Thursday, 28 August 2014
thoughts and ramblings
Today's thoughts and ramblings post is on the fine line between copying and inspiration. It's a subject that not a lot of people talk about, but one that I think affects a lot of creative people. Now I know lots of people have already spoken on the topic of copying other people's work. I'm not going to talk about that, as I think there are already lots of awesome articles out there on what to do when someone steals your design. I want to talk about the side of copying that often goes undiscussed.
When I started Ladybird Likes I had a few brands/companies that I really looked up to. They made products I loved, had social networking accounts I enjoyed following, had beautiful websites and product photography - they basically were the kind of company I wanted Ladybird Likes to one day become. And I spent so much time analysing their business that somewhere along the line, without even meaning to or actually realising for a while, I started to copy some aspects of their business. Not their products - that is something I don't condone at all. But more the way they ran their businesses - from their blog designs, to the special offers they ran at different points. It was never done with any bad intention - I genuinely just loved and admired what they had done, and wanted my business to be like that, and I guess the only way I could see to do that was to try and make my business the SAME as theirs.
This lasted for a few months, until one day I caught myself making a choice for my business, based purely on what someone else had done with their business. What happened was someone had posted on Instagram about using an order fulfillment company, and I immediately started thinking I needed to do that for Ladybird Likes, and actually began emailing companies! I realised how ridiculous this was - my business was totally different from theirs, because I am totally different from them! How could I expect what worked/didn't work for them to be the same for me? Just because something worked for them didn't mean it was the only way to do it, or that it would even work for me and my business. Since that day I have made decisions based on what I think and feel is best for me and for my customers. No-one knows your business, your products, and your customers as well as you do - so trust your own judgement!
Personally I struggle constantly with how I do things, and have almost daily mental battles with myself. I'm very much a 'jump in head first and think later' kind of girl which in business can be a bit of a problem! I often find myself wishing I'd taken more time to think through a new range, had samples made before ordering a job lot, read descriptions of components more carefully.... I want to constantly be creating new stuff - I get bored easily and my favourite part of the job is creating and turning ideas into real products, often without taking time to think things through first! But it's just the way I am, and on the plus side it means is that I am always making new stuff, which I think my customers like. My way of working works for me, even if I might wish I could be more considered with developing new collections and products. I do still admire companies that bring out one or two collections each year, each with a huge professional photoshoot, with a big blogger campaign, custom packaging. But that's not me and that's not how I work, so it would be silly of me to change the way I work for no reason.
I still look at other businesses and companies to see how they do things, but I do this in a healthy way now though. It's a great way to get ideas, to see how other people work, to set yourself goals to aim for. It's important to have people and companies you look up to and aspire to be like. What isn't okay though is to measure your own success by someone else's standards, or to assume that the way someone else does something is the only way to do it. I'm sure we have all done it in the past - someone posts online about a huge wholesale order/celebrity endorsement/amazing work opportunity and you immediately start to worry that you aren't in the same position as them. Just because your jewellery isn't on the front cover of Vogue does NOT mean you aren't successful. Just because you're not being interviewed daily for newspaper coverage does NOT mean you have failed in any way.
Ladybird Likes is never going to be a multi-million pound corporation. I'm never going to be a jet-setting businesswoman. But that's okay because that's not what I set out to do with my business. As long as I get to be creative, work for myself, and make enough money to live on, then I am happy and I feel like I have been successful. Although I wouldn't turn down having a reason to travel to America for business!
My advice to anyone starting up, or even to people already running, a small creative business is to set your own goals and standards, and find a way of running things that works for YOU. Okay, your goals might be different to other people's. Okay, you might run your business differently to your friend or your craft idol. But if it works for you and makes you happy then that is always enough.