Five handy tips to writing your bio by Serenity Wise
Updated: Apr 30, 2021
Most creatives have so many facets to their work that writing a bio can be daunting. How does a creative worker fit a wide variety of roles, skills, and crafts into a concise couple of paragraphs? How does one simultaneously weave a narrative through those paragraphs that shares a sense of perspective and personality? Of all the things you could tell your audience, what’s most useful for them to know?
Writing a bio is a subjective task, so there is no objective criteria that will create a perfect result. However, handy tips general that may help you make the impression you want!
Step One: Know your audience!
The more you know about the people who will experience your work, the more relevant you can make your work to them. The same idea applies to your bio which should highlight details about you that are relevant to your readers’ interests. For example, if you’re sending a bio for a photography event that you’re part of, it’s more relevant to your audience to mention that you have a particular specialty in teaching photography to youth, as opposed to mentioning that your most recent creative work has been sketching wildlife or you're fabulous at landscaping. While sketch illustration or your recent paid gig transforming your neighbour’s garden may be your current activities, it doesn’t have the highest chance of being memorable and/or relevant. Unrelated details that round you out as a creative and as a person can make a nice addition, but they should come secondary and only be added towards the end if there is space.
Step Two: Start simple, then draw out more detail.
Short sentences are the bomb. Begin your bio in a succinct manner that sums up who you are or an aspect of your work, then expand in the following couple of sentences giving more background and context. For example, my bio begins, “Serenity is a dancer and researcher.”, and this is followed by context describing my research and my dance practice. This can include details such as the focus of research or dance, roles or organisations I’ve been affiliated with as a result of this work or anything significant else that is significant and related.
Step Three: Remember it’s a bio, not your autobiography
It can be tempting to go into detail from the start, to use every sentence as an opportunity to deepen the reader’s understanding of you and work creative work. I’m not going to lie, there’s still a little part of me inside that says, “But you’re not just a dancer and researcher, you are a curator too and teacher and most importantly everything you do is focused on social equity!”.
While these things may be true, it is easier for the reader to follow and understand the deeper wells of what you do if you give them a simple starting point. And realistically, the bio would never be able to give a full idea of what you do and what you’re about. That would take a book (possibly volumes)!
Step Four: Accept some of the limitations of the bio
There will likely be important aspects to you and your work that won’t make it into the bio. It’s frustrating because you never know who may read your bio, and you want readers to get a sense of who you are and have a broad enough idea of the type of work you’re available to do. That’s okay and occasion you will have to tailor your bio for different requests. For example, an academic bio will inevitably look different to a practice based creative bio.
Step Five: CHeck the style guide (if there is one) aka “I” or “they”, but not both
I’m not a traditionalist about using the same grammatical point of view (first person vs third person) throughout a piece of writing but in the span of the typical 150 word bio, it is confusing to readers to switch between statements that sounds like they are coming from you directly (“I” statements) and those that sound like someone else is speaking about you (“she/he/they” statements). Choose one or the other, or better yet ask if they have any guidelines or requests as for consistency sake most places will want all bios to be written in a similar style.
Bonus: If you have a platform where folks can find you, include your deets.
Many of the people that may read your bio are potential future collaborators, clients, or followers. While the event or project may offer some information about how to follow your work, better to have that information readily available in whatever medium or format people will be accessing. Websites and email addresses are useful and Social media handles are great too but if only if you use those platforms to directly engage with your audience. Don’t forget people may rave about your work, but the more steps it takes to find a way to follow your work, the more likely they are to give up trying.
These are just my tips for writing a bio, what are yours? Would love to hear how you go about crafting your creative bio