Using Pen Names at Content Mills

There comes a time in every writer's life when they wish their name wasn't attached to a certain project. In many cases, that project was something they did early in their career - like writing for a content mill.

If you're writing at a content mill, I strongly advise you to use a pen name right off the bat.

I am not saying there's anything wrong with content mills, although I know other writers disagree and think they're signaling the death of the written word.  Seriously.

Why should you use a pen name at a content mill?

  • Simple guilt by association.
  • You may not have final editorial control over what's published under your real name - and you might not like the finished product.
  • Generally, things published at content mills will not lend you credibility when applying for a permanent writing job.

Use a Pen Name because of Guilt by Association

You may be the finest writer since Stephanie Meyer (choke, cough, giggle).  Sometimes content mills inspire their communities to defend them against angry hordes of writers - and if you're out there, real name and all, chattering and arguing about why content mills are awesome, you're going to catch some heat over it.

The writing community isn't all that large.  Keep your nose clean by using a pen name.

Using a Pen Name because of Editorial Control

If you're not sure who's editing your work, whether they'll do a great job or even if they're qualified to do so, you need to use a pen name.

What kind of embarrassment would you suffer if you wrote something that was mercilessly edited (merciless editing, when done right, is actually good for you)... but it was edited wrong?  What if the editor changed your previously correct grammar, changed the facts or did something worse?  Your name is attached to that - and your name is all you've got as a freelance writer.

Don't take that chance.

Using a Pen Name because of 'Byline Desire'

If you want the kind of byline magazine and newspaper editors will take seriously, it's very likely not going to come from a content mill.  Magazine and newspaper editors want to see bylines of reputable publications, and unfortunately, most content mills are not considered reputable publications.

I'm not saying that there's anything wrong with content mills at all.  If you make money with them and you're happy, have at it; however, you need to know that many content mills do not pre-screen writers and will let anyone write for them.  It's a numbers game and they're trying to grab search engine traffic - that's it.  If your name is affiliated with a disreputable site, you run the risk of looking like you're disreputable too.


If you take your writing career seriously, you'll actively try to find private clients.  I have never in my life seen a content mill that pays as well as private clients do - so don't neglect marketing yourself.

Have you written for a content mill?  Did you choose to use a pen name - or have you even thought about it?

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© Angie Papple Johnston, 2010; if you are reading this anywhere but on, it's stolen.

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Freelance Writing Tips by Angie Papple Johnston is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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