What to Do when you've Been Copied

What to Do when you've Been Copied

As a creativepreneur and small business owner we face challenges that teach us life lessons. Recently, graced experienced the unfortunate challenge of being copied. Although it wasn’t especially easy, I used this experience to generate positive energy for myself and my team rather than let is affect us in a negative light. In this episode, I will walk through five suggestions to assist in working through the issue of being copied and how to use it as inspiration to become something even bigger and better.


Today, I am talking about what to do when you're copied. A really, really icky subject, but it actually happened to me this week, and I just wanted to chat a little bit more about that, because I think that this happens to a lot of people. So stay tuned for a great episode coming at you.

Natalie: Hey guys, welcome back to the podcast. I'm Natalie, and I'm super pumped that you're here with me today. I am actually recording this from my bed. Yeah. I'm in my bedroom. Why? Because it's fall, and everybody in the neighborhood is outside either raking, or mowing, or using a leaf blower to get all the leaves into the street so that the city can come and pick them up. 

So it's getting a little bit loud out there, but you know, it's okay. So I decided to try to find a quiet spot in the house to record, and I actually had a podcast all ready to go for this week, for episode number eight. But something happened to me this week, that was really impactful, and I decided, "Hey. I want to do a podcast on this." Actually, just for my own wellbeing, because I wanted to talk it out a little bit. Bear with me, but I think it's a great topic, because at some point in your life, especially if you're a creative-preneur. 

 If you are somebody who's creative, if you are somebody who has a business, this is going to happen to you, sadly. Especially if you're good at your business, which of course, you are. But I want to talk about what to do or what not to do when you find out that you've been copied. Yeah, totally yucky, icky topic. It happened to me this past week.

It's not the first time it's happened, sadly, enough. But this time, it was a really big punch in the gut. There's a lot of backstory behind it, which I don't need to get into, because it kind of would go against what I have to say in this podcast about what to do. So, not going to get into it, but someone copied a product that we offer, and this person is in our same community and it was a really, really blatant, really obvious copy. It was a really difficult one to deal with, and so I just want to talk a little bit about how I decided to deal with that and how my team is dealing with it.

If you don't know about Graced, we have a team of about eight people that work together, so I've got people who work in the store, and I've got some people who work virtually behind the scenes. So it didn't just affect me, it affects everybody on the team, and I feel like the way that I choose to deal with it kind of leads the way for how everybody else on the team will deal with it. 

I kind of feel like I need to set the example, and I want to do the right thing. I thought a lot about this, and I thought up five things to do or not to do when you've been copied. I've heard other creatives talk about this in the past, on podcasts, great podcasts. I hope I'm not copying anything they say. It did happen to me, and I'm thankful that I have listened to those other podcasts in the past, because I think it helped me deal with this past week.

Take a Deep Breath, then do Nothing

Number one, the first thing to do when you've been copied is basically take a deep breath and do nothing. This is the hardest thing to do. So when I found out, and I actually found out by a text, one of my team members texted me earlier this week ... You know, we texted back and forth a little bit about it, and talked a little bit about it. What I decided to do was just to kind of take a deep breath and think about it. So after I texted back and forth a little bit and we processed it, I just decided that I'm not going to do anything right now. I'm just going to take a deep breath and think about what the right thing to do is. I certainly did not want to react in a negative way publicly. I didn't turn to social media, I didn't want to post something that was cryptic, I didn't want to be passive-aggressive, because that's not the professional way to deal with something like this. 

I didn't want to post anything that we would regret, and definitely the old adage, two wrongs don't make a right, totally apply to this. I just decided, "I'm going to just breath, and I'm just going to sit back and do nothing for now. I'm going to think about it and kind of process it." That's what I did, and I think one of the things that's difficult in the creative world is that social media and the internet makes it really, really easy to copy and replicate things that other people do. 

If you're a graphic designer and you publish a logo that you did, or a branding that you did, it's so easy for someone else to completely copy that work and create a logo exactly or similar to that. Or if you're a web designer, it's easy to replicate a website. Social media, Pinterest, all of the channels that we have make it really easy to copy. When you share a new product or a concept out there on social media because you're trying to inform your consumers, that makes it really easy for other businesses to copy you as well. So you're kind of in a tough spot, because you have to do that to promote your product, but again, you're leaving yourself open to see what your competitors or other people can see what you're doing. That's what makes this so difficult. Going back, number one. Take a deep breath and do nothing. 

Write an E-mail, but don't Hit Send

Number two, something you can do to kind of help process how you're feeling and to really be objective about it is you could write an email, and this email ... You could be writing it to the party or person who you feel like has copied you, but make it really objective and kind of go through exactly what it is that you feel like they copied. You can also talk about how that makes you feel, but keep it very, very professional. The key with this, is just don't send it right away. Wait to send that email or even show it to somebody who could proofread it for you, and ask their opinion about ... You know, does it make sense, what I said? Is it professional? Just wait on sending that email. At least wait for 24 to 48 hours before you even make a decision about it. Just take that time to process it. 

Learn from the Experience

Many times, once you get through the initial reaction of being upset or angry, you don't feel so ... Like you have to do something about it right away. Just make sure that you take that time before you send anything off, and make sure that it's something that you wouldn't regret later sending. The third thing to do with something like this, is just really learn from the experience and process the feelings that you've had about it. When I say learn from the experience, learn personally from it about how it made you feel to be happy to have your work copied. So make sure that you don't do to somebody else, and just work on kind of getting through your perceptions and that idea of inspiration versus copying, and really try to apply that to your business. Make sure that you're just not doing that to other people, just do the best you can in that area. So just learning from this experience is really important. 

Get Motivated

 The fourth thing for me that I decided to do after being copied, and this has happened to me in the past, is I get motivated. I get very, very ... Almost inspired by it, which is kind of funny. It's kind of like a kick in the butt for me to say, "You know what? Okay, you want to copy me? I'm just going to raise my game. I am just going to do better. I am just going to work harder. I am just going to do more." For me, it's almost ... Like I said, it's like a push. I try to turn it into a positive thing for my business rather than a negative thing. 

Rather than going, "Oh my gosh. I'm just getting copied, they're taking business away from me, and it's really making me feel crummy and being angry about the situation." Instead, I'm like, "No. I'm going to take this, and I am just going to do better. I am just going to do more, and I am going to be unique." One of the things that I did initially when I was copied, someone tried to fill their store with other products ... With products that were the same as the products that were in Graced. I was like, "Hey, that's fine. I'm going to sell all of the products that I have, I'm going to put it on sale, get it out of the store, and I'm going to get new stuff. And I am going to be different and unique." 

I tried to take that negative, turn it into a positive, and it really did help our business, because it helped me redefine the style and aesthetic of Graced, and really say to myself, "What is it that I love? What is it that I want to see in this store?" It helped me do a better job at curating the products and really redefining our style and making it unique. Again, you can take something like this experience of being copied, you can make it a really negative thing, you can dwell on it. Or you can get motivated by it, make some changes of your own and just push forward. Keep doing you. Keep doing what you're doing, and try to differentiate yourself from the person who copied you.

Just Keep Doing You - Focus on What Makes You Unique

Again, this kind of goes into a number five. That is, focus on what makes you different and sets you apart from the other brand, and capitalize on that. Don't take the things that they copied and continue to ... Say if it's a product, push that product. Or maybe take that product and change it up a little bit in an unexpected way. Or if it's your brand, certainly I wouldn't say change your brand. Like I said, maybe focus on what makes you different, and fine tune that, so that you can set yourself apart from the person that copied you.
 A lot of times, people copy because they see that you're successful. So that is a really human thing to do. They see that ... You know, "Hey, that seems pretty cool, and that seems to be doing well for that company. So I'm going to do the same thing." People who do that are usually pretty new at business, or they're a newer company or they're just getting off the ground, or if it's their first website. Maybe they don't have their brand well established. Maybe they don't have a good sense of who they are and what they stand for, so they feel like they need to do the things that bigger, better brands or other creatives are doing that seem to make those creatives successful.
 Copying, again, it can be a really flattering thing. People say that, but copying is a form of flattery because obviously, the person really likes what you're doing, so they want to do the same thing. Sadly, for me, it more feels really negative, and like I said, kind of a punch in the gut. Turn it into something positive for your business, and again, try to think about it professional rather than take it personally, and think about what you can do in a positive way to build your business back up or to set you apart or to make sure that this person ... Even though they copied you, try to make sure that your brand is different, and continue to grow and continue to challenge yourself to look at your brand and say, "Okay, what can I continue to do to build my brand?" 

 If that means, "Hey, I've got to sell all of this stuff that I bought and buy all new stuff." That's what you do, because you have to continually change to be successful, especially in the retail world. It's good to stick to your brand and fine tune that brand, but you have to be willing to make changes in your brand as well. 

 So again, the things that I did to kind of deal with what happened this past week and deal with copying is: Just take a deep breath, number one, don't do anything. Just kind of process your feelings, work through it for at least a good 24 to 48 hours. Number two, if it helps you to process those feelings, go ahead and type out an email or type out a letter, but don't send it just yet. Just take some more time to read through it, maybe have somebody else proofread it, and just hold onto it until you know for certain what you want to do. Don't do anything that you would regret. 

 Number three, learn from the experience. Just chalk it up to, "Hey. These things happen.", and figure out, "Hey, what can I do in the future so that this doesn't happen, or when it happens again, how am I going to differentiate myself? How am I going to deal with it professionally?" Number four, get motivated. Take this as a form of flattery, and say, "Hey, they must think that I'm awesome. So I'm going to be more awesome and I'm going to do bigger and better things. I am going to work harder than they're working to be a better business, to build my business." Yeah, just take it and be like, "Hey, you just made me want to work harder." Don't take it as a negative, don't dwell on it, just please don't dwell on it. Don't let it hurt your business, because that's what they want it to do. So don't be that business that gets down and out because they've been copied.

Number five, focus on what makes you different. Fine tune your brand. Figure out what sets you apart from that other person, and capitalize on that, push that. Publicize that, get that out to your consumers. Show that you're different, and just keep going. Don't give up just because one person copies you doesn't mean that they're ripping you off and that your brand isn't going to be successful. When this happened to me this past week, I sought some advice from other business owners who have had this happen to them before. They said, and I think this is so true, is that the consumers notice these things. Especially if you're in a community and there's businesses that are similar and they are competing for the same customers.

The consumer is going to notice that, "Hey, this particular business had this first, or had this offer first, and they're doing this thing that was really unique and then now this business is doing it too." They'll notice that, and I've even had customers come into the store and ask me questions when they've seen that this is occurring in our community. I think this also brings up a really good point. 

#Community Over Competition

A lot of people have seen on Instagram, and I do this, I use the hashtag community over competition, because I firmly believe in community over competition, especially in the photography community, which I'm part of as well. I think this goes for the retail community as well, and all creative communities. You should be able to celebrate each others successes, and just because one person's being successful, that doesn't dampen your level of success. I do believe in community over competition. It's a really big bummer when things like this happen, because it dampens ... It just hurts that feeling of community. 

Keep that in mind, that community is so important. We want to be building each other up instead of tearing each other down. We want to be resources for each other as well. So one of the worst things you can do is rip off or copy somebody in your own community, somebody who's helped you. I do also want to mention that there may be some instances where you may want to contact an attorney just to talk through what occurred and see if there's any legal action that would be appropriate. It may just be having an attorney write a letter, just basically saying, "We know that you copied this product, or whatever it is and asking them to take it down, or to not continue selling, or whatever it may be." Usually that's enough to give someone a kick in the pants to be like, "Crap. I did this, and I need to make it right, or I need to stop selling the product, or whatever it may be.

 That's not necessarily something you have to do in every situation, but it may be an option for you, depending on what occurred and how big of a breach it's been, or how much of an impact it's had on your particular business. So with that said, I want to wrap things up for today. I hope that you found this episode interesting and maybe a little bit helpful. I hope that if you run into a situation in the future where you feel like you've been copied that you can kind of think back to some of the things that I mentioned to help you get through that.

 I do want to say too, if you're following somebody on social media who has a tendency to copy or who's copied you ... It's a really tough thing to decide, maybe you don't want to look at their social media anymore. If their feed or social media account is making you upset on a daily basis or giving you negative feelings, maybe you need to take a break. I know that in the past, I've done this and I've talked to other people who have done it as well. Just kind of focus on yourself rather than focusing on the other person and what they're doing and the negativity of that. So maybe just a social media break from that particular account would help.

 The flip side is, you might want to know what they're doing so that you can respond to it, if it is something that's copying you. It's a two-sided coin there. Just something to keep in mind. Again, I hope you liked the episode, I hope it was helpful, and you're definitely going to want to tune in next week for episode nine, because in the month of December ... Or no, November, we are having a huge, awesome giveaway. And it kind of goes along with a makeover that we're doing. You're going to want to listen to that episode to find out all the details, so tune in next week, next Monday we will have that out for you.

Happy fall, everybody!

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