One of the unique choices that apply to running an online business is that of deciding if you want to run it under a pseudonym or your real identity. Some people never give it a second thought – after all, they have nothing to hide, they say. Sure, but others would rather not have their real name out there on the web for the whole world to see.

Hidden Identity

Source: flickr.com/photos/kaizat/

Here are some of the main reasons you might want to put together a fictional persona before your website launch.

1. Privacy & Security

This one is extremely common these days. There is a serious risk of identity theft on the web. Hiding your identity can create a bit of additional financial security.
It can also be quite easy for people to track you down from seemingly innocuous details you put out on the Internet. Why would they do that? Many reasons. A weirdo with an obsession. A thief or con-artist that notices your success online and decides to get after your money.

In other cases, people get in arguments online, and these can turn into cyber-bullying and perhaps worse.

Or maybe you’re working in a controversial niche you don’t want your friends, family, or day-job employers to know about.

If you don’t want your internet stalkers to have the option of following you into real life, or just want to keep it separate from the real world, using a pseudonym and taking some basic internet privacy precautions can go a long way towards peace of mind.
Identity Theft

Source: flickr.com/photos/rosengrant/

2. Avoid Getting Boxed In

It’s pretty common for online entrepreneurs to work in a variety of different niches, but sometimes this can be confusing and even irritating to customers. When you’re running a website, your name often becomes a brand, and sites in non-related niches can dilute this effort. Some customers may even just find it unlikely you would be an expert in more than one niche – it might not ring true to them – and this can also damage your credibility

Yet another problem is they might perceive you as an internet spammer out to make a buck with anything you can get your fingers into – perhaps you approach every single niche with honest intent, but you better believe there are plenty of online entrepreneurs that don’t.

The answer can be to select a different pseudonym for each different niche you work in and then creating a special brand around each unique persona.

3. Get a A Sex Change

Certain niches online are more closely associated with a specific gender. Fair or not, it’s simply reality, and if you’re a man creating a website about running a housecleaning business, for instance, people may not take you seriously. The same with writing books for Amazon – many readers won’t buy romance or erotica written by men.

And of course there are other niches in which people are more receptive to a man than a woman.

But with the anonymity of the internet you can disguise your gender by either creating a complete opposite persona or just using a gender neutral name without pictures, leaving it largely up in the air.

4. Disguise Your Nationality

Some people also change their name online to mask their country of origin.

Some countries are well-known for online scammers – Nigeria and India both come to mind (though there are many, many honest nationals from these countries too!). Whether you are just an American citizen with a name traditional to your heritage or actually come from one of these countries, taking on a more American name might build more credibility with your target market, as a lot of online consumers reside in America.

Some might not feel comfortable hiding such a thing; it’s certainly a personal choice.

5. The Polished Pen Name

Why do celebrities so often take on new name? Because some names are just more marketable and have a better ring to them. The same is true for marketing a business, especially online, where identity plays such a large role.

In other cases, you might just have a difficult name to pronounce or read – or perhaps it has an embarrassing connotation for your target demographic. All good reasons to come up with a polished pseudonym that looks nice and professional on the web.

Are you using an alternate identity online? Tell us what you real name and address is in the comments below. We won’t tell anyone – we swear.
Okay, just kidding…but we’d love to hear your tips if you’ve got them.