. The problem with this is that a copy of a book can be a round a loooooooong time. So, whilst on publication the book may be ‘brand new’ and contain the ‘latest’ findings, when it reached its 2nd or 3rd print run or even an original copy is still being sold on Amazon, these terms are no longer relevant and readers will soon discover that the ‘latest findings’ could in fact the latest thing to be disproven and that ‘brand new’ it is not! Whilst, you could argue people should check a publication date….they don’t! And in fact, terms like this on this type of copy (rather than say a digital description on a website which can be updated) are wasted words.
So, bringing it back to your About page, be careful of using terms such as ‘I have 20 years’ experience in…’ or ‘I am mum of two children, aged 3 and 6…’ – both of these things will change over time and whilst it may not be critical, they will be inaccurate.
Similarly, be aware that things like courses will lose their relevance. If you did a first aid course, most only last 3 years, so unless you are going to renew it, then make sure you make a note to remove reference to it once it has expired.
Another area to take note of is when you mention anything that is ‘current’, i.e. ‘current clients’ or ‘current products’ …again you have to make sure you current remains current.
This is the obvious one that we all hate to hear, but even if it is a ‘professional-version’ or a ‘formal-version’ be yourself on your About page. Share what you are interested in, what you are passionate about and what drives you and don’t be ashamed to do so.
If you have an impressive qualification or experience, then do share it. If you have won an award or even be nominated, be proud and let your readers know.
Website visitors go to the About page expecting to be impressed. They are willing the copy to convince them to buy from you, to give them a reason to trust you and to help them understand your business a little better. Don’t disappoint them.
Oh and absolutely include a photograph of yourself!
Don’t be scared…get writing about you
Using these tips, go and get writing your About page (or perhaps update and edit it). If you need help, please contact me. I absolutely love writing About pages. I get to hear all about people’s wonderful achievements and their passion for their business. I then have the honour of converting that into copy which shouts about them ‘loud and proud’….even if they won’t do it themselves!