Is Your Website Bio Creating Trust or Indifference? (Guest Post)

Thanks, Stephanie, for a great post on a rarely-discussed component of our freelance copywriting web sites. It’s all about having everything on your site (yes, even the information about YOU) geared towards those things your visitors/prospects really care about—not just talking about ourselves.

When your clients, or your clients’ clients, visit a page you’ve written, the last thing you want them to think is “Why are you telling me this?” Because the moment they start thinking that, they’ll begin to feel like the website is wasting their time.

And the only sites that can get away with that are the ones where the readers KNOW their time is being wasted, but they’re having so much fun, they keep on giving it “just one more click, and then I swear I’ll go to bed!” anyway.

On the other hand, a well-written bio or “About Us” page can give the readers a sense of trust and hope. It shows them that the owner of the website knows what they’re talking about, understands their problems, and truly is well equipped to help them.

Unfortunately, whether you’re writing the copy for your own website or a client’s, knowing how to create an effective bio seems to be a rare skill.

Many business owners, entrepreneurs, and even copywriters fill their bios and “About Me” pages with information that sounds meaningful to them, but to the reader is mildly encouraging at best and actually off-putting at worst.

What’s the difference between a page that bores the readers into closing the tab, and one that makes them want to know more?

There are several, but the one most commonly missed is relevance.

So you have a history as a journalist; how does that make you a better marketing copywriter?

Yes, you had a glorious career in the military, but how does that relate to your ability to help your clients buy a home?

How does having been raised on a farm make you qualified to be a home decorator?

Yes, you’ve got a lot of fancy abbreviations in your description, but what do they mean to ME? (And no, I’m not going to take the time to look them up, because you haven’t gotten me interested enough that I’d want to know!)

If your readers can’t see how your life story or the history of your business makes you better equipped to help them, it may be a mildly interesting read, but it ultimately means nothing to them.

So how do you make the bio, “Story” or “About” page catch the reader’s attention and make them more likely to buy?

1. Use a story the reader can identify with.

When have you or your client been in a position similar to what the target audience is suffering through? Or, if you or they haven’t been through a similar situation, what pain did you or they see someone else going through, that created a desire to learn how to help people experiencing that same difficulty?

By showing that you or your client have been through, or have experience with, the challenge your readers are struggling with, you show them their suffering is understood. You make them realize “This isn’t just some clueless person trying to help with a problem they don’t understand. They know what I’m going through, and they know how hard it is.”

2. Show them why you or your clients are passionate about the industry.

It goes without saying that someone who’s passionate about a job will be much better at it than a guy just trying to pay his bills. The bio or “About” page should reflect this.

Why is the site owner excited about the problem they solve and the change and benefits they create? The more you show the emotional charge they have for their work, the more you’ll engage the reader’s emotions in turn. And emotion, not logic, is what really persuades people to invest.

3. Give the reader hope that their problems can be overcome.

Don’t just show that the site owner has experienced the problem; show how they’ve overcome it to create a better life for themselves. Help the reader see what’s possible, and show them that if one person or company can make these changes, they can, too.

4. Show how the site owner’s past makes them better at what they do.

Earlier in this post, I asked, “So you have a history as a journalist; how does that make you a better marketing copywriter? Yes, you had a glorious career in the military, but how does that relate to your ability to help your clients buy a home? How does having been raised on a farm make you qualified to be a home decorator?”

If you can answer these questions, and tie your past or your client’s to the quality of the service being offered, it can help you or them to stand out in a whole new way.

You could tie your journalistic career into your commercial writing by saying,

My time as a journalist taught me to convey stories and messages in ways that are compelling enough to catch the reader’s attention, yet concise enough that they’re willing to read to the end. Because of this, I know how to write your sales pages in a way that gets your readers hooked, and makes them keep reading all the way through your offer instead of leaving halfway through the page.

Or, you could tie your client’s past to their current career by saying things like,

My time in the army instilled in me a toughness and integrity that I bring to everything I do. I’ll fight to get you the very best deal on your house and mortgage, and I’ll make sure that you don’t get caught in any of the common traps that cause people to end up overpaying or stuck in a bad contract.

Or, While I was growing up on the farm, we lived a couple hours away from town, so going out and buying things with which to brighten up the house wasn’t very practical. I learned to use whatever I had at my disposal in unique and creative ways, even if I didn’t have much to work with. Because of this, I know how to make any house beautiful on any budget, so you don’t have to pay through the nose to create a gorgeous home.

See how much more interesting and compelling the story is when it’s tied in to the problem at the top of the reader’s mind?

If people are reading your website or your client’s, they’re doing so for a reason – because they want to know if the answers to their questions and problems are there. By making good use of bios and the “About” or “My Story” page, you can earn their trust, inspire them to believe that their challenges CAN be overcome, and make yourself and your clients stand out in a way that few other things can.

Have you ever used any of these strategies for you or a client?

If you have several stories from your life that seem like a good fit, how do you pick one?

What methods do you use to draw an inspiring life story out of your clients?

What is the most common mistake you see people making when they tell their stories on their sites?

AboutUsPagesStephaniePicStephanie O’Brien is a copywriter, marketing coach, entrepreneur, novelist, and self-growth addict. She uses her twelve years of fiction-writing experience to make her copywriting fun and inspirational as well as effective, and her lifelong exploration of the human mind helps her to get inside her clients’ heads, pick out the words they’re trying to find, and put them onto paper. To learn more about Stephanie, and to discover who your ideal client is so you can get a better idea of how to write your story, visit her website.

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10 replies
  1. Katherine Swarts
    Katherine Swarts says:

    I’d be interested in hearing opinions on what copywriters can (or can’t) learn from studying magazine-article and book author bios. The latter tend to consist largely of the basics on a person’s experience and family–though a touch of humor is always nice–but then, they usually come as a “P. S.” to a piece of writing that’s already sold itself.

  2. Stephanie O'Brien
    Stephanie O'Brien says:

    HI, Katherine,

    I’ll admit that bios for books and magazines are an area I haven’t studied much, but I believe the same principle applies. As for what you could learn, I suppose one tactic you could use is to look at the bios in these publications, and notice your own reaction. Do you find yourself skimming over data that feels irrelevant? Or does the information they share make you more interested in their writing, or give you an insight into why they write the way they do and on the topics they do?

    Also, are the books and magazines to which you’re referring entertainment-oriented, or information-oriented? That would probably affect what kind of information the readers are looking for.


  3. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    A little late to this party (been traveling a lot), but I really like this topic (AND was hoping to spur more discussion!).

    When a prospect visits your site, ideally, everything they see should help them see how hiring you is going to get them closer to those things that are important to them: enhanced profitability, competitive advantage, higher stature in the marketplace, or any other meaningful (to them) metric.

    And the bio is one place that often becomes the repository of all the warm and fuzzy stuff about the writer. Don’t get me wrong: showing one’s human side is a good thing. But I say you can do that while drawing links between past experience and HOW that experience can help you help them that much more effectively.

    Building on the good examples Stephanie includes above, say you’re a former journalist who wants to get into writing more case studies. Just saying you’re a journalist (or even an award-winning one), doesn’t accomplish as much as saying, “My experience as a journalist taught me how to write on tight deadlines, craft a compelling story, and organize information for maximum effectiveness —all serious advantages when crafting case studies.” Or something similar…


  4. Brenda Spandrio
    Brenda Spandrio says:

    I’ll be reworking my writer site soon, so I really appreciate the information presented here. Your examples help a lot! I’ve written out the list you gave so that I can refer to it often as I review other sites and work on my own.

    Thanks, Stephanie!


  5. Stephanie O'Brien
    Stephanie O'Brien says:

    Hi, Brenda,

    You’re welcome! I’m really glad that you found this article helpful.

    What other aspects of your writer site are you reworking? Are there any website-writing topics that you want to know more about, or would like to see in this blog?


  6. Lori
    Lori says:

    Such a brilliant post! Stephanie, you’ve hit on some really great points.

    Recently, I updated my profiles to include keywords, too. Not that I’m a huge fan of oddly positioned keywords, but I’m a fan of being found when someone is looking for a specific kind of writer.

    I have used these strategies to help both myself and my clients. When I see a website or collateral content that screams “Look at how special I am!” I show them how to turn the focus back onto the client. Many people don’t realize you can do that and still toot your own horn. 🙂

    The stories I choose are pretty random. When I’m talking with clients, I pick up on what they’re saying/stressing about, and I insert the “Yes, I remember something similar…” where it fits.

    Sometimes getting an inspiring story out of a client takes no more than a conversation. I interview people in a fairly casual style — there’s at least one laugh in the mix. I try to put them at ease, and I hit the recorder so I can concentrate on the conversation. It’s all about getting curious. Some of the best quotes or anecdotes have come in those last moments of the interview as the person is feeling relaxed.

    The most common mistake? Me, me, me, I, I, I….. no one gives a damn how special you are. They care about how you can benefit them in some way. One client had a life story posted–and it was pretty boring. I don’t know how I managed it, but I convinced him to drop that and opt for something that put the focus on the people who would be spending money on him.

  7. Stephanie O'Brien
    Stephanie O'Brien says:

    Hi, Lori,

    Thanks for the compliment. 🙂 It sounds like you’re on the right track when it comes to getting your clients’ stories. You make a good point about recording the conversation; that’s something I need to start doing so I can focus more on conducting the conversation and less on taking notes.

    Another thing that I’ve found is important is to get to the heart of why your client is passionate about what they do, including the struggles that their area of expertise helped them to overcome in their own lives. Some people are shy about revealing their mistakes and darkest moments, but those are the parts that really show the client that “If I can do it despite all this, you can, too. If my methods can help me to overcome these challenges, they can also help you.”


  8. Peter Bowerman
    Peter Bowerman says:

    Great stuff! Thanks, Lori, for weighing in… Always look forward to your contributions!

    So true about just letting clients talk, and if you listen long enough, they’ll almost always deliver some great little nuggets that can be turned into marketing copy. AND, yes, it’s often the things said right at the end, often after the recorder is turned off, that become the best stuff.

    I’ve noticed that in the book/mentoring sides of my business, when I’ve asked people for testimonials. They’ll give me one, and in their intro notes to the blurb, they’ll often say something that, while far more off-the-cuff, is more powerful than what they offered!

    But, it’s just SO crucial to remember what both of you are saying: if you approach writing copy for clients (or yourself) from the standpoint that no one cares about anything other than themselves and/or making their business more successful, and that it’s our job to make them care, it’s a good place from which to write.

    And as you point out, while it’s easy to fall into the trap of thinking that one’s “About Me” page is the one place you DO get to talk aaaaaaaalllllll about you, it’d be a mistake to not use that space as yet another opportunity to show prospects the value TO THEM of working with you, OR of doing business with your clients.

  9. Mike Klassen
    Mike Klassen says:

    Over the course of a decade, my bio on my sites have evolved. I started with the thought that most people don’t really care what I say about myself… they want proof that I can do the job, that I fit in their budget, and that I fit in their schedule.

    That’s still true (at least for my target audience) but I did something else rather bold with my bio to make it useful for me and the prospect… I use it to try to get certain prospects to go away.

    You can read it here and you can probably see where I lose people:

    What this does is weed out the tire kickers, the people who aren’t too serious, or the people looking for the rock-bottom lowest rate they can find. And there’s nothing wrong with them doing that, but I’m not their guy so I might as well save us both some time.

    The people who do read through that and still call are the people I want to talk to. I’m not sure I’d recommend this approach to a beginner, but for me it works great. And it starts even before the bio. If you read the homepage of that site, you see that I try to get people to the right spot on my site as quickly as possible. I’m able to do that because I know what my “ideal prospects” are looking for when they hit the site.

    After all these years, I appreciate the pain points clients have when hiring freelancers. So that list of “what you get when you work with me” really resonates with them.

    And I think that’s the huge key of a successful bio page or site in general… having a great feel for what your ideal prospects are really wanting, then providing that information. I learned long ago I can’t be all things to all people. So now I write my site copy with a very specific type of client in mind.

  10. Stephanie O'Brien
    Stephanie O'Brien says:

    That’s a very good point, Mike. I actually just ditched a site yesterday because of its bargain-bin mentality, so I can definitely see where you’re coming from!

    I like how you just lay it out there – this is how I work, this is how I DON’T work, and if that doesn’t work for you, we’re not a fit. It makes it clear that you know what you’re doing, and it sends the message that you’re not desperate; you’re so good at what you do that you’ve got enough clients that you don’t have to bend over backward to take clients who aren’t a good fit.

    Thank you very much for sharing this.

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