Bio Writing Tips

As a professional freelance writer, you may be called upon to write someone's bio. To do that properly, you have to first understand what a bio is - what it's for, who it's targeting and why it's being delivered.

Bio writing tip #1: Figure out what the bio is for.

Is it a local artist, a photography studio or a natural foods company? 

Writing a person's bio is similar to writing a company's "About Us" - but it needs to be a little more personal. Accomplishments and accolades will be chronicled either way; however, everything relevant to a person's accomplishment is always listed while some details can be left out of a business bio.  Remember, though, biographies and "About Us" pages are entirely different animals.

Bio writing tip #2: Who is the bio targeting?

Is the bio you've been asked to write aimed at high school students, stay-at-home moms or fine art collectors?

The target audience will help determine your voice as you write the bio.

Bio writing tip #3: Why is the bio necessary?

Is the bio an attempt to add value to someone's products or services, or is it going to be informational?

If the purpose is to add value to products or services, highlight every accomplishment, award and accolade the person has received throughout their entire career with creative descriptions.  If it's simply informational, bulleted lists with bare-bones information might suffice.

Bio writing tip #4: Is the bio for a website or for print?

If the bio is being written for a website, you may need to consider incorporating keywords in the text.  Ask the person you're working with if their goal is to attract new patrons with their bio - if it is, a tactical insertion of keywords is in order.  Don't forget to come up with a decent keyword density to be most effective.

Bio writing tip #5: Getting started

Organize all your information.  Usually, when someone sends me thier bio information it's a jumbled mess.  That's okay, because my job is to order it properly and figure out where each accomplishment fits on the timeline.

Put everything in chronological order before you write one word.

Bio writing tip #6: The introduction

Introduce the person whose bio you're writing right off the bat.  Recognize their title, too, like this: "Freelance journalist Angie Papple Johnston has..."

Bio writing tip #7: The body in paragraphs

It's up to the person who's hired you, but generally bios are more impressive when the most recent accomplishments, awards and certifications are up top.  If there are no impressive recent items for you to include, it's okay to get creative.  You might consider putting the most important facts up top, and then adding less-impressive facts below.

Say your client has won a Pulitzer Prize sixteen years ago, but hasn't really topped that one with anything she's done since.  She has, however, gotten a degree in journalism (10 years ago) and published 47 articles in trade journals (up until the present).

Try something like this:

"As a 1994 Pulitzer Prize winner, Angie received a BA in journalism in 2000.  She has written 47 articles for trade journals throughout her freelance writing career."

Bio writing tip #8: The body in bullets

Sometimes bullet points are more effective - especially when a person has won multiple awards from multiple agencies, has taught several classes in different locations and belongs to dozens of professional associations.

Try something like this:

"An award-winning microbiologist for over ten years, Angie is part of the following organizations:

  • Microbiologists of America (Senior Member)
  • International Platypus Studies Association (Chairman)
  • Deep Sea/Reef Diving for Prison Inmates Foundation (Founder)..."
Bio writing tip #8: Conclusion

Every good thing has to end - so wrap up a bio with a call-to-action if it's meant to bring sales or contracts or a clever one-liner if it's meant to be solely informational.

Here's a sample artist's bio I wrote for Darl Papple, Sr

Bio writing tip #9: Knowing how much to charge

If you've already set freelance writing fees, you shouldn't have a problem coming up with a price.  If you haven't, you need to.

Writing a bio, in some ways, is easier than other types of freelance writing services.  Your client will have provided you with all the necessary information - you just have to organize and optimize it.  Little to no research will be involved; however, professional bios are hot commodities, so your pricing should be set at a reasonable rate that's fair to both you and the client.

Personally, I don't recommend writing a professional bio for less than $45 (unless, like in my sample above, it's for your dad).  If the bio is lengthy, you can easily double that amount.  Your fees are entirely up to you - but don't forget that professionals need bios and you're the one with the talent to write them.

How do you handle writing bios?  Do you have any bio writing tips to share?  Please leave your comments below, and feel free to leave a link to your own website or blog!

© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on or without my name as author, it's stolen.