What I Learned From One Year of Anonymous Blogging
It’s been one year since I started this journey of blogging anonymously.
When I researched and purchased my domain name, set up a pretty basic and free WordPress theme. Signed up for a few free online courses. And dove headfirst into the glamorous world of beginner blogging.
Along the way, I’ve learned a few things.
Your website doesn’t need to be that fancy, since most people will be reading your blog over mobile anyway.
Pinterest is a quick way to start getting traffic, but it isn’t the end-all-be-all of blogging strategy. And it shouldn’t be your only means of gaining traffic.
Also, a lot of people will try to sell you stuff. The magic elixir to blogging success. The way to increase blog traffic by 5000%. The secret sauce to making an affiliate sale within 5 hours so you can haul in $80,000 of profits in your first 30 days. Ha.
But a lot of them are really good at it because I’ve fallen for so many of these sales pitches over the past 12 months.
Also, I happen to be an extremely optimistic and trusting person, giving most people the benefit of the doubt. So I’m sure that played into the equation as well.
And, oh yeah, the MOST important thing I’ve learned as an anonymous blogger —
Blogging is HARD work.
There is A LOT to learn.
And it can be overwhelming.
So why would anyone want to begin blogging in the first place?
And why in the world would you even think about blogging anonymously?
Why Would You Choose to Blog Anonymously?
So clearly, I am very often the life of the party.
Kidding. I probably won’t even go to the party in the first place, and will stay home in bed reading.
But that’s just me.
I don’t like loud and crazy. I don’t need constant social interaction. And I absolutely revel in my downtime.
In fact, I REQUIRE it. If there’s too much back-to-back activity going on in my life, my mental and emotional faculties begin to shut down.
It’s like my mind requires a reboot to feel refreshed and in control again.
So what does that have to do with being an anonymous blogger?
It’s the reason why I chose to start writing an anonymous blog in the first place.
My mind was telling me I needed to express myself. I required a creative outlet to document my personal finance journey.
A blog about debt, making money, and hustling for cash. Documenting my debt payoff journey, which would require a certain amount of accountability.
But how do you hold yourself accountable when you’ve backed yourself into a financial corner?
Debt — like a big lump of regret sitting in the pit of your stomach.
Or a walk of shame, heading home the next morning in your best party dress. But even worse, because you’d be taking that walk. Every. Single. Day.
Putting yourself out there — with all of the shame, regret, and embarrassment that goes along with it.
(Mental note: Why is there no similar metaphor of a dude walking home wearing a wrinkled tux? Because he’d get high fives and fist bumps? But I digress …)
To save myself from undesired judgement and humiliation, I decided to keep this blog on the down low. And if things went well, I could eventually come clean with family and friends after the fact. Or if things didn’t go so well, I could ditch the blog and no one would be the wiser.
And so an online persona named Diana Hall was created, to share my financial musings with the world. Anonymously. From behind the screen of a laptop, as well as the facade of a pen name. (Which was chosen to pay homage to the utterly fabulous and iconic soap opera diva, Deidre Hall.)
And this fictional being started to develop an online presence. Created a Twitter account. Created a Facebook page. Started an Instagram account that I haven’t even posted once to. And started going nutty pinning on Pinterest.
To be perfectly honest, I probably could’ve started writing an anonymous blog without creating the online persona. I could’ve avoided using a name at all, had it not been for Facebook.
Those darn algorithms that try to recommend friends as “people you might know“.
I was so afraid to link my financial blog page to my existing personal account, and then have someone I know click on that page.
So that’s when I came up with the idea to use a different name on Facebook.
And the rest is history.
Who was Diana Hall?
Someone braver than I was at the time.
She jumped into blogging feet first. Googled tutorials on how to set up WordPress. Paid someone on Fiverr to create a cute little jam logo.
Dabbled with widgets and plugins until she became so frustrated she *almost* threw her laptop out the window.
And she persisted.
But honestly, setting up an anonymous blog was the easy part.
The bigger challenge would be in making connections. Trying to get subscribers. Figuring out what exactly to do with them once you had them. Not forgetting they were there.
And just as important: Finding a group of like-minded bloggers to bounce ideas off of. Creating partnerships to help each other out, and not succumb to “blogger impostor syndrome”.
This is the part all of those “how to start a blog” posts don’t really tell you about.
You can have all of the steps and technicality figured out, but you still need to use your people skills to breathe life into a project.
As an introvert, if you think you can start typing away and immediately make money as an anonymous blogger, you’ll need to think again.
Because some of those sales pitches make it sound sooo easy … and neglect to tell you it will still require some social finessing and a butt-load of hard work.
Blogging anonymously and hiding behind a computer can only last for so long, before you realize you need a support group.
And some backup. And maybe a little bit of grace and a lot of prayer.
Learning How to Blog
Blogging anonymously or not, here are some things those “how-to” articles don’t tell you, and maybe they should —
- There’s way more to learn than you could ever imagine.
Most really successful bloggers have been doing this for a while, and have invested more time than if you were just punching the clock at a regular 9 to 5. They’re working before hours, after hours, on vacation, and any time in between. But that’s mainly because they genuinely love it, and couldn’t imagine doing otherwise.
- You’ll get out of it what you put into it. Period.
If you’re workin’ it part-time, you’ll need to take advantage of any pockets of free time that you do have. And if you take breaks (which is perfectly fine and definitely healthy to do so), then realize this is the compromise you are making.
If you would rather binge watch The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, then that is the choice you make. Blogging will patiently wait for you, but just know you will be that much further behind in your own personal blogging journey.
- There are a lot of helpful and FREE resources out there.
You can find a free online tutorial for pretty much everything nowadays. Want to know how to make your external affiliate links nofollow? Head over to Google. Need a visual on how to put a border around your blog images? There’s a YouTube video for that.
A lot of experts out there are more than willing to share their blogging knowledge with the masses, purely for the purpose of being helpful.
Another case in point: This experienced blogger share a comprehensive guide to help others obtain free backlinks and increased blog traffic.
- There are also a ton of paid resources out there. Many are helpful, some are redundant — and a good number are touting virtually unattainable results.
Trust your intuition. If a blogging course seems too good to be true, don’t buy into it. That expensive course that everyone’s talking about? They’re promoting it because it has a pretty sweet affiliate program. Sure, it pulls a bunch of useful information into a single location. But it’s also not the holy grail of blogging.
Do you know what is the holy grail of blogging?
Time. Patience. Trial and error. Learning by doing. Making mistakes. Being resilient. Pushing forward.
I was writing as an anonymous blogger for practically a full year, and it amazes me to look back at where I started.
Sure, it’s been a bit of a stop-and-go process. There have been more than a few hiccups and speed bumps in the road, and it hasn’t all been smooth sailing.
Because I am an imperfect person.
I wasn’t quite as dedicated as I could’ve been. I can’t even tell you how many times I’d set my alarm for 5:30 a.m. so I could wake up bright and early to get some blogging done. And then once morning rolled around, would continue to hit snooze until 7:45.
Or how about the weekend I spent catching up on Big Brother, instead of digging into the SEO course I actually paid money for.
And there were also several nights I was so fudgin’ cranky from my regular workday, that I didn’t want to put my blogging hat on for the remainder of the evening. I just needed a breather. A break.
At some points, did I want to give up? Sure, I thought about it.
But ultimately, the desire would take hold again. And with a firm re-grip, I’d start making my way down the blogging path once again.
So why change things up now?
Why not just keep writing my blog anonymously?
Why Would You Stop Writing an Anonymous Blog?
So what changed? Why even bother revealing my true identity — when I could just continue along my merry way with other anonymous bloggers?
What made me want to stop hiding, and “come clean”, so to speak?
Really, there were two things –
1 – I started reevaluating my own level of confidence and sense of self-worth.
I always knew I was a quiet and shy person. But I also thought I was fairly confident, moderately intelligent, and just more of an independent person. Nothing crazy, just your average individual.
Then as I started blogging and became more comfortable with the technical ins and outs, I realized my confidence was growing. Which made me take a long, hard look at where my starting point had been.
Apparently, there’s been this subliminal inner monologue set on auto-play in my mind. And it wasn’t until I started to gain confidence that I was able to press the pause button on that tape.
(Yes, the internal audio system is a cassette player — I grew up in the 80’s, don’t forget!)
And this inner monologue had the following phrases set on perpetual repeat mode: “you suck”, “why even bother”, “no one will read your blog”, “who are you kidding”. And also a few other phrases that were even worse, but would serve absolutely no purpose in documenting here.
Anyway, the moment I realized how utterly ridiculous those sayings were, this inner growth started to happen.
- I became more open in the online blogging groups I belonged to
- Began contributing more in chatrooms and forums
- Started leaving genuine thoughts and ideas on financial blogs that I followed
- Introduced myself to a group of amazing online individuals that I had been too intimidated to say a word to in the prior six months
- Applied for a scholarship to attend a conference I knew could kickstart my presence in the world of personal finance blogging
And no, I didn’t win — but I put myself out there, which is the most important piece.
You will not always win. You won’t always be recognized, or lauded, or praised.
But just for the fact that you are trying — speaks absolute volumes.
Putting yourself out there starts becoming habit — instead of keeping yourself hidden, or remaining on the sidelines.
And that was reason number one.
Gaining confidence — being my true self — was worth so much more than the risk of being discovered by people I knew “in real life”.
Diana might be the one who started this journey, but Robin is the one who is sure as heck gonna finish it.
(That was such a weird sentence for me to write out. Guess I’ve been so accustomed to writing anonymously as Diana, that I’m not used to referring to my actual self in the third person …)
2 – The second reason I stopped blogging anonymously was closely related to an outcome of the first reason.
I’ve decided to attend this conference (not on a free ride, but at a pretty cool discounted rate), because I want to make some connections.
I’d like to meet some of the people who have had a positive impact on my financial blogging journey.
To learn from them. To ask some questions. And to potentially start a future working relationship. (No pitch here — since I have absolutely nothing to sell. Just trying to expand my education.)
So in preparation of this excursion, I started thinking about how my introduction might go.
Networking — scary, but necessary.
How would I introduce myself — as “Diana Hall”?
That just seemed so fake, and so wrong. I mean, obviously, it was fake — just by definition.
I’ve always been up front about being an anonymous blogger, and Diana Hall was just a pen name.
But if I actually met some of these financial bloggers face to face, and possibly developed a sort of friendship, did it seem weird that I’d be giving them my fake name?
Or should I tell them my real name, and then ask them not to use it online or in reference to my blog?
And how in the world could I keep up with this charade for 4 whole days?
Check into hotel as Robin, check into conference hall as Diana. Sign dinner bill as Robin, talk to bloggers at networking event as Diana …
So many strange yet valid questions.
But I ultimately decided that part of this personal journey — this metamorphosis — would require becoming more comfortable with being my true self.
(Want to know how I actually made out at the above conference? Check out my follow-up post here…)
How Do Anonymous Bloggers Transition to True Identity?
So there you go — that’s my “why”.
After one year of blogging anonymously, I decided to ditch the pen name, and put myself out there for the world to see.
And while I haven’t yet shown my blog to anyone else in my “real” life (other than the two people who knew about it already), I know that day will be coming very soon.
But you know what? I’ll handle it, and take it one step at a time.
If you are thinking of writing anonymously for a blog, or are already blogging anonymously and are contemplating a reveal — here are some of the things I’ve recently had to deal with as part of that process:
- Updating all of my logins on accounts that had me listed as Diana
- Locating every “author name” reference on my blog and changing to Robin
- Revising my email sequence template and “send from” field, to not confuse any future subscriber signups
- Creating an actual email address to correspond with my real name (instead of diana[at]sidejambiz[dot]com)
- Updating social media and online forum accounts where I had created user names as Diana
- Any registrations (like to a conference …) where I originally listed my pen name next to my blog name
- Any niche blogging directories that were joined over this timeframe
Honestly, I’m sure other areas will pop up over the next few months. And I’ll just address them as they’re encountered.
The worst that could happen is someone might be a little confused about the name change. But overall, my blog is exactly the same.
And hey, it makes for a great story, right?!
But if you are on the fence as to whether or not you should start a blog anonymously, be aware of some of these details. Knowing them ahead of time may allow you to avoid some future backtracking or grief.
Do I Regret Blogging Anonymously?
So the question is — do I regret having been an anonymous blogger for the past year?
If I could hit rewind and do this year all over again, would I do anything differently?
I firmly believe everything happens for a reason.
This was meant to be my journey.
I was destined to start my blog under an anonymous name, until I felt comfortable with revealing myself at the proper time. (And believe it or not, there is actually video footage of exactly when that happened …)
The universe knew I needed to take this journey, build up my confidence, learn all of these things about myself, and eventually come to this epiphany on my own time schedule.
And I was meant to meet all of these amazing people along the way.
A friend who sent daily reminders that a positive mindset is everything, and you should surround yourself with good vibes only.
A pair of lovely ladies who were both welcoming and supportive of a blogging newbie who needed just a little push in the right direction to start developing her confidence.
A teacher who showed me never to be afraid to follow wherever the road takes you, to walk right up to the VIP and ask a tough question, and not to be afraid to step out of my comfort zone.
A group of blogging friends, from all over the
country world who provide support, perspective, encouragement, and understanding. All from a video chat in a virtual classroom.
So What Happens Now?
I think the most straight-forward and obvious answer to that question is to just keep going.
Keep moving forward, building relationships, making connections, and trying my darnedest not to lose heart if things don’t go so well.
Because there will be ups and downs. But I’ve gotta believe everything is gonna turn out the way it’s supposed to.
And I’m already pretty amazed at what’s happened up to this point.
If you’re thinking about starting a blog, anonymously or in your full-named glory, DO IT!
Sure, there’s a lot to learn — but you’ll also learn SO MUCH MORE about yourself.
And that by itself is so worth it.
Robin is a full-time business professional who has worked in the financial services industry for over 20 years. She is also a personal finance blogger who shares her first hand experience with the struggles of money and debt. On Mastering the Side Jam, she focuses on ways to maximize efficiencies to make & save money, pay off debt, and live your best life.
She has been been featured on The Money Mix, Rockstar Finance, The Financial Diet and Women’s Money Talk, and has been quoted in various online publications.