Sunday, May 30, 2010

Help! I’ve been copied… by FlyTrap

Illegal%20Copy You gave your heart and soul producing a beautiful design, art, jewellery, photo or any (insert your idea here).  You feel proud of your work and got so many compliments, you decide to sell it.  Then a few weeks later, you find someone else is selling the same thing, using similar materials and evened used your images on his or her website!  You are SO ANGRY that someone is profiting from your creative genius.  What do you do?  What can you do? 

The posting shows the Etsy user name NeatThings, but I read the bio and they changed their business name in 2009 to FlyTrap.  Though this is an Etsy forum post, I thought this is great advice for all artisans who make a living or make money in the handmade products industry.

I’m not going to deny that I get inspired by others, but sometimes your work can look very similar to someone else's.  I recently made a graphic print for a wedding present.  I was extremely proud of it, until I saw something very similar on Etsy.  I must have saw it at one point and sub-consciously copied it.   After the ego bust, I felt proud again because it was something I worked hard on for the wedding couple and as long as they liked it, that’s all that matters!

This is the original post on Etsy.

Help!  I’ve been copied… by FlyTrap

Before you fly into a frenzy about someone copying your work, it might be best to stop yourself and think logically about the situation.

Sure. It’s annoying if you’ve spent time and energy and creative juices coming up with something you think is great. It might hurt your feelings that someone lives by rules that differ from yours. It might piss you off that another person is blatantly breaking the law and casting you as a victim. But a little perspective may be all you need to get past it and build a thriving business. Nobody ever built an empire on high emotion.

Instead of freaking out and panicking as if a cyclone has chosen to attack only your house on the block, ask yourself a few questions.

A. Do you have a legal case?

To determine that, you'd best talk to a lawyer (I am not a lawyer). But before you talk to a lawyer, understand how difficult it is to prove copyright ownership. When it comes to handmade goods, copyright law protects you if someone else from reproduces and distributes your work, or produces and distributes derivative work. To have a case, two things need to happen.

  1. You’ll have to prove (with far more than the date on your item listing) that you created a given item first.
  2. You’ll have to prove the copycat saw your work and deliberately copied and distributed it. If you are using materials that are commonly found (online or otherwise) and using them in a relatively typical way, odds are you’re not going to have a case.
    Also remember, two people can own the rights to nearly identical goods as long as it cannot be proven that one deliberately copied the other.

B. Is it worth it to pursue the matter?

There are a few ways to pursue a copyright case. Most people start with a cease and desist letter. You get a lawyer to write a letter asking your copycat to knock it off or you’ll take further action. If the copycat doesn’t stop, you take him to court. Court costs you and taxpayers money. Sometimes a lot of it.

Sure, you can send the C&D letter to see what happens. Maybe the person will stop selling work that looks like yours. But you might want to be emotionally prepared for them to ignore you. If they do, you’ve got a decision to make.

Here’s how to decide. We’re talking about the handmade goods world. Everyone I see claiming copyright abuse on Etsy is selling items valued at far less than $500 each. Most are under $100 each. So do a little math.

How much money is this copycat making annually off of your idea?  How much could he/she expect to make long term?

If you reasonably come up with a number that exceeds the cost of going to court (say, $10,000), it might be worth it to pursue the matter. If you’re seriously concerned about being misrepresented (and you fully expect to build a highly profitable business worth over, say $250k) and believe the copycat will cost you more than the cost of going to court in disgruntled customers and other soft expenses, it might be worth it to pursue the matter.

If the copycat has a little store on Etsy or Artfire or 1,000 Markets with little promise of building an empire, I don’t think it’s worth it to pursue the case. Instead, I recommend any and all of the following tactics to combat even the prospect of someone copying your work.

1. Consider formally copyrighting your work.

It may cost you, but if you’ve developed a really, truly unusual and in-demand product, people are going to want to copy it. Protect yourself and your work, spend a few bucks, and never worry about copycats again.

2. Innovate.

Make sure you are always innovating, pushing the envelope, and staying ahead of the curve. Never stagnate and become anything like a mass producer. Unless that’s your ultimate goal, in which case have mass-producible items mass produced and keep creating new ones in-house. Innovation is the only way to survive in business anyhow, so why not use that principle to combat copycats?

3. Expand your product line.

Expand you product line to develop completely new ideas, products, and items that your copycat may not be able to produce. If you make pillows, get into bags. If you make jewelry, get into ornaments. Go beyond what is expected for someone in your business and continue to produce anything that sells.

4. Become your brand.

Define your brand more clearly, more uniquely. Create an unusual, bold, and firm statement about your business and stand on it. Don’t be “beautiful stationery for women who like beautiful things”. Create an emotion when you talk about your business. Be, “Impress your friends with the most interesting stationery around.” Be, “Give the people you love comfort and joy”. Figure out what platform the copycat is standing on and stand on a different one. Loudly.

5. Find new marketplaces.

Market in places this person can’t see. Wholesale. Local. See if you can get catalogue companies to distribute. Have friends and family around the country scout out other prospective retailers for you. Be wherever copycats aren’t able to follow. And keep on moving.

6. Become the expert.

Get your name out there louder than the copycat does. If you’ve branded clearly and differently and simply, it will be a piece of cake. Google Adwords, publicity (lots of information on this out there), events, sponsorships, promotion, etc. Become the expert in bracelet-making with clay beads and leave your copycat in the dust.

7. Find new target audiences.

Go after a different market, different age group, different income level, different something with vigour. If your current market is mostly college women, develop products specifically for teenagers and 30somethings and even men. If you create affordable jewelry for people on a budget, create an elite line for those with a little more cash lying around.

8. Take action.

Don’t whine. It doesn’t do you any good and it makes people want to poke their eyes out with stakes. Take action. Do something that will help, don't just ramble on about your problems. Taking action may be the single most important difference between a hobbyist and an entrepreneur. Find action-oriented advice that works for you and do it. Leap. Don't hesitate.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

My Son Turned One Year Old

Andrew (2) It was a couple of weeks ago.  We hosted a BBQ in his honour.  The bubble maker and sidewalk chalk were a hit with the kids.  I think my son’s favourite part was smooshing cake into his mouth.  My daughter spent most of her time bouncing around in the inflatable castle with her friends.  Thinking back on it, I don’t think she ate anything but cake and juice…whoops.  That’s what you get when you are busy hosting. 

My brother got this frog doll for him.  This doll is bigger then my son.  To put the size into perspective, note the eye’s are above the seat cushions.  My brother publicly carried it on the sky train to get to the party.  That’s so awesome!  He’s the type who doesn’t care what others think anyways.

He also got some great birthday cards!

The first two are handmade cards from two great friends of mine.  I really like the last one, the little ship actually stands up on its own.  All three will make wonderful keepsakes.

The biggest hit was these Tomy eggs.  He got these the day before so I opened these because they were so enduring.

My favourite is the one wearing glasses, reminds me of me.  I’m not orange though.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Don’t Judge a Phone Book by its Cover

115100-magic-marker-icon-business-phone4 My coworkers are laughing at me :)   I made my first external phone call to a vendor since I returned to work and they giggled when they heard my professional persona which is a softer, more friendly tone.  They thought I was a different person.  So, does this mean they think I’m a gruff mean person?  (HAHAHA)

Got me thinking how important to know how to convey yourself over the phone.  You can’t judge a book by its cover.  People form opinions and make judgment about us in the first minute they see us.  Susan Boyle was the perfect example.  Everyone was laughing at the poor woman, and then she sang. 

People also make judgments about us based on how we sound on the phone.  They form an opinion of us based on what we say and how we say it because they can’t see us in person.   People hear our personality and mannerisms through the tone of our voice.  It’s a skill that took me a long time to hone and I’m still learning. 

Just think of how you speak on the phone, and tell yourself, do you like what you hear?  Do you want to come off as a friendly?  A tough cookie?  Or just plain rude?  It’s all up to you, you only have a minute for the listener to judge!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Google Analytics - Filtering Out Your Own IP Address

analytics_logo I discovered Google Analytics when I opened up my Origami Etsy store.  This program opened up a new world of marketing opportunities.   I’ve applied it to my on-line store, Etsy, Artfire, Facebook Fanpage, both my blogs and trying to figure out if it can be applied to other platforms like twitter and Zibbet.  (All in my limited spare time)

I got a lot of traffic!  Or so I thought. My views were overstated as I constantly visited my own sites whenever I updated something to ensure it looked right.  When you are trying to figure out your demographic, doesn’t help if 30% of the hits are yours.  Then I realized, “Hey, if this thing is so great, there MUST be a way so my visits aren’t counted”  And guess what….I googled it and there is a way!

There is a short explanation on Google’s Help but I find the majority of them are not that clear.  You can tell that the answers are geared toward professional web developers.  I’m sure most of us just wants step by step instructions on how to do it.

  • First thing you need is to get your IP address.
  • Log into Google Analytics
  • Click on Filter Manager – Bottom Right Corner
  • A new page will open, click on the gray tab “+Click on Add Filter”
  • A new page will open, name your Filter (I like to use something like – Cindy’s Laptop)
  • In the "Filter Type" drop-down menu select “Exclude All Traffic from an IP Address”
  • choose the websites you want to "Apply Filter to Website Profiles" (i.e. and click ADD
  • A new page will open with the IP address field.  Enter your IP Address in the fields provided

Repeat if you use multiple devices.  I currently filtered out my work and home computers and probably need to filter out additional ones.

Friday, May 14, 2010

What to do when you have nothing to do at work?

boredom_motivational_poster_by_thesilverthief Two weeks ago, I returned to work after a one year long leave. I spent the time with my family, worked on my online store and learning a little graphic design. Though I enjoyed my leave, I looked forward to get right back into the swings of things. My company just signed a contract with a new customer but didn’t get the order yet so I’m on standby.  It’s been a week and I yet to start on the project.  I’m absolutely bored.

I bet you are thinking, WOW, getting paid just to be around.  Many of you probably want to switch places with me.  No you wouldn’t.  When you are not busy, time passes S-L-O-W-L-Y.  I feel guilty since everyone else is working plus I don’t like the feeling of looking over my shoulder.

Well it was up to me to figure out what to do.  Hey, I am getting paid to be here.  Now I feel like I accomplished something during the day and these tasks are flexible enough so I can drop everything once we get that elusive order.  I just want to share what I did with you.

Brush up on company policies and procedures

Things change. I would be concerned if nothing has changed. It’s little dry but now is the time to learn about them. No one needs to make a huge million dollar decision within 20 minutes and it can’t be made in time because now it has to be approved by 3 managers when it used to be one.
Catch up on your reading
I’m not talking about the latest science fiction novel you’ve been dying to read. It’s a good opportunity to catch up on the latest in industry news. If you are thinking of a career change, why not read articles related to the career you’ve been thinking of? I inherited a desk from someone in the quality department and she forgot a couple of magazines. Before returning them, I actually read a couple of articles about millions saved at a rail road company based on process improvements.
Surf the Internet

Related to point #2, keep it to things related to your industry or to news stories. Don’t forget that companies have the ability to see what you are looking at when you are on the internet. I know of one law firm that the Face book addition got so out of hand that they blocked it after they determined the average daily time per employee logging on face book was 3 hours. Keep the personal surfing to your entitled lunch hour

See if there are Cross Training Opportunities

It’s enriching if you have an idea how another’s job affects yours. If you have a good idea of the timeline of the slow period. Pitch the ideal to your manager or even ask someone in the other function to mentor you for a couple of hours. Everyone enjoys talking about themselves and what they do and it’s beneficial for both parties to improve the working relationship. 
Today I advised someone how delicately write an important email recommending a solution to reduce inventory in a limited amount of warehouse space.  He felt his solution was best for the company as whole, but it would make a few people jobs a little tougher.  For me this involved 20 minutes of understanding what the problems are so I can understand the solution he was trying to recommend.   And the best part was, I felt energized because I was actually drawing from my experience and I have a clearer understanding of how my actions affects his job.

Go for a walk

If the weather is good, a walk will help your time pass faster and better for your physical and mental health. Companies nowadays credit an exercise program to increase productivity. Helped me in my case. I was extremely frustrated with boredom, but my co-workers take regular half hour walks 2 or 3 times a week. We are fortunate enough to work near some nature trails. It was during these walks that my colleagues made me realize that it was my responsibility to make sure that I created some value for myself during the slow period.  Hence my activities above and this article was born.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Introducing – My new blog!

For the past few months I’ve been managing my main blog for my origami based business.  The original intent was to focus on promoting my hobby and make a little spending money.  Throw in features of sellers whose products I like.  Something light and fun for everyone to read and give exposure for fellow like minded crafters like myself.

to_blog_or_not_to_blogWhat I’ve found that these set of self imposed guidelines extremely limiting because there’s so much more I’d like to write about but doesn’t fit the ‘feel’ or the original intent of my blog.  And worse, reading on past entries I was unconsciously mimicking other bloggers.  I’m not being original and I’m not giving the best what I can offer.  Don’t get me wrong, I truly like the vendors that I feature, but I’m following a formula of what worked for other people.  I realized that I needed to take advice that we all give to every child when pressured to do what everyone else doing.  Be yourself.

So what should I right about?  After reading other blogs, I realized the ones I really enjoyed reading are the ones who see an everyday situation or a interesting random thought and write their own point of view.  Their blogs seems to be a reflection of the bloggers themselves, not just the products they try to sell.  Origami is really a small part of me, my interests has really grown and expanded to entrepreneurship, web design and graphic design.  I’m also a full time working mother of two.   So I made a decision, I want to share my experiences and thoughts in my own words.  Let my personality show though.  I’m not sure how just yet, but I’ll take inspiration around me.    Even though it’s not the most original format, I really enjoy writing about other sellers and giving general business advice.  I just need to expand and grow. Please visit often for updates!untitled

Don’t worry though, I’ll still maintain my West Coast Origami blog.  I really enjoy featuring other artisans.