What do you do when someone copies your unregistered original work?

The short answer is:  Scare. Them.

When you work hard creating components for your brand, you want them protected.  A registered copyright could be as little as $45 as long as you’re willing and able to file the necessary forms yourself.  Specific circumstances warrant higher costs, and attorney fees are much more expensive.  Still, the investment is worthwhile if you’re serious about your business and your brand.  That said, life happens.  What do you do when you find yourself with a copycat of your unregistered original work?

I have found myself in this position many times.  As a graphic designer selling invitations and other party supplies (totaling thousands of available templates/products), registering the copyright for every design is cost and time prohibitive.  Every few months or so, I will see a reproduction of my work being sold at a much lower cost.  On Etsy, they will not take any action in these cases unless you have a registered copyright.  This stance, while inconvenient, is similar to a court of law.  You cannot initiate a law suit for the unauthorized use of your original work without a registered copyright.  And if you think registering a copyright is time consuming and expensive, just imagine the process of initiating a law suit!  So, I bluff.

How to scare a design thief:

  1. Determine the appropriate recipient (name, address, etc.).
  2. Draft a formal letter on personal letterhead from someone other than you.  (If the stolen design was my husband’s, the letter is from me; if the design was mine, the letter is from my husband.)
  3. Introduce yourself as an individual writing on behalf of the author of the original work.
  4. Sound like a lawyer.  Take a legalese tone but NEVER claim to be a lawyer.
  5. Cite the infringing piece and the original work (include links or copies as applicable as well as dates of origin).
  6. Describe the specific reasons why/how the infringing work is “substantially similar” to the original.  (“Substantially similar” is the legal standard used to determine whether the reproduction rights of a copyright have been infringed.)
  7. Ask the recipient to cease and desist use of the infringing work.
  8. Give a reasonable deadline (depending upon the time needed to remove the work from circulation) and threaten ambiguous further “legal action” in the case of noncompliance. 
  9. Make a declaration of accuracy of the contents of the letter.
  10. Sign the letter.
  11. Mail . . . and cross your fingers!

Below is an example letter available for download.

How to Get Reviews for Your Business

Previously, good reviews might help a potential customer decide whether to purchase your product or service . . . once you’ve already done the hard work of getting that individual in the door (real or virtual).  Now with web sites and apps dedicated to company reviews, they can actually be a form publicity . . . serving as the driver that leads the potential customer to your doorstep.  So . . . how do you get reviews?  If you already have an established business and customer base, sure, reviews will just happen.  And they will help you get more customers, which will land you more reviews, and so on.  However, if you’re at the beginning stage of your journey, getting a large number of good reviews may be a little more challenging.  In that case, you can take a few steps to help speed the process along. . . .

1. Get your company listed on review web sites.

If your company isn’t already listed on Yelp (or whatever the review site is for your industry), your happy customer probably isn’t going to go to the trouble to add you . . . so lay the appropriate groundwork in advance.  Make sure you know which review web sites your customers go to and add your company along with as much additional information as you can (pictures, address, phone number, etc.).

2. Ask your customers for a review. 

I believe the most effective way to convince a happy customer to go the extra mile for your business is to personally take the time to ask for a review.  If asking in person isn’t possible and you have other contact information, send an e-mail or a text.  Be sincere and straightforward.

3. Ask again.

You don’t want to make yourself a bother, but one follow-up is completely appropriate.  Your happy customer could have had every intention of posting a review for you and simply forgot; a simple follow-up could make all the difference.  If, on the other hand, your customer never intended to write a review, ignoring two of your attempts probably won’t be too traumatic for them. 

4. Display a sign.

A personal request isn’t always feasible.  For those occasions, a sign placed in a prominent area (possibly next to your register) that makes the request visually can be a good idea.  (See:  Creating a Review Request Sign in Microsoft Word)

5. Include a request with your product.

Another option for a less personal request is a physical note included with your product – the more you can make the request stand out, the better your chances of getting your customers’ attention.  (See:  Clever Customer Service)

6. Reply to existing reviews.

Some review venues enable you, as the owner, to respond to reviews.  You can thank the customer for their kind words or you can try to explain or apologize for less-than-stellar feedback.  Sometimes, your visible presence will encourage other customers to share their thoughts.

7. Offer an incentive.

You can always sweeten the pot a little by offering a dollar amount or percentage off on a future purchase as a thank you for a review, which could help with repeat sales as well.

8. Offer a product sampling.

If all else fails, you may need to be willing to give away your product or service for free in order to get your initial reviews.  You can either utilize a company to supervise the process, you can informally reach out to people you know, or you can post the offer on social media.

9. Be review worthy.

This one is entirely open to interpretation and can be tailored to represent your unique brand . . . whether you ship your product with a free bonus item, offer an appealing gift wrapping for free, or send a thoughtful thank you note after a purchase, try to do something that makes your company and product stand out from the crowd a bit and inspires customers to rave about their experience.

Choosing the Right Paper for the Job

You’ve designed the perfect flyer (or letterhead or business card, etc.) and now just need to get your design from program to paper.  Which do you choose?  A lot of different types exist and knowing the right choice can be a little overwhelming.  Here’s a quick and easy guide for you. . . .

Weight/Type of Paper:

  • Business Cards: 
    80-100 lb cardstock
  • Letterhead, Newsletters: 
    24 lb paper
  • Presentations, Flyers, Brochures: 
    28-32 lb paper
  • Postcards: 
    75-100 lb cardstock (post office requires a minimum of 75 lb)
  • Trifold Mailer: 
    40 lb (post office requirement)
  • Event Invitations: 
    80-100 lb cardstock

A few other considerations . . .

The most common finishes are matte, gloss, and silk, and the choice is mostly a matter of taste.  You won’t have glare or fingerprints with matte paper, but the colors won’t appear as rich or vibrant as on gloss.  Silk is a middle ground between the two.

Brighter paper creates more contrast.  Standard brightness is 92; if you’re using a lot of full-color images, a minimum of 96 is preferable.

Balanced white, warm white, and blue white are the most common types of paper whiteness.  You can use balanced white for the vast majority of your projects.  Warm white can enhance the look of photography while blue white can enrich product images and black and white pictures.

Hope that helps!  Let us know of any questions or comments in the “Leave a Reply” section below.

New Products Alert: CorelDraw as Standalone Software

Disclaimer:  While we only recommend products we know and love, we want to note we use affiliate links and may earn a commission for purchases made through those links.

Photo from Corel

Ok, I should preface this announcement. CorelDraw being available as a standalone product is a relatively new development as they issued a press release to that effect in 2020. But hey, 2020 was a big year. A lot of other things were on our minds . . . so I figured you may have missed the news as well.

If you’re one of our loyal readers, you know we are big fans of the CorelDraw Graphics Suite, which retails for $499. While still a steal compared to competitor brands, you can now get CorelDraw and Corel Photo-Paint together (called CorelDraw Standard) for $299, and CorelDraw as a standalone (called CorelDraw Essentials) for $129!

As we’ve said in a number of our articles: if you’re a graphic designer by trade, CorelDraw is probably not your graphics editor of choice.  If you’re a small business owner without a lot of graphic design experience who is choosing to do branding in-house, CorelDraw is a great choice.  You can address all your web and print graphics needs and produce sophisticated, high-end products . . . for a fraction of the price of the typical designer preference, Adobe.  (These days, most Adobe products are only available via subscription, and their current price for their annual subscription paid monthly is $52.99 – $635.88 for the year . . . to be paid year after year for as long as you would like access to their products.  Photoshop as a standalone is $20.99 per month; totaling $251.88 per year. For some people, paying that amount for Adobe products is an ongoing invaluable investment.  For others – like us, it’s like buying a Ferrari to take your kids back and forth to school.)

Click here to read a tutorial on How to Set Up Simple Print-and-Cut Business Cards in CorelDraw.

Click here for a tutorial on How to Easily Create Letterhead for Your Business in CorelDraw.

Click here for a tutorial on how to Design Your Own Logo.

Click here to purchase CorelDraw and Corel Photo-Paint together (called CorelDraw Standard) for $299.

Click here to purchase CorelDraw as a standalone (called CorelDraw Essentials) for $129.

A Simple SEO Hack from Neil Patel

How can I easily increase traffic to my website for free?

Start your page with a question and immediately provide an answer in one sentence.

(Like above.)

Then, you can provide more information underneath. . . .

According to NP Digital Co-Founder Neil Patel, 14% of internet searches are phrased as a question.  When starting your page with a question and answer, time spent on that page will decrease by over 20% (because people are able to find the information they need quicker); however, your rankings and traffic will go up.

To illustrate how this tip would be applicable for another small business, let’s use a painting company as an example.  (Why a painting company, you ask?  No good reason; just the first business type that popped into my head.  Anyway. . . .)

If a painting company wanted to devote one of their web pages to pricing, they could start the page with a very commonly asked question like . . . “How much does it cost to paint a room?” and answer clearly while acknowledging every room is different.  For example: “A 12×12’ room typically costs about $600 to be painted, though a number of different factors can affect that price.” Then, they could go into more specifics about their cost structure in subsequent paragraphs/lists.

Can you think of a scenario on your web site that might benefit from this trick?  Share your thoughts in the comments below!