Copying and unoriginality have been two topics that have honestly been addressed so much lately, that you can’t turn your head without hearing someone talk about their frustration with it. I’ve addressed it here on the blog several times, with writing helpful posts about community, competition, inspiration, and authenticity, but I strayed from calling it was it is: The Copycat Effect (which I affectionately call it). One reason is because its one of those things that has an automatic negative connotation to it, no matter how to try to spin it. Whether intention or not, people simply don’t take very kind to being imitated.
When you call someone a copycat straight up or let off just a little that you’re classifying them as such, its a pretty strong statement to make. Even more so, it can be seen as hypocritical, because nothing in the world is original and everyone is has been inspired by someone at some point. For example, when you think about celebrities, we constantly see them and can’t help to be influenced and inspired by their style, demeanor, and talent. Are we wrong for this? No, not necessarily, but our time could be better spent coming up with our own style and refining our own talent.
Is someone who’s a super fan of Beyonce or Taylor Swift, and love their style a copycat, because they go out an find the exact same (or similar) dress, shirt, or jewelry that they were in a video or at an appearance? No one says anything when it comes to those types of things, because I take it people are more comfortable with celebrities being copied than “regular people”. I take it that it’s because it feels less personal, since we don’t know these celebrities, in addition to there being unspoken rules about how the sole purpose of a celebrity; someone who promote things and influences people to buy them.
Many creatives feel as if its a personal attack whenever they see someone imitating them or doing something similar. I honestly don’t think that many of these “imitators” have any real malice in their heart, but are simply trying to learn and find their way. I take it more as they just don’t know where to start, because I’ve been in that position before.
Its like when we learn something in school, in that we are taught it the same in class, and reproduce it the same until we perfect it and add our own flavor to it. If anyone has every looked at a bunch of five year-old’s handwriting, they all pretty much look the same. However, by the time someone is about 7 or 8, they defined their own style of penmanship, that for the most part will get better over the years and be unique to them. Similar to fingerprints, no two people have the same handwriting. You can try as hard as you can to duplicate someone’s handwriting and it will never happen. Its the same thing with anything that is unique to us, including our creative skillset. No matter how much you try to copy someone, your results and theirs will always be completely different…even if they appear to be similar. Unless you’re literally sitting beside the person tracing their every move, their is no way you can duplicate their style exactly. Even if you were to do this, the odds are still extremely slim that the two pieces of work would be identical.
Not Wasting Time & Addressing Your WHY
There is really no purpose in spending so much time trying to be like someone, because they appear to be popular or successful. What worked for them probably won’t work for you, because we all have different faits and paths that our lives are supposed to go on. A lot of people’s success comes from being in the right place at the right and luck. Its just how it is! It may not be in the cards for you to do what they’re doing, because you have another path to travel. If you’re having to copy someone to do something you want to do, you should probably ask yourself if you really should be doing it. When we’re meant to do things, they come naturally without us needing to constantly look to the outside for lots of guidance or inspiration. This is the time when you really have to address your WHY.
Are you doing things because:
1. You see others doing it? – If everyone jumped off a bridge would you?
2. Your only motive is to make money? – you have to have more of reason than this
3. You’re jealous or envious? – never gets anyone anywhere
If you answered yes to any of the above, you most likely need to rethink whatever you’re doing or trying to do.
Do things because:
1. You’re passionate about them. – your main driving force
2. You truly believe in them – this is a good space to start
3. You want to share. – an even better place to start
4. It makes you feel good and have a since of accomplishment. – can be viewed as a good or bad thing, mostly good though
5. You can do them without a lot of push and pull. – there should be little resistance at hand
If you’re having trouble figuring out where to start, the best place to find help is from a coach or mentor. The time you spend copying someone could be better spent consulting with an authority on what you’re trying to do. In addition, as perfect and successful as people make themselves look these days, most of the time they really aren’t. Making yourself look better than what you are is just another tool people use to attract, so as a business owner many are just faking the funk. Its nothing wrong with this, but unless you see someone’s financial statements, you really don’t know how successful (financially that is) that they are.
No smart business owner, especially a freelancer is going to put themselves out there are as a complete failure, even if they’re failing. While it may look like they have all the clients in the world and a huge following, you don’t know what is really going on behind the scenes. They could be an emotional wreck, have a disorganized business, or have connections to resources that you would never have access to. So all that time you’re spending copying them, you don’t know what it is that has really made them so “successful”. You have to understand that many are using the content marketing tactic of storytelling and its nothing new, or anything wrong with it. The disclosing of their failures, showing your their process, and giving you insight into their business is being done for a specific reason, to connect and build trust, but in a limited capacity. There is always a legitimate reason behind people do things; nothing is done by mistake or happenstance in the world of business.
You will never have the same story, process, or insight as someone else. All you can do is learn from them and apply the principles of what they share to your business if they are actually applicable to it. The thing is, if you don’t know where to start, how will you know how to apply said principles? Catch my drift here?
When you start from a place of authenticity, you have a clear idea in mind of your goals and mission. You also know if a particular practice or principle will be applicable to your business or not. The last thing you will need to do is look to others for inspiration, therefore positioning yourself as original and focused. Your confidence will show through when you’re being original and focused which further results in you producing your best work.
Listen to more about this topic on the Branded Bliss Podcast!
Have you ever fallen victim to the copycat effect? – What are some of the ways you foster originality and authenticity in your brand?
Need help finding a place to start, addressing your why, or creating an authentic brand? I’d love to help! Reach out to me today to see how. 🙂