Anonymous blogging is thrilling.
If you’re a nervous, new blogger who’s terrified by the idea of putting your words out into the world for strangers to dissect, it’s much easier to find your courage under an assumed name.
Even if you’re comfortable with having a spotlight on your writing, it can be immensely freeing to write for an audience that can’t associate your words with you.
You can vent your innermost thoughts; discuss topics you’d never speak aloud; rant about your colleagues with impunity.
People might dislike what you write — or they might adore it. But with the protection of anonymity, it’s easier to deal with the emotional impact of throwing your work under the gaze of others.
While there are different kinds of anonymity online, here I’m talking mainly about writing your own blog under a pseudonym.
Ghostwriting can be another form of anonymous blogging, but ghostwriting for clients differs from writing anonymously on your personal blog. As I’ll discuss a little later, it can be a tricky identity-juggling act, but doesn’t involve quite the same problems.
If you’ve been writing a personal blog under an assumed name for a while, one day you might decide that you’d like to make a living from this blogging malarkey, as you’ve been pouring your heart, soul and time into it. Actually, you’ve become pretty good at it. Perhaps you should start blogging under your own name for other people — and getting paid.
Unfortunately, if you start freelance blogging and you think it’s a wonderful idea to use your anonymous work for clips, writing under a pseudonym might put your freelance blogging career in jeopardy.
Clients won’t trust you, and here’s why:
You can’t prove your experience
Last year, I set up an anonymous blog where I documented my experiences of a particular environment, and discussed leaving it behind. I rapidly found kindred spirits and connected with a significant online community.
I loved it. I was proud of my writing, and at the time, I didn’t consider my writing to be anything to do with work.
That changed when I decided to pursue freelance writing work. I needed proof that I could write. I needed published clips. I needed blog posts.
All I had was my anonymous blog. I tried to use it as proof of my ability to write, playing a game where I only revealed my identity to potential clients.
Predictably, no-one took the bait. I soon realised that I would have to start getting pieces published online from scratch.
When you blog anonymously, it’s difficult to show that the thousands of words you’re so proud of were written by you.
Ghostwriting is another common form of anonymous writing, and if you ghostwrite for blogs, you face a similar problem — your words go out to the world under someone else’s name.
At least if you’re writing for clients who are willing to acknowledge that they use a ghostwriter, you should be able to get around it with some carefully chosen testimonials.
But if you’re an anonymous blogger who goes pro, you face a dilemma: either you reveal your identity and claim your work, or accept that your anonymous work can’t effectively demonstrate your ability to write for blogs.
Clients wonder if you’re a liability
Imagine you convince a potential client that your anonymous blog belongs to you. Or imagine you prove it by revealing your real identity on your blog.
Imagine that your writing impresses them, and that you’re a brilliant fit for their blog or publication.
Despite your amazing writing skills and understanding of their niche, they might still have reservations.
Think about it from the client’s point of view:
- If you like writing anonymously, perhaps you’ll keep doing it. Maybe you have another anonymous platform.
- If you’ve previously written about your work, you might write about your clients. What if something goes wrong, and you complain about them?
Sure, that’s not a problem if you’re going to remain incognito, but it can be very easy to unmask anonymous writers online.
Why should your client take the risk?
It looks shady and secretive
Because, well, it is!
If you can convince a client that your blog belongs to you, your secrecy will prompt questions.
Why didn’t you write under your real name? Why won’t you stand behind your own words? What did you have to gain by concealing your identity?
These are valid questions, and ones that might cross the mind of even the least paranoid client.
You have to put yourself into your potential client’s shoes and consider why they would hire you over someone who publicly acknowledges their own work. What’s in it for the client?
So, what are your options as an anonymous blogger who wants to pursue freelance blogging professionally?
Option 1: “Come out” as a blogger
If your blog has a large following, you may benefit from a big reveal.
Dr. Brooke Magnanti weathered a storm of controversy when she revealed that she was the blogger known as Belle de Jour, but has since published books that draw on both her experiences as a London call girl and her work as a research scientist.
Dr. Magnanti’s deft handling of different identities resulted in further success and opportunities as a writer, but this approach won’t necessarily work for everyone.
Coming clean is a gamble. You might upset people mentioned on your blog, but at least you can claim your work. However, you’ll probably have to deal with client questions and concerns when you reveal your authorship of anonymous pieces.
Option 2: Learn from it and move on
I quietly abandoned my blog once I realised that I couldn’t prove it was mine. While I regret having to desert something that I worked on, it was important for me to make a clean break and start putting my name to my words.
If you leave your anonymous blog behind, you’ll still have learned a lot from the experience.
In mastering the basics of WordPress, figuring out the mechanics of a blog post, and recognising the importance of transparency in connecting with audiences, I laid the foundations for future blogging and writing work.
It’s sad to abandon writing that you enjoy, but at least if you intend to make money from freelance blogging you can channel your experiences into work that will be both enjoyable and lucrative.
Option 3: Keep it as a secret outlet
It’s tempting to keep writing on your anonymous blog, even if you can’t use it to display your blogging skills. I considered it, but I personally find that the public/private writing divide is a little head-wrecking.
While it’s cathartic to use your old blog as a journal or creative outlet, you still risk being unmasked — even more so as your freelance blogging profile rises.
It’s up to you to decide whether you’re willing to take that chance.
If you write anonymously online while pursuing a freelance blogging career, you may find yourself in odd and dangerous situations when your public and private writing lives collide.
Revealing your identity is a gamble that might impress clients with your writing, but it’ll also make them wonder why you needed to hide.
Ultimately, if you’re an anonymous blogger who wants to be a professional blogger or writer, it’s important that you face up to your various online personas and consider carefully how you’ll negotiate the tricky waters of secrecy, proof and identity.
Have you blogged anonymously? How did affect your freelance blogging work? Let me know in the comments!