Copying or modeling after other successful coaches or entrepreneurs is often swept under the rug, specifically because a lot of people do this but oftentimes they deny it or maybe they don’t even realize they’re doing it.
I want to clarify that when I say “copying,” I don’t mean plagiarizing someone else’s work and passing it off as your own. That is a serious issue.
Instead, I’m referring to the act of taking inspiration from other successful coaches or entrepreneurs. It’s when you see someone do or say something, and you use that as inspiration for your own work. It’s on a much smaller scale than plagiarism.
But, there are still some inherent issues with doing so because 1) when you’re taking so much inspiration from someone else’s content or messaging for example, you’re not leveraging your unique voice or showcasing your original thought leadership. And also, 2) sometimes, people can tell.
People can sense that this isn’t how you’d normally speak or do things, or maybe they know exactly who you’re referencing after.
Let’s talk about copying or modeling after other successful coaches or entrepreneurs who we like and follow.
I think it goes without saying that if we’re not aware or careful, we may find ourselves taking too much inspiration from other coaches.
Here is an example of how this can manifest. Let’s say you downloaded a free script, swipe file, or template from someone. Maybe you even bought a course or ebook that provided an exact step-by-step script to follow.
Then, you simply fill in the blanks of that template or script without assessing whether the final product truly sounds like you. Or perhaps you fill in the blanks with your own words, and you feel like it sounds like yourself because the key points or the meat of it are your own words.
But here’s the thing:
Even if the key parts of the script or template are your own words, if I asked you to read out loud what you wrote, do you like the way you sound?
Or do you find yourself sounding really awkward or stumbling at certain parts?
If so, that could be a potential indicator that the way the script or template doesn’t really sound like you.
Another example is when you come across someone else’s Instagram post and you really like it. Maybe you’re impressed with the visual aesthetic or the way the information is laid out. Whatever it is that resonated with you, you decide to create something similar.
So, you recreate that post from scratch in Canva. You change up the colors, fonts, and other branding elements. The content itself is also different, although the way you structured your key points is basically the same.
In this situation, the final post you created isn’t a direct replica of what the other person created. It looks different and the key points are different as well.
However, one thing to consider in this scenario is what would happen if the person who inspired your post sees your post. Would they immediately wonder if you took inspiration from them?
If so, how would you feel about the possibility of them seeing your content and wondering if you modeled it after them?
Likewise, what if a follower sees similarities between how you organized your information or in the way the post looks? Would you feel nervous or anxious about the possibility of that?
If you think you’d feel uncomfortable about this, it could be a sign that you weren’t creating the piece of content in your authentic voice or style.
Now, with that being said, I also want to point out that nothing on the Internet is truly original or groundbreaking.
It’s difficult to argue that a particular coach or entrepreneur is the creator of a specific way of organizing information in a post or a particular style or visual layout.
Unless you’re in a highly innovative field like developing new software, technology, or making new scientific discoveries, it’s really hard to create something completely revolutionary or groundbreaking.
When it comes to content on social media, I would argue that very little of it, even from the most established entrepreneurs or content creators, is truly one-of-a-kind or original.
If that’s the case, then why does it matter if we draw heavy inspiration from someone else, especially if what they’re doing isn’t even that original in the first place?
Personally, my take on this comes down to two things: 1) Do you feel like you are operating authentically and with integrity? 2) Do you feel like you’re showing up as a thought leader in your space?
These are questions I suggest anyone think honestly about if they’re not sure whether their content is taking “too much” inspiration from someone else.
When I think about what it means to be a thought leader or to operate authentically, I think of someone who leads with their own honest thoughts.
In the context of the coaching industry or online entrepreneurship, a thought leader is someone who shows up and is committed to sharing their own thoughts, even if they don’t receive feedback from their audience or if their ideas are challenged.
They continue to operate authentically by staying true to themselves and standing firm in their thoughts no matter what.
By the way, thought leadership is something I go more in depth on Episode 34: Thought Leadership as Coaches & Entrepreneurs, so be sure to check that post out after this one if it’s a topic that resonates with you.
I want us to reflect on whether we are currently operating authentically and with integrity, as well as whether we are showing up as thought leaders in our space.
Let’s be real, when you go on Instagram, a lot of people look the same. They use the same Canva templates, hook sentences, and marketing tactics to create urgency.
Especially those in the earlier stages of their business journey, it’s hard to differentiate them except for their brand colors and username.
If you’re concerned about blending into the sea of coaches or entrepreneurs in your niche, it’s time to start drilling down on your unique thought leadership and what separates you from others.
This online space is getting more and more saturated, and while it’s easy to enter this industry, doing well may not be easy.
That’s why I believe in developing your own thought leadership and working on your unique brand messaging and content strategy, without modeling after someone else.
Maybe you’ve also noticed commonalities among the people you follow, such as the language they use in their webinars, particularly during the sales pitch, where they use the same sentences to segue into their offer.
You might start to think, “Haven’t I heard someone else say that exact line before on another webinar?”. Situations like this can make you wonder where this person took their inspiration from.
This is also why modeling after someone else can be risky because you never know who your followers are consuming information from.
If they sense questionable overlaps between you and someone else, it may affect the way they perceive your authenticity and credibility. This is something to keep in mind.
In general, I think that copying or modeling happens most often in the form of drawing from someone else’s language, but not feeling truly aligned with it.
There are also a lot of key phrases that we may associate with certain entrepreneurs. For myself, maybe you’re thinking of the phrase “Sounds good? Awesome. Let’s get to work” or “building your business in a way that does not feel like a second full-time job”.
If any of you were to use those phrases in your own content or messaging, you might start to cringe and feel like you’re stealing those phrases from me.
However, we need to keep in mind that I didn’t invent those phrases, nor did I trademark them. They’re simply words that I use repeatedly because I believe in them so strongly, and now they’re something that other people associate with me.
So, for those of you exploring what phrases you want to be known for, it’s important to make sure that what you say actually feels aligned with you and that you resonate with the meaning of your words. Otherwise, you’re going to feel like a copycat.
It’s natural to want to model ourselves after those we admire or who we perceive as successful. It literally makes sense.
Our inclination to do so is understandable, and it’s possible to do it without even realizing it.
This tendency can be attributed to the many messages and expectations we’ve received throughout our lives about who we’re supposed to be.
Society often gives us examples of individuals who meet these standards and encourages us to follow in their footsteps.
As a result, it’s no surprise that we may find ourselves emulating others, even unintentionally.
Personally, I remember in grade school, top academic performance was always prized, and those who excelled received awards and recognition. Teachers made it clear who the role model students were, and I was usually one of them, which makes me cringe a bit now.
In the mass media and social media, there are so many messages promoting certain societal standards of what is considered “good enough.” We are often told we have to look a certain way to be attractive, or we feel compelled to order the most popular item on the menu or purchase trendy clothing to fit in or enjoy the same benefits as others.
Even as entrepreneurs building a business on platforms like Instagram, we tend to think of likes and engagement as validation that we’re doing something right.
Here’s what I’ve realized: we rely on a lot of external validation.
Whether we want to be liked, feel like we belong, want to be successful, or to enjoy the same benefits as someone else, it all ties back to this inner need to validate ourselves.
Instead of validating ourselves, we look to other successful people and model after them, intentionally or unintentionally, so that we too can feel validated.
That’s why we need to consciously infuse our own original and authentic voice, message, and thought leadership into everything we put out, and also to be aware of whether we genuinely believe in who we are and what we do.
One thing I work really hard on with my clients is coaching them to develop both confidence and self-belief in the work that they do and in themselves as a coach and entrepreneur.
When you’re certain of yourself, your abilities, and the impact you can make, you no longer need to look at what’s working for other entrepreneurs and regurgitate or mimic what they’re saying or doing.
When you’re grounded in who you are and what you do, that’s when you can truly step into the role of a leader in your space.
Are you operating as a leader for your audience, or are you simply following what you think you should be doing to achieve external validation or success, such as creating a 10k month or being fully booked?
If you decide that you want to lead your people and show up as a thought leader for them, then decide what you need to think and what you need to do to embody this new leadership.
For example, are you going to be someone who mimics or copies others, or are you going to stand firm in what you believe in and continue sharing your thoughts, message and work with the world, irrespective of what people think or what they have to say?
One thing I also want to acknowledge is that we’re often taught to be dependent on the system we’re in, including its people above us, rules and policies, responsibilities, and other key decision-makers.
We’re trained to want step-by-step instructions and to be told what to do next. This is how many of us operated for most of our childhood and young adult lives, and for many people, throughout their entire adulthood as well.
But in your own business, there’s no next step or level or stage that you have to aspire to. There’s no ladder to climb, no promotions to work towards.
You promote yourself. You create your own ladder, and each person has a different trajectory.
This means we don’t need to look to someone else to see what they’re doing, and we don’t need to do what everyone else is doing.
We don’t need to look at what others are saying or doing and feel like we HAVE to model after them to have a thriving six-figure business.
One thing I talk to my clients a lot about is using your brain. Like, literally. Using your critical thinking muscle.
Modeling after others, or even using someone else’s script or template that they provided either free or paid, is rather passive. You’re not using your brain to think and be truly authentic and original.
Also, your energy is what converts people into followers or clients. If you aren’t energetically backing your own words or actions, why would people believe in you? You need to believe in your own words and actions first.
Only say things you actually mean. Don’t fluff and don’t bluff. Only do or say what represents you and feels good so you can show up 110%. Operate in integrity. People can tell when you’re trying to be like someone else.
At the bare minimum, if you do want to rely on something to get you started, such as using a script or template to launch your business, make sure that you are translating the template or script into your own.
Here’s how you do it: Understand the thought process behind the script or template, and that’s all you take from it. Don’t bother filling in the blanks of the template or script, even if the person providing it says that it works. Sure, it may work, but only if it sounds like your own voice.
Instead, understand the structure of the resource and why it’s structured that way. Then, create your own using that structure.
Finally, think about how you would have done it or said it, and actually do it or say it in your way.
There is always another way. If you don’t like the way something sounds, there is always another way.
If you don’t like how you’re showing up or operating in your business, there is always another way.
Because if something isn’t aligned with how you would normally do things, is it truly authentic to you? Just because a business coach said to say or do something, does it truly align with who you are?
We need to create our own system, our own rules, and our own business. There are no rules in entrepreneurship. There’s no right or wrong ways, only ways that work best for you. Trust your decisions. Trust your own ideas and share them, even when it feels scary.
It’s 2021, and having a pleasant personality and a well-designed website aren’t enough to build a successful six-figure business.
You need credibility. You need to demonstrate your thought leadership. You need to share what You honestly believe in and stand for.
One reason people doubt their ideas and message is because they assume that someone else’s ideas are better or that they aren’t good enough. But do you actually believe that?
There is always another way of doing or thinking about things, and your job is to figure out what you believe in and follow through.
And maybe others need to hear your perspectives, not their own. Show up for the people who actually will find value in what you have to share.
Finally, the more conviction you have in your message, the more money you make. Nothing revolutionary or groundbreaking is said in my content, but I can confidently tell you that it is honest, and I deeply believe in what I do and say. My groundedness in my words and actions carry me through in making sales for my business.
Don’t do what everyone else is doing. Your honest message will help people. Believe in it.
Don’t hide your message or thoughts because other successful coaches or entrepreneurs are talking about something else.
You’re not here to be a people pleaser. You are here to help people and tell people what they actually need to hear. You are here to help people.
You literally have two opinions.
Option one: You can think that your ideas or content or message isn’t as good as someone else, and that what the other person is sharing or creating is the “right” way of doing things.
Option two: You can choose to believe that what you have inside your brain and what you are doing is enough, and commit to it. It’s your choice what you want to think.
Either thought is optional. You can believe that you need to look to others to figure out what’s the right thing to do, or you can believe that what you have is enough and it is of value to others.
It’s really up to you whether you want to follow someone else’s lead, or be the one who leads your people just as you are.
As we always say, Just make a decision, make sure you like your reasons for it, and move forward.
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