Notbanksy's 5-minute guide to the perfect 'about me' page
Or why your about page is off-putting to potential customers and ruins your website
Writing a brilliant about page is far from easy, but learning the elements that make one up is a piece of cake, so discover here my 5 minute guide to the perfect about me page.
Get ready to see your current about page commit hare-kiri in shame, and learn these simple, fundamental techniques for engaging customers and building rapport:
Building a window instead of a wall gives clients the insight they're looking for
The picture that helps build trust
Telling a story puts prospects at ease
They're waiting for you to make an offer
Put simply, your 'about me' page isn't what you think it is. It's not there for you to tell the world about how you like to go train-spotting or whatever in your spare time, it's there because, (believe it or not) clients and prospects are interested to know you.
For freelancers, this is especially important. If you think they want to know how your clean designs and standards compliant solutions are the dogs teabags, then get to the back of the class and pay attention.
Who reads this crap anyway?
You feel more comfortable working with people you know, right? So don't be surprised to learn that anyone who is considering working with you is interested in your about page, because they want to know what you're like. What they actually want is to steal a glimpse of your humanity, because they need to know if they can trust you.
I'm gonna repeat that in case you weren't paying attention (at the back).
They need to know if they can trust you.
Which is why, when it comes to your about page, you should build a window, not a wall. (Yeah, OK, I nicked that from another page - but it's good, innit?) Meaning, don't graffiti the page with boastful claims about how you're passionate about great design, progressive enhancement, Columbian coffee and zzz....
Sorry, bored myself shitless for a minute.
They want to know what you're like to work with. I know - weird ain't it?! But it's only weird because you've been conditioned by the great British education and the illiteranet at large to write about your business as if you've just had a frontal lobotomy and still coming around from the general anaesthetic.
The truth is, you're not used to talking about yourself openly and honestly, especially where your business is concerned - but that's exactly what you need to do, while retaining a strong business focus. In other words, build a 'window.'
It's not an essay, it's a conversation
There's a common theme in all the copy clinic posts so far, so no prizes for anticipating this one. But your about page is not an essay. It's a part presentation, part conversation. But it's only gonna work if you come across as approachable, genuine, and honest.
So what sort of things should you say?
Well, to begin with, a gentle introduction into how you got started as a freelance web designer wouldn't hurt. But not in too much detail, and don't be boring! Just give prospects an overview of your background so they can quickly decide if you're worth reading more about.
For example, compare
"I studied computer systems for 6 years at MIT before deciding to become a web designer"
"During my gap year I started writing poetry, and decided to publish it online. Not trusting any of the blogging platforms with my work, I decided to design and build my own. I don't write poems any more because I'm too busy perfecting my open source CMS..."
The first one sounds like someone trying not to say "I failed my IT exams, so now I'm a web designer" while the second sounds like someone you'd trust to take a project seriously.
Get it? Not so hard, is it?
!Important: Be specific
If you feel it's important to demonstrate your value to prospects (which it absolutely is) then you need to make sure you're always specific; never vague. The difference is huge.
"All my work is built on an agile grid framework with multiple jQuery hooks to create a lean, clean, proper-fancy solution that local businesses go crazy for."
"When Bill from LocalCorps came to me, his bloated, ugly home page had a bounce rate of nearly 70%. Two months later, we had his page load time down to under a second, his bounce rate down to 25% and his conversions more than tripled. Now we're working on his social media strategy together..."
For some reason, you see a whole lot of the first kind of writing on about pages, and not a lot of the second. But I can GUARANTEE you that your prospects will take more notice of the second. Why? Because it gives them something they can understand in terms of a potential benefit to their business, and it proves that you're trustworthy (to Bill, and by extension to all your clients). The first kind of writing just comes across as boastful and boring.
I'll show you mine...
If you show me yours! Ok, get your mind out of the gutter - this is a serious point I'm trying to make here. The point being, wherever possible, use visual and emotive language.
The better you are at describing actual, tangible things, or feelings, the more likely you are to land yourself a new prospect. Which is why taking a case study of a particularly successful job is such a good way to go. You get to say just how thrilled Bill from LocalCorps was with his fast-loading new website and tripled conversion rate. Prospects will naturally put themselves in Bill's shoes, and imagine that working with you is going to be not only good for business, but pleasant.
What's the best way to make room for emotive and visual language in your about page? Tell a story. It doesn't have to be a novel and it doesn't have to be a beginning-middle-end story. The paragraph about Bill is a story. It's about people, and what happens to them. And people like to read about things they can relate to. Like people. And things happening to them. Capiche? Good.
Launch a thousand ships with your boat
Do you want to learn a trick that will make your competitors laugh at you while you steal all their prospects? Thought so!
All you've got to do is put a picture of your boat* on your about page. (*in cockney rhyming slang: boat race = face).
I can hear y'all complaining already: But !b, I'm not good-looking like you. Who wants to see my hideous mug on a webpage? Shut up already!
Because actually, you're wrong. Obviously, make an effort for the photo, and wipe the tomato sauce off your chin before the shutter closes. But it's a clever psychological trick. When clients see your face, they see that you're not Brad Pitt (or some snot-nosed Hollywood upstart). They see you're just an average guy or gal who feels a bit awkward in front of the camera, and they're gonna empathise. They're gonna say to themselves: this person is like me. Cha-ching!
Before you go
So you've done everything I've taught you? Great. But there's one more thing. And if you don't use this, you've sort of wasted all that effort. Sort of.
If you don't tie your about page in to your offer in some way, you're a mug. Because it's the perfect place to ask for their business. And it doesn't make you look desperate or smarmy. It makes you look smart and proactive. Like someone they'd want to work with...
Finally, a great example of a well-written about page: http://mailchimp.com/about/ for pretty much all the reasons given above. And because there's a monkey!
Post your questions in the thread and I'll answer them!
And if you're just too damn busy to write your about page yourself, give me a shout at anthony [at] vividcopy.co.uk