show my portfolio and have my ideas pilfered?

this question is asked with trepidation by copywriters, and by anyone who shares creative work: scriptwriters, authors pitching books, inventors, app developers, fashion and graphic designers. it’s a question of trust, and the answer is obvious. you must share your ideas or they’ll gather dust, and someone else will think of them eventually anyway — or something very close that will arouse your suspicion.

there are precautions you can take. you can password-protect your online portfolio (you need an online portfolio) or you can send a pdf of your work, but the best defense is to forge a good working relationship with anyone who wants to view your portfolio. the idea being that the real thing (you, hired) is so much more prolific and reliable than a one-off cheap theft, even if you’re simply kept in mind for a later hire.

also, your attitude should be “help yourself — there are 50,000 more where that one came from” because if you’re a working copywriter, then you’re in the business of generating endless ideas. you’re an idea fountain, tapped into an eternal flame of creativity.

if someone does steal your idea, feel sorry for that pathetic person with such a limited imagination. it’s better to have an endless bounty than to be the empty shell of a person who grubs around for someone else’s ideas.  but keep in mind that people really do come up with eerily similar ideas – i’ve seen it happen often in classes.

i once sent a script to a friend at Paramount, and a year later a movie that was clearly my script was released with a virtually identical plot, and the same beginning and ending. flabbergasted, i researched the screenwriter and discovered that “my movie” was actually based on his own book, which was conveniently published well before i had ever written the script. so sometimes ideas are just in the air.

don’t worry about someone purloining your unique concepts, worry more about presenting them before someone else does.

have you ever had someone lift your idea? if so, what did you do about it?

kim taylor

for more information on our membership and events, visit The Copy Lab.

6 truths and a lie: what copywriters should know about working in the ad industry


  1. there’s really only 1 rule in advertising, and it’s to resonate with your target audience. however you manage to do that is fine.
  2. just as every family differs, every agency has its own culture, so your experience as a copywriter will never be the same from agency to agency.
  3. some copywriters can’t spell simple words, but their ideas are brilliant.
  4. it’s rare that everyone in your target range will love an ad – it’s successful if most people like it.
  5. award-winning campaigns don’t always translate to increased sales for the client, rendering them unsuccessful from the client’s viewpoint.
  6. to be an effective copywriter, you should try to understand the nuances of the culture you live in across all age groups, education levels, ethnicities and lifestyles.


  1. it’s untrue that a copywriter’s age, education level, ethnicity or lifestyle will determine whether or not he she or he can achieve #5 above. appearances can be deceptive; sometimes the person with the most bravado has the worst creative ideas, and the retiring wallflower in the corner can stun with a wildly intricate, perfect concept. sometimes it’s the person in his twenties who shuns social media and the man in his sixties who loves it. sometimes everyone has to get into the head of a seven year old girl for a campaign, and it could be the guy in the Yankees hoodie who does it best. i’ve learned that you just never know.

kim taylor

for more information on our membership and events, visit The Copy Lab.