I would like to start doing and receiving freelance work, however I don't want to give my name away to random people. Obviously I don't want to compromise on the legal front, either. Is there a way for me to do and receive freelance work without giving my real identity away? This isn't about dodging responsibility btw, I just don't want people to know my real name.
I was going through the same thing. I think the ultimate answer is you cant.
You could find people who want a website, who don't have a limited company and arent filing their expenses, etc. And if it was a cash transaction you could get away with all the legal stuff.
However most clients that come to me are official limited companies, and they require proof of identification for their records, and they require invoices for my services so that they can file it as an expense. These things require your name, address etc. Not for all things, but most. Also, if you want to create a contract it would be hard to do without your name and signature.
However, there are things you can do to not be so public immediately. For example your email address could be firstname.lastname@example.org. You dont necessarily have to put your name on a websites footer. Your own website can only show your first name. These things you can do that hides your full identity, but when it comes to having the client, you will need to provide your full identity, but hopefully by this point you have already agreed to be his contractor/freelancer, and have established a relationship that is more personal (i.e they talk to your about this business, their business goals, maybe even their finances in come cases!). This is like a two way understanding that your meetings are confidential and professional.
If you create a contract you can also put a clause that both parties need to keep the identities private unless otherwise agreed, must not harass, etc.
Hope that helps
Well, at least you can't get paid for anything anonymously. After all, any payment processor is going to want your information...
If I'm writing you a check, I need to know who to make it out to.
I absolutely need to claim the money I pay you as an expense for my business. So, I need to give your name or company name to the IRS when I file my taxes.
If you file a business name, the government will have a public record of the filing which can be searched.
The only possible way to work anonymously would be to deal exclusively in cash and face to face.
The main question is 'anonymous towards whom?'. As Scot laid out you cannot be completely anonymous and operate legally, because there are always some requirements on taxation and bookkeeping.
IMHO user6950100's advice is already quite good. Some freelancers run a small one person limited company and use that to build their brand. In that case you are still the acting legal person, but you can limit you personal exposure.
One other hint in that direction: some coworking spaces rent out post boxes and telephone desk services. That way you can even have a nice looking business address without giving away your home address.
You should also consider working with business partners; this leads to new options:
Start a simple company. (You will need a laywer for than. In Switzerland the einfache Gesellschaft might be an option to keep it simple.) In this case the company is the legal person and the company name will be in most of the paperwork (website, invoices, etc.). In contact with clients you will also have good reason to downplay your own role ("company first") without appearing overly paranoid ;-)
Or find a small agency (or two) and subcontract for them. Depending on your kind of work that might be the easiest and well established way. Then they can handle the marketing and contract negotiations while you can focus on your work. You will still need a contract with the agency, but there is little contact to the actual customer.