Last week, I experienced a rather curious business rite of passage. Not something worth celebrating, but unfortunately something many of us go through. In short, another copywriter decided to help themselves to a little piece of my online pie.

If you’re reading here, you’ve no doubt come across my tagline of sorts: ‘Connect, compel, and convert.’ I haven’t gone so far as to include it as part of my logo, but it’s clearly key to my branding; leveraged across multiple web pages and all of my social media profiles.

It came to me as I was drafting my web content, and I think it works really well. It sums up what I do succinctly, leverages the lovely lilting power of alliteration, and – most importantly – resonates with my clients. It works so well, in fact, that it almost seems too obvious. So much so that I did some research prior to using it, just to be sure that I wasn’t unintentionally nicking it from someone else. Thankfully, it was nowhere to be found.

Perhaps this same combination of words also came to the copywriter in question out of the blue, and this is all a huge coincidence. Given we’re both active members of an online forum for copywriters though, I very much doubt it. And, initially, I admit I was really miffed to think that she’d pinched my work. She seems cool and confident and very talented in her own right. The (bitter) cherry on top was discovering that she’s actually written a blog post about dealing with online copycats herself! Hmph. At that point, I may have stamped my foot, huffed and puffed a wee bit, and incredulously showed my hubby. But, I downed a trusty cup of chamomile, took a metaphoric chill pill, and decided to see this sorry saga through a different set of eyes.

Instead of continuing my little pity party, I chose to feel the following instead:

1. Flattered

Yes, somebody stole my tagline. Ugh. But, look at it from another angle: I created something worth stealing! There was a time not so long ago that this little biz of mine was just a (very scary, very abstract) figment of my imagination. I’ve taken those imaginings and created something successful, something worthy of admiration, out of nothing. That’s worthy of celebrating, and I’m humbled to know there are people out there who dig what I’m doing.

2. Grateful

Despite it still being early days in my biz, I have a busy schedule, happy clients, regular enquiries, a lovely supportive network of fellow copywriters, and – most importantly – I’m absolutely loving my work. I’m very much content in my little corner of the web, doing what I love every day and earning a living in the process. For that, I’m extremely grateful. As a result though, it’s easy to forget that many freelancers are struggling. They’ve got bills to pay, an empty calendar, and they’re scrambling for clients. And so, with another quiet week ahead, perhaps they go and check out what the competition is doing. And, in the process, (consciously or subconsciously) help themselves to a little bit of what they see. See it from that perspective, and a seemingly ugly act becomes a little more understandable. In work, as in life, empathy is key.

The reality is that there are a tonne of us trying to make it online. If you’re busy doing your thing and getting great results, chances are somebody will eventually take a fancy to your work and cross that boundary between inspiration and plagiarism. In some cases, of course this warrants legal action. More often than not though, it may be best to take a ‘c’est la vie’ approach.

For me, this particular experience turned out to be a great lesson in humility, gratitude, and goodwill.

As Erica Cook so graciously wrote, “I’m not interested in competing with anyone. I hope we all make it.”

Indeed, and for me ‘we’ applies to everyone: family, friends, acquaintances, colleagues. Even “competitors” who decide to pinch my work. Such is life. Some people have real problems. And, really truly, I hope we all make it. Including her.

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