Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Wonder Why Wednesday

This month I'm devoting 3 Wednesdays to answering questions posed by people who have visited this blog or have seen my links to this feature on Facebook or Twitter. I wanted to try this to see if it caught on in the hopes of making it a permanent feature. Response has been "okay" but I'd really like to see it improve and I'm hoping that by reading this first in the series post, that you'll be encouraged to submit your own curiosities or queries for information about crafting and/or owning a craft business. I'm happy to answer questions about techniques, but please don't ask me to explain how to copy someone else's designs. If you'd like to know how I created one of mine own pieces, that's a different story. I'm happy to share basic design ideas and I'd love to see what you could derive from them. But keep in mind that I'd expect you to feel the same way :)

So please, don't be shy - and feel free to ask any questions you like about this handmade world. If I can't personally give you an educated opinion on a question or topic, I have several people in many different crafting areas as well as computer/website gurus that I can direct your questions to for a response to be posted here!

I've tried to pick a variety of questions out of the ones I've received, and in the case of duplicate questions, I randomly chose which one would actually be posted.

1) Diana asked, "What's the best way to handle someone who copies your work? I have a copyright on it. "

Ack. Copyright, trademarks, patents. The bane of the handcrafted world and a very complex and misunderstood subject. I guess the first question I'd ask is "What are they copying?" In my case, if I had put together a very intricate beaded necklace and they copied it down to the bead and then turned around and sold it, claiming the work was original, I might have a claim against them, but not for copyright infringement.

From what I've been told by legal counsel, by law, you can't claim a copyright to an idea since copyright currently only protects items which are presented in print form and some forms of sculpture (not the artistic type though, more like industrial molds). So unless they're copying 2D artwork or a literal piece or a written pattern you've put into print, it'd be hard to do much about it. Even with the copyright laws that are in place, there are caveats for fair use, use in reviews, and derivations that protect someone that you feel might be copying your work. So, unless you really feel the need to lay claim to something spectacular that you've created and you're able to prove that it is truly unique, in my humble opinion, it's best to put them on your own personal "do not buy" list, and bless it and let it go. (and maybe be privately flattered that they felt your work was so great that they wanted to copy it in the first place!)

Keep in mind that you can however, trademark a design that sets your work apart from others (this is how the people that do those knock-offs can get in a heap of trouble) . You can also file for a patent for an invention of a device that serves a functional purpose. Unfortunately getting a trademark or patent is a long, and often expensive process that most people can't afford to go through. If you have concerns and feel it's important enough to want to pursue a legal case against someone, check with an attorney and make sure you have good cause first.

2) Jaymie asked, "How do you get noticed on Etsy? There's just so many shops there."

If you list items for sale on any website expecting people to magically find you, chances are good that you're not going to be successful. I believe the rules are pretty much the same on Etsy that they are anywhere you sell. Make products that appeal to the demographic you want to sell to. Make sure your photos are bright, clear, and display your items from all angles. Be visible - post in the forums or comment on the Storque, make treasuries, blog, tweet, have a business page on Facebook. And visit other people's treasuries, blogs and facebook pages and leave your mark with a message or comment. Tweet about your shop, but mention your favorite finds from other shops too. Join a team. Engage yourself in the community and leave your fears in the closet.

This is definitely a proactive world to be part of and the more you put into it, the more you're likely to get out of it. One word of caution though - don't get "stuck" and don't dwell too much on anything any one person says. If you start out with one look or style for your shop or blog or whatever, but it really doesn't fit what you're selling, consider changing it. But don't base changes on one person's opinion. Ask for critiques. Poll team mates or blog followers. Pull it all together and try incremental changes rather than one huge one. (Although I think the one major revamping I did helped a great deal - I changed how everything looked!) The more time and energy you put into getting noticed, the more noticed you will be!

3) Mary asked, "Someone told me I needed a business license to sell on Etsy, but they didn't ask for one when I signed up. Do I really need one?"

Most likely, yes. Check with your local government offices to find out what you need to conduct business online from your home. Where I live, I need a city license and a state license which is actually a license to conduct business from my home and collect sales tax. You may wonder why they would care about what you're doing in your own home, but they consider issues like traffic, mail delivery, etc., in residential areas - and not all areas even allow businesses that produce and stock physical products to be conducted from a residence. Better safe than sorry - so check first!

4) Cindy asked, "How come you show so many items from Etsy and so few from the other handmade sites?"

Mostly because I have more people approaching me from Etsy when I ask for items to show. I probably get 1 nomination from someone on Artfire or Zibbet for every 25 I get from an Etsian. I'm an equal-opportunity I actually go out of my way to make sure that I represent other markets and independents as much as I can as long as they meet my criteria!

5) Debby asked, " Where did you come up with the idea for your shopping mall page?"

I was running out of room on my home page for all of the information that I wanted to post on my blog, so I hunted down information on how to create pages and a menu and then tried to figure out what I could move onto those pages. Since I was also implementing some home page ad space at the same time, I thought maybe putting together a page with a group of smaller, less expensive ads might be an interesting concept... and of course when you put a bunch of shops together in one spot, you have (voila!) a mall! And my MW Mall was born. A few more shops and I'll be considering grouping them by what they're selling or where they're located, but I haven't decided exactly how to handle that one yet. (I'd love your opinions!)

Alrighty, that's it for this week's questions. Remember that these are my opinions and thoughts based on my personal experience and the resources available to me at the time of this writing. If you have any questions you'd like to have answered, please click on the "Contact me" link in the page menu and send them to me. Your question may just appear in next Wednesday's post!

I'll be back tomorrow with some adorable cat themed goodies for all of you cat lovers out there! (Even if you're not a cat lover, I have some fun items that are sure to put a smile on your face!) I still have some room in the post, so if you have anything you'd like featured, just let me know! I'll be happy to look at anything from your own shop or your favorite handcrafted items from another shop!

Thanks for stopping by! Have a great day - and before you go, leave me a comment because I'd love to know - What do you think of this question and answer post?


niftyknits said...

I like your answers - in particular, I like the caveat about critiques, not to take one person's opinion but to seek more.

Beth said...

Geez, now I am trying to think of a good question... Ah! Hmmm... Oh, nevermind! Love the new Wednesday Wonder Why!!

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