{Handmade Business in 31 Days — Day 5, How to handle copycats.}

Day 5// Ohhh, this is hurts a little to talk about. It’s never fun to handle copycats. It’s never fun to be called a copycat. Over the years I’ve had to do both: decide how to follow up with a so-called copycat + defend myself when called one. And nearly from the beginning I have found this to be true: It’s never appropriate to point a “I’m disappointed in you” finger at others.

The online world is a sensitive one. Situations blow up quicker than we can blink. Feelings get hurt. Brands get destroyed. In most cases, my experience with copycats is to let it go. There are rare occasions when a more serious action is required, but in most cases it’s best to take a deep breath and let some time pass before letting it fade away. Why? Because you’ll {often} never know for sure if it was a try case of The Copycat. I will absolutely admit I’ve called others a copycat. It felt powerful at first but later on I felt terrible. And I’ve seen others call their neighbor a copycat and you know what? Both are pure ugly. It never ends well and it’s never a situation I want to be associated with. Apologize if you’ve wrongly done this and wipe the slate clean.

I’ve also experienced situations where a fellow crafter/friend and I released product with the exact same fabrics AT THE EXACT SAME TIME and had truly no clue the other was going to do so. Yes, that is a true story. See how easy it is for a wrongful accusation to occur? The handmade industry is heavily populated with super talented designers, creators + marketers, and it’s so easy for an overlap to occur. Please — trust my guidance here when I say it’s most often best to just let it go.

Of course if someone is scraping your blog word-for-word, or is literally reproducing your logo or custom design, or is creating an online account with your name — consider saying something {but proceed delicately}. But know that it’s super easy to become overly upset when really there’s nothing to be upset about in the first case.

ACTION STEPS FOR BOTH SIDES OF THE COPYCAT SITUATION:

  • Take a deep breath.
  • Take the afternoon off + enjoy a creative day.
  • DO NOT (!!!) share your frustrations via social media or email.
  • Screenshots + hurtful words can’t be deleted.

Homework// Search for materials, color palettes, textures, product designs + word usages that are unique to you by taking your initial idea and re-creating it differently. Take your idea to the next level. Customize it. Sit on it for a day or five. Re-create it once more. Allow your idea to become marbleized through this process. When you feel comfortable with your idea put on your shield of bravery + move forward. Don’t let others words bring you down. And allow what you experience to continue to mold you into your best self.

Is this something you’ve had to deal with? How do you deal with copycats, and what were the results? {Please do not share names or give examples via links.}

 

read all posts from our “31 days” series

Comments

  1. 1

    says

    Yep. these days it seems like there are so many people doing the same thing, and I’ve realized it’s important to focus on your own products and truly making them your own. It’s hard when your from a small town and you post something on your social media site and a day later another local crafter posts pretty much the same thing…saying ‘it’s been in the works for a long time.’ Annpying, but you’re right, in the end it was better that I kept my mouth shut!

    • 2

      says

      @Jenna, I totally understand. I think it speaks so loudly when you build a brand with unique ideas –and others learn + trust that from you. There will be times when ideas overlap between people, but being known for your uniqueness will back you up. Thanks for the comment! xoxo

  2. 3

    says

    Good for you for rising above! I have to admit that I have seen a “copycat” of a Gussy bag somewhat locally, and it made my blood boil! I’m am fiercely loyal, lol. Anyway, I tried not to let it bother me, and I just left it. No reason to buy it when I can get the real thing :)

  3. 5

    says

    I’ve never had to deal with a copy cat but I do at times wonder how original my work is. A lot of the things that I make are a result of looking around for something and not being able to to find just what I want. Hair accessories are not a new idea. Earrings are not a new idea. Bracelets are not new. It’s how we interpret them. With that, I think there will always be some overlap. I agree that it is so important not to jump the gun when seeing something out there that feels like “ours.”

  4. 6

    says

    Hi! I stumbled on your blog through facebook and I’m so glad I did!! My Etsy shop is in desperate need of a revamp, and I know your posts will be helpful! So thank you for sharing! :)

  5. 9

    says

    I needed this post today. It’s something that I’m dealing with now, have dealt with before, and will probably continue to deal with. I try really hard to examine myself and make sure that when I’m “inspired” by someone else’s work, that it is merely that, an inspiration from which I build something that is uniquely my own. But I suppose others may have difficulty having the creativity to make things their own. It just bugs me and I don’t know which is worse: to blatantly copy someone or to do it without even being aware that you are doing so? Thanks for the great post!

  6. 11

    gloria cook says

    I understand completely. I’ve been at my craft for over a dozen years. I don’t pinerest, google, read books on the subject…..i just create! It’s hard when a customer shows me a photo and says “i want that”. I do feel like a copycat. I think uniqueness is not valued high enough. It’s hard sometimes staying outside the box and still appeal to the masses. My only advice is, keep on doing what you love and know to be true. You and your Heavenly Father know the source and that just has to be good enough <3

      • 13

        says

        @Angie @ gathered and sown, I think you can be totally honest with a customer/client and say, “What you’re doing is asking me to copy another artists design and that isn’t something I can do. If you’d like to work with me by using my unique ideas I’d love to create something just for you. Thank you for understanding + preserving the concept of original artwork.”

  7. 14

    says

    I stopped putting out patterns because the first two were copied. I’m just now getting back to pattern drafting, like you say you never really know if it was copied or not. I heard a quote somewhere I wish I could find it – said something like – you will not have a unique idea, so infuse your unique self into your ideas….I’m totally loving your Business series.

  8. 17

    says

    I relate to every word of this post…and it is so hard to let it go. Thank you for the encouraging words!! It’s especially hard when you know the person who keeps ripping you off….ugh!! Thanks for the great reminders to just let it go…let it go…let it go.

  9. 18

    says

    I don’t have an Etsy shop but I’m wondering how people deal with other people who make tutorials of what they’re selling. I see so many tutorials on Pinterest but I know I’ve seen people have these things in their shop. Just curious? (I hope that made sense) :)

    • 19

      says

      @Summer Crosbie, Most tutorials have reproduction guidelines, saying whether it’s OK to reproduce for commercial and/or personal use. It’s important these guidelines are followed, too. A tutorial/pattern is just as unique as a finished, tangible product.

  10. 20

    says

    This is a great series! I’ve been on both ends of this as well. Ironically, the person who has copied me the most once turned around and called me a copycat. It’s hurtful when someone not just takes your ideas, but your wording and mimics your style. It used to really get under my skin…it’s a sensitive issue, let’s face it….especially when you work so hard at what you do, but I agree with the “take a deep breath” and letting it go. Everything I make has a story behind it…a place where the inspiration struck. I create from my heart and will continue to do so. Ah, and your ‘homework” part, constantly reinventing is so great and so true. Being inspired by life events, creating from the heart and being passionate about what one does as a designer/indie biz owner is what I keep my focus on moving forward. :)

    • 21

      says

      @Jaime, It’s definitely super hard to take a deep breath, but it’s the right thing to do. It doesn’t take away the hurt, I’m not saying that at all :) But, it’s the Christian thing to do. Be kind to our neighbors. Keep on creating with the gifts we’ve been given. I’m not perfect at this, but I know this is how I should be acting…

  11. 23

    says

    I’ve had friends request me to make something from a 31 catalog. I just tell them nope! I’m not a short order sewer. Buy it from the company. I have my line of items that I’m focusing on. It’s not worth my time to make something new from a pattern I have to make & only do it one time. I make things that I enjoy making.

  12. 26

    says

    Love this post! Particularly the last paragraph. In an online world that is so saturated with bloggers, designers, and creative women, it can be hard to find your own voice and come across as original. When I have challenged myself to sit on a design for a few days, I almost ALWAYS come up with a way to improve it and make more “my own.” And I’m never sorry that I spent that extra time with it. No one can copy originality like that consistently. I think copy-catters will always find their own demise eventually; I can usually sniff them out once I spend some time on their blog or shop, and chances are, others can too.

    • 27

      says

      @Amy T., Yep, complete agree. If it happens once a year, nothing to be concerned about. It’s GOING to happen! I think more people need to recognize that. However, when a shop is consistently filled with items found in other shops… that’s just stinky! xo

  13. 28

    says

    This is great food for thought. I often question myself over whether I’m being original or not, with Pinterest and all the crafty blogs I follow, I wonder where the line falls between “inspired by” and “copied from,” if that makes sense. I once read a quote that said something like, we get so attached to our original ideas, without realizing that God is the true author of creativity and every idea really comes from Him and belongs to Him. That kind of takes the pressure off when someone copies you, because the idea wasn’t truly yours to begin with. Whoever said that said it much better than I can paraphrase it, but that was the jist.

  14. 33

    Valeri says

    Maggie is right…take the high road and don’t say a word. I was very successful on Etsy in 2007 and was actually able to leave my day job. Then my copy cats started popping up (one even copied my profile). I lost so much sleep at night. So much that I sold my business and went back to my day job. Even more devastating I found out most of my copy cats were people in my life who saw how successful my product was and used my techniques to create their own Etsy shops. You must take the higher road. Don’t give up. Copy cats won’t last long. They’re only in it for the money. They have no heart and they will fade. Be strong and always take the higher road as Maggie says. Don’t post mean comments. It makes you look foolish and unsure of your product. Great post.

  15. 34

    says

    I have a pretty successful Etsy shop selling hand made infinity scarves. No, the sewing isn’t rocket science, it’s the inspiration of seeing gorgeous fabrics and choosing which one or combinations of fabrics that would look best as a fashion scarf.
    Copycats? Absolutely. It tore me up more than a few times to see a carbon copy of some of my most popular scarf patterns in other shops. I was so frustrated. My best advice? DO NOT ACTIVELY SEARCH FOR COPYCATS! That includes searching for and “stalking” similar artisans and their shops. If I happen to randomly run across a copycat product I *try* to ignore it, unless it is blatant continued outright copying I’m going to keep my mouth shut! I try to just keep enjoying my craft and keep creating beautiful products that my sweet customers love! I’m running my shop to the best of my ability and am in love with the creative process of designing, always adding that personal touch – that’s something that can’t be copied :)

  16. 35

    says

    Back when I started making my banners I didn’t even look to see if others made a similar item, it was something I made for my own home and it just sort of grew from there. I thought it was so cute and original and then I realized I wasn’t the only one with the brilliant idea! It can be really hard to be truly original and it is easy to jump to conclusions. The best you can do is do what you do to the best of your ability. This is good advice because all that energy spent getting ticked off about a copycat only takes away from your creative energy.

  17. 36

    says

    Thank you for this. I actually shut my photography business down for a year and a half because not only did I find my work published without my permission, others seemed to be copying what I was doing – I also started doubting my own abilities. I spent a lot of time healing some other parts of my life that were broken and began an activity, “why I do what I do”. I know that the type of photography I do is not for everyone, and it is not an easy sell either – but it is part of the journey to the destiny waiting for me, and now I’m ready to go full force. With that passion, I now have energy and time to do fun craft and art products to sell along with my photography!

  18. 37

    says

    Oh Gus, I totally respect you even more after reading this. It is tough dealing with copycats because my first instinct is “Hey!!! You totally stole my idea (and I’ve worked my TAIL off)!” LOL but like you pointed out it’s really hard to know for sure. It’s such a creative and big world, and know one will ever really know. Taking the higher ground has ALWAYS paid off. Not the easiest by far, but definitely more rewarding in the end. Thanks for the tips, I LOVE the one about taking a creative day. :)

  19. 40

    says

    Oh, Maggie. If I didn’t know better, I’d think the Holy Spirit gave you His job for a few minutes in my life today. ;)

    I was copied several months ago by a former customer who even copied and pasted parts of my product description. (She has since changed the wording after being contacted by me, though she has never replied to my message.) I felt so violated. One thing that’s so hard about someone intentionally doing this in the handmade world is that they don’t seem to realize (or care) that the person being copied is a flesh & blood person like them–not some faceless corporation. It hurts.

    Confession: A few weeks ago I mentioned the situation on my business FB page after she crossed another line. I didn’t get nasty or name names in any way, but I did vent my discouragement . I just went and deleted it after reading your post, because I felt convicted. I think this may end up being one of those “thorns in my flesh” where I have to keep running to God and trusting that His grace is sufficient for me. He’s blessing my business, and I’m so grateful. Every day I need to choose to let go and not let it rob my joy.

  20. 41

    says

    Interesting topic choice.

    Honestly this makes me think of the awesome book ruby the copycat.

    If you’re not familiar it’s a picture book about a little girl who copies another little girl because she likes her so much.

    I was always taught copying is the biggest form of flattery, a rather optimistic approach that may not necessarily suit all, but it has indeed worked for me. I agree a direct copy of a site or a brand or a word for word incident is not very nice. Someone biting everything you exactly do sucks and people who do that seriously don’t deserve dessert ever again in their lives as punishment. But people who get fueled by looking at other people’s work or trying their own interpretation of something is not bad to me. I have tried my hands making something I have seen someone else make, and vice versa. Isn’t that what Pinterest is all about?
    If anything I think as independent creators we should be more concerned with big business biting our designs… I’m tired of urban outfitters and other crappy places like that trolling handmade sites to steal ideas and then resell for exorbant prices.
    If a lady in another state or town sees my stuff and gets inspired and makes her version of it, m going to say good job to her for taking commerce into her own hands and maybe possibly keeping at customer from buying a lame item at a commercial store that was most likely outsourced and poorly made. But that’s just me. I don’t have time for negativity.

  21. 42

    says

    My copycat is really ticking me off..I’m confused as to what the problem is – she has copied my stitch markers, they aren’t as nice as mine, she sells them for more than I do and has people jumping all over to order them…I just don’t get it….Maybe I should make mine sloppy and charge more????

  22. 43

    says

    Several years ago I had an issue with a copy cat. When one of my customers pointed it out via a social media site, the person started leaving mean comments and had her boyfriend hack some of my sites (including my blog). I couldn’t deal with their negativity and invasion of my privacy and deleted everything. It took me a long time to get back into blogging and posting pictures of my projects. I’m at the stage of considering opening my shop again, and I am working on getting over the fear of getting hacked. I miss my old shop name because it was one my husband came up with for me, and it is dear to me…I still have lots of planning and considering to do. I can’t wait to continue reading your 31 days posts, and get inspired to jump out there again! Thanks for all your advice and wisdom! :)

  23. 44

    Michelle says

    thank you for the re-cap of 31 Days, Gussy. I just read this one for the first time, and I have to say that this one is my favorite. I have not yet started a business, (but still dreaming and planning) and I had always wondered about this one.
    Your advice is wise and Christ-honoring.

    One question, though. What if someone does copy your work, claims it as their own and gets their work/design copy-written?

    Which leads me to the next question: “Should every design created be copy-written before ever going public?”

  24. 45

    says

    Thanks so much for sharing your wisdom! I was having a total panic attack earlier about launching my line then remembered your series. Been going through and reading each post. Only on day 5 and I am feeling so much better and very empowered that not only can I do this, but I can keep my personal life under control as well. Thanks again for this amazing series!

  25. 46

    says

    Thanks so much for this post. I was just called a copycat last night and it was/is so hurtful! You’re so right – creative coincidence does happen and it’s not much fun for either party. If only we could all find the grace to handle copycat situations calmly rather than resorting to snark and insult. *sigh*

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