How to be Original (and Not Feel Like a Sell-Out)

Posted June 14, 2017 by Thirty-Something Angie in Business & Productivity / 0 Comments

As a business owner, it's easy to get wrapped up in fads and successful products. Always know where to draw the line so that you can be original.

Have you ever copied someone?  Even just a little? I know I have! And even if you don’t want to admit it, you probably have, too.

When I started my first business, I had a very specific style, and I became known for it.  I didn’t have the trendiest products, though, so I watched other’s succeed much faster than I did.

Eventually, I thought, “What’s the harm in trying something new?” I added a new, trending product to my line to see if it would sell.  It did, so I kept it up.  After awhile, my whole style had changed to something that wasn’t me, but instead was just a fad.

I cringed at every order I got, and no longer felt creative. Instead, I felt like a sell-out.

I wasn’t successful, either.

Without even realizing it, I had left my unique style behind and entered a market that was over-saturated, inauthentic, and full of duplicates.  How was I expecting to stand out?

When we stop being unique, we allow in more competition.  We become “the same” as everyone else. The only way to truly stand out from the crowd is to be original, and you can’t do that if you’re following those that are more successful than you.The bottom line is, inspiration is fine, but be careful, and always be original.

Related: The 5 Mistakes I Made When Starting My First Business

So, how do you stay true to yourself and be original?

How do you remain an original when the world makes inspiration so easy?

Have a clear vision. Know your brand, voice, style, and the message you want to send.  Does your new idea fit in with this vision?

Figure out why you like an idea. Is it a popular product idea? The person doing it is successful? (I get it! I want to be successful, too!) Are you still trying to figure out your “thing?”

Pick apart an idea to find the part that inspires you. Inspiration is normal for creatives.  The trick is to figure out what part of that idea inspires you.  Take that and leave the rest.  Figure out how you can take that one inspiring piece of the product and make it be original.

It’s a lot of fun creating new pieces and experimenting, but make sure you don’t completely lose focus of your own vision.  You don’t want to look back in a year and wonder how you got to this point.  Take it from me, business is no fun when you aren’t proud of your work.

Have you been too inspired?

Inspiration is an amazing thing for creatives.  When we see something and it sparks an idea, we’re excited to get started.  It’s one of the things that makes creating so fun!

Sometimes, though, we can get too inspired.  We might not even realize it’s happening at first.  The next thing you know, we’ve lost our vision. Even worse? We’ve produced a near exact replica of someone else’s idea.

Related: How to Start an Email List (and Why You Need One)

Because we’re so visual, this trend of basically copying a competitor is very out of control in the creative industry.  Every niche has business owners complaining of being copied, which can strike fear in anyone’s heart.  It’s important to make sure that your inspiration hasn’t turned into unintentional copying.

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Here are some questions you can ask yourself to find out if you went too far:

  • Are the pieces so similar that a stranger would notice?
  • Would you be embarassed if the person that inspired you saw your work?
  • Does your new piece make you feel a little squeamish and less than proud?
  • Would you beam if someone complimented your creativity on this design?
  • Does this piece stand out from your original products and vision?
  • If you had to re-create this piece 100 times, how would you feel about it, then?

How do these questions make you feel? If any of them make you second-guess yourself, you probably went too far.  Don’t beat yourself up, though!  We’ve all done it at one point or another! The important thing is that we learn from our mistakes and remain true to our uniqueness.

So, how do we remain unique?

The best advice I can give you on this subject is to wait. I know when I’m hit with inspiration, I want to rush off and create right away.  That’s great when the inspiration comes from nature!  But, when you’re inspired by a competitors piece, or a piece that trending in popularity, it’s not. 

Related: How I Use Pinterest for Business

Instead of rushing off to create your new piece with the picture clear in your mind, write down your idea and sit on it for awhile.  Maybe browse other pieces in the same niche and explore all of the different ways you can make the same thing.  Jot down all of your ideas, brainstorm the product the same way you’d brainstorm any of your other pieces, and then give it all time to stew in your mind.

Let the ideas get jumbled up in your head. That way, when you do sit down to create your new piece, it’s not an exact replica of one item, but rather a blend of inspiration from different places that fits your unique brand.

Keep in mind that if you want to stand out and be successful, it’s important to be original.  After all, no one else can do “you” quite like you can!

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