How NOT to write a personal biography

How NOT to write a personal biography

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Copy Paste

Most of us have written a description about ourselves before, whether it be on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, LinkedIn or our CV. It’s not an easy task but it needs to be done, and it should always be evolving. Your bio should sell yourself and your story. It should show your credentials, your passion and expertise. It should be unique to you and you only. It should not be copied & handed out at whim.

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Wouldn’t you agree?

Obviously this is not the case for the 12+ pages of people that have literally copy pasted my entire biography or parts there of, onto their own page. I’m not here to point fingers, as you can easily go through and look yourself, but seriously… think before you act.

For those needing help writing their own bio, here are some great resources:

Have any other helpful links or advice? Please do share.

My Latest Bio

After many hours work, below you can read my latest bio as it appears on my CV. It still needs work and I’m open to constructive feedback, so please let me know your thoughts. What should be removed, added, changed?

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Strategic, multidisciplinary designer & art director with an eye for innovation and pixel perfection. I’ve worked the gamut of clients (Disney, Red Bull, Nike & Star Wars to name a few) and although my skill set is vast, my greatest expertise revolve in the worlds of interactive design, UX, social media, brand identity design, content creation and print collateral. My wish is to combine my knowledge and experience in these areas, to deliver the best creative to my employer’s clients and their audiences. I have a strong personal following of over 42,000 Twitter followers and 30,000 blog subscribers. I also love coffee.

Let’s see how many people copy this one.

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52 thoughts on “How NOT to write a personal biography”

  1. As connected as the internet community is, why would people, especially professionals in the same area as you, think that copying ANYTHING would go unnoticed? Much less something that is supposed to sell them to prospective clients or employers.

  2. Definitely something that I need to spend more time on. In today’s world, your online identity is too important to not take care of.

  3. Very good and relevant write-up. I however, don’t think ‘copying’ or ‘borrowing’ creative wording or phrases from others is all that bad tho’ (http://www.ronincareerist.com/2011/07/writing-a-compelling-bio-and-dont-worry-about-borrowing-creative-wording-from-others/). There are a lot of web designers, print designers, logo designers, etc. Some terms used in one person’s bio could be perfectly relevant to another. Copying and then tweaking or modifying another’s great and creative sentence i think is not a bad idea. Don’t copy everything word for word tho’

  4. David,
    Thanks for your comment and extended blog post. I understand & agree that it’s OK to rehash other people’s bios to make it unique to your own, but as you have said, don’t copy it word for word (as the people linked in the Google search have done).

    When I was creating my bio I certainly did my research to see how others wrote about themselves which helped a lot. I rewrote, borrowed and combined many phrases to come up with what you see above.

    The one article that gave me the most inspiration was 99%’s article: The Resume is Dead, The Bio is King. I followed their formula of

    1. Share a point of view (What I do)
    2. Create a back story (My blog + Twitter)
    3. Incorporate external validators (My clients)
    4. Invite people into relationship (I love coffee)

    I’ve also tried to answer the questions of

    1. Who I am (What I do)
    2. How can I help you (My skills)
    3. How did I get here (My blog + Twitter)
    4. Why can you trust me (My following)
    5. What we share in common (I love coffee)

    It’s extremely difficult to get all of this into one or two paragraphs but I’m happy with the result for now. Always improving though.

  5. Wow, that’s really surprising (and not that surprising at the same time, I guess).

    A bio is your opportunity to tell people what YOU are really about, get a feel for how you present yourself, and what is really important to you. Copying someone else’s bio says (to me, at least) that you don’t want to make a real connection with your clients.

    It also tells me that you really have no passion for what you’re doing. If you can’t even write something in your own words to explain your design/work/living philosophy, that sends the message that you don’t really care or know enough to make it your own.

    In searching for a creative professional to hire, it would absolutely be a deal-breaker to find out someone had done that. How could I expect someone to come up with a corporate identity, or a unique ad campaign, etc. if they couldn’t even write one paragraph about themselves?

    On your new bio, the only thing I noticed was that the first sentence is only a fragment–so if it is being used as a sort of headline summary about you, then followed by the rest, that makes sense to me. Otherwise it feels a little awkward to leave that first sentence as-is.

  6. Is this personal biography specifically to generate leads or to give blog readers a sense of who you are?

    I ask, because while this bio gives me a sense of your qualifications, I don’t get a strong sense of your personal brand.

    “Strategic, multidisciplinary designer & art director with an eye for innovation and pixel perfection.”

    Pixel perfection is nice. The rest could be said of many art directors. Perhaps this is one reason your bio is often copied.

  7. I like your bio and you use a bit of humor at the end. I am not sure what type of work you are looking for but I will add that you are a great communicator and an experienced speaker including your experience as an invited speaker at TED.

    I am surprised that you were able to find the people who copied your bio, I would be furious but again, copying is the highest form of flattery.

    Keep on the good work Jacob, I really enjoy reading your blog.

  8. Shouldn’t it be expertise *revolves*?

    Good summary of skills though, weird that people copy such personal information word for word.


  9. What a frustrating experience; I hope the offenders will be ‘inspired’ by your article to put some effort into (re)writing their bios.

    It’s on my list to update my own bio and CV so thanks for the article links.

  10. Hi Jacob,

    thank you for your article. It comes in a period when I’m thinking about how to refresh contents of my bio and general presentation on the web so it is going to be greatly useful.

    Bio is an opportunity to say to your readers who you are and what can you do for them in few words. It is not easy at all and even more if you are not an English mother tongue.

    Thank you again for sharing your experience.


  11. I’m amazed that so many people have decided to copy someones personal biography. I know it’s been said many times on here, but a biography is something that is personal to the writer and a great opportunity to describe what is unique and stand out about ‘me’. If they’re literally copying and pasting from someone else, not only does it show that they are completely devoid of any individuality, but lacking the dedication and commitment that you would expect if this was in relation to a job application.

    Tough it may be, but I enjoy the process of writing about myself. Of course it’s awkward to write praise and extravagant explanations about what I’ve achieved and done, but it’s all part of how you make yourself come across. Little do we know it, but our personalities will immediately come across in our writing, and it’s a great way for us to promote ourselves. In replacing this key aspect of any CV with work by someone else, you’re already cheating not only those who potentially will be employing you, the person from whom you’ve stolen the biography, but also yourself. You’re not doing yourself justice. Sure, have a look over other people’s work for ideas, but write your own stuff!

  12. Well written biography Jacob! – I know it hurts to see someone has just copy/pasted your hours of work in moments. I’ve been through this for quite a number of my writings.

    You know what, it makes me happy too. Why? Imagine how many people think its the perfect biography and wishes to copy them. Just a different perspective, very motivating 🙂

    By the way, am offering a giveaway of FREE 250 die-cut business cards (very high quality printing) with FREE shipping – Thought to share this with you and your great readers.

    Check it here for more details http://www.logoreviews.org/giveaway-250-die-cut-business-cards-b-uprinting

  13. 1) They copied from your because they liked what you wrote!


    2) They believe you summed up what they are also.
    If that’s the case @Jacob then while your writings are unique, am afraid that you are not 😛

  14. Hey, Jacob – this message cannot be over-stated. Just recently our company restructured and a former employee actually ripped off web copy for use on a new personal site!


  15. Once you have a good bio written up, do you use the same one for everything that requires a bio (your CV, website, linkedin, google+, etc.)? Or do you try to tweak each somehow to be slightly different??
    …just wondering.

  16. Ok, ok. I’m one of the ones who copied the 1. 2. 3. 4.
    How embarrassing- but I suppose we deserved to be called out. I’ve reworked my bio so that it rephrases what I’m trying to say about myself without using your idea of having a list.


  17. Wow. That’s crazy! You have to wonder how much of their work is also not truly theirs, but copied from another source. I understand using other’s work or content as reference, but outright copying is shameful. I admire that your response is so kind and level-headed, Jacob.

  18. Nice post, sucks to hear everyone’s too lazy to write their own bios so they rip on yours.

    I may change “…to deliver the best creative to my employers…” to “…to deliver the best creative solutions (or products) to my my employers…”

    The sentence there feels awkward to me, personally. Keep rockin’ Jacob.

  19. Do you like espresso (the finest you smell as you sip) or americano tall (yerk) water coffee?
    Love your bio. Just jealous as you can see

  20. I have to agree with James who said: Shouldn’t it be expertise “revolves“?
    And Zack: change “…to deliver the best creative to my employers…” to “…to deliver the best creative solutions (or products) to my employers…”
    And WTF is “print collateral”? Try to speak English whenever possible and keep away from the BS buzz words.
    Otherwise, thanks for the tips; keep up the good work.

    • GULP!
      if you have no clue what print collateral or collateral material is, then obviously it seems that you are out of touch with the design industry!

  21. I can’t believe that people who are in the creative industry are copying your CV! Good on you pointing out and hopefully pulling them up on it. The point of a CV and an introduction paragraph is to explain who you are and what you can do, not someone else.

    BTW, print collateral is just an easier way to reference the materials that you design/produce in the print industry. Jacob’s experience is vast and I’ve followed his career for years now. It’s much easier for him to say print collateral then to list off a thousand project types like brochures, books, magazines, report, ads, posters, point of purchase… etc. Any prospective employer who has been in the industry long enough will understand what it is.

    • I agree that its is not bad to take ideas from another person’s written Bio. Most professionals, like Chris Brogan recommend that you read other people Bio’s
      before you start with your own. Chris Brogan is a very successful Business Personnel
      and author of seven books. Now if you weren’t allowed to barrow bits of another persons bio, why even read it. Don’t steel the entire bio word for word, but words that might describe you, but you did not think of that word until you read it in some one else’s bio.

  22. Jacob –

    A little of your personality needs to leak through in this bio. Perhaps you could use the word “creative” somewhere, and a reference to your approach to a project. It reads like a list of course descriptions, and we all know you are more interesting than that.

  23. Trish,
    Then perhaps Jacob could write:
    ” … the worlds of interactive design, UX, social and print media, brand identity design and content creation.”
    I’ve been a newspaper editor for 20-plus years and have always appreciated brevity and clarity above businessese.

  24. Thank you for that very useful info, Jacob, I´ve been working very hard to write my bio without copying anybody.

    I don´t think that is a good idea to copy another´s designers biography/about page, because we are unique, with difference experience, skills, portfolios, etc…, but inspiration is good when you see how something is well written, is just about good copywritting, be yourself and don´t lie even if you don´t have too much experience/works, that´s my point of view.

    Diana =)

  25. It doesnt seem surprising that a majority of the work I just viewed from these mentioned plagiarists was very poor too!

  26. Thanks for posting the links to bio resources. I definitely need to work on mine some. Sorry to hear people keep copying yours. It seems pretty self-defeating to copy someone else’s profile – a bio is supposed to be about you, not what you copy from someone else.

  27. It seems like they just copy & pasted your bio. That’s so lame!
    I often look at artwork/designs or writings that are done by others for inspiration or ideas but always make sure that I don’t just copy them exactly.

  28. Strategic, multidisciplinary designer & art director with an eye for innovation and pixel perfection. I’ve worked the gamut of clients (Disney, Red Bull, Nike & Star Wars to name a few) and although my skill set is vast, my greatest expertise revolve in the worlds of interactive design, UX, social media, brand identity design, content creation and print collateral. My wish is to combine my knowledge and experience in these areas, to deliver the best creative to my employer’s clients and their audiences. I have a strong personal following of over 42,000 Twitter followers and 30,000 blog subscribers. I also love coffee.
    ^ Copied 😉

  29. Thanks for your patience folks, have finally got time to reply to comments.

    Well said! I would also agree it would be a deal breaker, most certainly. On my CV, the first sentence is actually following my name and contact details so it makes a bit more sense there. Thanks for the feedback.

    This bio is for my CV, that I give to employers. The personal brand comes with the design of the CV but good point! You’re right about it being said to many art directors, but that is four words, as apose to a whole bio… just as one would describe themselves as a ‘creative graphic designer’.

    I suppose the TED speaker could be used in that paragraph however I do have it later on my CV.

    As for finding the people who copied my bio, I was actually told be someone else and then later tried more search queries to find the rest of the copiers. Thanks for the feedback!

    I tossed up whether it was revolves or revolve – I think both can be correct but I left it as revolve as I was writing in present tense. Anyone else know?

    It can be difficult when Enlgish is not your first language however there are ways around this other than copying. Hiring someone or even getting help from a friend would be a better place to start.

    Interesting that you enjoy writing about yourself. I guess it is a challenge, trying to make yourself sound good without showing off.

    Everyone is unique Enovabiz, just like everyone else.

    Sorry to hear that, hope you got it rectified.

    No this one was written specfically for my CV. I have a few that are tailored to each specific site. For example, Twitter is under 140 chars where as Google+ is much longer.

    Brave to own up Alejandro, hope you learn from it!

    No point in getting fired up about it, it’s no doubt just going to happen again. As they say, be afraid the day they stop copying!

    Solutions could be a good addition however ‘creative’ could also be used as a noun. I’ll see what I can do. Thanks!

    I enjoy both but when I drink Americano, its usually Ice Coffee. It lasts longer!

    Trish was right in her response regarding print collateral. No buzz word there! I don’t believe joining the social and print media together is the right solution either but thanks for the feedback!

    I will see what I can do there… but this was written more for my CV than any personal bio page. Thanks for the feedback!

  30. Jacob,
    Wow! Thanks for the schooling on”collateral,” all this time I’ve been using the word “products.”
    And if you really want to pump up your bio — to make it real — be sure to use words such as ‘impacts’ when you mean ‘effects’ and ‘sinage’ instead of ‘signs.’ Also share what you enjoy doing in the afternoon hours because, to be honest, at the end of the day you want to B able 2 conversate clearly.
    I noticed you haven’t worked for any global clients (as in companies based in Europe or Asia). If you would like to, please understand that they are taught to clearly speak English

  31. Hi Jacob,
    I am no expert in writing a bio and have not researched this subject at all – with that said, I do have two suggestions which are to replace “I wish” with stronger words/language (some type of “this is how I can help you” statement). And, the other suggestion is to remove the “I love coffee” at the end. I totally get that you want to add that human touch but it’s not distinct enough of a statement (as many people love coffee) – if this makes any sense. In my opinion, that last statement should be somewhat of a “wow” statement – such as “I like to bungie-jump in my free time” (I know that’s a lame example…but it’s less common than I like coffee). Or, you could leave out the human/personal statement from your bio all together – I think your picture is your personal statement.

    BTW….I love the “pixel perfection” phrase…that really caught my attention along with how many followers you have – including myself.

  32. Definitely something I have to spend more time on. In today’s world, your online identity is too important not to support.

    Thanks for sharing Jacob!

  33. I’ve got to agree with the comments about taking inspiration from things that others have written with “copying”. There really is little in the way of originality out there.

  34. If it passes Copyscape then it is original text. This is in the eyes of Google anyway. We used Copyscape to find other web designers stealing our text. It is hard to be original these days.

  35. Believe it or not, I finally wrap up my short bio (in 100 words or less) after reading yours. I particularly like your mentioning of pixel precision (which I also paraphrase, hope you won’t mind), because that describes exactly my “fetish” too.

  36. Thank you for your comments on branding. I will try to be more transparent. Since you requested feedback on your current bio, I thought I would share something. The word “gamut” is evoking a negative feeling for me. Is there another word you feel describes the range of clients you have worked with?

  37. As a designer who is trying to “re-design” my biography I came across this post at a perfect time.
    I never thought about the consequences of plagiarized biographies, but as I searched your new biography, I found over 10 pages of copied biographies verbatim.

    I’m definitely going to reconsider my approach when writing this new biography.
    Thanks for the tips!

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