My 9-step process for a personality-packed, story-driven, industry-optimized bio
by brittany taylor | November 17, 2017
“Bios are so freaking boring,” said just about every person who has read a bio ever. And they’re right. Most bios are really freaking boring. They read like C.V.s. They’re not personal, they’re not interesting, they don’t tell stories, and they don’t engage readers.
But not to me. I see boring bios as a challenge. They’re an affront to my story-driven sensibilities. They pique my interest. I play with words and I write and I rearrange until I craft something wow-worthy, a bio that attracts people, that makes strangers want to know more about this fascinating, incredible creature.
A bio is the perfect opportunity to get to know someone. That’s why I always suggest that new clients work with me on a LinkedIn profile before we discuss blogging or a longer ghostwriting project. It gives them a chance to see how I work prior to committing to a retainer agreement and lets me get a feel for who they are, what they do, and what they want from their work and from content marketing.
Curious about how that works? Here’s the process I follow when I write a LinkedIn profile:
Boring? You? Psh! Kick the yawn-worthy bio with my 9-step guide to writing a LinkedIn profile
I always start with whatever the current situation is. I’m not looking for style or story. Instead, I want information. Before I hit Google, before I compile my interview questions, before I hop on the phone, it’s essential to know the basics: who they are, where they come from, and what they’re doing now. Even an out-of-date resume is better than nothing because it gives me somewhere to start, whether that’s an industry or a company or a job title.
At this stage, I look for major job changes, employment gaps that need to be explained, differences between education and work backgrounds, professional progression, and patterns in work and life.
None of us exist in a bubble. That’s why I check out the competition, so that I can get a feel for what other people are doing and how they’re presenting themselves—and begin figuring out how I can make my client stand out.
This is one area where LinkedIn shines as a platform. It lets me look at my clients’ colleagues, people with similar backgrounds and in similar fields, and the individuals other searchers tend to look at when they view my client’s LinkedIn profile.
Would it be fun to create a bio based on hobbies and family and personal life? Um, yeah. Yeah, it would. If you want that bio, hit me up, because damn that would be a blast.
But when my task is to write a LinkedIn profile, that means focusing on the professional aspects of my clients’ lives. Taking a look at the requirements, duties, and expectations of the sorts of jobs they’ve held in the past and the types of work they want to do in the future lets me know how to shape the story I tell in their profile.
Ten questions—that’s what I aim for. Some of them are quickies for clarification. Some of them are more thoughtful, big-picture questions about career arc. And one is always, always about what they want to get from this new LinkedIn profile.
When I interview, I keep a print-out of my questions, a bright-colored pen, and a pad of sticky-notes handy. I cross off the questions as I go, write in important points I want to highlight in the profile, and scrawl out follow-up questions my stickies. The last bit is the latest addition to my Q&A process. It makes keeping track of lingering questions very easy. Once I’ve asked, I flip the note over. Done!
My clients are busy people. Some of them ask me if we really need to make time for a phone call. The answer is always “yes.” I won’t write a LinkedIn profile without it, not if they’re a new client and not if I’ve worked with them for years.
The reason is this: There are always questions that need to be answered, and most people aren’t great at answering these sorts of questions over email. It’s easier to talk them out. And you know what? While it can be a pain to find 20 minutes in an already packed schedule, it’s faster to work through your wants and needs and background on the phone rather than to send emails back and forth.
With blog posts, I don’t get caught up in the introduction. If it doesn’t come to me immediately, I move on the body.
LinkedIn profiles are a whole different ballgame. I spend the bulk of my writing time crafting the first two or three sentences. That first handful of words is what you see before the jump—before LinkedIn makes you click a link to “read more.” Those initial sentences are your chance to captivate the users you want to turn into connections.
Without exception, my clients always give me the lead-in to their LinkedIn profiles during our 20-minute phone interview. Always. That’s why the questions I ask are so important to the process; without them, I wouldn’t get the answers I need phrased in the right way to kick off a killer profile.
My first draft is story-focused. I want to get that chunk of it figured out before I get caught up in SEO. It’s always easier to swap out a word or a phrase than it is to transplant an entire story.
I start my keyword research on LinkedIn, looking at job ads, company profiles, and competitor profiles. I take note of the words and phrases that pop up continuously. Then, I look at federal job and industry databases to fill in any blanks. Once I have a robust, well-rounded list of keywords, I go back to the first draft and sprinkle them in so that the profile is optimized for search without losing any flow or pacing.
Unlimited revisions—it’s something I offer with all of my services because I want my clients to be not just happy with the end result but ecstatic. Because a bio is one of the most personal pieces of content you can write for someone, I’m not at all surprised (or offended) when my clients come back with changes. It’s hard to get someone exactly right after one 20-minute conversation.
But you know what? When I write a LinkedIn profile, most of my clients go through one revision with minor changes. Some of them shoot me a thumbs-up after the first draft.
I approach every single note thoughtfully. I don’t apply it to just the profile in front of me; I try to file it away for future reference, so that I grow as a writer. There are always more mistakes out there. Why make the same ones over and over?
One last proofread is how every LinkedIn profile project ends. I pull out the A.P. Style that’s been drilled into my head thanks to 4 years of journalism coursework and 5 years of magazine writing to ensure that every inch of it is word-perfect.