About pages. Most websites have one.
Why is that?
Because people are fundamentally nosy buggers and we all want to glimpse behind the curtain at the great and powerful Oz?
It’s certainly true that in order to buy from a brand or engage the services of a freelancer, we need first establish some level of trust. Nobody wants to buy blind.
We need to know who you are, what you’re offering and where the stats are to back up your promises, thank you very much. This sort of evidence is known as ‘social proof’ and good websites have lots of it.
About pages do more than this. They also offer a business or individual the chance to distinguish themselves, to stand out from the herd and say ‘this is who I am’ or ‘this is who we are.’ An About page is a platform to showcase what makes you unique.
And a great About page will sell the benefits of a product or service – making it more ‘About’ the customer than the person writing the copy (more of this later.)
Above all else, an About page is an opportunity for us, as business owners, to make a connection with our reader.
Why have an About page?
When someone carries out an online search, they usually have a problem that they need to solve. Whether it’s a replacement part for their hoover or someone to take Fido for a walk five days a week while they’re at work, there’s a gap in their lives for a product or service and they’re looking for ways to fill it
If you offer that product or service, you’re in the running to take a slice of that business. But first, you must persuade the potential customer to choose you.
Here’s an example:
I need a dog walker, I already have some criteria upon which to base my choice. They must be in Leeds and within my budget. I prefer a woman to a man and require someone who limits their pack to under five.
This leaves me with fifty dog walkers who fit the bill.
So how do I make my choice?
I might like the design and feel of a website, and pick that walker. I might like the images they’ve used or appreciate reading their witty and informative doggy-blog.
I might also turn to their About page for more information to help me make my choice.
Visiting an About page, I learn that this particular walker has five dogs of her own. She clearly lives and breathes canines!
She’s studying to be a vet? That’s a bonus. She’ll be the best person to have around if my dog gets hurt.
She’s originally from Manchester. So’s my Mum. That makes me feel warm towards her.
She’s interested in pet nutrition and bakes organic treats from her own recipes?
I want this woman to walk me, never mind my dog!
I’m going to give her a call.
And that’s why we need About pages. They offer us more, they influence us, they shape our understanding.
How do I write a great About page?
I’ve come up with some general guidelines that will help you plan and write an About page. These will help you to structure your content, but don’t feel that you have to apply them all – use only what works for you, and add your own touches to personalise the copy.
Here are some things you might want to consider:
- Position yourself as an authority in your field – let people know why they should step over your competitors in a mad scramble to secure your services. Is it your years of experience that make you an expert? Perhaps it’s the consultation work you do or the speaking engagements you attend? Maybe you write a wickedly popular blog that people come to for industry insights? Let people know why you’re the top dog.
- What’s your story? – Tell me about the journey you’ve been on. Even better, tell me about your struggle, how you arrived where you are, and what it cost you to become successful. We all like a good yarn, especially one that encompasses twists and turns before the protagonist finds their happy ending.
- If you’re a a freelancer, a lone wolf, what makes you tick? How are you different from the other freelance translators or designers or writers that pop up on Google? Why did you choose to strike out alone? What value can bring to someone’s business that they can’t add for themselves?
- If this is a business page, what makes your team special? What’s the glue that holds them together? Why these people doing this thing? What made you hire them? Why do they stick around?
- What are your values? What can customers expect you to deliver with consistency? Why do these things matter to you? Why should they matter to your customers?
- Build trust. Potential clients are looking for signs that you’re trustworthy and will deliver on the claims you make. Mention your qualifications and the awards you’ve won. Tell prospects about your speaking engagements, placing you as a sought-after expert. Done some charitable work? You’re practically Mother Theresa, but if nobody knows, nobody cares.
- Some backstory is good, but nobody wants the blow-by-blow of your life. Keep it relevant, keep it brief and keep it interesting.
- Emotion is okay. Your homepage and service page should be business like, but there’s a little more room to tug on the heart strings here. Try using more emotive word choices than normal on your About page, swapping ‘assist’ for ‘help’ and ‘give’ with ‘donate.’ This list has some great ideas for replacing intellectual language with emotional words.
- For the love of god, keep it brief. As with all web pages, the average reader will focus their attention on your copy for no longer than eight seconds. Keep the most relevant and useful information above the page fold, below this, your reader will only take in 20% of what you have to say (rather than the 80% afforded to above the fold.)
- Hold the hard sell. Your About page is a place to warm up your potential customers, not to force your product or service down their throats. Keep it conversational and light, a chance to chat about your business with an interested party – no pressure, no expectation. By all means blow your own trumpet, but do it gently and in your customers direction, rather than up in the air.
- Include a call to action, but rather than asking for a sale, suggest your reader signs up for a newsletter so that they can benefit from your expertise on a regular basis or checks out your blog for some helpful and relevant advice. Offer them something for nothing, rather than asking them for a commitment at this stage.
The About page myth.
Are you sitting down for this?
Your About page isn’t about you at all.
Web visitors who seek out your About page don’t really want to read about you. You’re not that interesting (except to your Mum. Your Mum thinks you’re cool.) They’re actually seeking to reassure themselves that they’re in the right place, that they’ve found the right solution for their burning question. They’re looking for clues. They’re looking for connection.
As a freelancer, people don’t visit my About page to read about my great kids, my love of knitting and my hideously filthy car (you have no idea, both inside and out…) These snippets are fun and may make me more relatable, more human and more likeable (all good things for a freelancer) but they don’t tell potential clients much about what they’re going to get out of handing over their cash to a child loving, hard-knitting car-killer.
If you divulge personal information and peel back some layers to show off your fabulous personality (and I hope that you do) be sure to include only what’s relevant. Writing about yourself isn’t the exercise here – rather, it’s sharing elements of yourself that are beneficial to your client or customer.
If my writing niche was parenting and baby care, it would benefit potential clients to hear that I had seven kids, eight foster kids and degree in child psychology (though they might wonder how I ever got any work done.) This information would present me as an expert in my field, committed to my subject, immersed in my niche. All clear benefits when I came to bash out a blog post for my client.
So you have an interest in basket weaving or you play the Harpsichord? That’s fabulous. Keep it to yourself (or include a little ‘fun facts about me’ box, that’s always a cute touch.)
Information should be clearly linked to benefits.
Find your unique
One of my favourite About pages was commissioned by Blue Sky Consulting Engineers. Owner Declan wanted to update the company’s current page with something less corporate, adding a little personality and shedding some light on Blue Sky’s values.
After chatting with him I discovered something that made for a compelling story.
Since he was a teenager, Declan had worked on building sites in order to see life from a construction worker’s perspective. In fact, he failed his A-Levels because he kept sneaking off to muck about with bricks when he should have been revising.
When he set up his own engineering consultancy, years later, Declan had a unique ability. He could speak builder, having spent so many years learning the craft of construction (extremely rare in his field.) Because he’d worn a hard hat and twiddled his thumbs while poncy surveyors held up projects with endless regulations, wasting both time and money, Declan understood the frustrations faced by construction professionals and the antagonistic relationship often seen between the two professions. Clients found that Declan’s projects made life very easy for their builders, along with saving them wads of cash.
Now that’s a USP, and one that we shared on his company About page.
Declan’s personal experience (labouring on a building site followed by achieving an engineering degree) translated into a clear benefit for his customers (he had a foot in both worlds.)
When I heard that part of Declan’s story, I knew I had a great hook for his About page. Your business or the brand you represent is unique. Your job is to find a way to write about that difference that resonates with customers.
Any other tips for my About page?
Keep it simple
Be confident but not cocky
Be innovative – deliver the information in a comic strip, as a timeline, as a mediaeval scroll if you can pull it off.
Don’t be afraid to keep it short and to the point. If you only have one really important thing to say about your brand, say one thing. One thing said well is worth fourteen pages of waffle.
Don’t take yourself too seriously. People will laugh. Not in a good way.
Be yourself. Not everybody is your ideal client or customer, and nobody can be all things to all people. Be authentically you, not a contrived version of you that you think customers want to see.
Key elements for an About page
- A great header – every web page needs an enticing header, and your About page is no exception.
2. Telling the reader who you are and what benefits you can offer.3
3. Sharing your values.
4. Offering solutions to problems.
5. A supporting image. This could be a professional headshot (of you looking at the camera appearing approachable, friendly and professional, not sinking vodka shots in a Tiki Bar.)It could also be a humorous cartoon or characature of yourself, a comic strip of you using your superpowers to solve a customer’s problem or a shot of your whole team.
6. A spot of storytelling.
Tell the reader about your personal journey or how your brand evolved and your team came together. Tell them a rags to riches tale – how you lost your job, lost your spouse, lost your home, almost lost your mind then turned it all around (and can help them do the same.) Make them laugh, make them cry, make them RELATE.
7. Don’t forget a call to action.
Even your About page should prompt the reader to take action, whether this is a sign up to your blog or a link to your services.
And what not to write….
An About page should describe your merits honestly, and there’s nothing wrong with taking pride in telling your story, but be wary of coming across as arrogant or self-congratulatory
Sticking to the facts is a good idea:
No: ‘I’m the best goddam dog walker in Leeds’
Yes: ‘I operate a waiting list for new clients’ or ‘Read my reviews on Linked In.’
Don’t bore anyone to death. Nobody wants a list of your achievements from age five upwards, taking in everything from your 10m swimming badge to your PHD in nuclear physics. Tell them what’s relevant. Tell them with brevity. Tell them in a funny, relatable, warm and personable way.
Don’t use hype. This may seem like the perfect place to make bold claims, but quiet facts are more likely to produce the desired effects. Be specific.
So there you have it.
A somewhat haphazard guide to the wonderful world of the About page.
Want to check out some good ones?
If it all sounds too much like hard work, why not get in touch and ask me to write your About me or About us page?