When starting out with their web businesses lots of people feel nervous about putting themselves “out there”.
They often feel a little embarrassed about their friends/family/work colleagues learning about their new venture.
This is totally understandable and after all the fear of failure not only drives us forward but also makes us shy about admitting to others what we’re actually doing!
So, do you actually NEED to use your own name and personality in your business or can you still make money online under a pseudonym or penname?
The short answer is you can absolutely make money under a penname!
In fact, I personally know several online marketers who make very healthy full-time livings by marketing under pennames!
There’s certainly nothing unethical about this and if you think about it many famous book authors throughout history have concealed their identities too: George Orwell, Lewis Carroll and George Eliot (who was actually female!).
When I started online I actually used a penname myself for several months. I assumed the pseudonym Robert Johnson after one of my favourite delta-blues guitarists.
Some very successful marketers have done the same: Glen Allsopp from Viperchill “admits” to this in an excellent post here.
So basically, there’s no problem creating your business under a penname. You CAN still do very well!
A Personality Based Business
On the other hand, many people are keen to build their business around their own identities.
I was advising someone last week who is in exactly this position. She is very enthusiastic about helping people (a great trait to have if you want to make money online!) and has no qualms at all about basing her marketing around her own personality.
As we’ve already proved this isn’t a requirement for success, but as and when you do reach a confidence level where you’d be happy to do this then you’ll definitely get a big boost from putting your own personality into your business.
Here’s why: Customers of personality based business don’t just buy because of the quality of the products but because they because they also like and trust the person who is selling them.
And of course, doing business online is really all about building trust with your audience and not just trying to sell to people straight away and in every email you send to your list (and we all know marketers like that I’m sure!).
So putting yourself “out there” does definitely help but don’t feel that you need to do this. As you progress forward and succeed (and you will because the ONLY way to fail is to give up!) then your confidence will build and you’ll find that you are more and more comfortable with coming out of the woodwork.
There’s so much fake in online marketing that just being yourself and being real will help you really connect.
And don’t think for a minute that nobody will be interested in you: It doesn’t matter who are you you’ll attract a like-minded crowd that is keen to learn and hear what you have to say!
Would you prefer to market under a penname or are you happy to have a personality based business? Please drop a comment below with your thoughts (your real name or a penname is fine!)…
I suppose the name of the blog or website can be a pen name and your own identity then is in the profile. I must admit to being a little wary of my friends who usually say ‘ Oh! something else you hoping to make your fortune from!!!’ good try…It something to do with self esteem too. I hope to get started using my own identity and following your excellent guidance, make a successful money making venture. Thanks.
I totally relate to what your saying here.
As I said in the post I felt the same way really, but after a while when I started to see success I began to think, “Why not? Life is just too short isn’t it?”
Friends might be a little dismissive at the start but they’ll be coming back for advice after things start working out well!
Personally, I like to know who I am dealing with. There are a lot of scammers out there who I am sure often use pennames.
If you use a penname, what photo do you use? If you use your own then people will recognise you anyway,
If you don’t use a photo, why would anyone deal with you? You wouldn’t seem real.
I guess the name you use it’s not so important as long as your personality, the real you, is behind your blog and your content.
Faking is teaching people about things you don’t know about and saying you do know.
However, I agree with Dee. If you use a pen name, you don’t use a picture?
Hi Dee & Christina,
Thanks for your input on this one – always great to hear both of your opinions! 🙂
The issue of a photo is a funny one. I’ve seen two things:
1) People who just don’t use a picture.
2) People who use (and advise others to use) a stock photo picture from sxc.hu or istockphoto.com
In my book #1 is fine and the marketers I know who do this make serious money in multiple niches. If you’re a good copywriter, you can definitely connect with people just through text. Although I guess in this day and age this is a little old school mail-order style marketing. If you sign up for some of the lists at the big publishers such as Agora Lifestyles then this is sometimes the approach they use I believe.
#2 is definitely not ok in my book! But again people do it. Obviously I’m not going to name names here but I’ve seen courses where people advise your to find out the target demographic of your niche and then choose an appropriate stock photo that matches that! I’m sure the FTC wouldn’t approve of this practice….!!
All the best,
Rob, did you watch Rick Steins BBC 4 programme on the Blues Delta. If not, it just may still be available on Podcast – if not bound to be repeated – often.
He featured heavily on your aka !!
I missed that show unfortunately but I am a fan of the the whole delta blues genre like I said so thanks for the heads up!
Thanks for the update. I am a newbie and I also had the same confusion before using my pen name. Actually, I just went on using my penname without any clarification from anybody (I just only heard once about the same).
I have started with a site, hope with you and your guidance it will be a long playing game.
Thanks once again.
Thanks for the update. I also had a same confusion before using my penname. Its a eye opener seeing all those “big shots” using the same. I just went on using penname without any clarification(I only heard about it once).
I just started with a site, I belive with you and your guidence I can play a long run game online.
Thanks once again.
You’re very welcome – glad you found this useful!
Good luck with your project, 🙂
Great debate on pen names, but we feel that there really is nothing to fear from getting your own name face out there as people you don’t know won’t judge you. As for people you do know – if they make ‘sad’ comments then they’re probably just jealous or a bit in awe of you (we like to think that we can help the naysayers too). Just our twopence worth 🙂
Nice to see you here at GHG, thanks for sharing your thoughts! 🙂
I think you’ve summed it up. Life is too short to not do things because we are too worried! I do understand the reservations people have though as I mentioned before – it’s only natural really I suppose.
I’m in two minds about this question.
I can see the value of being able to see the person who you are dealing with – and I guess in what is usually a 1 to 1 situation that would be quite important.
However – when you buy from say – Amazon – you don’t demand to see a picture of the managing director or the person fulfilling your order. But then again – I guess it comes back to trust and the fact that Amazon are a huge company.
So – considering both points – I would say that a picture of yourself is probably a good thing to have on your site. It probably encourages people to feel more confident about buying from you or going into business with you when you are a one-man (or woman) band.