What’s the difference between “Commercial” and “Personal Use” Files?

If you have been around the crafting world for a minute, you may have come across the terms personal and commercial use in the crafting groups. Some files, fonts, and mockups come with commercial use while others come with personal use only. While they may seem pretty straightforward, I want to take a moment and really elaborate on why this, as it is important to know and why you should always spring for commercial use when you can.

Personal use, as the name states, is created for you to use personally. You can make yourself a shirt, sign, or decal with the files.

You can not SELL the physical end-product and there can be NO money exchanged once the project is done.

Commercial use means that you have the ability to create a physical end-product in exchange for money. This means you can sell at the local flea market, you can put your items on Etsy, you can use those stock photos in your shop social media accounts to drive traffic to your business. Anything that will even fit your business at the end of the day, the commercial use will save you!

Bad Scenario

So why should you look out for a commercial use license as opposed to personal? GROWTH. If you begin your crafting journey by only collecting personal use files, you could be limiting yourself later. Picture this, one crafty Christmas, you have DIY-ed everyone’s holiday gifts. The hoodie you gave to your Aunt Carol gets some serious attention at her book club and now everyone there NEEDS it, but the file was personal use. Technically (legally and morally) you can not sell the hoodie because “DigitalSuzieQ” only gave you a personal license and before you ask – yes “accepting donations” counts as making money – don’t bring that bad crafting karma on yourself!
What can you do in this scenario? Well, you’ll have to check the design site to see if you have the ability to purchase the commercial use file. Oftentimes they will (probably for around $3) but they might not – or worse you don’t remember who you got it from! [Check out this FREE gift to help you keep track of all your downloads!]

What if we had Commercial Use?

Now play that same scenario but this time, your amazing digital collection is nothing BUT commercial use files. You can immediately start selling to your heart’s content and stack that money with Carol’s book club. So while this scenario is a little silly, it does happen! A simple post of “check out what I did this weekend!” can blow up to having 20 orders and now everyone is looking at you wanting to know if you can make that but add sparkles.
Even if you start with the thought of just making for yourself, you never know what might change. Take our recent pandemic for example. When the world shut down, some turned their hobby into a serious business! So while you may not think you need it right now, if you can help it, find those files with commercial use. Your future self will thank you.
NOTE – Now, I feel silly bringing this up, but I do want to clear up a common misunderstanding about commercial use licenses. Commercial use does NOT give you permission to resell the design itself as your own. You can not profit on the design in this way. Even giving away a freebie you can not do that.
The design, when you download it, is for you and you alone. You can not share that. You can create physical products from the file but you can not sell the file itself. You may think it’s not a big deal, but as a designer myself, I have to say, please – support our designer besties. They put their effort into the design that they are selling for 3 dollars. If someone you know wants the design, direct them to the site to download from the original party. Even free files, direct them to the right spots – please <3.
I hope this helps in clearing up the difference between commercial use and personal use. You can find sites here that offer commercial use even FREE commercial use files!
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