Torn Between Helping People & Preserving My Originality

Lately I’ve felt a bit torn. I feel like there are a couple unique aspects about Nose Graze (when it comes to coding/design), and I like to hang onto those. Surely it’s natural to treasure some of the unique features or snippets I’ve created?

But then, someone contacts me and wants to hire me for a project. But the thing they want done is something that’s on my blog. They basically say:

I’d like to hire you to recreate the thing you have on your blog for my blog.

There have been a few very specific features (that I don’t really want to name, for fear of calling people out and making them feel bad) that have been requested over and over again. People see them, they like them, and that’s AWESOME! But they want them for themselves. And I really struggle with this.

On the one hand, I’d LOVE to be able to complete whatever project the client wants! I want them to have exactly what they want or what they imagine.

But on the flip side, some of those features are my babies. I don’t see them on other blogs except mine. So sometimes giving them away (even if I’m paid to do it) feels like I’m giving away pieces of my originality.

I get torn between priding myself on having unique features, and wanting to give people the features they love and want. Sometimes I’m not sure what the right thing to do is, and I always feel really awkward about replying with something like:

Sorry, but that’s kind of a unique feature on my site and I don’t really want to replicate it.

Have you ever felt like you wanted to “hoard” a unique feature that’s on your blog? Or have you ever seen what you thought was a unique feature to your blog on someone else’s? How did it make you feel?

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I'm a 27 year old California girl living in England (I fell in love with a Brit!). I like to inject a little #girlpower into the WordPress development community by teaching women how to be coding badasses. more »

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  1. I have had people take my Kindle & Nook Freebies banner and use it to promote their freebies posts. It’s not like the banner is all that great, but I do love my little picture with cherries because it’s a photo I took. But I didn’t do anything about it since I didn’t get any copyrights to the pic (should I be getting rights to my banners I make?)

    I also noticed that a lot of newer blogs use my The Good, The Bad, The Snuggly thing I use for my reviews. I so loved my review set-up but now I feel unoriginal since I know a lot of blogs who use this idea now.

    You situation is hard. I get your side, but I also understand the clients side, because your blog is kind of your promotional piece for your website design business. People who love the look of your blog want to hire you to give them the same thing…but different. But I understand you wanting to keep some things for yourself. You just have to get use to saying no and letting the chips fall where they may.

    1. But I didn’t do anything about it since I didn’t get any copyrights to the pic (should I be getting rights to my banners I make?)

      You automatically hold the copyright to anything you create/produce. The only time you may not have copyright is if you use assets from someone else and your new creation doesn’t have enough changes for it to be considered a “derivative”. See When does derivative work copyright apply?

      Filing your work with the US copyright office doesn’t actually give you copyright, because you already had that. It’s just taking a step to PROVE you own the copyright, which can then be used in court.

      Overall, I’m fine with people seeing my design and using it as an example of what they want when they hire me for design work. It’s more like “See that very specific feature on your blog? I want that exact thing on mine, please.” So it’s like blatant copying (but paying me to do it), instead of “inspiration”, if that makes sense.

    1. Asking for help it’s fine. πŸ˜› It’s more like people saying, “See that very specific feature you have on your blog? I want that on mine.” I’m more concerned about the big things than smaller CSS snippets.

  2. I completely get what you mean! Although I haven’t experienced anything like this, I would feel the same way if put in a similar position. I’ve always wondered, you know, at how helpful you are and how you dont mind sharing a LOT of stuff that people would keep to themselves. So if there are little somethings you’d like to keep for yourself, especially the ones that make your blog what it is, I dont think it’s a big deal! πŸ˜€

    I think we’re all pretty lucky to have you helping us out with sticky coding stuff, anyways <3

    Fahima @ I Read, Ergo I Write recently posted: Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell
    1. Thank you Fahima! I really appreciate your thoughts. πŸ™‚ I think for me, there’s a difference between sharing general knowledge (which I’m happy to do), and giving away (or recreating something) that I spent hours/days slaving over to create. If I spent a ton of time on it and it’s a really unique feature on my blog, then I kind of want to treasure it and hold it close because I’m really proud of it. I think it’s originality would be lessened if suddenly everyone had it.

  3. I say keep those things for yourself. Most bloggers wouldn’t share nearly as much as you have, you know? I know this is an easy statement to make – and it’s not so easy to say no – but you wouldn’t want the whole blogosphere to eventually look just like your blog, right?

    Call me a Scrooge, but I think we all deserve to have our own stash of secrets.

    1. Yeah I think I can see the other side of it. I understand why someone would see a really cool feature and want it. And I know if I were that person, I might be frustrated if I couldn’t have it because it looks so damn cool. πŸ˜›

      It’s a tough situation!

  4. You are one of the most helpful and generous people I know, so if there’s something you don’t want to share…don’t share it! I definitely covet your blog and everything amazing that you create on it (um, the little ratings you have on your review comments now…love!), as I’m sure many people do, but you have to draw the line somewhere. It’s not fair for you to give everything away, whether you’re getting paid to or not. Don’t feel guilty for keeping something original for yourself! If the person is mature enough, they’ll understand where you’re coming from when you say no. If not, screw ’em! Don’t be afraid to say no.

    I don’t have that many original things, but one thing I’m proud of is Life of a Blogger (because that’s really the only special thing I have on my blog). Someone tried to take it a couple months ago and change it up to make it their own, and it was very frustrating and hurtful to see my work being used somewhere else. So I totally know how that can feel!

    Jessi @ Novel Heartbeat recently posted: Life of a Blogger: Food
    1. Aww thank you Jessi!! ♥ ♥ I seriously need to work on my saying “no” skills.

      I love Life of a Blogger! I can’t believe someone tried to take it. SHAME!

    1. Thank you Julie! I do want to share as much as I can, but there are a few creations that are super special to me, mostly because I spent a ton of time on them. Sometimes it just feels like a slap in the face when people basically say:

      “I want to blatantly copy something on your site, but it’s okay since I’m willing to pay you.”

      Of course that’s not a direct quote, but if you read between the lines, that is what’s happening. I have no idea how to respond to something like that!

  5. That is an (extremely) tricky situation. But it will keep coming and coming. I’m a few years ahead of you in development and I can really tell you this: clients will keep requesting “copy” of something else. I encountered the most “funny” requests: copy of a known game (including Mario Bros), full copy of a design, copy of… YouTube (yeah, sure…). The obviously illegal requests are easy to turn down. But when it comes to your own things, it’s trickier: it’s up to you to decide if you want to spread your creation or not. This is what I would tell myself if I could send myself a message to the past:
    1) Everything can be copied when it comes to code. Refusing to sell it doesn’t mean it won’t be replicated by someone else, as long as this someone-else has money to pay a (decent) developer. On the other end, it DOES cost money. People who want super-features-for-nothing-or-almost-nothing don’t really want to spend (a substantial amount of) money into one feature. You’re the only one who could (but maybe shouldn’t) sell it for a cheap price for the moment (since you already have the code). Bottom line: if you have very few requests, by people who wouldn’t order a copy from another developer, you’re safe to refuse. If you have a lot of requests or a client who will pay for a copy from someone else, you might want to consider selling yours.
    2) Your most “precious” code is the latest and rarest one. Old features loose value because well, they’re less “new” and they are more likely to have been coded by other people too. So maybe you could consider to sell your older creations, but always keep an exclusivity on your latest one.
    3) If you sell your creations, sell them the right price. Not the “cheap-because-it’s-done” price.

    1. Thank you Lily! You provided some good insight.

      I think I have trouble with it because the people who’ve asked me these things so far are all in the book blogging world, where there aren’t a ton of PHP developers. Sure, they could hire someone from outside the book blogging world, but I haven’t seen many book bloggers who’d actually do that. So when it’s just a few people, it usually would come down to: say yes and let them have the feature, or say no and they’ll probably never get it.

      I do like your idea of selling the older creations but hoarding the newer ones for a while!

  6. I know how you feel! I have a lot of people that will ask if they can do several things that I’ve done on my blog (my Save the Date feature one that’s been big) and I’ve honestly struggled with this because YAY inspiration and stuff and I want to be helpful and generous but it also makes me sad bc then it doesn’t feel original anymore. I did a If We Were Having Coffee post..I didn’t create it but I credited it to the blogger who did it who was outside of the blogging community. So I brought it into the book blogging community (not intended as like a meme or anything) but as something I thought I’d sporadically do and then suddenly TONS of them cropped up in the book blogging world..and then some people started doing it regularly and now, honestly, I don’t want to do it anymore. It’s hard. I usually say yes to people when they ask about stuff like that but I do struggle with it internally because I put a lot of work into being creative and now most of the things I’ve started in the past 4 years are seen other places. I don’t fault the people..we’ve all found things that we like and want to incorporate but it happens to me so often that I feel like my creativity gets lost πŸ™

    1. *obviously I didn’t start If We Were Having Coffee but it was something that wasn’t done in THIS space…I was inspired that so I don’t fault the occasional inspiration because it happens sometimes that we like something someone else did but I felt like it was an original thing to bring into THIS community (with credit). After I read my comment again I wasn’t sure if that was clear.

      1. I feel ya Jamie. It’s only kind of related, but since my review style is a bit different than the typical, I get touchy whenever I see bloggers switch to my exact format, even though I clearly don’t own that style of review. I used to get so many compliments on my review style since it was different than most, so I don’t want to lose that uniqueness factor but there isn’t a lot to be done when spin-offs start cropping up :-/ Other than come up with something else new I guess

    2. Thanks for sharing Jamie! I totally get how you feel about If We Were Having Coffee. It’s a huge bummer that you’re no longer inspired to do that. πŸ™ I think I’d feel the same way if everyone in the book blogging world started coming out with WordPress tips posts.

      It’s such a struggle to find the right balance though. If someone asks if they can use my feature (hypothetically), I’d feel like a right bitch for saying no. But then every time I’d say “yes”, I’d feel like I was losing piece of what made my blog special.

      It’s hard to know what the right thing to do is. πŸ™

      1. YES exactly that…that’s why I can’t say no…because its’ not like a bitchiness thing..I just want to still be original and unique. SIGH…but at the end of the day..I always just think it’s NOT the biggest deal in the world I guess (feature wise..not necessarily for your design bc that’s a big bigger of a deal). I like for people to feel passionate about something they do on their blog so I just think of it like that when I start feeling that way. And I try to feel honored that they thought my idea was something they’d like to replicate. But…still hard sometimes honestly! Even when I know it’s just natural to be inspired by things!

      2. “I’d feel like a right bitch for saying no.”

        Oh come on! Microsoft, Google, Samsung and all these guys don’t feel so bitchy about suing each other over “ideas” (even when the “idea” is just “a plastic frame with a touchscreen in the middle”!). Ideas and even more ideas-made-into-the-real-thing have a value, that’s why it’s not OK to copy or steal them.
        You can’t prevent people from copying your stuff, but it doesn’t mean you have to help them suck out all your ideas or worst: your hours of work! πŸ˜‰

        1. Ugh, I know! I just seriously seriously suck at saying no. This is true in every way, not just when it comes to design/development stuff. I get so many emails from people asking “How to do x on my blog”, and they basically want HTML or CSS snippets for free. Part of me is like:

          “I’ll just give them the bit of CSS. It’ll only take me 10 seconds to write it up.”

          But all of those emails add up quickly.. so the other part of me is like:

          “Grow some balls and say ‘no’ woman! You need to charge for that shit!”

          Saying no is a serious aspect of my life that I need to work on. XD

  7. Definitely a tough situation. In your situation of someone wanting something that takes coding, etc., I think you’re totally justified in deciding that you don’t want to sell those unique parts. Instead, maybe you can suggest a different spin and see if they’re interested in that? I dunno if that’s even possible given I have no idea what kind of things to which you’re referring ;-).

    Anya recently posted: Finding Diamonds in the Rough
  8. I think you should pick what feels good to you. It’s very understandable that you like to have those things for yourself! I think you already give enough to the blogging community with your helpful presence to say ‘no, this is my thing and I don’t want to give it to you.’ Just because they want to pay you for it doesn’t mean you should do everything they want πŸ™‚

    I think I would use a disclaimer pointing out the things you’re not willing to duplicate.

    Mel@thedailyprophecy recently posted: Early Review 249. Julie Kagawa – The forever song.
  9. I think, honestly, that a lot of those requests come from people not understanding how much work goes into the coding of some of your features. They also may not understand that they are unique features on your blog. I think it is clear from your blog and pretty much EVERYTHING THAT YOU DO that you want to help bloggers and serve as a resources in the community. So it would be completely professional and appropriate to say no. I agree with a comment above that you should note the features your want to hold as your own and put it in a policy somewhere — then you can just point to that so it’s not as personal. Someone might be sad that they can’t have that feature, but I can’t imagine them not understanding why you would want to protect your originality.

    I’m also guessing a lot of the “wanting” comes from bloggers not being able to think outside of the box and feel confident in their own creativity. They automatically look to what’s already been done, rather than trying new things. I think if you continue to do good custom work, people will be happy with their new blogs and (hopefully) realize that a single great feature isn’t the end-all be-all of a great blog.

    Tara @ The Librarian Who Doesn't Say Shhh! recently posted: Sex and Violence by Carrie Mesrobian | Review
  10. I’ve never really had this happen for something I’ve put on one of MY sites (might have back when I was book blogging, but I don’t recall)… however after doing Kristi’s latest design (The Story Siren) I’ve had a TON of people ask about the little categories & icons she has in her sidebar and next to a post/date which I’ve not seen anywhere but her site, personally. Over that I get a bit protective too, because I created that thing for a client, so is it right to turn around and use the same sort of feature for someone else? I’ve only done the categories setup like that for one other client and it made sense to do it for her – I’ve had some people request it but then for one reason or another it just didn’t make sense to do it (there were only 2-3 categories on their site, or none of their categories were really used often enough for them to be so prominent.) In that case I’d just explain to them why I don’t think it’s their best option.

    However in your case with your blog I see why it’s so difficult since this is your personal site – however I feel myself, as a designer it’s my responsibility to give a client what they want. (You know short of stealing someone else’s work, etc etc.) I probably, if I were you, wouldn’t be able to tell them no, or wouldn’t really be able to find the ground to. Yes, I want my site to be unique, BUT, this is also my job and I would have to treat it the way I would if they had found the feature on someone else’s site and wanted something similar.

    Having said that though, ultimately it’s your site and your career, so if you want to say no, I say go for it. If you want something to be unique to only you, politely decline. And of course, like Lily said above if you DO decide to do it make sure you do it for a fair price. Make sure people realize it is unique and in order to get that, they’re going to have to pay the reasonable price for it. And realistically, as she also said if someone wants it bad enough and you won’t do it, it doesn’t mean they won’t be able to find someone else to do it… so I personally think I’d rather the money to do it go to you…

    Anna recently posted: Introducing Emma
  11. I feel your pain because I am always struggling to be able to say “no” without guilt.
    In this particular case, I think you’re in a different situation that most bloggers because you are also a web designer/coder.
    I don’t get that invested in my own blogging ideas. A) they involve no original coding, etc. B) while I never copy an idea I’ve seen, it is possible for two people to have similar ideas and C) I get bored of my own ideas pretty fast, so I’m always trying to think of new ones. If someone copies an idea I have (and it has happened) I’ll just come up with something else.
    Great topic!

    Jen @ YA Romantics recently posted: Trending Thursday: The Faceless, Part II
  12. I guess the way I would look at this is:

    If someone hired you to design their blog, and they pointed to a site and said, see that very specific thing that they have on their blog? I want it on my re-design!

    You’d have to say no, right? Because it would be infringing on the owner’s content.

    You saying no isn’t because you don’t want to help someone, it’s because you don’t want to infringe on the owner’s rights to the content. You just happen to be the owner!

  13. I’ve never really had a very “unique” feature on my blog, but I understand why you’d want to preserve some of the unique featuers that you have on yours! It must’ve taken you a long time to perfectly tweak everything until it did exactly what you wanted, and if you have to share it, it’s always feels like it’s not as special anymore. I feel like telling the person that it’s personalized for your blog is totally normal because it’s your feature and you definitely have the right to deny a request because it’s yours and you worked really hard on it!

    Eileen @ Singing and Reading in the Rain recently posted: I Wanna Be Yours by Arctic Monkeys
  14. Ashley, I understand both sides. However, I must side with you and tell you to keep the stuff that is original and special to you, for YOU. It keeps you unique. A true blogger will understand this and hopefully respect it.

    You are wonderfully kind and a joy to work with. I was amazed at how fast you work. While it may take you seconds to do something, some of us may take minutes or even hours (because we may have to look it up and try to figure it out), I am happy to pay you for your time. You have no idea the headache you saved me from. Seriously, looking at code makes me dizzy sometimes. Sure, I might be able to do the really small stuff, but I definitely plan on going to you again if I need help. I am happy to pay for your time because you save mine from endless hours of tinkering around. Besides, your time is valuable too. πŸ˜€

    By the way, I love the new blog look and congratulations on getting married. I wish you much continued happiness.

    Julie at Being Home recently posted: Super Simple DIY Tile Backsplash – Tutorial
  15. I think you have every right to say – this is mine, sorry! I don’t think anyone would blame you for it, your so helpful and generous with your tips. I know every time I ask you for help (I just put in a ticket, for example) I worry that you’ll feel I’m taking advantage – I think with people like me we often don’t realize that what we’re asking for is difficult or not something that any blog could have easily, but if you just tell us, we completely understand. I’ve always wondered how you do your homepage tabs with the Latest, Popular, and Upcoming – but since I haven’t seen that ANYWHERE else, I’ve also always felt that it was really unique to you. So if people were to ask for that, for example, I would see nothing wrong with saying no.

    Anyway – thanks for always being so helpful and generous, but take care of you πŸ™‚

    Berls @ Fantasy is More Fun recently posted: First Impression by Pauline Creeden |Book Tour & Review
  16. I mean.. if it is something special to you then by all means say no. There is the internet. I have asked bloggers questions and they haven’t helped me and then I go asking my coding husband to do it. LOL. There is google and almost everything can be found on the internet. It took me FOREVER to figure out coding to get hearts to fall on one post only and when I say forever I mean FOREVER. But I did it with the power of google. Here it is: (still proud of it!).

  17. I’ve never felt the need to hoard any unique features found on my blog. I’ve always loved to share and if that helps the people then why not? I’ve seen unique features on other blogs and I don’t even care anymore. No idea is naturally original is what I think.

    I get the whole sharing the design and coding thing because that takes a ton of work. It’s always sooo hard to stand out and be original, especially design wise. Definitely don’t blame you for being torn! We’re only human after all.

  18. Personally I woulnt share what you have on your blog.. what you have should be set aside from others.. If it was me in this situation I would feel bad about saying no but there are too many copy-cats out there and people wanting what others have..

  19. I totally get what you’re saying. There is nothing wrong with keeping things for yourself, especially if you created them and you’re not quite ready to sell it. When you’re ready to sell, if ever, then great. I think most people understand that they can’t have something and if they don’t then maybe they’re just a little immature. The bottom line is you shouldn’t feel guilty about saying no sometimes. Especially with all the good that you do for book bloggers and creativity that you’ve shared already.

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