Saturday, August 29, 2009

More Reasons to Hide

Other than being afraid of utter rejection and being guilty of some off-color content, there are plenty of other reasons to use a pen name for online work. One of the most prevalent that I have noticed is to hide gender. I started out using a first initial to do just that. I've had people read this blog and ask me whether I was male or female. I've been addressed as "man" and "bro" in blog comments and emails. I've also read a review of this blog that mentioned that they weren't sure whether I was a he or she.

I used to think this was a good thing. I figured that if people knew I was a female (I totally am! Surprised?) that they might pay me less or assume that I wasn't well qualified. I used to take pains to not mention anything on my blog or in my bios that revealed gender. A few sites that I wrote for require a picture, but most don't. Lately, I've been letting the gender question slide because I've noticed that most of the high-earning Web writers that I know of are female. So, now I'm out.

A lot of people are still using an initial or pen name for this reason, though. I had a funny incident occur about a year ago that had to do with this practice. A long-term client knew me as my initialed name, and I knew the client as an initialed name. One day the client wanted my name and info for tax purposes. The client was surprised that I was female, and I explained that I used the initial to hide gender so that I wouldn't face pay discrimination. The client then revealed that she was female and used an initial to keep from being thought of as an amateur. Well, I thought it was funny.

So, is it necessary to do this if you are female? Yes and no. I think that if you're presenting yourself relatively professionally and you do have some skill, I don't think that the discrimination is as wide spread as we expect it to be. But, there are some cases where revealing the name and some personal information is just not helpful. I see a lot of "mommy writers" that go on about their children and mommy status. Nothing screams professional like allowing people to imagine you breastfeeding.

While I have nothing against mommies, it's best to mostly keep it to yourself if your objective online is to make money. There is a definite pay discrimination against those who are seen as mommy writers or mommy bloggers. There are ebooks that circulate among Internet marketers that specifically tell them to target mothers for low-paid work because they aren't professionals. One popular Internet marketing ebook says that moms are just online to earn a few dollars to buy ice cream for their kids. It suggests offering them $3 per article.

To avoid this, well, just avoid it. Personally, I try not to write about parenting topics. Trust me- there are other things that you know about and can write about. If you take on a parenting blog or get hired for parenting articles, I suggest using a pen name for them unless you want that to be your niche. Keep your parenting status off your bio- stick to your skills. You might have more kids than the Duggars and live in a huge Manolo, but play it down it if you want to be taken seriously. Play up your strengths, write about diverse topics and practice your skills. This will get you a lot further than taking easy articles about potty training.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Writing With a Pen Name

A lot of people wonder why anyone would want to use a pen name for any of their writings. Those people are freaks. What? No, they are just hideously misguided. There are a lot of reasons to go into writing, but fame just isn’t one of them. There are very few writers, and virtually no Web writers, who actually become famous for their work- even if the work itself is well known.

If you write online for money, a lot of what you do is probably not going to be what you want to be remembered for or what you want your clients to see that you’ve done. Some of it is just grunt marketing work, some of it is dull SEO work and some of it may be personal items that you just don’t want other people to know that you wrote. A lot of the time, it’s because you just get roped into writing weird things that you don’t necessarily need to have your name on.

There are also the generic privacy concerns that everyone online has that weirdos will hunt you down for your pelts in order to sell them at the local general store. Or burglary. Whichever. With a pen name, that’s pretty tough to accomplish unless you link that work to work with your name on it, which I accidently do every once in awhile.

To get Web writing gigs, you should have some items in your name, though it isn't absolutely necessary. If you use the same pen name on several sites and have a few good pieces to showcase to clients, you're fine. If you have showcase items online and you want a little veil of privacy for other things, it's nice to have a comfortable pen name on hand.

Most of my pen names are either Beaker or some dirivitive of that. I've been doing that for years, so pretty much anytime you see something written by someone named Beaker, Beakerwriter, etc., its probably me except for when the item is lame. That's someone else.

The other day I was listening to the Doors and heard the Mr. Mojo Risin' refrain. If you aren't a Doors fan (shock, horror!), that's an anagram of the name Jim Morrison. It occurred to me that I really should have created an anagram of my name instead of naming myself after an abused muppet. Hindsight. Here are a few anagrams of my name that I came up with:

Zil Zepshred

Hil Zezherdsh

Zerhi Dlepshz

Lesh Pidherzz

Shirez Pelhdz

Sherl Phizzed

As you can see, I quickly realized during the scrambling process that my name is both stupid and has far too few vowels.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

New Blog!

I started a new blog last week, mainly because I had a really boring project and anything else in the world sounded interesting. It's all about eHow, how to write for it, how to come up with ideas for it, how much you can expect to make when writing for it, etc. Anyone who reads this blog might have noticed that I've talked a lot about residuals over the last two months or so, and I may be getting fairly obsessed with it, actually.

That's because I've started doing fairly well with it, and I decided earlier in the summer to make a real effort to increase that portion of my income. I'm tired of working all of the $@&! time. I really am. I love my work, and I don't really care to do anything at all other than read and write, but I want a choice. I want to be able to take a project or not take it, knowing that I have money coming in anyway, even if I turn down some work that month. I want to be able to take a week off here and there to do other things.

I've also started to realize how much I miss writing fiction. I have someone who wants me to edit some fiction for them, and that kind of smacked me in the face. Here's actual fiction, the thing that I have always wanted to do for a living, and I can't remember the last time I really sat down and worked on any of it. If I had more residuals coming in, I would have time to actually put some of that weirdness on paper. Imagine that. Do I want to write 10 article about hemorrhoids? No, I think I'll pass. I'm working on my novel and not starving. That's what my world may someday become.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Twitter Is Watching

I have been avoiding Twitter at all costs. I hide behind large objects, stay out of open meadows and try to stay in crowded public places, but Twitter is coming for me. I can feel it. There's virtually no escaping Twitter right now, and it knows when you aren't a member. It does everything in its power to make you join. It is touted as a great marketing ploy to those of us who must market ourselves. It's a great way to keep in touch with friends for the ear-stuck-to-the-cell-phone crowd. And now, The Man is out there, tweeting away to pull in those of us who haven't yet joined.

That's low, Twitter.

How much longer can I resist joining Twitter and wasting more of my day in useless Internet tasks? How much longer can any of us resist? I thought YouTube and Pac-man were bad. Now I can get up-to-date messages from Kirk himself? No! I will resist. I will not be assimilated. I can only hope that Wil Wheaton doesn't tweet. That may eat away at the very last of my resolve for good. No, Wil Wheaton! Resist!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Examiner Update

Well, if you didn't read my first impressions of Examiner, take a look here. I wasn't terribly impressed at first, but I have to say that my original impression has changed pretty dramatically. I'm actually doing fairly well there, surprisingly. For residual income I tried Bukisa and it was a complete waste of time. I tried AC and I make a modest amount every month from stuff I wrote ages ago, so it's fine. With Suite101 I make a reliable, steady income and get to pick my article topics within my category. With eHow I'm doing relatively well. But with Examiner, well, I may have finally found a site that agrees with me.

Most residual sites take a couple of months before the traffic builds and you make the payout amount. After that you can usually count on ongoing revenue even if you stop writing. With Examiner, I made the payout before the first month was over. This month, I've already made well over the payout. In fact, I've almost made the payout just with today's revenues. Today is a total freakish day, but a weird article that I wrote for them in the wee, boring hours of the morning has gone completely insane and has brought in thousands of views already. I'm not complaining.

So, here's a basic pro and con list for Examiner based on my month and a half there so far:

With a PR of 7, it's indexed quickly and well.
There's no bitchy editor to deal with- you can write whatever you want for the most part.
The income seems to be building more quickly than most residual sites.
You aren't dependent on ad clicks- it's based on page views and how long people stay on your pages.
There is no minimum length for the articles- having 150 words is perfectly acceptable.
You can delete comments. A couple of crazies have commented, and I got rid of that stuff pretty quickly. Crazy is actually fine, but crazy directed at me is just wrong.

There aren't any upfront payments- it's residuals only.
It isn't exactly prestigious. I don't give a rat's about that much anymore, but some people do.
You have to update often to keep traffic steady. They want three to four articles a week, and I've found that it takes that many to keep traffic coming in steadily.
They make you submit a picture of yourself, and they post it at the top of every article. That was a major con to me and I almost didn't accept because of it. No one needs to see that.

So, it's been pretty decent so far. Even my lack of enthusiasm for the site and my bare minimum of effort has produced decent results, so that's a pretty good sign. Of course, it could all take a left turn and end up like Shiver.