, a regular Copyblogger contributor for just shy of two years. This is not a joke or an angle or an analogy — I’m literally a woman. Once upon a time, I found myself having to make some hard decisions. It was filled out and signed, waiting for me to bring it to the people who would decide whether I’d be able to make rent next month or put food on the table. I had been looking for a better job, but there were none to be had in the low-income/high-unemployment area where I lived.
I’d thought that when you start over, make a clean break, life was supposed to get better, right? I’d used up my savings trying to make ends meet, supplementing as best I could with the money I earned from a dangerous part-time job that gave me all of 4 hours pay a week at minimum wage. When I did manage to grab a job before someone else could, I worked hard and wrote well. I scoured Craigslist and job sites and gig auctions and sent applications to all sorts of people.
I’d had the nice salary, the paid vacations, the opportunity for advancement.
I had formal education, diplomas, brains, and skills, and life had been good. My older daughter told me she could look for work to help pay the bills.
I signed up with the company, thinking I was so lucky to have this chance to pull myself out of the mess. I even began hiring people to work with me as a team. I worked hard and built the business, putting in long hours and reinvesting a lot of the money I made. The flood of people who came to visit was overwhelming.
And sure enough, there was writing work for me on the ‘net, work I could do from home that paid quickly. I hustled and I delivered on my promises, every single time. I was being turned down for gigs I should’ve gotten, for reasons I couldn’t put a finger on. Then my blog hit Michael Stelzner’s list of the Top Ten Blogs for Writers. (Someone who, incidentally, was using a male pseudonym and identity too.
Others were, and I soaked up everything they could teach me, but still, there was something strange about it . I didn’t overthink it — I just answered them and kept on blogging to earn clients. ” I was in too deep to back down, too survival-minded to do anything but go forward, and, quite honestly, too scared I’d lose everything I’d worked so hard to build. But there was always that risk that someone, someday, would end up spilling the beans. And sure enough, someone I trusted got mad and decided to out me.
There were more comments on the blog, and more again. Truth be told, if just a name and perception of gender creates such different levels of respect and income for a person, it says a lot more about the world than it does about me. For three years, I’ve kept my true name and gender pretty tightly under wraps and only confided in a tiny handful of people I trusted.
I picked a name that sounded to me like it might convey a good business image. For a long time, so few people read it that weeks would go by without a single comment. Slowly at first, but then all of a sudden they picked up speed. And logic told me that the loss of my real name was a small concession for the ability to be able to support my family and ensure their financial security for years to come. I took care of myself and my family, and I’ve given the best of my creativity and knowledge to each of my clients and my readers. I know better than most how quickly and profoundly revealing just a tiny bit of personal information can affect (and even destroy) people’s lives. I’m not interested in making myself vulnerable in that way.
One day, I tossed out a pen name, because I didn’t want to be associated with my current business, the one that was still struggling to grow. The blog I’d started to get some clients and show off my skills? Well, I never really wanted that revealed, totally apart from the gender issue.
There were fewer requests for revisions — often none at all. I really didn’t think any of this would ever happen, to be honest.
Clients hired me quickly, and when they received their work, they liked it just as quickly. I want them to go to university and have good opportunities in life.
I finally stopped worrying about how I would feed my girls. Understand, I hadn’t advertised more effectively or used social media — I hadn’t figured that part out yet. I want my kids to be happy and have access to what they need.