Introductory and Summary Information
(Page 2 of 2)
The Summary Description or Overview
Imagine that there’s a company that you’ve always wanted to work for, but they weren’t hiring, and you just couldn’t get them to give you an interview. One day, you happen to run into the CEO of the company in an elevator, and you proactively ask her if she’s willing to give you an opportunity to work for her. She smiles, remarks that they are in the elevator together anyway, and says you have 60 seconds to make your pitch.
That’s basically what the profile summary and overview are about. They’re your “60 seconds in the elevator” opportunity to make your case and make it well. A properly-written overview will further draw the client into reading your profile, and increase the chances that your bid will be selected, or at least, that the client will contact you to discuss the project further.
When journalists write newspaper articles, they write them under the assumption that many people will not read the entire article. They put the most important information first, and then expand on it as the article progresses. This way, readers in a hurry can get the essential information they need right away, while those who want the details can take it all in if they wish. I recommend a similar strategy with the profile overview.
You want the absolute key aspects of your capabilities and offerings to be center stage here. Highlight your most important accomplishments and describe clearly what you can do that you feel your competitors cannot. As with the tagline, the profile overview is not a place for modesty, but at the same time, you want to avoid loading it down with meaningless fluff. Be specific about what you do well. Steer clear of platitudes about “professionalism” and “customer satisfaction”.
Remember that the purpose of the summary is to convince clients to hire you, or at least to want to learn more. Don’t put personal details in the overview. It may be wonderful that you just got married, or that you have three lovely children, or that your favorite cat is named “Mittens”, but clients don’t really care about any of that (even if they pretend they do, to be polite). And whatever you do, never put sob stories in your profile! I’ve seen freelancers go on and on about hardships they’ve faced, or even try to guilt trip clients by talking about how they need to earn more money because of X or Y. Very unprofessional.
Full-sized newspapers are traditionally folded in half, so when readers pick one up, at first they only see the top half of the front page. For this reason, the top half of the page, or above the fold, has traditionally been considered more important than the half below the fold. This concept has been generalized to electronic media as well, to indicate the difference between information you see immediately, as opposed to information you need to click through in order to view. In blog parlance, the fold is referred to as “the jump”, so some information is before the jump and some after the jump. Same idea.
Some freelancing sites use this concept in how they display profile overviews. Only the first few paragraphs of the summary are shown on the main profile page, with clients needing to click a link such as “Read more ” in order to access the rest of the overview. In this case, it is even more important to put only the most essential details at the top of your summary—not only are you now using the summary to try to get the client to read the rest of the profile, but you want what’s above the fold to get them to read what’s below it as well.
When you create a summary on a site that has this feature, be sure to check carefully where “the fold” is appearing in your text. Edit the description so that the break occurs in a spot that makes sense, rather than haphazardly in the middle of a list of bullet points, or worse, the middle of a sentence.
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Last Site Update: February 1, 2012
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