I Use a Pen Name – How Do I Apply for Writing Gigs?

Hello Jodee,

I seem to have the same problem as Louisa. The 80’s were fairly good to me for writing fillers and short articles, but that market dried up and I went back to corporate accounting.

Now that I want to return to freelance status after so long a period, the market appears to have disappeared. What I’ve completed during the interim has been to create blog content for my own domains and submit articles on the directories.

Nothing wrong with writing to get visitors to your sites or have something online to prove you know how to write, however I want to earn an income from my writing. Besides, I do use a pen name for different niches.
How would you recommend resolving this for writers who do use pen names or have clients who will not allow them to use a byline?

Waiting for your tips.


Dear Georjina,

Thank you for taking the time to write. The 80’s. I remember them well. Big hair, big shoulder pads and lots of bad acting on TV. Nice to know that some things never change, isn’t it?

You can’t turn back the clock, and while it may be true that the market you used to work in has dried up, new ones have developed since you worked freelance. What I would suggest is that you take some time and do some homework to figure out what kind of writing interests you now rather than trying to figure out what the “writing market” is going to do next. Then you conduct a focused search for those opportunities.

If you are currently doing something else for a day job and you are looking to add to your current income or make a career change, then you can take the time to figure out what you really want to do in your writing career now. There are many options available, from content writing to blogging to PR and copywriting work to contributing to magazines.

As a first step, you may want to think about how your current could benefit from your talents. Does your company put out a newsletter to employees and/or clients? Does its brochures or web site need fresh copy? Another option is to find a charitable organization that could use some writing help and offer your services for free. You will get some recent experience and some samples to show prospective clients.

As far as the issue around your pen name is concerned, you can choose to use a pen name for professional purposes. Your clients can deal with you under that name and you can set e-mail and Paypal accounts to reflect how you wish to be called. You can open a bank account in your name with the understanding that you are doing business as “Madame X” or whatever.

If you need samples to show new clients, write something up that shows your abilities and focuses on the niche you have chosen. The client is likely more focused on looking at your style than where the work appears. You can always share that a good portion of your work has involved ghostwriting, but you are happy to share the enclosed/attached samples.

What would you add to help Georjina get back into freelance writing? How would you suggest she handle the issue of working under a pen name? Share your suggestion or ask your own question in the comments below.






2 responses
  1. Danica Avatar

    Hi Georjina,
    The way I handle the pen name issue is to rewrite a few of my projects with my pen name, and only share them with paying clients to keep confusion to a minimu.

    From my experience prospective clients really aren’t interested in who you’ve written for, they want to see samples of your writing projects and if you can do the same for them.

    Be careful where you submit your writing to build your portfolio. The mindset I’ve seen prevalent online is insulting and unprofessional. Those who have used ad agencies or marketing firms in the past treat writers as professionals who know what they’re doing, and bypass the “employee” resume.

    Online it’s easy to tell those who are “posers” because they place emphasis on resumes or a college degree instead of actual writing samples. The reason is so they can “shop” your rates on Odesk or Elance and use lack of writing experience as justification for offering low pay.

    Well paying clients care less about your degree or resume, they are paying for similar results. Get your hands on a copy of the Well-Fed Writer if you’ve decided to come back to commercial writing. There’s plenty of work out here and few who want or know how to find it:)

    That’s my suggestion and others may have a different take, but I’d rather work with clients more interested in results and their ROI, than someone whose primary concern is what school your degree is from or whether you have a resume.

  2. Allan Jones Avatar
    Allan Jones

    I liken pen names to the “Alan Smithee” username. That moniker was used by directors who don’t want to take credit for their work in a particular film. Similarly, some writers need to write stuff to pay the bills that might be a bit embarrassing. Lord knows I’ve written more than my fair share. And no, you don’t get to know what my pseudonym(s) are.

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