Pros and Cons of using a pen name for affiliate marketing

I just recently created an article on how you can hide your blog from friends and family, and your boss as well should he potentially decide to background check you through the internet. check it out here:

Today I want to go through some of the pros and cons of using a pen name. You may think that this will serve as a disadvantage to you, using a pen name, but the reality is that pen names have been used in blogging since the inception of blogging, and in addition to that, people with pen names are still seeing major success in the blogging space.

Not only are pen names used by bloggers, but they are also used by artists of all kinds, graphic artists, animators, musical artists, writers, and many more.

These people use pen names because protecting your identity is important, while some people have incredible skills, that does not mean they want to deal with the paparazzi and all of the other nuances and annoyances of being famous!

In a nutshell, using a pen name has advantages such as protecting your identity. It also allows you to potentially be more controversial. One thing we have to deal with when creating content for the public, especially with using our real name and identity is that we have to deal with the fact that literally, anyone can find our content, and that includes family members and friends.

So as a made-up entity, we can in a sense, express our true opinions on a blog without worrying about the potential possibility of our close ones who may have different opinions on certain subjects and matters.

However, some disadvantages can be that if you try to take our blog-based content and present it through different mediums, you may have to work harder in terms of protecting your identity. For example, if we were to create a YouTube channel, in order to protect your identity, you lose out on the opportunity to make simplistic videos in which you just record yourself on camera. In a sense, this would expose you.

Now, there are many many ways to work around that, and we will reveal these ways later on in the article. First, we want to reveal…

The pros of using a pen name:

#1- You can create a side income that can turn into a full-time income anonymously without worrying about being discovered by someone googling your name and finding your blog. 

#2- Protection from cancel culture. If you accidentally screw up and say something too controversial the worst punishment you have to deal with is internet anger! If people however know who you are, you might have to deal with the following.

-Offended internet users calling your boss and telling your boss to fire you

-Potentially getting fired from your job

-Depending on where you live, you may have to deal with public harassment and people protesting where you live! Obviously, this would have to be the result of hate speech to get people this wild up, and we at Safe Money Makers don’t condone hate speech, but the point being is, people can overreact to specific topics, and if you are venturing into controversial topics, you may want to consider using a pen name to protect yourself from people who don’t agree with your opinions.

#3- It allows for more experimentation. Got a new blog that you want to try a new style of writing in, or perhaps you want to tackle a new niche you haven’t tried before, but you are being stopped by the anxiety of not knowing it will be successful or not and you don’t want people in your network to know about it? A pen name is an excellent way to try and break through barriers and test yourself in new ways without fear of judgment from friends, family, potential traffic from other blogs, etc.

#4- It helps negate imposter syndrome: This is kind of a carry-on concept that I was talking about in pro #3, but starting a blog in a field that you aren’t exactly an expert in is very intimidating. In fact, mostly all of us feel imposter syndrome within the first 6-month building process of a new blog, even as experienced affiliate marketers. I might just be feeling imposter syndrome writing this as we speak.

When you have a pen name, it takes a bit of the pressure off and allows you to have more of a mindset that “this is an experiment, and it’s okay if things don’t work out”

Now, you may think that statement is controversial, but here’s my unique opinion. Affiliate marketing is not easy. I think that it is all about experimentation.

It’s not like a job where you just clock in, do what your boss trained you to do and boom, guaranteed income every week/2 week.

With Affiliate Marketing, you don’t exactly get guarantees of income, or a boss to show you how it all works. Your income is dependent on your efforts, and your experimentations. It’s something in which the way you monetize is unique to you.

Sometimes some people have put way too much effort into their blog for a period of two years, and never made a single dollar. 

This is because they weren’t experimental, they didn’t know when to quit committing to a process that simply didn’t work for them. It’s this hustle culture and motivational memes like this that in my opinion, keep trying the same format of content that doesn’t convert. You might miss 100% of the shots you don’t take, but if you’re also purposefully not aiming for the net, and throwing the ball to the left of the goal, you’re still going to miss 100% of your shots!

So yes, never give up on your dreams, but if what you are doing is clearly not bringing you closer to your dreams, then change your strategy! Adapt the mindset of “I’m going to try 10-15 posts covering this topic, and if none of it gets any traction, then it’s okay if it doesn’t work out, I will try a different format of content and keep experimenting until it does work out!”

There is a difference between never giving up and working smart! If you work smart, then you give up on what doesn’t work!

I want you to know that it is entirely possible to not make money with affiliate marketing!

But with that being said, a pen name can go a long way with trying out new things, seeing what works, what doesn’t work, testing, experimenting, and studying what kind of content gains traction, and what kind of content does not!

The cons of using a Pen Name:

#1- Limits interactivity/opportunities in future projects. For example, let’s say you wanted to bring your brand to YouTube. Well if your goal is to keep your identity a secret, you wont to able to use a phone to face style of video, which is a simple way to make content and still get lots of views, in other words, you lose that outlet of getting traction to your brand.

#2- It can negate real proof of experience on a topic. If you have experience in a certain topic and have awards and verifications to prove your expertise within a certain topic, and you want to make a blog/YouTube channel about the topic, a pen name might work against you, as it, in a sense, it negates your certifications and expertise.

For example, let’s say you want to make a blog about computers, and you have a bunch of IT Certifications or a Masters Degree in Software Development.

Displaying these degrees and showing your audience proof that you have these degrees and have this experience can go a long way in boosting your audience’s trust to the moon, they can help your audience believe that your blog/business is the go-to place for getting help with computers, and the products you promote will have a higher clickthrough rate as well.

With a pen name, and with the objective to hide your real identity, you have to pass up on the opportunity to display those rewards. That being said, however, your knowledge of the topic of computers can still be incredibly helpful to your audience and net you quite a comfortable income!

#3- You place limitations on yourself in terms of publicity: If you work on a must remain anonymous basis, if you create content that is recognizable everywhere and people invite you to podcasts, it might be in your best interest to decline them(depending on how important it is to you to remain anonymous). That being said, you can always work something out with the podcasters to call you by your pen name, but you must remember that if you give the podcasters your real name, you must maintain a lifelong trust that they will never spill the beans.

To have the highest chance of remaining anonymous, you must avoid public speaking, podcasts, interviews, and potentially even collaboration efforts. These are a lot of opportunities to give up that could boost your brand to the next level.

#4- There is no guarantee you can remain anonymous with a pen name: Now if you are creating a small business type of blog, chances are that no one is going to care enough to attempt to discover your true identity. Even if you had 100,000 to 300,000 visitors on your blog, I don’t see anyone caring enough to figure out who you are. That’s a perfect mix of traffic. That’s enough to potentially make you a six-figure earner, but at the same time, still not enough for major publishers to seek you out and attempt to get you on a podcast.

However, if your business explodes, and you get up there with businesses like Forbes, The Wire Cutter, you may be dealing with hackers, and people who could expose your identity, as well as gain access to your IP address.

So you may want to ask yourself…

What are the consequences if my identity gets exposed?

Now for some, the consequences are minimal, so minimal in fact that you may want to simply blog using your real name, and avoid the setbacks and extra work that goes into remaining anonymous. Even if you did end up getting exposed, you could simply shrug it off and say “I am not going to apologize for protecting my identity and privacy”

And I personally can’t see very much of your audience having an issue with that, wanting to protect your privacy and identity, and separate your business from your real life is honestly quite respectable, and I can only see your audience relating to that kind of thought process.

However, the consequences ultimately depend on the subject matter of why you are using a pen name, and it’s up to you to decide what those consequences are, I can only give you some tips on how to think about this process thoroughly.

If you are blogging about hobbyist topics that don’t require major expertise, such as TV shows, or a sport, I can almost guarantee you that you’ll never get your identity exposed because no one would care to make an attempt. Even if you did get exposed, chances are that your audience would simply ignore the news and still refer to you via your pen name.

However, here are some niches that may pay off some huge consequences in life that you’ll definitely not want to deal with.

Porn-based content: I don’t think I need to go into heavy detail, but obviously there is a lot of controversy in the porn industry. Exposed to having a pen-name in this category will have consequences depending on the views people close to you have, and will also depend on if your friends, your wife, your acquaintances know about you using a pen-name and creating content towards porn affiliate offers.

For example, the no fap movement has gained a lot of traction, its a movement based on helping people recover from porn addiction. If you get publically exposed and shamed for creating content that helps the porn industry, this can feel like a stab to the back if people find out you support the porn industry.

In addition to the no fap, religious folks also hate the porn industry, and generally, porn has a negative light on the public eye.

Politics: Another subject that’s a given when it comes to high risk and a lot of controversies to deal with. I mean people have started wars based on politics, and if I decided to start a political blog, I would 110% use an alias because I’m not too keen on the idea of someone looking up Facebook for my real name and then paying hackers to find out where I live so that members of my audience can sneak into my room and beat me senseless with baseball bats before I wake up.

But trust me, I will never start a political blog under any circumstance whatsoever! I am not interested enough, nor am I brave enough.

Getting your identity exposed in a political blog can have disastrous consequences because simply providing your opinion on wearing masks can have CNN literally shut you down. In addition, if you’re like me and have a habit of not telling anyone your political views, being exposed can really change the dynamic of all your relationships depending on their political views.

I think that I have presented enough information to help you think of more factors to consider depending on if using a pen name is something that you truly need to do or not. There are both some major advantages and disadvantages to doing this. Do you have any crazy/funny/interesting stories about bloggers who have used pen names? Leave them down in the comments below!

I do hope that you found this article informative, I am going to go get some exercise, and then I will be back to write a follow-up article on the pros and cons of using your real name for affiliate marketing. Please do have an awesome day!

-David Nelly

David Nelly

10 thoughts on “Pros and Cons of using a pen name for affiliate marketing

  1. Hi David,

    I agree that blogging about Politics needs to use a pen name because there are too many political fanatics. It’s easy to get hurt or bullied online if they are not on the same side as you, so it’s wise to go this route. I am also running a website with a pen name since my real name is hard to pronounce for most English native speakers. By doing that, I don’t worry about my family, friends, and colleagues finding what I am doing online. It helps me splash everything I want to say without getting caught by others.


    1. I agree Matt. While you can maintain more of a sense of validity with your real name, and be more personable, use sources of your real-life expertise and interchange it with your niche, you can still prove that your pen name character can also be an expert in a niche through thorough content that explains and helps other people. As long as you aren’t targeting any YMYL niches, you can develop any character/pen name that you want, as long as you write good content and treat your audience with respect, you can still see major success in affiliate marketing!

      To be honest, this really isn’t even news, pen names are not only used in the affiliate marketing industry, but some of the greatest artists and animators have used pen names, some of the greatest authors have used pen names.

      This applies to the music industry as well, there are so many rappers that use pen names. Travis Scott, Kid Cudi, Eminem, Lil Wayne

      Then think of WWE pro wrestlers, I don’t think I know a single WWE Wrestler that uses their real name!

      So when it comes down to it, overall names are just marketing in a sense, content is king, and this rule can apply to any industry!

  2. Wow, David this was a wonderfully interesting post. The thing is my brother is in this exact position that he does not want his boss to discover he is doing online marketing just for the sheer fact that he is working from home and don’t want his boss to mistakenly think that when he is supposed to be doing work for the company that he is actually working on and promoting his own websites online.

    So I am definitely going to share this post with him as I think he will find it quite valuable as here are a lot of valid arguments and angles to consider. Many thanks for a very interesting post.

    1. Glad you stopped by Schalk, I agree with your brother’s way of thinking. Boss finding out about the side business while working from home would definitely be an awkward moment.

  3. A really great article that looks at both sides of the coin in an unbiased manner. I think your arguments both ways make sense.

    Using a pen name adds an air of mystery especially if its fiction and allows for more experimentation and creativity, but as you rightly said, it does not totally guarantee anonymity. A determined person can still find out who you are! We know the pen names of several successful writers!!

    With affiliate marketing, I think you are trying to build trust with your base, so using a pen name in certain niches may be counter productive.

    1. In a sense, it can be counterproductive in regards to gaining trust yes. It definitely can still be done, the rule of thumb is always that content is king, as long as you can produce good content, the name and image behind the content do not matter. However, it does restrict you in certain areas, which I have described in the article.

  4. There are lots of good and bad in using pen names with your blog or whatever you choose. We are experimenting with both pen name and no pen name. And with the youtube video we are a no face channel. It seems to be taking traction no money yet, but is getting noticed.
    The article does give good detail about the pros and cons on pen names when making or creating a business.


    1. Always good to see you two drop by. Glad to see you getting traction, its always an exciting prospect, and uplifting too, something that tells you that there is a light at the end of the tunnel! Do keep me updated with your results 🙂

  5. While I have never really given much thought to why people may want to use a pen name for affiliate marketing, you do make a good argument for both sides.

    These are really valid reasons and depending on the niche you go for, people may not even make a big deal even if your real name is exposed.

    However, I personally tend to believe affiliate marketers who provide their real names, especially where money is involved. I mean, you would want to be careful and therefore need the marketer to be more accountable.

    But then again, it depends on the niche, like you said.

    I must admit though, I do find the idea of anonymity to be intriguing and exciting. Especially when one is quite good or successful.

    Thank you for this interesting article.


    1. I agree Femi, in a sense, using your real name will always establish more credibility in your niche, especially if you have credentials to show for it, but using a pen name can help keep the stress lower, make you less paranoid about the nature of starting a business as well, if you can make up for it with content, using a pen name can easily work!

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