You’re a writer, musician, artist, photographer, entertainer, or crafter.
You’ve got the website, but you’re pretty sure it’s not the best it can be.
You imagine attracting hoards of raving, loyal fans, but you’re not sure how to find them.
You’d love to sell more stories, more songs, or more sculptures – or maybe grab publishers’ or gallery owners’ attention.
You have this nagging suspicion that your website could work harder for you, boosting your marketing efforts even while you sleep or drive the kids to school.
But you don’t know where to begin. You don’t like selling, and you HATE writing about yourself.
Fortunately, there’s good news. A few tweaks to this one crucial but under-appreciated page on your website can get you rolling, and actually become the foundation for much of your marketing. (In other words, you can do the work once and use it many times. Good deal!)
Let’s look at your About page.
Why most About pages suck
Most About pages, including artist biographies (which are one section of them) are about… well, the artist.
I bet right now you’re wondering, “Well if my bio isn’t about me, what is it about?”
Glad you asked!
Whenever a new fan comes to your website, they have a few questions in the back of their minds – “Do I like this artist’s work? Do I believe in what they’re doing? Is this someone who has a cool enough background or story, or whose work is awesome enough, that I can get behind him or her?”
The truth is, your readers are interested in you, but not only in you. They want to know if you are a good fit for them.
If your About page or artist bio are poorly written, it’s kind of like going to dinner with an acquaintance who doesn’t tell you that you have broccoli stuck in your teeth. (I’m picking on your artist bio because that’s typically where the conventional advice falls short.)
Your readers won’t tell you that your life story is boring. They’ll just click away.
You’ve lost an opportunity to gain a new fan or excite a current one.
Is your About page helping or hurting you?
Your About page is one of the most visited pages on your website. People are naturally curious and looking for connection. They want to know who they are dealing with and whether or not they like you. Your About page is the logical place to start.
Yet so many About pages read like dry recitations of resumes. They’re boring lists of accomplishments sprinkled with childhood reminiscences of, “I knew when I was 8 years old I wanted to be (fill in the blank) and I never wanted to do anything else.” (Yawn…)
But with so many people checking out your About page, you can’t afford to waste a prime opportunity to get people really excited about you and your work.
Ideally, your About page will:
- Capture the attention of your new and established fans, customers, and clients and make them want more from you.
- Create an emotional connection that makes people feel like they know you and like they want to know you better.
- Be memorable and set you apart from the crowd.
- Be ready for use in press coverage and other publicity, including interviews, articles, features, and event promotion.
- Attract partners, colleagues, and industry connections.
- Turn people away who aren’t right for you (price shoppers, “tire kickers”, trolls).
- Earn permission for you to contact them again.
The good news is that once you nail this copy, you can use it as a foundation in all your marketing materials – including your complete online presence, brochures, event posters, press and promo kits, business cards, and more.
Don’t overlook the details
Before we dig in to the steps you can take to make your About page a powerful fan attractor, let’s look at the particulars.
Little things matter. Do a triple check and have someone (or a few someones) do a good edit and tell you how engaging and clear your About page is, and how much they want to take action – sign up for your list – after they’re done reading it.
1. Use the first person, “I”. Some experts will tell you to write in the third person, but using first person makes a much better emotional and personal connection with your readers. You can always write a third-person version of your bio, separate from your About page, so that press, journalists, bloggers, and podcasters can easily copy and paste from your site.
2. Don’t run on. Paragraphs shouldn’t be more than three or four sentences long.
3. Do write conversationally, and don’t use potentially confusing industry jargon. Make your story accessible to anyone reading it.
4. Do show personality and humor, and champion causes you care about.
5. Do use subheadings liberally to break up the text and make it scannable. You want your readers to look quickly and get the gist of the page. Great subheadings will also keep people curious and encourage them to read on.
6. Do include photos of yourself.
7. Don’t use passive voice, “The novel was written by me in 1986…”
PET PEEVE ALERT: If you hire someone to write your bio for you, make sure they have a background in writing strong sales and marketing copy. Many professional artist biography writers actually don’t do what I’m advising you to do.
The 10 steps that will make you stand out
Throw out all your ideas of what you think your About page and artist bio should be.
Forget most of the examples you’ve read, even if they were written by professionals.
The goal with this section is to 1) be memorable, 2) to engage the reader, and 3) to inspire action.
Whatever you do, do NOT be boring!
Ready to get started?
Section 1 – Who are you, and why should I care?
Remember the questions in the back of your readers’s minds?
Write about yourself, yes, but in the context of connecting with your fans, customers, and clients. The trick is to get into their heads, figure out what they want, and let them know you have it.
1. Know “The One Thing People Remember” about you
Craft a short, one-sentence statement of that single thing that is most memorable about you as an artist, that one thing you do that sticks in peoples’ minds.
To help with this, imagine a conversation in which your name comes up (in a good way). What do people say – or what do you want them to say – to complete this sentence, “I know him/her, he/she does this!” (Thanks to Tom Jackson for this approach.)
- “I know her! She writes fun, interactive kids’ books.”
- “I know him! He shoots incredible wilderness photography in practically unreachable, remote settings.”
- “I know them! They do hysterically funny, modern slapstick improv comedy.”
Now take those things that people say they identify with and like about you, and craft your “what” or your “one thing people remember” statement.
“I write interactive children’s stories that include games and exercises that make learning fun, day after day.”
“I’m a wilderness photographer who airdrops into remote corners of the world to bring you stunning views of untouched landscapes that you’d never see otherwise.”
“We bring back the good old days of slapstick comedy with hilarious modern twists.”
Tip: If you craft this right, you can use variations of this statement when writing bylines, taglines, introducing yourself to strangers, and even on your business cards.
2. State Your “Why”
Why do you do what you do?
What are you passionate about? What can you talk about for hours on end? What gets you riled up?
Most of all, how are you trying to change the world through your creative work?
When you make a statement about something you stand for, it can become a powerful rallying point for your audience.
Tip: It’s even stronger if you start out with the words, “I think it’s wrong that…” Your readers will identify and think, “Yes, I agree! I think that’s wrong too. I want to support this person.”
“I believe that music has the power to change lives, so I write songs that inspire people to pursue their dreams.”
“I think it’s wrong that the study of history is relegated to dry textbooks and boring fact memorization, so I write exciting, character-driven novels based in historically accurate settings.”
“I think it’s wrong that people think art is just this lifeless object that hangs on a wall. I’m out to prove that art can be inspirational and life-changing when it’s seen every day.”
3. Be on a mission, for a reason
Missions are powerful. People love them, they’re easily understood, and they’re a great way to get fans to rally around you.
Thomas Hawk is a photographer who’s on a mission to shoot a million photos before he dies. That’s pretty impressive. But you may or may not remember Thomas a week from now just from reading his mission.
That might change once you learn his “why”. You see, in his travels, Thomas stumbles across really cool remnants of American history and culture that are in danger of being destroyed or dismantled by progress. He wants to capture these memories before they are gone forever. So if you watch his video and love both what he’s doing and why, you have a strong reason to become a fan and follow along with his journey.
Embark on a mission that others can relate to and support. Combine that with your “why” and you’ve got a formula that makes you unforgettable and inspires people to join in with you.
“I’m on a mission to bring civil war era/ early American history to life with award-winning stories of intrigue, drama, emotion, and accurate detail.”
“I’m on a mission to break free of the Top 40 mold and write humorous, fun, danceable, and touching story songs that people can relate to, remember, and sing along with in their cars.”
“I’m on a mission to redefine lamps as beautiful expressions of modern art, even in compact living spaces.”
Section 2 – Who do you appeal to?
Let people know that if they like the type of work you do that they’re in the right place.
4. Write a strong headline that draws people in by explaining what you do for them
Keep your page name simple and clear. “About” or “About You and Me” are perfect.
The headline is where you start digging into what people love about what you do. They may or may not tell you outright. Look for clues in the feedback they’ve given you, their testimonials of your work, what they say on social media, and what they tell their friends to convince them to check you out.
“No-fuss, no-worry modern wrought-iron sculptures that beautify your home, inside and out.”
“Uncommon, earth-friendly jewelry that’s an expression of your rebel soul.”
“Funky, soulful, folkadelic jam tunes, guaranteed not to be your mama’s pop radio music.”
5. Show you understand what your fans are looking for
This trips up many artists, but it doesn’t have to. It seems like it would be easier to sell a dishwasher, with all its features and benefits.
Artists often get to this point and think, “whaaaaaat?”
But it’s not that mysterious. Instead, think about your ideal outcome when a fan of your work really connects with you. Write down what they’ve told you. What makes them happy? What makes them jump up and down with excitement? What makes them tell their friends?
Artists sell experiences. Your fans, customers, and clients want a temporary escape, a memorable moment, or a promise to capture good feelings so that they can re-live them over and over. [Tweet It]
Don’t feel like you have to appeal to everyone, or you will appeal to no one. Let people who don’t identify with you drift away. As Derek Sivers says, don’t be afraid to proudly exclude.
“Be transported to another time. If you like mystery and intrigue, lies and murder, plot twists and strong, smart females then you will love my thrillers.”
“You’re an indie music lover. Radio bores you. You dig deep to find the coolest, newest jam band tunes around. You want to dance away the summer nights with hand drums, harmonicas, and hookahs. You’re in the right place.”
“You have panache and attitude. You want to reflect that in your personal style, whether you’re on the beach or in the boardroom. My jewelry is designed to help you do just that.”
6. Describe the experience your fans can expect from you
Here’s where you become a movie director.
Don’t just paint a picture. Use as many senses as you can to convince folks that they are actually immersed. You want your readers to be able to clearly imagine the experience and picture themselves there.
“You’re in for a whirlwind of sci-fi action and intrigue. You’ll be drawn in by the characters’ reality and depth. You’ll feel like you’ve become a part of a future world and won’t want to put the book down when it’s over.”
“Let our music be the life of your party! If you want a memorable celebration that your friends will talk about for years, then call us for a hand-clapping, foot-stomping, rip-roaring, good time.”
“A magical experience of illusion and comedy for the whole family. The kids will be enthralled and the adults will laugh, shake their heads, and ask, ‘How’d he do that?’”
None of this is bragging or “salesy”. It’s actually the truth (which hopefully you will back up with social proof).
You have something great to offer, you are just helping potential fans to find you. If they like what you do, they can choose to learn more.
Section 3 – Social Proof
What other people say about you is always more powerful than what you say about yourself.
7. Let others speak for you
Here you can include a short run down of your press coverage, testimonials, and fan feedback.
Be creative about the ways you gather social proof. Monitor and grab what people say about you on Facebook and Twitter. Ask to use emails that people send to you. Create surveys or feedback forms. Shoot quick video testimonials on the go from happy customers.
If you have a testimonial page, feel free to go crazy there and include anything you want. But for your About page, a few solid quotes are all you need.
8. Let your results speak for you
List your honors, awards, and other achievements, but don’t belabor them. If you have a long list, congratulations! Consider doing more of a highlight reel that’s one or two sentences long.
You can always include the full story on another page of your site if you want, for super fans or others who are interested in every detail.
Section 4 – Your bio: it’s still not all about you
So, how do you tell your story without losing your readers’ interest?
Your copy has to tie back to the readers.
You want to make them think, “If all these folks like this him, it sounds like I will too,” or, “Wow! She’s really got something going on. I’ve got to check her out!”
You can brag a little in this section. Go ahead and talk about your accolades, accomplishments, and awards. But remember, your reader is wondering, “What’s in it for me?” The awards don’t mean anything if they’re not going to love your show, be excited about your photography, or proudly display your painted clay planters in their homes.
9. Write a short personal history
There’s no need to include every detail about your life, your schooling or study, or the long years of toil.
Just choose a few stories that are interesting, unique, and will draw people in.
Pick highlight moments or career-defining turning points. Make your bio a few short paragraphs and use anecdotes that are humorous, memorable, and evoke an emotional response from your audience. Inspiration can work well here too. Tell a short personal story about serious adversity you’ve overcome (if you have one).
10. Include calls to action throughout
Give people a chance to sign up for your list three times – after section 2, where you state who you are, why readers should care, and what you do for them; after section 3, where you list your social proof, and after section 4, your personal story. (Thanks to Derek Halpern and Pat Flynn for this structure.)
If you have something to sell, great, but understand that you probably won’t get a sale the first time a new fan visits your website. Instead, your goal is to make that connection and get permission to foster the relationship over the coming weeks and months.
And if you don’t yet have an irresistible reason for visitors to sign up for your list, start working on that right away.
Are you ready to get started?
Good! Because today I have a little incentive for you to take action.
Start re-writing your About page and comment below for a chance to win a FREE 30-minute strategy session with me! We’ll look at your new page, help you over your stumbling blocks, and make it the best it can be.
Just respond to this post and let me know that you’re “in” – that you accept the challenge. Also, let me know what questions you have in the comments so you don’t waste any time spinning your wheels.
Next Thursday, one week from today, I’ll announce the winner of the strategy session.
No website yet? No worries. Get started anyway. You’ll be that much further ahead when you get one.
A strong About page will engage and excite your readers, turn curious visitors into new fans, and make your current fans want to spread the word.
Make the most of it!