The reason it's so difficult to talk about because I take it so personal and have poured 10 years of hard work into my business.
To have something like this happen...has been so incredibly hard.
SOMEONE STOLE MY DIGITAL PRODUCTS
I had someone steal my products, upload them for the world to download for free, and had to deal with the fall-out behind the scenes because of it for months. To say it was hard would be an understatement. For a long time, I had no idea this had even happened. It wasn't until I suddenly saw a drop in sales that made me wonder what had happened.
I had a solid business, great products, and a killer marketing strategy in place. I built my dream business. Months went by until I decided to take a closer look at what happened and discovered the problem.
My best selling products, stolen by a stranger, uploaded for free, for the world to download.
This wasn't the first time someone had stolen my products. Sadly, I see it happen all the time. It was just the first time this had happened and really affected how my business was doing financially.
HOW IT FELT
First, I was angry, so angry. Angry at this person for taking what I had worked so hard to build. Then the sadness kicked in. Then doubt. Then some more anger. I questioned what the point was of building a business when someone could come in and just take what they wanted without any consequences.
THE TRUTH: THERE'S VERY LITTLE YOU CAN DO
There's very little you can do when digital products are stolen, and the damage that occurs because of it happens so incredibly fast.
In the 10 years of being in business, it has been the HARDEST thing I've had to deal with, and I've never had something made me question what I was doing creatively as much as this.
After a lot of hard work and trying many different things, I managed to get my stolen products taken down. The sad part is that they were up for months without me being aware. Regardless, the damage from having this happened can't be undone. The only thing I can do now is move forward.
The really sad part about it is that this site is still up, and this person if earning money by stealing other people's products and letting the world download them for free.
As a creative business, it sickens me to know that there are people that think it's OK to do this.
It also makes me sad knowing that there are photographers and other creative people that go to these sites to download products for free, knowing they are stolen instead of purchasing them from the actual creator who put so much time into making them.
THIS IS THEFT AND IT'S NOT OK
People might think it's an innocent thing to do, that it's just them doing it, but here's the truth; I am a small business, and pour my heart into what I do because it's what I love. My family of 5 depending on my business financially. This is not a side hobby, this is what we count on and I know so many other small businesses that are in the same boat. So when someone downloads something for free online...I hope they realize it will affect that creator in a negative way.
It's not innocent.
It's not OK.
And as someone who works in the photography industry as a photographer AND creator, I know how common it is for photographers to share digital products. To split costs and do a group buy. To trade preset packs and digital products. I've seen threads on Reddit from photographers, specifically asking for my preset collections and listing what all they would be willing to trade for.
I see it happen all the time and know that it's not just happening to me and my business, but is a massive problem in the digital product world.
What bothers me most about it is because I know the people that are doing it, are photographers. Photographers who are also trying to make a living doing what they love. Photographers who want to be booked by clients who value them, their time, and hard work. I know how much it would hurt them to have clients who just took screenshots of the gallery instead of purchasing prints or digitals from them. They are no different than me. They want to be valued.
Sometimes I wonder how a photographer, in the same creative industry as me, would be OK with stealing from someone online.
THIS WASN'T THE FIRST TIME MY PRODUCTS STOLEN
The first time I found one of my digital items stolen and posted for free I remember reaching out to the other creators whose products were next to mine. I explained what had happened, how upsetting it was, I knew they would be just as upset as me and that if we all stood up together, we could make a change. maybe even put an end to it.
Sadly this is what she said;
"Don't bother...There's nothing you can do and talking about it will only make it worse so don't bring it up anywhere".
I left that conversation with my head hanging low because I knew they were right. There was so little I could do, and bringing it up could potentially make the problem even worse by drawing more attention to it.
But after having this happen, at such a large scale, I knew I was done being quiet about it because it's a problem that affects so many small businesses, and I want people to realize it's not ok.
I WANTED TO QUIT
I had days of wanting to quit because when you spend 10 years building something from the ground up and then have something like this happen, you feel so knocked down from it.
Then, after all the sadness and plenty of support from my husband, who I don't know how many times had to lift me up over the last few months and remind me that I had it in me to do bigger and better things, I decided that he was right.
Just because something like this happened doesn't mean that I couldn't take what I had learned over the 10 years and apply it in a new way.
I took some time to take a look at my business and how I want to move forward and know in my heart that I want to make some changes. To focus not just on one aspect of what I am good at, but the many things I enjoy doing.
TIME FOR CHANGE
The truth is; there's still plenty of sad days and a little anger towards this stranger, but more so, there's a drive-in me to do something even more amazing. To use this to push me past my self made limits of what is possible and try something new.
Sometimes bad things in life happen, and they are out of our control. But deciding how to move forward will always be up to us.
CHOOSING TO SEE OPPORTUNITIESWe can choose to see the opportunities rather than feel defeated. We can see hard times as things that strengthen us in the long run.
I'll continue working hard, just in a new way. I'm putting the days of sadness, anger, doubt behind.
CHANGE IS UNCOMFORTABLE BUT NECESSARYHere's what I know for sure; Change is uncomfortable but necessary.
My biggest wish is for you to be here for it all. I'm turning a new page, with a new dream and, most importantly, hope.
The last few months were incredibly hard, but I'm more than ever excited about what's to come. To each of you who have shown support to me and my business; thank you for always being there. You have no idea how much that means.
This wasn't easy to share, it wouldn't have been easier to just keep it all to myself, but I felt it was important to share what happened so I can truly put it behind me and move forward.
I spent the last week re-vamping my homepage and re-organizing the blog and want to put more effort into adding new content here to help all of you.
HERE'S WHAT I'LL BE DOING NEXTAfter 10 years of being in business, I've built a striving photography business, a million-dollar e-commerce site, and The Essential Studio Manager, which is a software used by thousands of photographers around the world to manage their photography business.
Simply put; I bring a lot of knowledge to the table when it comes to building businesses, managing, and scaling. I love taking ideas, making a plan, and making it happen. It's what I love to do, and it ties perfectly into what I love to do. Helping other business owners build and scale their own business.
DOCUMENTING THE PROCESSI remember when I first reached 7-figures and how much I wish I would have documented my actual process from the very start. Now, I get to chance to do precisely that.
To share my process with all of you. The hard times. The good times. The things that failed and the strategies that work. You'll get a front-row seat, and can learn so much from watching me do it all over again.
I'll be using my blog to document all aspects of building a business. My thought process behind making decisions. Putting my plans into actions and measuring what's working so I can continue to scale.
There are big things ahead, I can feel it.
I can't wait to share everything I know with you, so you can use these same methods with making your dreams a reality too.
Here's to bigger and better things.