I have been writing under a number of pen names for as long as I've been a Web writer. I didn't think it was that unusual at first. I usually choose Beaker or some variation of it whenever I can, and that's worked fine so far. Many times I choose Beakerwriter, which is my user name on Elance, RentACoder and Constant Content.
While a lot of Web writers were discussing using their name as their brand, I figured Beakerwriter was my brand. I even put pictures of beakers on my accounts instead of one of those gross business pictures that so many people use. On one site I wrote over 125 articles that are all attributed to a random letter combination that I came up with. The only time I've used my name has been when a site disallows the use of a pen name. That has happened with two sites that I write for, and one of those sites gave me permission to use my first initial instead of my first name. It's been fine.
Of course, that's the thing- it's been fine. It hasn't been spectacular, well, perhaps once in a while it has, but on the whole, I can't seem to grab those big whales. Is it the pen names? Is it that people are seeing my work and not connecting it to the cheesy person who comes knocking and asking for assignments? Are the pen names holding me back? I've seen people link to my blog posts and mention that they don't know whether I'm male or female. Is that wrong?
I sincerely don't know. I value my privacy dearly. I think that's it, anyway. Am I just hiding? Am I so afraid of people knowing who wrote something that I am keeping potential clients from seeing something that might be good for my career?
I've been seriously considering letting go of all of the pen names. Perhaps for some it wouldn't be a big deal, but to me it would be like parading down the center of town naked. Trust me- no one wants that. Or would they? Are our flaws really so terrible that we have to hide them in perpetuity? I may have a bad article here or there and occasionally espouse politically incorrect ideas. Does that mean that I should hide it all lest it be ridiculed and used as proof of my incompetence? Ick. I really don't know.