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.

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