I’m going to keep this short and sweet. I have one piece of advice for any aspiring creative entrepreneur or even a burnt-out pro. If you’ve been following along with Paper + Oats for very long, you’ve probably heard me say it, tweet it, post about it, and shout it from the rooftops. When I get stuck or feel burnt out, I use this simple philosophy to push through, and it has served me well in the last couple years of business. Ok, enough build up, here’s my mantra:
Look at what everyone else is doing, and do it differently.
I recently read two quotes from some super successful entrepreneurs about this very idea, which solidifies in my mind that this really is a huge key to owning and running and successful business.
Seth Godin talks about it in his popular book, Purple Cow:
"In almost every market, the boring slot is filled. The product designed to appeal to the largest possible audience already exists, and displacing it is awfully difficult... The real growth comes with products that annoy, offend, don't appeal, are too expensive, too cheap, too heavy, too complicated, too simple—too something. (Of course, they're too too for some people, but just perfect for others.)"
"Be able to step back (and look) at your work and be critical of it and truly ask yourself if it’s different, unique and if you’re adding something new... Is it you or could it be mistaken for somebody else? Those questions are really hard to answer for yourself, but I think if you can do that you have something good."
Could it be mistaken for somebody else? I can’t get over that line. It is SO SO important as creatives and as entrepreneurs to be original and do our own work. I, myself, have found verbatim copycats of my own work, and while I would never call them out publicly, I do send a friendly reminder encouraging them to be mindful of others' work, and avoid copying (even if it's unintentional) by being original and inventive with their own ideas.
It can be easy to get caught up in what’s trendy or an admirer’s style or aesthetic. But who wants to be “just another designer” or “just another business coach.” Find ways to make your brand stand out from the crowd, so your audience will immediately recognize your work as YOURS and not mistake it for someone else's. If your find yourself modeling your products, services, or marketing after someone else's, that’s not good! Abort, abort! Step back, figure out a way to do it differently, and start again.
I know some people may argue that just being YOU is different enough. No one can do [ insert super awesome creative talent here ] like YOU do. While that’s true, your audience doesn’t know that yet. They only see what you show them, so you have to show them why you’re different, and what makes your brand uniquely YOU. Just saying “because it’s by me and not so-and-so” doesn’t really cut it.
So as you're scrolling through your feeds, hitting up your go-to blogs, and seeing what others are up to in your circles, don’t get discouraged in thinking that everything is already being done. Take those inspirations as motivation to find ways to make yourself stand out and get noticed. Having original ideas that are different than what everyone else is doing around you will help your business stick out – in a good way ;) I recently took a whole new direction with my services in an effort to break out of a mold that I didn’t want to be in anymore. Was is kind of scary? Yep. Has it paid off? Totally :)
Look at what everyone else is doing, and do it differently. Don’t be a copy, be an original. Don’t be a follower, be a leader. Play to your own strengths, not someone else’s. Don’t be discouraged because you haven’t found a way to do it differently yet — do your research, do some experimenting, and be patient as you figure out your own path.
Do you notice anything in your own branding, products, services, or marketing that could be mistaken for someone else in your field? How can you make yourself stand out from crowd? How can you make your client want to choose YOU instead of all the other [whatevers] out there?