Last month I received a message from a young woman asking for advice.
I’m not sure if you take topic requests or even have the time to consider them, but if you have a chance could you please cover on how not to tell everyone your ideas, and know that you cannot work with everyone.
I was networking with a blogger that I went to college with and I brought an idea to her attention that we could do together, and she took it and ran with it and it kind of hurt my feelings because it was about attending an event.
I just would love to hear your perspective on this, if you have time.
Protecting your ideas can be tough. And these days, when we share so much of ourselves on social media, it can be damn near impossible to keep a good idea to yourself.
When the muse strikes, our first inclination may be to share our genius idea with the world, but unless you want someone else capitalizing on your hard work (or your insomnia), you might want to keep it to yourself.
Exhibit A: Happy Black Girl Day
About two years ago, writer Jamilah Lemieux had the idea to start a monthly holiday called “Happy Black Girl Day,” in which black women from across the digital diaspora would celebrate what’s great about being a sista.
After the media’s laser focus on what’s “wrong” with black women (we’re apparently unmarried, poor, too educated, too independent, dying of every disease, and fat), Jamilah thought a monthly shot of positivity would do black women good.
The idea spread like wildfire. Soon bloggers and Twitter users were wishing each other #HappyBlackGirlDay every month like clockwork. And what began as a reactionary, hastily planned Twitter hashtag blossomed into something much, much larger.
Of course, people took notice, and when Jamilah tried to buy the “Happy Black Girl Day” domain name, she found out it was already taken by another prominent black female blogger who purchased it after the movement gained steam.
Deflated, Jamilah took to Twitter to air out her grievances with the other blogger, but there was little she could do but get angry.
So, what’s the lesson?
When you have an idea and you notice people beginning to respond to it, lock it down.
Buy the domain name (even if you’re not sure what you’ll ever do with it), trademark the phrase and protect your future brand. You’ll be happy you did so later.
Despite knowing this, it took a phone call from friend and fellow blogger Marie Denee, of the über popular blog The Curvy Fashionista, to drive the point home.
Although she’s one of the nicest people I’ve met, Marie is serious about her business. Her blog is on the verge of turning four and she knows a thing or two about folks trying to capitalize off of her hard work. Over the years Marie has had to sue (or threaten to sue) folks who tried to appropriate her brand, so when she called to tell me to protect myself I listened.
During our phone call Marie reminded me of the importance of getting the legal paperwork done so that no one would be able to stick me for my future paper.
While I started the #GOALdiggers Facebook group for personal reasons (I wanted to build a supportive network of people), it’s grown in tremendous ways and, as she pointed out, it was time to protect what I built.
Though I saw my little movement as just that—little—Marie reminded me that people are drawn to positivity and it could grow larger than I ever imagined (and it already has).
I walked away from our conversation a little scared, but determined to protect myself. The result? I’m in the process of trademarking my brand name (which I will tell you about when it’s all said and done), and I’m excited that no one will be able to capitalize on my hard work.
Many of us didn’t start blogging or hashtagging things on the web because we thought it would be profitable. We simply love what we do. But life has a way of leading us in the direction we may never have thought we would go, but totally needed to.
If you have an idea you hope to see grow, my advice is this:
Keep it to yourself, or only tell a very small trustworthy group of people, until it’s actually a reality.
Be careful about who you partner with. If you don’t know the person very well, or if they haven’t always proved themselves to be trustworthy to others, don’t work with them. Even if they’re your friend.
Trademark your blog name, catch phrase, or brand name. Sure it’ll cost you a few hundred dollars and a whole lot of time, but it’ll be worth it in the end.
Buy the domain name, register the Twitter handle, and lock down the Facebook account.
Stay vigilant and protect what you are building, even if it’s not very much just yet.