About pages are the worst — writing one feels like you’re the new kid in class and the teacher’s asking you to introduce yourself … except you’re not talking to 23 kids, you’re potentially talking to the whole world.
But you know you have to have one. So after a quick four cups of coffee, a scroll or 12 through Instagram, and the tiniest of Netflix binges, you make yourself sit down to do it. You start off with a quick Google and find that there are three types of about pages: those that are cringily over-personal, the ones that sound like they were written by robots, and the ones that actually make you want to work with someone.
Because c’mon. How are you supposed to write a page that somehow tells people they’re in the right place, makes them want to work with you, and shows off how great you are, but not in a way that makes you look like a jerk? It does require a bit of a balancing act — but it’s easier than you think. As I tell my clients over and over again:
It’s all about the context.
The key to walking that line between personal and professional is to remember who you are to your people.
Think about both your official business role — and what that means to your audience.
For instance, if you’re a copywriter, you’re the person who takes their business off mute. If you’re a designer, you’re the person who makes them and their business look great. If you’re an accountant, you’re the person who saves their ass at tax time. (Hint: if you’re not sure, take a look at your core brand message. You can often find some clues there.)
When you know who you are to them, then you can start to figure out what you need to include on your page. If it’s something about you or your business that’s going to be useful for your readers in the context of your business relationship with them, then it’s usually fair game. Everything else, you should question.
Remember, it’s your about page, not your eHarmony profile.
Which is to say, personal is not interchangeable with personality. You definitely want your page to have personality — you need to do as much as you can to humanize yourself to people as soon as they come into contact with you, because that’s the first step towards them caring about you, trusting you, and working with you.
There’s important difference between having personality and being personal.
Having personality is something you do with your audience in mind, for their benefit. Being personal is something you do without thinking, because you don’t know any better, or because you don’t know enough about your audience to be able to know what to share with them.
OK, that’s a bit abstract — so what does this look like in real life?
An about page that trends to the personal usually focuses on things like “I love my guinea pig, can’t get enough chai lattes, and probably have a legitimate addiction to Law and Order SVU.” All potentially interesting, and possibly true, but none of which matter to your audience in the context of your business relationship with them. (Unless you’re a professional guinea pig breeder/barista/very specialized TV critic.)
Personality-focused about pages may include personal information, but it’s all there in service of the image of you that your audience needs to see. So you may choose to include things about your personal life, beliefs, or preferences, but only if they add to your role in relation to them.
For instance, if you’re a dog walker, a pet masseuse, or a guide dog trainer, I damn sure want to hear about you and your dog on your about page. If you’re an accountant, I might want to hear about you and your office dog on your about page if you work specifically with non-traditional businesses who need to see that you’re on their wavelength. But I don’t need to hear about it just because you love it. Again, it’s all about your audience and what they need to see and hear to be able to connect with you in this specific context.
Finally, show, don’t tell.
It’s a subtle tweak, but it makes a huge difference in how professional your about page appears. You can list out the things you are, believe, or do all day, but it’s so much more convincing if you show people instead. For instance, if you’re a VA who’s all about making life easy for your clients, make sure your about page is very easy for them to read, follow, and click through, from formatting to content to design. If you’re a business coach who loves empowering clients, don’t say that. Instead, say the things they need to hear to feel empowered.
OK, so that may feel like a lot to remember — and maybe the last thing you want to think about when you’re already staring down a blank page. But it really comes down to three steps.
The TL;DR version:
- Start off by figuring out who you are to them in the context of your business relationship.
- Include those things that will either (a) be useful information to them in the context of your business relationship with them or (b) will support the image of yourself that your audience needs to see.
- Show, don’t tell. Don’t tell me that you’re really efficient — show me that through concise, carefully chosen words that get your point across efficiently.