There is nothing as horrifying popping into the studio on a Tuesday afternoon to open a letter from a law firm that is suing you for copyright infringement because of your branding.
I started my first business, my branding studio in 2009. I loved to share lifestyle mood boards and artfully express my love of delightfully eclectic spaces, bright colors, detailed patterns and events through a beautifully curated blog.
I also shared how-to’s, and ideas for branding and advice for creative entrepreneurs. My blog quickly gained traction and brought in clients. Step Brightly was featured on Apartment Therapy, West Elm, many event and lifestyle blogs, and my branding business was thriving.
Building lifestyle mood boards is extremely common in my industry, everyone was doing it, it’s how we shaped our “look” our “style” our “brand.” I would always cite my sources and give praise, naively thinking that was enough because everybody does it…Then—years later, I received this letter.
I reached out to my friend Patrice Perkins, who is a beautifully relatable and down-to-earth lawyer for creative entrepreneurs, founder of Creative Genius Law. She told me there was no way around it, I had to pay in full and take down any image on my site that I didn’t own or had permission to use.
That was literally 85% of my blog, I’m in the visual design industry for god’s sake.
I was crushed. I spent weeks furious at myself, feeling like a fraud, this brought up every imposter syndrome, every moment of “Who are you? Who are you to be a branding expert when you can’t even take care of your own business?”
I was an amateur, a phony, a thief and had lost $3K and all of my self-esteem.
At the heart of it, I came out with 2 life and career altering insights that I want to share with you:
How I was showing up online wasn’t me.
Literally, I was stealing other people’s images and putting them on my website to “represent” me and my artfully crafted lifestyle. I created a mask to hide behind because I didn’t see the power in being me.
Digging deeper, I was terrified of being judged.
God forbid someone doesn’t like me! I noticed how this way of being “just enough” was showing up everywhere in my life: I would charge just enough so people would work with me. I would dress just enough so people would notice me, but not too much. I would hide my hot mess so people would think I had it all together like these artfully curated lifestyle images.
What a bunch of bullshit.
Joseph Campbell said, “if the path before you is clear, you are probably on someone else’s.”
I was on the wrong path, I was following the industry. And when you are a follower you are not a leader.
I asked for support.
I did deeply intensive work with a life and leadership coach and had a massive mindset shift.
Together, my coach and I defined who I authentically am, and I own it.
I’m a badass, magic-making, light bulb. I am radiance, wonder, bliss, power, and love. I am a recovering perfectionist.
Showing up as YOU is the most powerful brand anyone can have.
I realized that behind every brand, every “lifestyle” this-or-that is a human being and that human being is the brand. There is nothing more unique, beautiful, authentic than you.
You are your biggest asset, showing up online as anyone else is a mask.
Sure, there are TONS of other brand design studios that are better than mine, there are lifestyle bloggers and leadership coaches that are worlds beyond what I do, but my people, the clients that I want to work with are drawn to what’s behind that mask.
I want to challenge you to see where you are masking yourself in your business. Are you showing up as you, or hiding behind someone else’s lifestyle? What is it truly costing you to show up that way? $3,000? $6,000? More?
Take a look at your clientele…who are you attracting? Is working with them exhausting because you have to keep up the appearance of your mask?
Imagine taking off your mask and being you. Take a break. Share from a place of authenticity. Just watch the clients…the right clients that will light you up…come flooding in.
I want to encourage you to share with someone you know who is struggling to define who they are in their business or brand. If you know someone who is trying to find their people, their target audience, or their business is at a standstill and they don’t know why…Consider that their magic is right behind the mask.
—Be bright, Lisa