You know having a website is vital to your freelance business. You’ve bought your domain and your hosting and maybe even a fancy theme, and you’ve started setting up your website. The homepage goes pretty good. You put your tagline, a little more about what you and your business can do for the client, enticing them to check out your price pages and portfolio (even though maybe those aren’t made yet), but then you move on to the About page. You freeze. What in the hell are you supposed to write?
(Haven’t gotten your domain or hosting set up yet? Siteground is running a 70% off sale through 2pm tomorrow, Sept. 11)
So many writers freeze up when it comes to talking about themselves. Sure, they can write a 50,000 page fantasy novel, a 2,000 word feature article on horses, or ten pages on the benefits of wheatgrass, no problem, but yakking on about themselves for three paragraphs? Terrifying.
Well, you’re going to have to get over it. You’re awesome—you’re an independent business owner for one thing—so what’s the big deal? I have found that the root of many beginners’ hesitation with their About pages lies in the fact that they have no fancy credentials to list out, because you have to land jobs to have job experience, but people want experience before they hire you for a job. It’s unfair, and it’s headache inducing.
However, there is a way to get around that circular reasoning hell-hole: a stellar About page that convinces readers that you are the freelancer for their needs. And guess what, you don’t need a bunch of credentials to write one.
So, What’s the Secret About Page Formula?
One: Your About Page is Only Half About You
You can breathe a big sigh of relief now. Those three or four paragraphs don’t need to be all about you. The most common phrasing found on your about page should be in the tone of “I can do ___ for you.” Yes, you’re talking about yourself, but really, you’re keeping the magnifying glass on the client and his/her pain points.
So, the first thing to ask yourself when starting your about page is, “What does my target client need most? What is something that might be concerning him/her?” You’re selling your company, not just yourself on your About page. Maybe someone came to your site out of curiosity. Maybe they aren’t sold on hiring a writer or editor yet, but they’re considering it. Your About page has to convince them they not only need one, but that they need you, not because you have this degree or this byline on a big-name site, but because you can meet all of their pain points.
The first two short paragraphs on my About page are:
First Impressions Matter: Without a pristine description and preview on Amazon, many readers will pass your book by. A pristine and professional manuscript sets you apart in an agent’s or publisher’s eyes, too. If you choose me as your editor, you will make a great first impression on your readers with a clean, professional manuscript.
Reader Engagement is Essential: Without a solid structure, tone, and pace, the message of your self-help book can get lost in translation. Without rich character development and engaging language, your riveting story idea can fall flat. If you choose me as your ghostwriter, you get one-on-one interviews with an experienced writer who can capture your voice and delight your readers.
Lead with pain points (readers passing up the book, your message being misunderstood due to lack of writing experience) and then provide the solution. Most importantly, make it clear you’re the person with that solution.
If you have no fancy credentials or paid experience, just make this technique the whole centerpiece of your About page, not just the opening. Your About page doesn’t have to be long. Just touch all the pain points you know your clients may have, present yourself as the solution, and that client is going to start thinking of you as the right man or woman for the job without reading over a single boring list of credentials.
Two: Remember that Credentials Come in Many Forms
It’s nice to have credentials. It’s nice to be able to say, “This is why I’m qualified to provide you this service.” And there is some credibility attached to having a paragraph of credentials. Even if the viewer doesn’t fully read them (I can bet you most will just skim that part, because it’s not about them), they take note that they are there.
I have a paragraph that lists my credentials, though I definitely don’t lead with them, because credentials don’t hook readers. You must hook them first, and then talk yourself up later, and only briefly.
“But,” you’re thinking, “I can’t talk myself up. I don’t have anything.” Bull. You’ve got something. If you went to school for writing or took any sort of related certification course, you’re a trained writing professional. So what if no one’s paid you for it, yet?
Maybe you didn’t go to school for writing in any way. That’s okay. Did you ever submit a short story? Have you ever had your work appear in the local newspaper or your school’s lit magazine or anywhere like that? You’re a published writer.
Had a relevant internship? Put that as work experience; who cares if it wasn’t paid?
Still no? That’s okay. As your form of credentials, direct the reader to your portfolio, where you’ve put up some past writings or written up some awesome new samples. Say something like, “To get the best sense for my writing ability and to confirm my style is the right match for your needs, check out my portfolio, where you will find samples of my latest pieces.”
Three: Let Your Personality Show
It’s an About page. You ought to talk about yourself in some capacity on it. Now, you definitely don’t want the first sentence on the page to be, “I’ve been writing stories since I was seven, and I absolutely love to read.” Yawn. Click. You’re going to lose people.
However, people do like to know who they’re hiring. Having a picture is a great idea. People are more likely to trust a business with a face behind it. It’s also recommended that you talk about yourself a little at the bottom of your About page. If you hook the reader by promising solutions to their pain points, then they are hopefully interested in hiring you. That is when they want to know a bit about you.
This is where you sing your own praises a little bit. I actually sectioned this portion off from the main segment of my About page. You can see what I mean here. I didn’t want it to distract from my main hook, because though it is only a few sentences, it takes up a good deal of space. This is the portion where I yak about my publications and talk about my passion for writing. However, I decided instead of making that “passion” bit a cliche, I would use it as a selling point, bring it back around to the reader. I basically say, I’m the best person for the job because this isn’t just a job for me. I’ll tackle your story like it was my own.
Now, if you have a great sense of humor, or you’re a very poetic person, or you are very energetic, make those things come out in this section. This is where your personality comes through, and the reader can get a sense of who they’re working with. Really, mine is boring compared to what you can do. Just be yourself. The major selling is already out of the way.
Just Write It!
Quit looking at a white screen. Just write something, keeping the needs of your clients at the forefront of your mind. You can tweak it to perfection after you’ve got a first draft. If your About page is more about the client than you, you’re more likely to land those first jobs, and then you can go back into that page and add those credentials as you earn them.