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Karen Kopacz
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Creative's Field Guide + Articles by Experts
Writing a Biography for the Creative Professional

January-February, 2008

The creative professional’s biography can be a valuable tool, a quick guide to factual information that lends a deeper comprehension of professional experience and expertise. A well-written biography is informative and engaging, and will always be clear and easy to read.

The biography is often the reader’s first detailed introduction to the subject. For both the green and seasoned professional, it plays an important role in setting tone and moving objectives forward.

The Basics

If a biography is not working for a person, it is working against a person. Readers appreciate not having to work for the facts or having to wade through obvious statements and irrelevant information. Unclear or rambling biographies often determine a specific outcome: immediate transfer to the trashcan.

Some basic rules for writing style follow:

• Write in the third person to create a professional and objective tone
• Write for clarity—beware of abstract or overly-clever statements
• Stay positive and orient content toward information that support goals
• Lead the reader with facts, rather than opinion or conjecture

• One to three paragraphs is often sufficient in length; always write less than one page
• Use short paragraphs
Be succinct and remove or rework unclear and redundant statements
• Keep consistent tense


Each and every person who reads a creative professional’s biography is a potential candidate to assist in achieving goals.

• Consumers, collectors, fans, clients

Financial Supporters
• Investors, benefactors, sponsors, donors
• Decision-makers in awarding grants, scholarships and travel-study programs

Professional Liaisons
• Publishers, publicists, agents, art buyers
• Galleries, theaters

• Media, critics
• Professional peers, social networks, bloggers

• Team-workers, associates, advocates
• Potential partners

The “I” Environment: A Basic Overview of What to Include

• Name and profession
• Goals, works in progress (be succinct)

• Education and/or experience
• Subject matter, professional focus
• Objective-related accomplishments
• Extraordinary or unique experience
• Contact information and Website (this can be a follow or precede the biography)


• Resident location
• Hobbies or special interest
• Family

Where Do I Start and What Have I Done?

Read biographies by professional peers and mentors in your line of work. It’s a good way to spark inspiration and can serve as an information trigger.

A few things to look for, while reading:

• Composition and information flow
• Style and tone
• Content

Make a list, before you compose. Not all of the items listed will make it into the biography, but this process is useful for content organization and can often trigger relevant details otherwise forgotten. Tip: a résumé can be an excellent resource in the list-making process.

• Professional affiliations and organizations
• Education, training, experience
• Press: reviews or interview by newspapers, magazines, radio, TV and online media
• Awards, grants and recognition
• Publications and articles; include authored articles or art or writing published in books, magazines, anthologies or other media such as ads, cds or brochures
• Leading or assisting roles in workshops or panels
• Related and notable volunteer or pro-bono work
• Prestigious exhibits

Keep It Real, Keep it Relevant, Keep It Updated

Create action statements that are relevant to the objective of the biography. It is a common mistake to truncate the importance of a statement, or to run on for sentences without relaying any actual information. The aim is to achieve balance in how much information is revealed.

No: “Jane is passionate about art.”
No: “Jane has always loved art made by women.”
Yes: “Jane’s work reflects her life-long relationship with women in art.”

Update the biography biannually or annually with new information as accomplishments build. Outdated or less relevant information can be removed as new accomplishments are achieved.

Proof and Have Proofed

A seamless biography conveys attention to detail, an asset to any professional. Ask a trusted colleague to read the biography. An objective party can often catch an important detail that was left out. An informational disconnect can occur after sentence structure has been repeatedly changed or rearranged.

Things to consider while proofreading:

• Spelling, grammar and errors
• Flow and coherency
• Reader engagement

When applying for a grant or a project with guidelines, be sure to note if there are specific instructions regarding the length or content of your biography.

Good luck!

About the Writer

Karen Kopacz is a graphic and Web designer living in St. Paul, MN. Her freelance enterprise, Design for the Arts, provides design, strategy and consultation for artists, writers and creative businesses of all types.

Karen is director and founder of the monthly-published, online arts & literature magazine Mental Contagion, launched in 2000. She was a panel member of Fostering New Culture on the Internet in SXSW's 2005 Interactive Festival, and is the founder and curator of Reconnect, a ‘Mobile Art Gallery’ series that takes place at various locations in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area to help build connections between local artists, business owners and the community.

Karen's Web design has been featured in the design anthology Portfolios Online. She has been on the board of directors for the Twin Cities Fine Arts Organization, is a former art director of First Avenue’s in-house magazine, has been a columnist and photographer for and has collaborated with artists, musicians, photographers, copywriters and editors for more years than she cares to admit.

For more information, visit Karen's Website at

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