How One Freelancer Almost Killed My Blog – Hiring a freelancer should have helped me. Instead, it cost my business more than I can ever make back.
I’ve got to tell you, I’m still sick to my stomach.
Recently, I got an email from a big blogger saying that I had infringed on her copyright. And that I had a printable that was almost exactly a copy of hers. She even included a link.
Floored, sickened, horrified, mortified, worried out of my skull… and so many more emotions all in one second.
As bloggers, you get that one of our biggest fears ever is getting in trouble with another blogger. Especially if it’s legal trouble.
Let me back track a bit for you because this might sound a lot like you, and I don’t want you to have this happen to you like it did to me.
First, I am pouring my heart out here with this so that you can avoid the same mistake that I did. There was no doubt in my mind about this: I needed to share what happened with you.
Second, this situation is truly and utterly embarrassing to even talk about. Not because anything at all was intentional, but because of just how obvious it was that I was just plain dumb.
A few months ago, I started using a woman on Fiverr to create printables for me. I can’t make them look good to save my life and I felt like it was time to get serious about making printables. After all, every good blogger has good printables, right?
She made beautiful printables! They were the kind that people would pay probably $100 or more per page to have. I counted myself lucky to have found her!
Of course, I’d heard the Fiverr warning stories: the “you get what you pay for” warnings from people who paid $5 for awful logos or business cards. So I hesitantly went through with my purchase. My logic was that if it was awful, it was just $5 and I could get it back if I really wanted to.
So I went for it. And it was better than I could have hoped.
She did exactly what I asked for and then some. I was thrilled to be able to have someone to create high-quality printables for me!
For months, I asked her to create multiple printables for me. Each time, the printable was exactly what I asked for and was even better than I could have hoped.
That was when I made a huge mistake.
I told her the bloggers who I loved and said that she should sign up for their lists to get an idea of the types of printables that they offered. I wanted to compete with the quality of my favorite top bloggers.
This was the can of worms that spiraled into a nightmare for me. And I didn’t even know it.
Months later, I asked for a specific printable for a specific post. As always, she sent me the $5 printable and I was in love. It was everything that I wanted… like it always was.
Without so much as a second thought, I added it to my page. I made it an email freebie to bring people to my list, and went about my day, promoting the post and sharing it wherever I could.
Not one month later, I got a terrible email. The one about the copyright infringement.
Trust was broken, not just for this big blogger and myself, but now I questioned everything that this Fiverr designer had ever made me.
I trusted that she was going to make great printables. That inspiration would go no further than inspiration and not into full blown copying.
But sure enough, I found myself on Google images searching my own printables and email freebies and seeing other peoples’ work come up in the search results.
I couldn’t move. I was frozen. Just completely dumbfounded.
Guys. This REALLY happened. This isn’t one of those “I heard about one blogger…” type of stories. This happened to me.
I trusted that someone who was charging such a low price was still able to make beautiful, high-quality work. I trusted her implicitly.
Dumb. That’s the only word that I can use to describe myself right now. I felt (and still feel) so dumb.
How did I not see that this was what was going on? How is it possible that I kept ordering from her and believing that this quality and imagination and vision was possibly coming from this woman?
I don’t know. But I believed it.
I was sold, hook line and sinker. I bought it all.
The blame rests on me for not thinking that something was wrong. That this was just a hidden gem of the world who I should hire to work for me. That I didn’t see what was happening.
There’s no way that I can make this better or take away the harm and damage that has been done to other bloggers. Blogger who, by the way, I love and admire and hold in such high regard.
The trust is broken. The faith is gone.
I can’t undo that. No amount of apologizing or trying to make amends will take it back.
My warning to you is this: be careful.
Be careful with who you choose to hire. Be careful with the amount of freedom that you give them to work with.
Don’t think that when you pay someone $5 to make a full-page, full-color, full-content printable that you are going to be able to give them full creative range and freedom.
And it might not be just a printable for you. It could be anything.
What happens if your logo infringes on a copyright? Or the cover of an ebook that you ordered is a direct rip off of someone else? What if the image that you got on your Pinterest image was just the result of a Google search without paying for the proper attribution?
We put so much trust in the people who we hire to help. Whether it’s a contractor or a full-time employee. It’s so easy for us as bloggers to forget that, at the end of the day, an oversight like this doesn’t make the employee look bad… it will make you, the blogger, look bad.
I was the bad guy. I was the jerk who stole someone else’s work. Even when I didn’t actually make the printable itself on my own computer, I am the face of my company. It doesn’t reflect poorly on her alone. It all comes back to me.
I don’t in any way, shape or form want pity. More than anything I wanted to warn you.
This can easily happen to you, too.
I consider myself a pretty good person. I believe in reciprocity and giving back. I believe in sharing and helping as much as you can. Don’t lie, steal, or cheat. Pay your taxes… the whole shebang!
As bloggers, never in a million years would any of us seek out to hurt each other. The blogging community is a tight community. We look out for each other and have each other’s backs.
When you are wrong or you have been wronged, I urge you to please take the route of the big blogger who emailed me.
She was firm (and rightly so!), but she was also kind and understanding. Although she could have easily thrown a lawsuit at me and ruined my life, she simply asked that I take down the printable.
When I (GLADLY!) obliged, she was very thankful and kind. There were no idle threats about ruining reputations or ending someone’s blogging career. There was understanding on a deep level.
Of course, there was lots of apologizing and explaining what had happened, but the reality is still that I will never be able to earn back that trust. A bridge has been burned that I don’t think will ever be able to be rebuilt.
I’ll be damned if that will stop me from reaching out and trying to rebuild, but I know that trust takes time and it’s something that is lost quickly but takes a lifetime to rebuild.
I still don’t want your pity. I do want you to remember this: we are all people behind out blogs. Things get messed up. Life gets messy. We either accidentally or intentionally hurt each other sometimes.
From the bottom of my still-shaking and very grateful heart, I want you to please remember to be kind.
Even when someone wrongs you. Even if they take your stuff and post it as your own. Even if you’re coming face-to-face with someone who has wronged you.
And if you don’t have the opportunity to be kind, be humble.
Admit when you’re wrong. Do the right thing. Ask to help. Offer help and support where you can. Change your tune. Make sure that you don’t make the same mistake again.
Admit mistakes when you’re wrong, be kind and understanding when you can, and always remember that no one but you represent your blog and your brand.
At the end of the day, your reputation can’t be left up to someone on Fiverr.
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