The Third-Person Bio Problem

About pages are the most frequently visited page of a website. A good bio or About page can humanize you and your product or service. It’s where you can forge connections by blending your story, values and interests into a compelling narrative.

Why then do so many one-person businesses talk about themselves in the third person?

The mostly likely reason is that people copy what they see other people do.

No matter how well written, a third-person bio comes off as pretentious. Even if a hired gun wrote it, people think it’s coming from you. Most of us don’t refer to ourselves in the third person at a cocktail party, so there’s no reason to do it on a website.

It presents a credibility problem even you hope that the third person will make you appear more credible. And it can often appear cold and detached. More and more, people buy from businesses whose stories and values they can relate to, even if it wouldn’t seem to matter.

Why third person?

  • It makes us appear more important.
  • It’s easier to include content that would feel awkward to write in the first person.
  • It’s hard to write a compelling first-person bio without using the word “I” so many times. which people fear will seem less important.

What to do instead?

  • Replace phrases you fear sound self-congratulatory with testimonials. Include them on the bio page or link to another page. It’s easier to let other people speak to your excellence.
  • To reduce unnecessary text, don’t worry about describing aspects of your work that are visually self evident.
  • Keep your awards and degrees because someone might care, but include them in a sidebar, at the bottom of a bio (Just the Facts, for example), or in a CV.
  • Keep the focus on your inspiration, your process, your materials.
  • Refer to the types of people you help and why, and/or the benefits you provide.
  • Include a press page with clippings or links.

Artist and maker Hilary Pfeifer has a successful line of whimsical creatures and objects, and writes in the first person. She sounds credible, credentialed and shares a story that’s relatable and human. Here are more examples of good first-person bios.

There is a place for your third-person bio in any venue outside your own website or LinkedIn profile.

Have a new bio you’d like to share with me? Good luck!

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