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It seems like every day something new is trending, and thanks to apps like TikTok and Instagram Reels, copying other people seems to be deemed as harmless because “everyone is doing it”. I’m not innocent in this. Truly in a lot of ways it’s the name of the game right now to follow trends and do what other people are doing in order to get views. However, there is a thin line between creating content that is on trend, vs. straight up copying someone.
Why Does Copying Bother Us So Much?
As humans, but specifically as business owners and brands, copying can feel like the ultimate slap in the face. We work so hard to try to do something unique and original, just to have someone else do the same exact thing. And this punch in the gut feeling is horrible in any situation, but especially when it’s from someone you know personally.
In my own walk as an entrepreneur, and to be frank, in life… I have experienced copying. And I am not even going to lie to you. I have been on both sides of this. The person being copied, and the person doing the copying.
Copying Got Me No Where
You may recall the story of when I first became a wedding photographer and I looked up to all the destination elopement photographers shooting these incredible days at national parks, with these beautiful, trendy people. I wanted that to be my reality so bad. But why? No, not because I love all those things. Because I thought that in order to be deemed “successful” in the wedding industry that is what you had to be doing.
So I branded myself EXACTLY how they did. I tried to edit dark and moody. I tried to find the most attractive people I could to model for me and I made my website look like theirs did. The problem was, none of this brought me happiness, and none of it helped my business grow. There were a lot of times I would end up so frustrated wondering what I did wrong. I was doing everything they were doing, why was I not seeing the same results?
After a while I was hit with the reality that copying everything they did, was not going to make me successful. I was not going to be them. And frankly, I didn’t want to be. It took a couple of work trips for me to realize that traveling for my job was not that exciting to me. Really, it was just exhausting being away from home all the time and not getting paid that much more to do it.
It wasn’t until I decided to put on my blinders and stop looking at what everyone else was doing and only focus on the things I was passionate about that I saw my business and brands take off.
How To Cope With Someone Copying You
On the other side of things, if you are the one that has fallen victim to copying, I understand your frustration. For me, it seemed like I had finally stepped into a niche that felt like me. It was not very big at the time at all and there were only a few big name creators in this area.
But within a year or so, hundreds of other people seemed to be popping up wanting to break into the same niche and all of a sudden my competition pool seemed to grow immensely. At that point, I had a choice. I could either allow the competitive mindset to kick in and consume my thoughts. Or, I could lean into this, and use it to my own advantage and also to support other people. So that is what I did.
I started offering education and one on one mentoring to people wanting to do exactly what I did. And I held nothing back. There were no secrets left untold and while many people may have thought I was crazy, I felt an extreme sense of fulfillment doing this. Educating became a huge passion of mine and also opened a lot fo new doors for me as an entrepreneur that allowed me to scale my business, and spend more time at home with my family. Which as you know, has always been my main priority.
You have to understand one thing. While people may try to copy you and do what you are doing, they are never going to be you. I have first hand experience with this myself. They are not going to be fulfilled trying to be something they are not. It’s a hard lesson to learn. But we all walk through this season at some point or another.
When To Seek Legal Help
There are exceptions to everything. Some cases may require you to seek legal counsel. Or you may have to reach out to them and let them know that you know they copied you. One example being the copy on your website. Or someone stealing your designs flat out.
But if you can just tell someone was EXTREMELY inspired by you, however they have not copied you word for word, I think it’s better to just let it go. Block them if you really need to. Give yourself the peace of mind and not letting those negative thoughts consume too much of your time. Instead, put your head down, and do the work needed to continue to grow and thrive. And remember, you are always going to be one step ahead of a copycat.
What To Say To Someone Copying You
If you do come to that place where you need to reach out to the offender, here is what I would do. First, you are going to want to draft an email. I recommend an email vs. something like a text message. Emails come across more professionally, and more direct. In that email, share with the person that you are aware of them copying you, and then let them know WHY it bothers you.
Do not send that email right away. I would sit on it for at least a full day. Re-read it, share it with someone you trust like a spouse or parent and have them give insight on it as well. You want it to be direct without being mean or insulting.
The next steps are to send the email and wait. A few things could happen next. The person may respond and apologize and you guys can work it out together. Or they might respond and deny copying you completely. Lastly, they may just leave you on “read” and never respond at all. And as frustrating as these last 2 things might be, at that point, the best thing you can do is acknowledge the fact that you gave it a shot, and then move on.
Block them, mute their content, whatever you need to do to bring yourself peace mentally. But you do not want to spend much time dwelling on this. I promise you, from experience, it is not worth it.
I know it’s hard to let things like this go. But if there is one thing I have learned as a business owner, no one notices stuff like this as much as you do. And there is a good chance that whoever is copying you is not in the same bracket of clientele that you are.
Most of the instances where I have been copied, it has been by people just starting out and having no where to turn. They aren’t sure how to market themselves so they pick someone to copy. Hey, I have done it too. And guess what? The projects I was booking at that point were WAY cheaper than the ones the people I looked up to were booking. So was I even really a threat to their business at that point? Probably not.
This is how I choose to look at those who copy me. They are in a situation where they do not know where to turn. And they do say that imitation is the best form of flattering right?
And for those of you who may be tempted to copy someone else, please remember that you are unique and special. You have something amazing and different to offer the world. When you try to blend in with everyone else, you are never going to stand out.
Just. Be. You.
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I'm Sarah Elrod
I'm a Cowgirl turned serial entrepreneur.
I'm a horse trainer, western wedding photographer, business coach and ranch wife.
I help women in the western industry grow thriving businesses from rural America.
When I am not strategizing new marketing tactics, you will find me riding my horses, cuddling my cattle dog, or kissing my hot husband.
There is also a good chance I am buying way too many outfits from western boutiques.
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