Saturday, March 6, 2010

Freelance Writing 101: What's in a Pen Name?

What's in a Pen Name? Your pen name is your brand. It is your byline, your web presence. I use my real name, but many people are not comfortable doing this. If you are not comfortable using your real name in your freelance writing career you will need to choose a pen name. Just about all sites and clients will allow you to use a pen name to protect your privacy.

So, how do you choose a pen name? Choose something you like. For example, what is a name you have always wished your parents would have named you? Use that and then choose a real-sounding last name to go along with it. You can also choose a middle initial if you'd like. If you like the name Victoria your pen name could be something like "Victoria Hemming or "Victoria M. Hemming".

It is incredibly important that your pen name be a real-sounding name. Names like "partygurl216" or "yellowboy" will not be taken seriously by potential clients. Think about it. If you were looking to hire some writers to write articles for you who would you take more seriously "Victoria Hemming" or "partygurl216"? All clients are far more likely to choose Victoria Hemming regardless of partygurl216's skill and experience because partygurl 216 is not professional.

Your MySpace handle (unless it is your real name or sounds like one) is not an appropriate pen name. My MySpace handle is SpeedyTurtle. While I think that is very, very cool, I know it is not professional at all.
Single names, while not really unprofessional, are often not taken as seriously as a first name and a last name.

So, when you are creating your pen name keep all of this in mind. Ask yourself, "would I take this name seriously?" "Can I live with this pen name for a long time?" and most importantly "Is my pen name professional?"
Here are some pen name variations that are a great choice (using Victoria L. Hemming as an example):

Victoria L. Hemming
Victoria Hemming
V.L. Hemming
V. Hemming
V. Leigh Hemming (assuming the "L" stands for "Leigh")

When you are choosing a pen name, be sure to choose wisely. Your pen name can greatly impact your freelance writing career. You have to decide what's more important: a catchy name or being taken seriously. I say this because many people do not realize how important their pen name is to their freelance writing career. So if you do not want to use your real name feel free to be creative, but be sure to keep it real-sounding and professional.

If you ever need any help choosing a professional pen name please feel free to contact me anytime.

Happy Writing!

Freelance Writing 101: Why You Should Cite Sources in Your Articles

Why should I cite my sources in my articles? I see this question all of the time. First, AC wants you to cite sources 99% of the time. Many other writing sites and clients also require, or strongly recommend, it.

Adding Credibility to Your Articles Through Citing Sources
Second, citing sources adds credibility to your article as long as the source is credible. For example, if you were writing an article about the symptoms of multiple sclerosis sites such as the Mayo Clinic, University Medical Centers, Hospitals, and WebMD are credible sources. can also be used because all medical information is medically reviewed. However, personal blogs and Wikipedia, or any Wiki sites for that matter, are not credible. Citing Wikipedia makes your article less credible and there is a chance that the information on this site will not be accurate. I've found inaccurate information on Wikipedia before and unfortunately the inaccurate information was medical information that could lead to a person becoming seriously ill.

Verify Your Facts Through Citing Sources
Third, even if you are an expert, it does not hurt to take five minutes to verify your facts. As a nurse, a medical writer, and a patient, I have a lot of medical knowledge, however, I ALWAYS take five minutes to verify all information in my medical articles. Sometimes, the smallest inaccuracy could kill someone or make them very sick. Once you verify your facts, use the site you used to verify them as your resource.

I know that when I read an article, I always look for solid, credible references. This is especially true with medical information. When it comes to medical articles, if there is no sources listed, or if non-credible sites such as Wikipedia or blogs are listed as sources, I immediately click away from that article. If I cannot trust the information, there is no point in reading it.

We are all experts at something, be it medicine, cars, gardening, parenting, etc. But, taking a few minutes to verify our sources and list them goes a long way in making sure we are writing the best possible articles that we can.

Citing Sources in Articles:
Your sources must be cited at the end of each article. Simply put the header "Resources", "References", or "Sources" at the end of the article. I prefer it to be bolded, but it doesn't have to. If you are using a website, just place the link that goes directly to the page you used under your heading. For example, if you used the Mayo Clinic as a reference, do not just use the Mayo Clinic's main site address, but the link to the exact article you used.

When I am citing any other type of resource, such as a book or a magazine, I like to use APA. Of course, you do not have to, but I feel APA is the best for citing non-internet resources. For information on how to properly use APA format to cite sources check out Purdue APA Style and Citing Information

These are the basics when it comes to how, why, and when to cite sources in your articles. If anyone would like to add anything or ask questions please contact me anytime.