Dear Online Business Owners

I’m writing this because you’re a part of our shared online business owner community, and something has recently come to my attention that I think is really important to address.

It’s about plagiarism and respecting each other’s intellectual property.

I want to start with a story about my own experiences with copycatting and “borrowing” from other people.

When I was first starting out online, I read a lot of blogs. I also wrote a lot of blog posts, and many times my ideas were inspired by other bloggers in my field.

One day I decided to put together an opt-in PDF, and I used an idea I had learned from another blogger in my PDF. I didn’t think twice because I thought it was a great analogy, and it didn’t “belong to anyone”.

I was wrong.

The author of that blog was the first person to come up with that particular analogy, and it was distinct enough that her readers recognized it and let her know about my PDF.

She emailed me with a very stern email telling me to remove the plagiarized content, and you can bet your bottom dollar that I complied quickly. That PDF was off my site within minutes after receiving her email.

My face was red, and I was embarrassed. I felt bad.

It took me awhile to recover from that experience, but I learned a really important lesson that I’ve taken with me ever since and that has served my business well.

I learned that plagiarism is more than just copy & pasting someone else’s words… In school we might learn that if you can compare two documents and there are enough differences in words and sentence structures then it doesn’t count as plagiarism.

But I think it goes deeper than that.

Obviously if you’re outright copy & pasting content or grabbing images from someone else’s website – that is plain old stealing.

The next level is taking ideas and passing them off as your own, without giving credit where credit is due.

At Off The Charts Live, I shared charts and ideas from several authors and smart business owners I admire… and Elizabeth DiAlto mentioned to me that she really appreciated that I gave credit in my presentations.

She said that she had seen other teachers in our space use the same tables without sharing where they had gotten them from.

That’s taking credit for someone else’s ideas and hard work, and that’s not acceptable in my book.

Not just because I’ve been on the other end of copycats stealing my intellectual property… (Not fun!)

But because creating something original yourself is actually BETTER for your business.

When you steal other people’s work, you steal from yourself.

No two businesses are exactly alike, and creating unique content, marketing materials, and programs is the BEST way to stand out in a noisy industry… not to mention that it will help your ideal people the most. (We’re not meant to be everything to everyone.)

So this is me telling you: don’t steal.

Be conscious about the actions you’re taking in your business.

There are repercussions, and people do notice when you’re not in integrity.

Dig deep, and come up with your own original intellectual property, and watch how your business will flourish.

I believe in you.

You don’t need to go through the embarrassing copycat blunders I’ve been through.

Save yourself the hassle and put the blinders on when you sit down to create your own materials.

Thank you so much for reading, and let’s keep our communities honest and full of creative fire.

P.S. For more on how to deal with copycats, I’ve got a mini-video training here.

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I’m the founder of a tech startup called AccessAlly, a powerful course and membership platform for coaching industry leaders.

I’m also the creator of the free 30 Day List Building Challenge:

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