As you build your writing portfolio, you’re likely dedicating a lot of time to choosing the right clips. But there’s another very important part of your portfolio that many writers regrettably treat as an afterthought: the author bio.
Your author bio is the first thing viewers will look at when arriving to your online portfolio. It’s more than just a first impression; it’s your elevator pitch to sell your skills to readers, editors and potential clients. Here are nine steps for creating an author bio that will help you stand out.
Start With A Solid Hook
Just as any great piece of writing begins with a solid lead, your author bio needs an enticing first sentence to set the tone and draw the reader in. Who are you and what are you all about?
Your hook should give the reader an immediate understanding of the type of writing you do. It might also highlight a few of your biggest accomplishments or paint a broad picture of your experience. When crafting your hook, keep your audience in mind. Who are you talking to and what do you most want to tell them?
Here are a few good examples of hooks from author bios on the writing portfolio platform Clippings.me:
Lacey McLaughlin: I help female-focused brands and businesses connect with their audiences by creating engaging content.
Ben Lloyd: I specialise in computer technology topics including CRM, ERP, Augmented Reality and general computing for brands like Nominet, Three Mobile, Oracle, HP, SanDisk and LogMeIn.
Jane McCallion: I’m a technology journalist who’s been at Dennis Publishing since 2012 working across IT Pro and Cloud Pro.
Samantha Wood: I wear a number of hats: a writer, PR practitioner and event organiser with over two decades of in-house and consultancy experience in the United Kingdom and the Middle East.
Write In Your Voice
Your author bio doesn’t just tell the reader about you; it’s also your first chance to give them a taste of your writing style. The tone and voice of your author bio should be aligned with that of your writing.
If you’re a hard-hitting journalist, for example, it’s logical to write your bio in a more formal tone with a focus on credentials and professional achievements. If you write satire or social commentary, your bio might be more lighthearted with a few witty one-liners thrown in.
You can gauge whether your bio fits with your writing style by reading it back-to-back with your first couple portfolio clips. Do they flow smoothly into one another, or is the transition jarring? If it’s the latter, your bio might need a bit more fine tuning.
Choose A Perspective And Stick With It
There’s no rule on whether your bio should be written in the first person (“I’m a freelance business reporter…”) or the third person (“John Smith is a seasoned political journalist…”). You’ll see examples of both, and it’s mostly a matter of personal preference.
However, there’s one big guideline when it comes to perspective: pick one and stick with it. Don’t begin your author bio talking about yourself in the third person and then suddenly switch to statements that begin with ‘I’ or ‘my.’ It’s a small mistake that can detract from your credibility.
If you’re unsure which perspective to use, opt for first person. It feels more natural to write about yourself this way and will help you avoid accidentally slipping from one perspective to the other.
Include Relevant Credentials
Don’t just tell readers what a polished writer you are. Prove it by sharing your credentials. This might include degrees, previously published works, outlets you’ve written for, awards and recognitions. If you have any specialized certifications or industry memberships, this is a good place to list them, too.
If you’re an authority in a certain niche, provide examples that support your knowledge of the subject. If you’re a travel writer, it’s relevant that you’ve visited 30 countries. If you cover technology, share the conferences you attend to spot the latest and greatest gadgets each year.
Share What You’re Looking For
A good author bio sets you up for new opportunities by telling the reader exactly what you’re looking for. Are you in search of an in-house gig as a staff writer? Accepting pitches with story ideas? Seeking teaching opportunities while working on your master’s? Whatever the case, dedicate a line or two that helps readers understand what type of opportunities you’re after.
Use A Clear, Recent Headshot
While it may seem superficial, readers are absolutely judging you based on the profile picture in your writing portfolio. Research says that within the first seven seconds of seeing someone new, our brains make an assessment of whether they’re likeable, trustworthy and competent. 55% of that assessment is based on visual cues.
To put your best foot forward digitally, use headshot that clearly shows your face, preferably one where you’re smiling (48% of adults say a smile is the most memorable physical feature after meeting someone for the first time).
The age of the photo matters, too. In an era where pretty much everyone has a high-quality camera in their back pocket at all times, using a grainy, poorly lit or low resolution headshot can make you look out of date. If you’re lacking in the headshot department, it’s worth the effort to enlist a friend and spend a few minutes capturing a fresh, high quality photo to use in your bio.
Leave Out Fluff
Nothing makes an editor cringe faster than a bio that leads with “I always dreamed of being a writer.” You and a million others! Aside from being cheesy, statements like these do nothing to build your credibility or demonstrate your skills. They’re fluff that takes up valuable space that could otherwise be used to sell your strengths as a writer. Edit your bio carefully for empty statements.
Add A Personal Touch
Your author bio doesn’t have to be all business. Once you’ve made sure you’re clearly selling your skills, demonstrating your expertise and cutting fluff, add a personal touch to show a bit of your personality. You might share where you’re from, what you’re interested in outside of work or a memorable experience you had working in the field.
These personal touches are different from fluff in that they help establish you as the voice behind the writing, which can set you apart in the eyes of prospective clients. They’re also a chance to show a bit of stylistic flair. Here are a few good examples of personal touches from author bios on Clippings.me:
RJ Hervey: Based in the Pacific Northwest, where the rain and tall trees make everything smell like home.
Aimee Knight: Dancing on stage with Bruce Springsteen didn’t cure my anxiety, but it sure did help.
Christa McIntyre: I’m a Portland theater critic, chef of sandwiches and occasional backseat canoe paddler.
Finish With A Call To Action
Wrap up your author bio with a clear and concise call to action. If you have a personal website, direct readers to it for more information. If you accept pitches, share your email address. If you have a piece that’s about to be published, tell readers where and when to find it.
Put these tips into action when you build your online writing portfolio with Clippings.me. Getting started is free and only takes a few minutes. Register for an account and begin creating your portfolio today by clicking here.
Musings and updates from the content management team at Clippings.me.