There’s no other way to put it–writing about yourself is just…weird. How do you represent who you are, your professional values, your own unique experience and skills, AND your creative career goals in a way that is authentic, confident and engaging (and not too pretentious, boring, or confusing?)
But there’s also no other way around it, as bios are used not only for job-hunting but also for the About page on your own branded website (No website yet? Here’s why you need one and how to get it done). Bios are also used for press, galleries, speaking engagements, business plans, and social media.
So here are a few pointers – tailored specifically to creatives – for writing a bio that gets attention, which includes inspiring examples from other WA state creative’s to help get you started!
This will actually be the hardest part: start with a one-sentence summary of who you are and what you do. Consider it your “elevator pitch”--- it’s a way to capture someone’s attention and speaks to the very essence of what you do. When constructing your one-liner, think about the most important or impressive things about your creative career.
How long have you been doing what you do? Have you won any awards or gotten recognition? Now worries if not, your bio does not have to be a list of previous jobs and accomplishments the way a resume does. Even if you don’t have years of experience racked up yet, you can still effectively let people know what you are all about through communicating your vision and goals as the reasons for what you do.
Jam Scott is a writer and filmmaker from Tacoma, Wash. She believes storytelling is a powerful tool with the ability to change hearts, minds, and the world. Jam is passionate about equity, truth, justice, and empathy.
Hailing from a diverse creative background (everything from video, photography, social media and activism), Jam Scott unites these experiences with her values: storytelling, justice and the ability to change hearts and minds. Read more about how Scott balances being a creative doing social justice work in our Whipsmart interview here, and check out her recommends for freelancing apps to help streamline your creative workflow!
The answer really is, it depends on the context. The business-y standard is third person. But in some creative fields and all of social media, most applications to school or programs, first person is better. But remember there is no hard and fast rule, so, it is essentially up to you!
Your professional life and experiences belong to you–own it! A lot of times a creative person’s experience will look different from people with full-time jobs. It can feel discouraging to have a string of gigs that look like a patchwork quilt on your resume, but in a bio, you have the chance to ‘storify’ your professional experiences into a complete narrative–a ‘through-line’ that draws all those diverse experiences together.
One excellent way of creating a narrative out of a string of seemingly unrelated experiences is to create a ‘turning point’ in your narrative.This is especially good to do if you’re making a career switch, or have shifted your creative focus from one medium to another (writing to film, etc).
Here’s an example–Olympia glass artist Joby Shimomura made one such shift–leaving a successful career as a state government official to become an artist and open her own studio. Check out her “turning point” sentence that’s a part of her bio:
“I’ve always admired colored and textured glass, but it wasn’t until I took a stained glass class over ten years ago that I really felt connected to the medium.”
After taking the class, Shimura “reignited” her artistic past and made a path forward towards the arts. It’s a compelling story–you can read her full bio in the About page of her website here, and for even more context, read Whipsmart’s interview about her career shift from politics to art here.
A lot of creative industries, especially advertising, marketing and design, look for people with interests outside of work, so think about including some of that in your bio. Definitely optional but it may help to show that you are a human with interests and personality, as well as talents and skills.
Do you have any interesting hobbies, side-gigs, or fun facts about yourself you can add?
Here’s a line at the end of a bio for Rachel Carlson, Partner and Executive Creative Director at World Famous, a creative agency in Seattle: When she’s not working, Rachel can be found momming Leif and Bodie and telling people how the weather in Seattle is “really not all that bad”.
After listing an impressive list of awards and experiences, this little bit of humor goes a long way to ‘normalize’ her into a real person and give some flavor that makes her story stand out in the crowd. And read our Whipsmart interview with Carlson to hear her fascinating takes on the future of creativity and design.
Hopefully these three tips will help ease the pain of writing a bio, and maybe will even… make it fun!?