“I love your logo.”
“You’re so good at social media marketing.”
“That idea is so great!”
“How did you get your website to look so good?”
These are things we love to hear as entrepreneurs, right? And if you are anything like me, you’re the first to share openly and candidly the exact strategies, tools, and resources you’ve found helpful in getting to where you’re at today. We believe in #communityovercompetition, and these discussions help us grow our businesses and tend to be reciprocal in natural. But sadly, there are instances when your colleagues turn into competitors and draw way too much inspiration from the brand you’ve built. And before you know it, your hard work is being duplicated unapologetically and widely.
When I began noticing “my business” in another business, my heart sank! Instantly, I felt like all of my hard work had been copied, from my website to my marketing materials to my social media posting times to the content I created—everything. I even noticed mysterious spikes in the number of their followers on Instagram. (Ahem, buying followers is never a good idea.) Worst of all, they were sneaking into relationships and collaborations I had been building and undercutting my rates. And that’s not even beginning to scratch the surface!
Feeling copied, betrayed, and taken advantage of was no bueno, and honestly, I didn’t know what to do. I spent a few weeks agonizing over how I would approach the culprit (because you have to confront the individual) and protect myself moving forward. Eventually, I realized that I had to radically shift my mindset, keep my head down, and plow through some new short-term goals to strengthen and protect my business in the future.
First things first—shift your mindset!
If someone thought so highly of me to copy everything I did, that must mean I am doing something right.
While considering yourself an expert may be a hard mental shift for you to make, once you make it you will never look back. You’ll start to naturally incorporate ways to protect your business into your everyday strategies.
Here’s how I established myself as an expert in my industry—without exposing my business to future plagiarism:
1. I began offering consulting services
I pour so much blood, sweat, and tears (and money) into my business and have made oh-so-many mistakes. Through all these tough experiences, I developed my “trade secrets”—and these deserved to be guarded like the valuable assets that they are.
So now, anyone who seems extremely interested in learning from me can do so, but at a cost. By offering this service, I’ve established myself as an expert and placed value on what I’ve built.
2. I opened an e-commerce shop
I put all my processes, templates, and questionnaires up for sale. Letting anyone to buy access to my business processes will hopefully deter people from copying them in the future. This draws a line between the advice I’m willing to give out for free and the bottom-line-boosting advice that I expect people to pay for—and that’s a win-win situation I feel good about.
3. I upped my professional network game
I needed a place where I could give and receive detailed business advice without fear that someone was going to hawk my idea or copy a promotional graphic. Luckily, these places actually exist in the form of membership- or application- based networks.
So, I invested in small masterminds and paid membership sites, which has been one of the best business decisions to date. I’ve made connections with other committed business owners, and as a bonus, my community sees how I’m invested in it.
One final tip: check your privacy settings on social media and email lists
Fortunately, you can get extremely specific with your privacy settings on all the social media platforms, and you can always control your email lists. Adjusting these settings lets me make sure certain people aren’t privy to certain information that I share without hurting any feelings.