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? A related issue, not covered here, for many freelancers is whether to refer to oneself as an “I” or a “we.”

No matter how well written, a third-person bio can come off as pretentious, especially if it’s clear you are the one running the show and making coffee. This can create a credibility problem that you’re trying to avoid by writing in the third-person to begin with. 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. Third person can also come off as cold and detached if you’re not careful.

More and more, people buy from businesses whose stories and values they can relate to. In the quest for authenticity, maybe it’s time to embrace your “I” and just do a great job of it.

Before I tackle ways to do that, here’s why writing in third person is preferred:
  • It makes us appear more important.
  • It’s easier to include content that would otherwise sound awkward wedging it into a first-person narrative.
  • It’s difficult to write a compelling first-person bio without using the word “I” too often, which can make it read like a what-I-did-at-camp story.
What to do instead?
  • Write down all the points you think you want to hit: backstory, your path or trajectory, who you serve, stumbles or changes along the way, ah-ha moments, what people get from working with you, etc. Take each part and write it several ways till it sounds right.
  • To reduce how many times you use “I,” reconstruct every other sentence’s word order.
  • Instead of “I believe…” or “I think…,” link to a separate list/page of values or beliefs that serve as your business’ manifesto. Heck, make into a poster.
  • Instead of “I do…” or “I make…,” link to a separate list/ page of services or offerings.
  • Always keep your audience in mind. Yes, it’s your about page but people what to know what’s in it for them, even in your bio. “I serve x type of people with x problem who want x benefit,” is a good framework to use.
  • Replace phrases that sound too self-congratulatory with testimonials instead. Include them on the bio/about page or link to another page. It’s easier to let other people speak to your achievements and excellence.
  • Reduce unnecessary text by leaving out descriptions of your work that are self-evident elsewhere on your site.
  • For artists or others who commonly include degrees, education and awards, move all that to the bottom or in a separate list. Those credentials might impress someone but the point of a good about page is to connect and be relatable.

There is a place for your third-person bio in any venue outside your own website or LinkedIn profile, and it’s good to have that handy.

Here are a few examples of good first-person bios that hit all the right notes.

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

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