When I first realized that someone had taken the content of my pricing page and pretty much copied it onto her own website I felt a little sick in my stomach. She had changed some of the sentences and replaced a few words but it was obvious that she had copied my stuff. Stuff that had taken me about three years of hard work, trial and error to develop to what it is now.
I felt disappointed, outraged and intrigued.
Had I reached that stage in my business where I had become an inspiration to others, where I could revel in imitation being the sincerest form of flattery? Well, I can tell you this much, I did not feel flattered. Especially as the person in question was someone I liked and respected.
I wasn't quite sure what to do so I posted about it in one of my Facebook groups and that's when I was contacted by another designer – who I also really liked – who was worried I had spoken about her! I promptly went over to her site and lo and behold, her pricing page also contained a lot of similarities to mine. In her message she explained that, to her, I represented the gold standard for Squarespace web design services and that it was hard for her to ‘unsee’ what she considered to be the best way of presenting these services. We had a good chat about it and there were no hard feelings, and she has changed her page since.
Then, a week ago, I stumbled upon the website of a fledgling designer in the UK and this one felt like a punch in the stomach:
She had copied my homepage layout and content, almost word for word. It was so blatant.
This time I decided to contact her directly and we ended up having a long chat. She wanted to leave her 9-5 by creating a side hustle in Squarespace web design but amongst the hype of the shouty 6-figure marketeers she had gotten quite lost and not only copied my stuff but that of other designers she 'admired' as well. She was taking shortcuts for sure, and there was a definite sense of desperation and confusion about it all. It was a very amicable conversation and she has since removed the copied content.
Here is the thing. I kind of get it. You want to start your own business. You've used Squarespace and found it to be easy and user friendly. Maybe you've even designed a website for a friend. That's how I started, too! I also understand that when we work in the same field there are bound to be similarities as we are all essentially re-inventing the same wheel over and over again, but with our own spin on it. And yes, I also checked out my competion when I began my own journey and took note of what the successful designers were doing.
But. I never copied anyone's content.
I learned and felt inspired but I always wrote my own copy and created my own layouts and designs. You know why? Because I love doing this stuff! I love tinkering with my website and optimizing my content and changing things around as my business evolves. My website is always a perfect reflection of where I am in my life. And that's pretty much why I became a professional designer! And why it hurts when I see someone else copying content that has taken me a lot of time and experience to develop.
As some of you might be aware, I am offering a free Squarespace SEO course and I have to admit: I've been feeling very nervous about other people stealing the content of my class and using it in their own courses or service offerings. Even if I say so myself – and this is confirmed by the amazing feedback I get about this class every week - it's a great course! The content is solid and well presented and it's helping people. And it's free so copying all or parts of it is easy.
Well, yesterday someone posted about an SEO service that sounded so similar to mine and again, I thought I recognized phrases and expressions from my own website. Ugh. Now I am getting paranoid, right?? And I can tell you, I hate being this way. I don't want to walk around suspiciously eyeing up what others are doing, fishing for things that may or may not have been taken from my site. This is no way to live and no way to operate a business.
So I am taking a step back.
While there are some nasty individuals out there who have no conscience when they are plagiarizing, I believe that most of the online entrepreneurs who feel 'inspired' by other people's content, have no ill intent. They are simply trying to figure out their own way in this virtual jungle that bombards us with advice on how to make a quick buck online, or how to create a passive income so you can leave your day job and have the lifestyle you really want. It is easy to get lost in all of this noise, no matter whether you are young and just starting out or a seasoned professional who has had enough of the corporate life and wants something else.
Does this mean it's ok to copy my stuff?
No. Of course not. I would rather if you did this:
Take the inspiration you are finding here, learn what you want to learn, and then make it your own.
Think about what you enjoy about web design and how can you build a website that truly reflects you and your talents, skills and experiences.
There is way too much focus these days on what clients may or may not want – as in: find out what people need and create a service around that – I totally disagree with that! This is the kind of stuff that drowns out your own voice and makes you look elsewhere for ideas. You need a strong voice to attract the kind of clients that are right for you, and vice versa.
What this basically means is this: yes, there is a need for Squarespace web designers out there and this can be a great and very fulfilling career. If you enjoy creative work. If you love tinkering with your own website. If you like working with people. If you have an aptitude for design and technology. Have a passion for all of this and you will become a great designer in your own right.
But mostly: don't copy. Just don't. Work on finding your own voice instead.
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