The dreaded bio. Many a painful hour has been spent hunched over a computer attempting to cobble together various highlights, accolades and milestones into one cohesive narrative. After what seems like an eternity of suffering, the finished article feels no closer to perfection than when you first started.
You are not alone. I hold my hand up and admit that despite consistent practice, I still find the art of writing a great biography elusive.
Thankfully, I have learned how to give myself the best possible chance of success.
If you avoid the following five common mistakes, you’ll be well on your way to creating a killer bio.
1. Writing chronologically.
Brenden was born in 1984 and started playing clarinet at aged eight. About three more paragraphs will fill you in with his early forays into youth orchestras and high school music awards before he finally gets around to writing about what actually matters.
In terms of a structure, I realize it makes sense to start at the beginning and work your way through to the present day. But it’s weak for a few reasons, not least the following:
It takes way too long to get to the REAL meat of the biography – the YOU of TODAY.
Prospective employers, audiences and press will lose interest quickly if it takes too long to get to the juicy stuff. Your most recent work, in theory, shows the best experience and more relevant accolades and while the past can provide interesting context, it shouldn’t be the focal point.
2. Starting most or all sentences/paragraphs with your name or pronoun.
You’re a creative individual! So be creative with your writing too!
You might be a stellar performer but the written word is often the first entry point that people have to discover and respect you before you’ve even played a note. Lackluster writing can reflect badly on you even if you play one of the meanest Brahms concertos around.
By all means, use it here and there but keep it to a minimum. Alternative options can be:
-- Brenden founded Brenden Guy Media in 2018 to help classical musicians with their marketing needs.
-- As founder of Brenden Guy Media in 2018, Brenden helps classical musicians with their marketing needs.
-- With an emphasis on helping classical musicians achieve career success, Brenden founded an online marketing resource called Brenden Guy Media in 2018.
3. Using fake or unsourced quotes.
A fabulous quote is the holy grail of a strong bio. If you’re fortunate enough to have been featured favorably in press or even publicly quoted by a reputable artist, it can provide you with increased credibility. However, in an attempt to meet this need, one can often straddle that precarious line between fact and fiction.
Brenden Guy is widely considered to be one of the greatest clarinetists that ever lived.
Unless you’re an A-list musician, don’t say something like this. Ever. It’s not factual and it makes you sound arrogant and desperate. Don’t underestimate people’s ability to detect BS. You risk losing respect before you’re even through the door, no matter how accomplished you are.
Brenden Guy is widely considered to be “one of the greatest clarinetist that ever lived."
Nice try but those quotations don’t automatically make a quote valid unless there is a source attached to it. If The New York Times said this, then credit them so that people know that it’s someone else’s opinion and not just your own. Or worse still, your mother’s.
And just to be sure we understand each other, please don’t quote your mother in your bio either…
Side note: make absolutely certain that you use the CORRECT name of the media outlet that you’re quoting. Even if by accident, a false claim could damage your reputation.
4. Including excessive accolades from when you were a kid.
If you feel that you’re digging deep to pad out your biography, it probably means that the inclusion of winning your high school’s concerto competition is unlikely to be useful. It gives the impression that you haven’t got anything else current to share and draws more attention to that fact, especially if it was quite some time ago.
On the other hand, if you won a prestigious national or international prize when you were young, or represented your country at an early age, that would be more relevant. Use your own judgement but err on the side of caution.
5. Being overly humorous and flippant.
Let me preface that I heartily back breaking convention and writing a bio that is unique. If humor is your vibe and you want to convey this to a specific audience, then you can ignore this point entirely. Just be sure that it works for ALL situations. And if not, create one that does.
That being said, it’s not a great idea to have a bio that is predominantly standard and then shock people with a jarring element that doesn’t really fit the vibe. If you include humor, then you need to be sure that this is consistent with your goals, your personal brand and ultimately who you really are at heart.
If you make five changes to your bio over the next few days, weeks or month, make it these! A biography is such an important yet overlooked material in your marketing arsenal and with a little TLC, it will be much less stressful whenever the need arises to create or update yours.