8 mistakes on your About page

Boundaries being as porous as they are with social media, this advice also applies to profiles on Twitter and Facebook. This entry comes in addition to the current topic of discussion on the forum and previous entries on this site are included at close.

  1. Not being brief. The content on your About page should not require a scroll.
  2. Do not write “we” in reference to yourself especially if you’re a one person company. This is a common beginning writer’s mistake known as “the royal we”; the Queen can do it but few others can. Say “I”. Even the largest firms don’t use we.
  3. Don’t write a book for your About page bio. This is not a resume or an autobiography. Summarize your personal history into one paragraph. Sure, you want to say enough so that people identify with you and surmise you share their values but be brief.
  4. Pass on or severely curtail soliloquies on your sources of inspiration. Everyone has inspiration. People bang on about their pets, kids, religion, politics or whatever as having inspired them to move forward on their dreams. Be careful.
  5. Be very careful about capitalizing nouns (person, place or thing). Names of people and places (Paris etc) can be capitalized but not things (“Suits” “Fashion Designer”).
  6. Avoid the dreaded wall of text. Always use white space (double carriage returns).
  7. Failing to use spell check.
  8. This is the biggie (read: what I’m annoyed about today). Do not mention or allude to your politics, race, sex, religion, scientifically dubious positions or controversial topics unless it is germane to your product line. If you make sacred garments, by all means mention your faith etc. Otherwise, let it go. You don’t want to alienate people who were ready to buy from you.

Case in point: A woman who is starting a contract sewing operation wanted me to help her get customers. I don’t know her so I poked around and ended up at her FaceBook page. There I found she “likes” only one page so it stood out. I wrote her back and suggested she remove it because she will alienate at least half of her potential customers. She thanked me but she hasn’t removed the link (and is still soliciting work). It doesn’t matter whether I agree with her or not. I can’t send her any business because she’s already demonstrated poor judgment and I have no assurances she won’t continue to exercise poor judgment in the future which could affect designers I know. Obviously I wouldn’t want to make any referrals if there is potential for bad outcomes.

In some ways, I’m glad that that these kinds of people do you the favor of advertising their unsuitability so you have the heads up on who to avoid. If they’re flakey in one way, they’re usually flakey in others.

Related:
Designer’s website design
Designer’s website design pt.2

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27 comments

  1. clf says:

    Wow, that Facebook page is so offensive.

    I’m bothered by bios/about pages that are deliberately vague. It makes me think the person is untrustworthy and has something to hide.

    I don’t mind scrolling, but content should be succinct. Write in a direct, straight-forward manner using the active voice.

    Please tell me:

    Your background. Education, training, experience.
    What makes you or your company unique?
    If I purchase your products or hire your services, what’s in it for me?

    Wrap the whole thing up in a compelling narrative. Avoid hyperbole, cliches and buzzwords. And for the love of God, don’t quote yourself, call yourself an artist (unless you do practice fine art) or refer to yourself in the third person.

  2. Gail D. says:

    Kathleen, I so agree with you but from a customer’s point of view. Things that turn me off–totally–are poor grammar and punctuation! If I see a vendor using “it’s” for the possessive form, that’s it–I will absolutely not buy from that person. I just can’t stand that, and I feel that if a person doesn’t know better than that, they’re not smart enough to have my business.

  3. Pam ~FSS~ says:

    Thank-you Kathleen :)

    My “About” page was short and had double- space between the 3 short paragraphs, but it needed some tweaking. Now thanks to you, the paragraphs are even shorter, and take up less than 1/3 of the page !

    Pam Erny

  4. andrew kieran says:

    top tip. I always avoid mentioning my politics to people i wish to deal with in a professional capacity, and I’m not out of college yet.

    and i would never deal with anyone that’s so delusional they can’t tell the difference between a democratic liberal and Stalin

  5. Quincunx says:

    So, it’s less “About Us” or “About Me” than “About the Designer” or “About the Company”, no pronouns and no chatty informality?

    #6 is the most important to me. If you don’t include the blank lines between each paragraph, then even if I wanted to read your story which violated #1, 3, and 4 but interested me nonetheless, I _couldn’t_ because it is more dense to my eye than an academic text. (If you do have a compelling but long story, title it “About Me” and write the condensed version for “About the Designer”. #1, 3, and 4 aren’t wrong.)

    #8 is a gamble: will you attract more money from people who agree with you than money you didn’t get from people who disagree, and did you intend to use your cause as a tool of marketing, which it _will_ be if it’s part of your “About” statement? If there’s a image or a logo which represents your cause, try using that instead; images don’t seem to trigger the same urge to judge my beliefs against yours as text does.

  6. Bente says:

    Great information. I had someone make the text (always afraid of spelling as I am not a native English spoken…getting better..) so on the about page it is refereed to as She (the designer) and It( the brand/company).
    It feels right but what do you think?
    It probably miss the “what is in it for me” point that “cif” was mentioning, but I guess I have more of that on the COLLECTION page.
    By the way; communicating through social media as Facebook and Twitter is a completely different language, but I guess I understand Kathleen when it comes to Fast Capturing fast and clear in few words. It’s an interesting exercise for detail-related designers..LOL

  7. Agree. What an offensive page. Even if I agreed with her politics, the idea of wishing someone dead now matter what you think of them is incredibly offensive. Never would I do business with her.

    Now, I wonder how many of your readers will know what a “carriage return” is?

    I’m with Gail. If grammar/spelling can’t be done properly, then what else might not be done properly. Spell check won’t correct all of those, so hire an editor if necessary.

    I like to see a photo of the designer. It personalizes the page for me and piques my interest.

    Marguerite

  8. Kathy Jo says:

    I am really worried about asking, but it seems that my blog about page breaks many rules. http://ventranoshoes.wordpress.com/about/ I thought it would be ok to be less business like in the blog as I wanted to be relatable and tell the story my way. For the website (should I ever get a product) I would think of very differently.

    I have a company Facebook and a personal Facebook do I need to watch my personal one for these rules or just the company one? I do not friend business associates on my personal one so I thought it would be ok.

    The reason I ask is that I have some controversial friends and some I don’t agree with at all. I don’t ever talk politics I find it pointless, I will never change someone’s mind by arguing so I don’t. I personally have come to the conclusion that if I unfriend anyone with a differing or offensive opinion then I too become intolerant. I have been able to overlook some things because I know the person in other areas and find them to be good people.

  9. Kathy Jo,

    For Facebook I think you can make your personal page completely private so that it can only be seen by friends. There are different levels of privacy (I think my page is not very private but I’m not sure) and you can choose the most-private one.

  10. Lesley says:

    Wow. That would alienate more than half … pretty much any reasonable person. It is both an inspiration and an annoyance to see people who appear to be so inept in their business practices STILL in business. An inspiration because if THEY are still in business, surely there is hope for the rest of us!

  11. Chris says:

    Great article as usual Kathleen.”Do not mention or allude to your politics, race, sex, religion, scientifically dubious positions or controversial topics” – I have been put off buying from some sellers online due to this exact thing. I’m on their webpage to buy their product, not to be preached to. People don’t seem to realise that they can have an opinion or stance without having to force it on their potential customers.
    Now I’m off to sort out my ‘about’ page – I’m pretty sure there is a “we” in there that needs to change!!

  12. David says:

    I always have mixed feelings about these kind of “warning” articles since they advocate concealing tactics. I WANT to see all of the mistakes to better judge what kind of person or company I may be thinking of dealing with. If their knot smart enuf to figure it out on they’re own, better I know now than later. Today I visited the website of a fairly large supplier that included “This website was last updated on 8-16-2008.” It instilled confidence that everything I saw was current and that the Company paid attention to detail.

    My wife, who hires regularly for her employer is consistently amazed at the idiocies applicants have posted to their Facebook about drinking/drug use, !#$% former employers, and politics.

  13. Nancy says:

    Kathleen,

    Let me start by saying that I take all feedback from potential customers seriously and did go into my Face Book page and changed my setting to only allow my friends to see my “Likes”. Apparently the filter is not effective and I will take further action.

    Now let me add that I certainly do not appreciate you “expressing your negative opinion” when you have no idea who I am. You are making assumptions based on a social computer web page you have not taken the time to contact me. Therefore, should I assume that you are only a troublemaker? No, I won’t. I will most certainly give you the benefit of the doubt.

    Will close with an apology, if I have offended anyone, it was not deliberate. If you know Face Book you know how easy it is to have pages linked to you without you even pushing a button. So, please don’t assume someone has “Liked” a page deliberately, they may not have. Such was the “Like” you have so graciously pointed out to the world. Please be aware of Slander.

  14. Eric H says:

    Nancy, are you saying that this is post is about you? If so, then there can be no slander because you outed yourself (no hints were forthcoming in the original post, over 1million people “Liked” that page). Didn’t Carly Simon sing about this?

    In my former job, I had to take computer and network security seriously, and this necessarily means actively managing your online footprint. You should set all of your personal Facebook and other social networking pages to the most private settings possible and keep your personal and professional profiles separate if you must have a “public face”. Be aware that people are smart enough to put things together, so be careful what footprints you leave in either of those. On your personal pages, link only to people that you actually know and trust. Yes, I do assume that people “Like” pages deliberately because I expect people to think about those things before they push the button. I don’t accept most of the crap that comes my way because I don’t know what the long-term consequences are going to be for mindlessly punching the OK button.

    Frankly, I didn’t find the “Dear Lord …” page offensive; I found it to be lame. And that still doesn’t belong on anything business-related. If you want to see offensive, … well, nevermind. Just be warned that there are worse things on the ‘tubez.

  15. Bente says:

    Looks like this post has turned into Nancy’s liking a “we wish the US president dead” FaceBook page….
    and all in the name of God. I just had to open the link to see now and I cannot keep my mind off how 1 million people can be its’ fan. I say no more!

  16. Nancy says:

    @Eric, Yes the post was about me. As I ended my previous post. “I will close with an apology, if I have offended anyone, it was not deliberate. ” I also pointed out that on Face Book it is easy to be on an application without the deliberate action end up attaching it to your profile. I thank you for your advise to be cautious, I have. Directly after my post of 5:30pm any profile related to my business was deactivated. My personal profile has all the highest security available on that site. You may call me neive, but I am disappointed that a person who belongs to a social networking group would post the above atricle below my post looking for business. It surely would take a brain surgeon to figure out who the article was directed to.

    @Bente – It certainly does looks like this post has turned into Nancy’s liking a “we wish the US president dead” FaceBook page, however this is far from the truth. If you read my comment to Eric you will see that I also pointed out that on Face Book it is easy to be on an application without the deliberate action end up attaching it to your profile. Such was the case.

    I ask that this end the discussion on this article and Kathleen Fasanella, I wish you all the best.

  17. clf says:

    Nancy-

    Here’s some more free advice: When you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.

    Not taking responsibility for something that appears on your FaceBook “likes” list is yet another sign of unprofessionalism.

    I notice that you do not denounce the original message which wished our President dead. You did not remove the message from your “likes” list as Kathleen advised. Instead you tried to make it private and supposedly were unsuccessful. From this we can surmise that you actually *do* like the message.

    You missed Kathleen’s entire point, which is exactly that SHE DOESN’T KNOW WHO THE HECK YOU ARE. And neither will potential clients. And yet they WILL be able to see your FaceBook page.

    Your defensive response only reinforces what Kathleen wrote.

  18. Marie-Christine says:

    Nancy’s confused, slander is defined as malicious but mainly false. There’s nothing false about pointing out publicly-accessible stupidity, which we can all see for ourselves is true.
    There are no assumptions in this post, only well thought-out comments about public persona, what and how you may wish to show it. No worse than telling someone that their logo is illegible, or that their collar is crooked, if it comes to that.

    I totally second everything Eric says incidentally, and remind everyone that there are now 35 different settings to deal with on Facebook in order to protect your so-called privacy. Check out the latest news here http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/facebook?INTCMP=SRCH and weep.

    In any case Nancy there’s no point in attacking the messenger, you’re free to ignore advice, but if you’re putting things out in public you certainly can’t prevent being taken for a bad example. That’s what public means, everyone can see it, also you don’t control the conversation or where it goes. Sheesh. This attitude is -so- similar to what Kathleen was saying here http://fashion-incubator.com/archive/getting-things-done-when-you%E2%80%99re-not-in-charge-pt-4/

  19. Tula says:

    This is a big topic of discussion in the business forums and blogs I follow. Businesses are trying to figure out how to effectively use social networking in their businesses without overloading their customers or overreaching in terms of privacy. One of the first things that’s always mentioned is that business and personal networks must be kept separate. You don’t want your business clients seeing updates about Uncle Bob’s latest visit to the chiropractor, after all.

    It’s Business 101 that you never involve politics, religion, or any other controversial topics in your business copy unless it’s an actual part of your business (like religious clothing, as Kathleen mentioned). Your customers care about what your company can offer them not about how you personally feel about [insert controversial topic here].

    There are some arguments about how to present your business. Some feel that an individualized and homey persona is best, while others prefer a more impersonal, professional business approach. Both have merit, but in neither case is it recommended to dive into volatile topics due to the risk of alienating your potential customer base.

    Personally, I found that page appalling and would not be likely to do business with an entity that linked to that on their Facebook page.

  20. Kathy Jo says:

    I thought I would mention that I simply assume everything I put on the web could eventually come to light in many arenas. We attempt to set privacy but, we cannot control every possible way others can get our information.

    My last job was an I.T. recruiter, I spent most of my days either interviewing my candidates or gaining insight into how my clients hire, what they look for etc… Every manager that I dealt with Googled every person before they even decided if they wanted to interview.

    These I.T. managers are particularly intelligent in the ways of getting information off of the web. Like it or not many people never even got considered because of MySpace, Facebook, you name it. I was shocked at what people put out there but what I found to be true was the candidates never, ever knew why they didn’t get an interview. Some may take issue with that but it is in fact reality.

  21. Kathleen says:

    There are some arguments about how to present your business. Some feel that an individualized and homey persona is best, while others prefer a more impersonal, professional business approach.

    I think that people have to decide this for themselves and it’s all good (as long as you don’t shoot yourself in the foot).

    Here’s another case. A client of mine has (imo) a very compelling story. They’re practically a poster child for Made in USA and lean manufacturing; a model that many could aspire to becoming. They pay their stitchers double the going rate. Iow, they have a solid track record of being exemplary employers, made in USA etc but they don’t say a peep about it on their website. They don’t bang on about how sweatshop free etc they are nor how sustainable they are etc. Not a single word. “Made in USA” doesn’t even appear on their site (and it legally should in product descriptions, that’s the law).

    However, this is how they choose to market themselves and it doesn’t matter what I say about it. Everyone has a different style they’re comfortable with and also, I think it is a growing process, a matter of maturation and growing into your own skin. Your about page should evolve as your enterprise matures. We all make mistakes but it’s best to fix it and move on.

  22. Helena says:

    Thank you for writing these things.
    I have to add another thing that annoys me mightly: when you surf to one site, and then you decide you want to leave it, you click on back button (or the method you prefer to use) only to see you thrown back to the site. Then you get into a battle, trying to click on back, throws you back to site, and so on, and only when you have clicked on the back button in a very rapid fashion you manages to go back to where you came from but often not only that, but a lot of steps back.

    If your site does this please change it. Your url-hijacking is super annoying.

  23. Seth Meyerink-Griffin says:

    @Nancy: First, you might want to set up a separate professional and personal account on Facebook. DO NOT link them; don’t mention professional things on your personal page and vice versa. Secondly, select Account (upper left-hand corner) -> Privacy Settings. Select “Customize Settings” on your privacy settings page; set *everything* to “friends only” or “only me”, unless you want to open your Facebook posts up to pretty much the entire world. (I have my posts set to “Friends of Friends”; as Kathy Jo mentioned, this might end up hurting me in the long run. My only “Friends” are people that I know IRL, and my liked pages are limited to bands and a few clothing companies, but allowing friends-of-friends to see my posts means that a less-discriminating friend might unintentionally open me up to privacy violations from potential business contacts/employers.) If you are tagged in anything that is even remotely questionable from any perspective, de-tag yourself. Also on you Privacy page, you should see something in the lower-left corner that says “Apps and Websites: Edit your settings for using apps, games and websites.” Go here, and block *everything*. (Yes, that means no Farmville. You don’t need it anyways.) You should be able to block a preview of your page when people are searching for you; that’s probably a good idea too.

    It’s true that blocking a lot of the sharing on Facebook negates its utility as a social network; it is also true that it can help protect you from potentially driving away customers by oversharing information that they (customers) don’t need to know.

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