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How to Avoid the Tragic Writer Mistake That Reveals You’re a Noob

Carol Tice

Writers excel in crafting compelling stories about issues, and companies, and people.

As long as that person isn’t you.

I’ve read a lot of marketing emails and query letters at this point, since I review them all the time in Freelance Writers Den.

Many writers can research and pitch a snappy story idea.

Or they can write a letter of introduction to a marketing manager or trade-publication editor, describing what they’ve learned about the prospective client’s needs and how they could help.

But when you get to that bio line where you sum up who you are and why you’re the writer for the gig, it’s often a mess.

Especially if you’re a new writer.

Where writers go wrong in pitch emails

Here are just a few of the problems I commonly see in marketing letters:

  • All about me. You take as many paragraphs to talk about yourself as you do to describe your story idea or how you could help a company with their marketing.
  • Worst foot forward. Here’s a comment I’ve seen in a writer bio: “I’ll be traveling in Europe for six months starting shortly.” Really? Guess you won’t have time to take on any clients! Don’t share information that would make a prospect think you won’t be available to do their work.
  • Sharing your sob story. One writer noted, “I got fired and couldn’t find another job, so I started freelancing as a last resort.” Way to convey your passion for your new career…not. Seeming desperate or depressed is not a great way to get gigs.
  • Spotlight your shortcomings. Two popular ones in this category are: “I don’t have any clips yet” and “I’ve just graduated from college.” If you present yourself professionally, prospects may never know you’re new to this. But if you broadcast that you’re a newbie, you may scare them off.

The solution to awkward writer self-descriptions

One overall tip on writer bios: Keep it short.

I find that pro writers are very concise in their bios, and amateurs are very wordy.

For instance, I might write, “I am a Seattle-based freelance writer. I’ve written for Alaska Airlines Magazine, Entrepreneur, Forbes, Costco, American Express and many others. Check out my portfolio here.”

That’s it. Ba-dum-bum. The end.

If you’re a new writer with few clips, you might say, “I’m an Austin-based healthcare writer and former nurse. I write the nutrition blog healthgirl.com.”

This is one of those situations where the more you lobby about how great you are, the more bogus you look. So be brief.

The big rule of writer bios

If you follow this basic rule, you’ll be well on your way to writing a better, more confident-sounding bio paragraph:

Don’t tell prospects what you don’t know or can’t do.

Marketing is all about emphasizing your strengths. Did you used to work in a bank, and this magazine is about personal finance? Mention it. Provide links to your best clips.

Show your writing skills in the most flattering possible light, and you’ll be surprised how many clients will want to hire you.

What’s your bio line in query letters? Leave a comment and tell us how you describe yourself to editors.