It started as a normal Tuesday.
I had just made my usual breakfast smoothie of macadamia nut milk, plant protein powder, blueberries, almond butter, and cinnamon.
I sat down at my desk, sipping out of my stainless steel straw, and popped on Facebook to post something on my business page. As I scrolled through my feed—bad move, Blair—I got inevitably sidetracked by a post from someone else’s business page.
Oh, interesting. Wonder what she’s up to!
Genuinely curious, I clicked over to her page and started reading.
Cool, good for her.
Wait, is she copying me?
A knot tightened in the pit of my stomach.
I read it over and over again, and there was really no denying that this person had swiped some of my recent website copy—something I’d used over and over again to promote my online course.
Now, here’s the thing, I definitely don’t have ownership of every word on my website or the words on my sales pages or emails or blog posts or anything I write for that matter. I’m not the only one doing the kind of work I do or writing about the kinds of things I write about.
However, when I see someone using copy that clearly isn’t from their own brain or heart, it feels…icky and upsetting.
I pushed my smoothie aside and sat there angry. Irrational, fearful thoughts swept through my mind about what was happening here.
Am I overreacting? Maybe.
What the heck can I even do about it? Nothing.
To regain some perspective, I called a few friends who talked me down from the ledge and reminded me of something I always tell my clients:
“No one else is YOU, so at the end of the day, it’s impossible for anyone to copy your work.”
For a few minutes, I felt better. Of course, that’s true.
But the feelings of outrage, hurt, and betrayal sat with me for a few days—okay, weeks. (That’s my overly sensitive, anxious side at work.)
You see, I couldn’t completely shake it because my business—what I’ve spent years building with all that I have—is so damn personal.
And after having multiple conversations with friends and colleagues about similar experiences of their own, it turns out that “copying” is a very common phenomenon in business. Which should come as no surprise.
Copycats are everywhere, and unless you’ve got your stuff trademarked, there’s really nothing any of us can do about it.
It feels wildly unfair.
But the big underlying question that sat in my mind for a while was, don’t people realize that the only way to differentiate themselves in a crowded industry is to BE themselves? Why are they stealing other people’s ideas?
Here’s what I came up with.
- They don’t realize that using someone else’s language is a bad idea and do it without fully thinking it through.
- They know exactly what they’re doing and think no one will notice.
As someone who knows how overwhelming and challenging it can be to create website copy and an original message, I also know that it can be tempting to find a few short cuts here and there. Truly, I have total compassion for the people that decide to pull ideas from a few people they admire.
The problem is, it almost always lacks integrity—an essential character trait to being a successful business owner. Anyone who builds a business without it is setting themselves up for failure.
Integrity, honesty, and holding ourselves to high standards are paramount in general. And doing the real work of coming up with your own ideas, writing your own copy (or hiring someone who will), and envisioning what your unique business will look like is going to give you not only an edge, but also a confidence about what you do.
Now, I know I’m preaching to the choir here. You know this already. But it’s never a bad idea to clarify the gray area that often lives between “idea stealing” and “idea inspiration.”
Here’s what is totally normal and cool:
- Getting inspired to write a blog post or Instagram post because of a book or article you read or even a post someone else put up (where you give credit where credit is due!)
- Getting inspired by the tone of someone’s website copy because it’s reflective of your own personality, and keeping that in mind as you write your own
- Getting inspired by someone’s website design or logo and sharing it with your web designer to give her inspiration and guidance explicitly telling her you don’t want the exact same thing
- Getting inspired by someone’s website freebie and deciding that you need to either create or uplevel your own keeping your target audience and brand identity in mind
- Getting inspired by a TedTalk and thinking about what your “big idea” would be if you ever got the opportunity to speak
We’ll always be inspired by our experiences and the people we admire. It’s inevitable! But when we lead with integrity, tapped into our own creativity and vision, we’ll always be empowered create original content. That’s just how it goes.
Now, I’d love to hear from you. Have you ever come across someone copying you? Or have you wondered if you’re getting a little too much inspiration from one person or business in particular? Share with me in the comments below