Online pseudonyms are great. You are in complete control of your identity online, but there are several pitfalls I have faced which can be easily avoided if you're aware of them before choosing an alias.

Long before I was thinking about my personal brand online, my career, or even entering that big scary world of high-school, I quickly learned through narcissism and self obsessed Googling that a lot of Ben Brooks' existed in the world. Some are novelists, politicians, property managers, and even Australian cyclists who have had far longer to build up their online presence and identity.

Your mother might think you're one in a million, but that still leaves 7000 people just like you. How do you compete with them for the desperate race to the number one spot on Google?!

Luckily for me, I had the genius idea of using a nickname which nobody else was using. Brilliant in theory, but there were several aspects I didn't fully think through before diving in and picking one.

Common mistakes when picking a pseudonym

  1. Picking a name that is entirely unpronounceable

    Probably my number one regret in picking my "bbrks" nickname. Not even I know how to say it, which can make it quite awkward in phone or face to face conversations, and it usually comes out as a mumble something similar to buh-brooks.

    Sure it's nice and short, but that's no use if you have to spell it out each time you say it. I usually tell people verbally to visit benbrooks.co.uk, which redirects them here.

  2. Picking a ridiculously unsuitable name

    No, your future employer isn't going to be impressed reading "XxL33TBlazeUp420xX" on your résumé. This should be obvious.

  3. Picking an overly job-specific name

    Picking a name related to your area of work seems great at first, you want to be the guy known for being an awesome mop bucket designer. But what happens if you decide to change your career path?

    Career paths aren't straight. They aren't flat. They have peaks, valleys, and go off-piste. Don't funnel your brand into something you aren't going to be doing forever.

Don't be the awesome mop bucket designer trying to be a chef.

Alternatives to pseudonyms

Your real name may be commonly used, but you may have a middle name or two. Those alone can be enough to differentiate you from the other people with an identical name. If you're after anonymity and separation of your real life self, this may not be for you. But it is an entirely reasonable thing for somebody who is just after uniqueness.

Ben Brooks returns about 90 million results on Google. Not ideal.

Ben Keith Brooks though? Just under 3 million. An impressive reduction. Don't hide your middle names, embrace them.

I am still undecided on mine, but it's like the sunk cost fallacy. If you pick a bad name and stick with it based on the amount of effort you've sunk into it, you're going to have a bad time.