It’s no secret I don’t use a pen name. I prefer the “what you see is what you get” approach to writing. Aside from a (very) brief stint writing a sarcastic humor column, I have never written as someone else. I’ve had other people write as me, however – but that’s another post for another time.
The reason I don’t use pseudonyms has nothing to do with a right or wrong approach, but more a personal preference. I prefer to know exactly who I’m taking advice from so it would be kind of hypocritical for me to blog under an assumed name. . Everything I do, in my name, is representative of me. Thus, I won’t be everything to everyone, or change monikers to suite different roles. I use the same name for my books, my blogs and my jobs. I wouldn’t feel right using a pen name.
Again, this isn’t to say writers who use pen names are taking the wrong approach. It’s all about what works best for you, and what makes you most comfortable.
Why I Don’t Use a Pen Name
I don’t use a pen name for several reasons:
- Personal branding: I don’t want to have to brand a million names or worry about some fake person taking credit for my writing. If folks are going to give me a Google, they’re going to find exactly what I do. I don’t mind if they find that I comment on blogs and forums and wrote for content sites in the past. I don’t mind people seeing my early writing and the mistakes I made in my journey. There’s some pretty negative stuff directed towards me and that’s OK, too. Potential readers, clients and friends can all draw their own conclusion. Everything I wrote in the past is part of who I am and I don’t mind those who want to hire me knowing about it. I am my brand and I’m proud of my name.
- Vanity: I like seeing my own byline. Call me vain or call it a steaming pile of ego, but that’s the nuts and bolts of it. I’m proud of my work and I don’t care who knows it.
- Clips: Clients don’t want to see my clips with someone else’s name on it. They want to see my byline on my writing samples. What if my best piece of writing has some random made up person’s name? What if a potential client finds my very best article and wants hire me, but can’t find me because I use a pen name? What if a client learns I haven’t been honest with him about who I am and doesn’t trust me anymore?
It’s my feeling that when you’re honest about who you are, clients, potential clients, readers and community trusts you more. That’s my preference but other writers feel differently.
Why Other Writers Use Pen Names
There are a variety of reasons why writers use pseudonyms and it’s not necessarily for privacy reasons, or because the writer has something to hide. A conversation taking place at the Freelance Writing Jobs Facebook page revealed a variety of reasons for pen names. Including:
- To avoid confusion: What happens when another writer has the same name? Some freelancers use middle names, maiden names or create a whole name altogether so their names aren’t confused with others.
- To be taken seriously: Freelancer P.S. Jones feels using her initials is better for her professional image than her real name, “Princess.”
- To avoid embarrassment: Some writers cringe when they see their early works on the web. Rather than write them off as newbie content, they create a new name so as not to be associated with the bad stuff.
- To see how life is on the other side of the fence: “James Chartrand” claims gender bias kept her from using her real name.
- To keep employers from finding out about a second career: Some writers don’t want their day job bosses to find out they’re moonlighting.
- To have separate online and offline personae: Some writers value privacy first and foremost and don’t want their private information open to Googlers.
Should you use a pen name?
Pseudonyms are a matter of preference. I find them totally unnecessary for my purposes, but I know plenty who disagree. We all have our own paths to freelance writing success and it doesn’t mean there’s a right or wrong way to do the name thing. So let’s hear your thoughts about pen names and what you think about the folks who use them.
Do you feel those who use pen names are less trust worthy or have something to hide, or does it make smart business sense?