The Opening Line of a Good Bio

The one great (bio) line.

I’ve been watching unholy amounts of TV all summer long.  My new favorite show is The Graham Norton Show, an English chat show that’s available on demand.  There’s one recurring segment — ‘That’s All We’ve Got Time For‘ — in which random viewers are placed in a giant red chair and asked to tell their best story to Graham.

If they start with something boring, like, “I was walking down the street in Wales, and it was a really nice day out…” — Graham flips the chair back and they’ve lost their privileges to tell any more of their tale.  It gets a big laugh because well, there’s some poor soul being booted around in a giant chair.

Setting isn’t nearly as important as you’d think, so no one is allowed to waste time on details relating to it. “When I was on the tube two months ago…” and “I needed a job, so I thought I’ll get a part time job, so I got a job in sales…and…we got trained…” were both miserable failures.


If you’ve got a really great leading line, you’ve got a chance.

“This one time I shared the loo with David Beckham…”
“Well, my boyfriend’s nickname is Dickey Danger and…”
“One day I was running very late and didn’t have time to put my underwear on. So…”
“I was just trimming my pubes when there was a knock on the door…”

The same idea applies to your story-type bio. Keep us entertained or we’re going to be bored. And we’ll assume that if your bio is boring, YOU are boring. Which is completely unfair, you know.

To start your bio off right, tell me:

What was the defining moment?  The moment you knew you just had to get out of your last job to start this new venture?

Make that moment dramatic, and let it speak volumes.  Then lead me to the career you’re in now. 

Completely true example bio: I had been called into the principal’s office for the last time.  This was my fifth trip to the dreaded room in one week, and dammit, I was the TEACHER.  I quit my job on the spot and had precisely 14 days to find a career I liked better.  Photographer seemed as good a job as any, and I was hired with just 2 days to spare.

What terrible/horrible story can lead directly to changes that you’ve implemented in your business?

Something awful happens, and you have a moment of realization: you can do better!  You can change x or y and create a better experience for your clients!  Tell me how it happened.

Completely fake example bio: I used to do graphic design for a corporate behemoth and create 12 logos a day.  TWELVE.  One day, I realized that individual focus and luxurious attention were more important than having a safe ol’ corporate job.  So I quit, and Debbie Designs Dallas was born.

What’s the most memorable/life-changing moment you’ve had in your business — the moment you knew you were doing what you were meant to be doing?

Maybe it’s photographing a birth, having an image to use for a funeral (it’s happened to me, unfortunately), making a special Mom cry with gratitude, giving a speech to a group of gorgeous brides, or receiving a big box of bon bon’s and a thank you note in the mail.  Lead with that moment, and tell us why it matters.

Another totally true bio option:  “It’s a boy!” the nurse called out, and the tears of joy that mother cried were the most beautiful thing I’d ever seen.  After 27 hours of labor and an emergency C-section, I was there.  In the room.  To capture the instant a little soul arrives in this world.

Let your one great line lead to a paragraph that sums up your career choice, and you’ll be well on your way to convincing readers to get all the way through your bio paragraph.

This is an excerpt from Introverts at Work, the book about sales and marketing specifically for Quiet-with-a-capital-Q humans!

You can read more about Introverts at Work here, or pay what you can here!

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P.S.  3 steps to less writing angst.