Monday, January 7, 2008

Creating Your Online Writing Identity

Your online identity can really help you in writing. It can also hurt you if you’re not careful as well. Here’s some practical advice on how to create your online writing identity to provide maximum benefit for your writing career. I learned a long time ago that shameless online self promotion is vital to help your writing business. I’ve learned a lot about it and use these skills for myself and my clients.

Writers should be aware that everything done online under your name can potentially be found. A blog comment, a forum post, anything…

Case in point:
I searched on my first online identity and found a forum post from several years ago with a question about a medical product. It was nothing embarrassing but finding it did tip me off to the fact that I need to be very careful about what I say and do online because it can be traced back to me and impact my writing career.
I started out writing when I started my first online blog at a site called WritingUp. I was using a nickname, marleymauve, (my ode to my 12 year old golden retriever who is always by my feet when I work) which I used as my username on forums and anything online that required me to log in. Once I got serious about writing, I decided to use my own name. I decided to write under my maiden name and started optimizing myself for Google.

To optimize my name, I created online profiles in many places and I wrote free articles and posted on forums. Many different areas online can help you establish yourself. There’s still a lawyer with the same name as me and a lady who has a personal family website up on page 1 of the Google results under Dana Prince but the majority of page one and two results now point to me.

I want my online persona for my freelance writing business / career to be that of a professional writer. Anyone wanting to know what kind of writing I do can easily find out by Googling me. That search on Google, MSN and other search engines will show them the kind of work I do, the kinds of places I frequent online and can point them to areas where I showcase my expertise. It also points to what others say about me so that’s a lesson in how to treat customers, colleagues and peers. When applying for a job, instead of just having to show my skills off and talk myself up, I have to realize that I can be investigated quite easily and by being cautious about my online activity, I can almost control what people see.

I’ve seen flame wars in community forums and on blog posts and many people using their own names when they participate. This is something I would never do because if I lost my cool or said something regrettable (which we’ve all been known to do) it could easily come back and bite. You might not even know why you don’t get a call back from a client or not get selected for a job. Despite how good your resume looks, when that potential client decides to search on their own to find out about you, what they see could be a turn off. I do Google searches on all the people that I consider who apply to write for me and do searches on people I consider applying to write for.

Here are a few tips to help you get your name optimized in Google:

1. Create social bookmarking profiles under your name. Instead of a pet or nickname, think about who you’d want to be known as if your name was on the New York Times Bestseller list. Tip: LinkedIn, Stumbleupon, Delicious, Digg and other similar sites have great rankings on the search engines and are a great tool for self promotion. If you do non-related work browsing, surfing, etc. use your nickname for it instead of your professional name.

2. Write articles for online directories. I’ll be posting in greater detail about this in an upcoming blog post. You can establish yourself as an expert and showcase your work in a way that people can easily find when they search for samples online of your work.

3. Post in forums. Forum posts get great exposure on the search engines. Think about what you post and how it impacts your online persona. If you do get controversial at times or get caught up and too casual in forums, only use a pen name and never link to your professional website.

4. Create a professional website. If you’re not ready yet, you can create a GooglePage or Squidoo lens. These index well under the author’s name. If you can, buy your as this will clearly index the best. I couldn’t do that (yet) but came up with a variation that’s working well for me.

5. Write a blog under your name. Search engine spiders love the blogs and it's a great way for customers and potential clients to find you.

Promoting your name online is also something you’ll need to do if you become a published author. Today, many publishers expect writers do to a fair bit of self promotion so why not get started early? ;)


Mommy Cracked said...

Excellent advice! Every person interested in writing needs to read this.

Katherine Huether said...

I love this advice. I try to be as professional as possible, no matter what I do online. But, having a gentle reminder will help keep me focused. :)