[#8] How to Deal with Copycats – The Create & Thrive Podcast

The Create & Thrive Podcast - Episode 8

Whether you’ve been a creative business owner for only a short time or you’re a veteran seller, you’ve been touched by those who copy your work and pass it off as their own.

Some of us have been directly affected while others have watched friends and other crafty biz owners get upset or frustrated when their designs appear to have been lifted or not attributed to them properly.

I’ve had customers and friends contact me when they thought there was a business copying my designs (for which I’m thankful – it shows they care!). I’ve looked at those shops and thought they looked eerily similar to mine.

Do you know what I did?

I clicked away and never thought about those shops again.

There are ways to deal with copycatting and it’s always on a case by case basis. For me, I didn’t want to waste my time chasing someone who may have been copying my work when I could be focussing my passion on my own business and my loyal customers. I’m thankful to those people who brought it to my attention – because it shows they care. But my choice was not to engage with the copycats.

There are three types of people who copy you and your reaction is going to be different in each instance:

  1. DIYers or Pinterest pinners
  2. Another business like you
  3. Corporations

There are ways to deal with each of these types of people or businesses when you think they may be copying your work and I discuss them in some detail in this week’s instalment.

If you are having a problem with copycats, listen in for my advice on how to approach it and protect your business, reputation and sanity.

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Fuel for your fire.



Quotes and Highlights from this Episode:

  • Copying is a touchy subject, especially in the handmade community
  • A DIYer or a pinner may share your work and would say something like ‘I’d love to make this’ or blog post about how to make a particular thing.
  • Our first instinct is instant reaction against it and that’s ok and normal.
  • People who will copy and make your items for personal use will never be your customer.
  • If you see somebody sharing your work without attribution – jump on and say “so glad you liked my design, here’s my website.”
  • e.g. A member of the Thriver Circle had a photo posted on another person’s account without attribution. The Circle advised them to jump on there and say thanks for sharing and post her own website of where to buy it.
  • “Nobody likes negativity, so take the high road and know it’s not going to hurt your business if you take the right path”.
  • If it’s another business like you, don’t ever accuse someone of copying your work unless you are absolutely sure.
  • Approach them privately and personally and be friendly and positive but ask why it seems that they are copying your designs.
  • Tell them you’ve noticed this happening and document the times and dates and give examples. If you’re 100% sure that they are copying you – then you should be able to find clear examples.
  • Get screen captures of the events – otherwise they may go and delete all the evidence and then come back and say they don’t know what you’re talking about.
  • Think very carefully if you want to make this public.
  • Is the fact that this person is copying you, hurting your business?
  • “Is the cost of embroiling yourself in that issue publicly worth the backlash and negativity that might come out of it?”
  • Corporations who steal from you should be held to account, again, if you can 100% prove they copied your work.
  • It must be something that is distinctive enough and have evidence that you started making it first and there is no way they could have come up with that design themselves.
  • “You’re fighting the good fight for all of us by standing up to those who are stealing from the little people. It’s completely unethical and really, really uncool.”
  • My jewellery designs are sleek and simple. They aren’t a photograph or a print or a piece of art which is really obvious is someone copies me.
  • “I don’t care that I think they might be copying me because in the long-run, they don’t have a sustainable business.”
  • It could be that you’ve just come up with similar designs.
  • “Let it go” (I know you just heard that Frozen song in your head… sorry!)
  • “If you can’t let it go. Use it as fuel for your passionate fire. Use that fuel to come up with new designs for your business. In the end that’s all you have control over.”
  • It’s really important to find that micro-niche. That slice of the market that is yours, that you can dig down on and who love what you do and want to buy what you do.
  • It doesn’t matter what those others are doing, what matters is what YOU are creating.


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Van Den has written 388 posts in this blog.

Jess Van Den is the editor of Create & Thrive, and has been a full-time creative entrepreneur since 2010. She makes eco-conscious, contemporary, handmade sterling silver jewellery under the Epheriell label, and blogs about her jewellery and other beautiful things at Epheriell.com. You can catch her on twitter @JessVanDen.



Best episode Jess, could not have come at a better time for me. Last week I found a “business” on Instagram with a tea light holder so similar to mine, it’s a very simple design but the dimensions and shape were just so similar. I went to my notebook of orders that I learnt to keep from doing set up shop and found this person had ordered my item a couple months ago. I believe they made a silicone mold and replicated my item 100% But, they only have 200 or so followers and seem to only post on weekends which tells me it’s a hobby “business” and I decided to let it be. Your podcast has totally reaffirmed for me that it’s better to take the high road and concentrate on my own business and developing new designs. I will however be keeping an eye on them from time to time just incase and if they were to order from me again I think I might feel inclined to say something.


Brooke, I think you’ve done exactly the right thing. Gathering the evidence, and just sitting with it so that if they try the same trick again, you can call them out on it, and not let them order from you again. And then putting it out of your mind and focusing on making your business even more awesome than it already is! 🙂


This is so topical! I ran into an old friend at a photo show today, and we had both noticed another entry was copying one of her 360-degree panoramas. Then we found out it was a photography student, so she figures the best way to handle it is to have a chat with the artist at a reception to see why she did it — and see if she wants to work as an assistant.

If any of your followers are in California, there’s an organization called California Lawyers for the Arts that helps artists who need help with copyright issues (as well as contracts etc.) and can help with a lot of things pro bono. I know people who’ve used them and been very happy.

One thing to keep in mind is that if someone is serious about copyright, such as a colleague who makes a very specific item and trademarked it and all, if you let people copy and sell things you may lose your rights to sue for major infringement–such as when a major craft store chain copied it. I don’t know how much she wants said about this, but the item and its marketing was clearly infringing. (And of course the copycat store is one of my major local suppliers for stuff like paint. Sigh.)

Carla Taylor

Hi Jess,

I thought your podcast was great!

I have only been selling my work for a year and so have thankfully not had this problem yet but have seen many other artists go through this and have felt so sorry for them.

I think this is a great way to deal with the issue and direct your energy in a positive way in to your business.

Thank you for sharing.

The Mousehole Woolery

Lisa Smallridge

Excellent podcast, thank you. You’ve hit the nail on the head with your comments, and sometimes we need to hear those comments over and over again. Often it’s the feelings of betrayal and anger and outrage that are the hardest to “put aside” – especially when we feel that we have been taken advantage of. However, your sensible, practical advice is the smartest way to proceed – concentrate on improving your own business and product, don’t enter into negative public discourse (even if you Know you are right), and stay positive. Cheers, Lisa from SunsetSeams.com.

What say you?