The Journalist’s Guide: How to write your profile

Do you remember your first by-line? I do. It was 1993, and I bought six copies of The Canberra Times, which had published my 1200-word feature about food fads, and I jumped around the room, whooping. By Kath Walters.

For journalists, the by-line has a lot of significance. It’s like those lovely stamps on Japanese ink paintings – full of meaning and pride for us because it marks our work as our own.

Unfortunately, our precious by-line means diddley-squat to most people outside the journalism industry.  

Most of the time, readers don’t remember who wrote a story – with a few exceptions – Kerry O’Brien or Andrew Bolt, say.

We have a new market to engage

As freelancers, we have to communicate with a whole new market in a brave new world of media, which today includes content marketing.

There’s millions of us award-winning former journalists out there jostling for work.

Our by-line won’t cut it – or at least won’t cut through.

Hence, the need for writing our own personal profile. And we have to write it well, even though we may be thinking to ourselves – hey, don’t they know who I am?

It’s not just about winning the work; it’s about commanding the fees.

This is not a five-step process

Ok, it probably IS a five-step process, but I am so over “list stories” that I am refusing to number my paragraphs for you.

Instead, I am going to draw a diagram of the elements you need to include in your profile if you want people to choose you, and pay the fees that you know you deserve. Here it is:


This is the easy bit. A concise history of your experience, the publications you have worked for, the rounds you have covered, your specialities and preferences.

You have to spell it out – how long you’ve been in the industry, whether you have worked overseas, the mastheads you published in.

The oldest story principle in the world – show don’t tell – applies here. Make it a concise story that gives a glimpse of your personality, as Laura has done in her profile.


Graeme, who has 40 years’ experience, and many awards (also good for the proof section), has a neat, concise profile, but we want some links to his stories. He’s credible, but we still want proof.

At least five examples, with links, of stories with your by-line will help to establish proof. They will also give editors and marketers a feel for your style, or the variety of the approaches you can take to a story.

Include a video if you have done one, an infographic, an opinion piece, a report, a feature, a case study, a profile. Whatever you claim you can do, a link will establish the credibility of that claim.

If some of your examples are not digital, you’ll need to upload PDFs of your clippings onto you website, and provide links to them.

How about a testimonial? It’s called social proof, and it’s one of the most powerful of all forms of proof. It’s human nature to want someone else to have taken the risk, and found it rewarding, before we make the same move.


Hands up if you think quality journalism is valuable; keep your hand up if you think most people agree with you. Yeah, sad isn’t it?

Journalists have had their reputations trashed over recent decades (but we are in good company – doctors, lawyers, accountants, teachers, and priests … all pillars of society now crumbled).

We need to be able to articulate our value clearly in terms that our market appreciates. I’ll write my clients an ace content marketing strategy that builds their brand and generates leads. I’ll teach the the principles of writing quality stories – sticky stories, I call them.

What value to do deliver? Do you have access to CEOs in the ASX 200; can you turn around a story in 24 hours? Can you cut their costs, build their brand, and generate leads?

Start at the exciting bit

As Valerie Khoo explains in this excellent podcast about Brand Storytelling, we journalists are great at writing about other people, but we fall into all the old traps when we write about ourselves. The most common? We forget to start at the exciting bit – where we are now.

Ideally, I’d even start with the value you can deliver to your clients, and then go back into a bit about your experience and then proof that all you have said is true.

Ultimately, the personal brand cannot be superficial. This headline n Forbes caught my eye in the research for this story: Please, No More Advice On Building My Personal Brand”. I’ll give the last word to its author, JD Gershbein, CEO of Owlish Communications and a speaker and consultant on LinkedIn best practices.As for advice, stand for something meaningful. The rest will fall into place.”


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