What to do when someone copies your idea

And yes, this will probably also happen to you one day

When someone copies your idea or offer, you can get pretty upset. You work so hard, have a brilliant idea, launch your offer, and it sells! And then, one day, you learn about someone else offering the exact same service or product. Of course, you understand that there are other people in the world doing similar things, but when it is someone in your network, even someone who knows you, it hurts. What do you do in such a situation?

A client asked me last week: “How do I deal with someone who came to my art retreat, and now suddenly organises her own art retreat, in the same month, even in the same venue? I feel hurt, and taken advantage of, as she has approached all of my clients, and now offers her retreat at a lower price.”

It was funny, as I recently had an experience just like that, when someone who came to one of my own in-person workshops, decided to put on a very similar one in the same venue, in the same week, after coming to mine. She didn’t tell me, nor involve me – which, in my opinion, would have been so much more fun, to collaborate and share audiences with each other. We move in the same local circles. I only heard about it later, and I too felt betrayed, hurt, and, to put it gently, very pissed off.

photo of women wearing eye mask
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

When someone copies your idea, you feel betrayed

In the past, I would have let it eaten me up. Like most people, I don’t like confrontation. I’d have a knot in my stomach for days, festering, while feeling defeated, insecure, and upset. I would have talked to others about it, like a gossiper, to help me deal with the discomfort. And I would have avoided the ‘enemy’ at all costs. Not this time. Maybe it comes with age, but it certainly comes with growing in confidence as a business owner; so I decided to let my feelings known to the person.

Calm communication is key when dealing with a conflict

I contacted her, first via voice message, to explain my discovery and surprise. Voice message, because it is less harsh than a written DM or an email (where things easily get misinterpreted!), and you can explain things calmly, without interruption. A voice message can land better, and can be listened to a few times by the other person. They can absorb your message, let it sink in, and respond after perhaps having thought about it a little. No shouting matches in the heat of the moment.

I stayed calm, and polite, but let her know that I was disappointed and confused about what had happened. She got back to me, and we communicated about the issue, and, in the end, it softened the blow, things were talked about, and we moved on.

It turned out that it wasn’t a blatant robbery, but an adapted version for her own select audience. She’d had to change the original venue to the one I held mine in, after unforeseen circumstances. Not ideal, but there you have it.

Communication is key. We can make up our own stories of the hows and the whys, but there is likely a different side, and things are not always what they seem. But sometimes, they are.

unhappy multiethnic women standing back to back in room
Photo by Liza Summer on Pexels.com

When someone copies your product, and is deliberate, that is a different story

It happens to most entrepreneurs at some point. It comes with growing in popularity, more visibility, and it certainly is part and parcel of being successful. You could say copying is a compliment! People obviously think you are offering something amazing, and they want to try and ride your wave. However, when people copy your idea, especially when you know each other, you can get very upset. You feel they are sticking a knife in your back, why are they doing this to you?

As your business grows, people will ‘take’ things from you. You cannot prevent it. And you cannot patent your event, or service. Often, you cannot even patent your product or design. People might simply start posting similar things on social media, or making video’s very much like yours. They may also start offering the same service in your neighbourhood, or within your online network – if they share the same audience. And then, of course, there are people who actually copy a design, pattern, or product, and slightly alter it to avoid problems. I have heard stories like this, too, and it is horrible.

The most important thing is, to stay close to your values.

Coach yourself back into the game.

Look how far you’ve come, count your blessings – and testimonials! Nobody can offer exactly what you offer. Even though they call it the same. When it comes to products sold online, it is very hard to stop this, and it may actually harm you financially.

When it is something like a coaching programme, a retreat, or a creative workshop, have faith! Because the people who buy from you, don’t just buy a product, they want YOU to deliver it. They like YOU as an expert, as a person. They are drawn to YOUR energy, and they will still come to you.

Remind yourself how far you’ve come, and why people choose you. How you help people with your unique expertise, personality and approach.

Someone might organise a similar event or offer the same programme, but that doesn’t mean clients will get the same experience and transformation. Everyone leader brings their unique expertise, approach and energy with them.

The client who shared her story with me has been an artist and therapist for 30 years. Her copy-cat is a girl in her twenties, with no particular credentials, but an idea to also start running creative retreats. It may work, it may not. But she will likely attract a very different type of client, who is more like her. And my client will likely be more popular with a client closer in age, lifestyle and energy to her.

Therefore, there is space for both.

However, it is so much better to communicate and collaborate with each other. The girl copying my client’s art retreat would have benefited much more had she suggested a collaboration. Co-creating is so much more valuable for everyone. We can learn from one another, especially when a young entrepreneur shadows a more seasoned teacher. We can share expertise, and offer something truly special and of value to the people who sign up. Above all, it creates good energy, trust and karma.

The pond is big enough for us all, but let’s be a gracious dolphin, not an angry – or sneaky – shark.

Looking for a creative business coach?

Nina Eggens business coach

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