114. Are You Too Small For Copycats to Steal From You?

Are You Too Small For Copycats to Steal From You?

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You know copycats are a big issue for online businesses, but that’s only a problem for big businesses, not ones just starting out — right? I’m going to address whether you need to worry about copycats even when very few people know about your business.

In this episode, you’ll hear… 

  • Are small businesses at risk of copycats
  • What I’ve seen in my own business and others
  • Why you should protect your business at any size

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It’s not always the most popular creators who get copied

Some copycats will target smaller accounts or businesses because they think they are less likely to get noticed. I first noticed copycats in my business at just 700 followers on Instagram – not a huge following at all! As I’ve grown, I’ve actually seen less blatant copying and more mimicking (super annoying). Most of what I see is small accounts stealing from other small- to mid-sized accounts.

Regardless of your business size, you need to be protected

Like so many of the legal concepts I talk about, it’s about prevention. If you don’t have stuff in place before theft happens, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. You may be a small business now, but you expect to grow, right? You have to treat your business the way you want it to be, not the way it is today.

You get to own your content no matter what

There is no prerequisite number of customers, subscribers, or followers for owning your content or protecting it from being stolen. You are future-proofing your business, which means you need to treat it like a business from day one.

You’re never too small for copycats to get you, but that’s not the point of legal protection anyway. You have to protect yourself ahead of time and own the business you are building up to.

Episode Transcript

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Sam Vander Wielen: Hey, it’s Sam. Welcome back to another episode of On Your Terms. And today, we are talking about whether if you have a relatively small business, small following, newer business, if you still need to worry about copycats. Like, is this only a thing that happens once you blow up or is it something that should be on your radar now?

Before we hop into today’s question, I just have to tell you, you only have one more day to take advantage of the Ultimate Bundle sale that I have going on. It expires April 28th. I’ll leave the link in the show notes for you to save $400 and get a load of really unique bonuses that I’ve never offered before that all have to do with legally protecting your copyrights and trademarks.

I have a copyright walkthrough tutorial for you about how to file a copyright. I have a how to file a trademark training that’s going in there. A cease and desist letter template and training so that you’ll have the letter that you need to send out to people. So, there’s all kinds of things in the Ultimate Bundle.

And, hopefully, you already know that the Ultimate Bundle is my signature product that gives you over ten DIY legal templates, plus 35 on-demand video trainings that teach you everything from how to form your business like an LLC or anything else, to get business insurance, to getting a trademark, to what to do if somebody wants a refund, to what if somebody steals your content. Everything in the Ultimate Bundle is covered for you.

Plus, you get access to me in a support community, actually in two different communities in case you don’t use Facebook. You get lifetime access and lifetime updates. I keep the Ultimate Bundle very updated. All of that is included for you for no additional cost. So, it is on sale until April 28th only. So, I’ll drop that link down below. In case you’re looking to get the Ultimate Bundle, now would be a really good time. So, I would love to see you in there. I can’t wait to see you in the community if you join.

And for all of those of you who listen who are already in the Ultimate Bundle, thank you, thank you, thank you. I so appreciate you and I’m so grateful for you being in the Bundle.

So, today’s question was such an interesting one because someone submitted a question saying, "Can you tell me a little bit about copycat issues even when you think no one knows about your website or cares about your work?"

So, I thought that this question was so interesting because at the heart of it is really this idea like, do you only get copied once you get bigger. And it’s not always the most well-known or the most popular people who get copied. And maybe people copy them because they think like, "Oh. Who’s going to notice?" But I also think that people think that about the smaller accounts too.

So, I’ve seen a lot of copy stuff happen with smaller accounts. I know that I started getting copied when I had – I don’t know – maybe 700 Instagram followers. I remember a pretty bad one when I had, like, maybe 1,200 or 1,500, something like that. I would say that now I don’t see as much blatant copying as much as I see a lot of mimicking, like other people starting businesses like mine. And every time I create content, they create around the same thing or they create a legal workshop that’s titled the same, except one word is different. Like, everything’s just super annoying, as I say, but you see more of that. And we have also had legitimate copying as well.

I’ve also seen it be really random. I’ve seen people just be like, "What? I cannot believe somebody stole my stuff." And like, "I didn’t think anybody was even reading it." I think especially with what’s going on with chat AI stuff, too, with it pulling things from the internet, I’m curious to see where this goes, whether they could pull stuff from your website. And I don’t think that the bots are differentiating between how many visitors you have to your site versus how many I have.

So, personally, I think it’s fair game for kind of anybody to be copied. And I think if I had to pick, I would say I’ve seen the most amount of copy theft and content theft from small accounts stealing from other small to mid-size accounts. It’s usually somebody that’s starting out. It’s usually not somebody who’s super far along that’s stealing. But they’re usually stealing from somebody who’s not that big. That’s what I’ve seen.

Regardless of who’s the most commonly copied from and all that kind of stuff, we want to remember why we even do any of this. So, it’s really about prevention. Like so many of the legal concepts that I talk about here, if you don’t have stuff in place beforehand, then there’s nothing that you can do about it once it happens. So, we don’t really have a choice.

We’re not really sitting here being like, "Well, am I too small so I should wait and then start to copyright or trademark my stuff until later?" It’s like, but by the time the "later" comes, meaning that now, all of a sudden, people are copying you, it’s too late that you didn’t register or have the right pieces in place or have a contract in place. Do you know what I mean?

So, it’s not really a fair question, like an actual question to sit there and be like, "Oh. Okay. So, is it just that I’m small now so I wait until later? Like, what’s the actual risk of me getting stolen from?" I think if you are thinking that could ever happen, then we need to do it now.

So, I also want to encourage you to really embody the fact that your content is your content. You can own that. You don’t need to have a certain number of Instagram followers, a certain email list size, or work with a certain number of clients in order to rightfully protect your content from being stolen or copied. So, you can own that. You don’t have to be a certain size to legitimately own your content.

And I also want you to keep in mind that we are future proofing your business so that your content is protected because we know what you’re building. We’re planning for you to blow up. We’re going to start planning for this to work out, not waiting for it to not work out.

And so, when you think about growing your business the way that I’m always encouraging you to, which is start really getting very clear in what you want your business to look like six months, a year from now, three years from now, what are you like as the CEO, what are your daily tasks, what are you doing, who are you helping, what’s your life like, all that kind of stuff. Then, we think what would that business, that dream business that you have a year or two, three years from now, does that business have legally protected content? Then, we’re going to legally protect the big pieces of content that I talked about.

I just had an episode about this – I’ll link to below – where I talked about am I supposed to copyright the content in my product and stuff. So, you can listen to that episode to dive deeper as to what you should necessarily be protecting.

But, overall, I would just encourage you to think about, if you’re building a program or product and that’s going to be your bread and butter and that’s the thing that you’re going to be promoting to the world, then that kind of thing deserves protection and that kind of product would need legal protection. So, that’s how I want you to start thinking about it.

In general, I just want you to think about your business as what are we becoming, what are we working towards. Let’s just start taking little baby steps that start getting us there because that’s how we get there. Not doing more and more stuff like you are now or not more and more stuff that’s playing small and safe and hidden, which is kind of behind this question of, "What about if nobody knows about your site?" It’s like, "Well, aren’t we planning for people to know about your site? Aren’t we planning for people to care about your work? As you said, like nobody cares about your work?"

Well, I hope people care about your work and I hope that that’s the goal. And so, we want to start being like, "Wow. What about the day that everyone’s going to be on my website? What kind of legal protection does that website have?"

So, that’s how I’d encourage you to start thinking about it. You’re never too small for copycats to get you. But, also, really, that’s just not the point of legal protection. We have to do stuff ahead of time. And I want you to start owning what kind of business you’re building. I want you to future proof this business and really start stepping into what you’re becoming.

So, if the Ultimate Bundle would be helpful for you in helping you to build that business and to feeling more confident that you are legally protected, that you have things set up correctly, that you’ve got solid contracts and website policies drafted by an attorney – that’s me – I definitely invite you to check out the Ultimate Bundle while it’s still on sale. You can catch that link below.

Send me a DM on Instagram, @samvanderwielen, if you have any questions at all. And, of course, if you enjoy listening to this podcast, please do me a favor and leave a very quick review, a rating wherever you listen to podcasts. I really appreciate you helping to support the show. Thanks so much and I’ll chat with you next week.

Thanks so much for listening to the On Your Terms Podcast. Make sure to follow on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you like to listen to podcasts. You can also check out all of our podcast episodes, show notes, links, and more at samvanderwielen.com/podcast. You can learn more about legally protecting your business and take my free legal workshop, Five Steps to Legally Protect and Grow Your Online Business, at samvanderwielen.com. And to stay connected and follow along, follow me on Instagram, @samvanderwielen, and send me a DM to say hi.

Just remember that although I am a attorney, I am not your attorney and I am not offering you legal advice in today’s episode. This episode and all of my episodes are informational and educational only. It is not a substitute for seeking out your own advice from your own lawyer. And please keep in mind that I can’t offer you legal advice. I don’t ever offer any legal services. But I think I offer some pretty good information.


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Resources Discussed in This Episode

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  • Kajabi // use Kajabi to sell your course, program, or even build your entire website. Get a 30-day free trial with my link.
  • SamCart // what I use for my checkout pages and payment processing and LOVE. And no, not because it’s my name.
  • ConvertKit // what I use to build my email list, send emails to my list, and create opt-in forms & pages

DISCLAIMER: Although Sam is an attorney she doesn’t practice law and can’t give you legal advice. All episodes of On Your Terms are educational and informational only. The information discussed here isn’t legal advice and isn’t intended to be. The info you hear here isn’t a substitute for seeking legal advice from your own attorney.

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