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The “i have an invention idea but don’t know how to make it” is a question that comes up often. The article will provide some tips on how to get started inventing things and getting them to market.
Please keep in mind that nothing in this post should be taken as legal advice. For more information on filing a patent and bringing your invention to market, please contact a patent attorney.
Everything you see around you was once only an idea in someone else’s head—every object you own, every book you’ve read, every app you use, every website you visit.
Thousands of miles above you, there’s an aircraft. Your bed’s memory foam pillow. The pain relievers. The toothbrush, to be precise. Your instrument, to be precise. The internet, to be precise. All of this started as a dream.
The nice thing about seeing the world as an overflowing library of ideas is that it proves that creating is a skill that anybody can learn. You can do it, too, if someone else can envision something and make it a reality time and time again.
When it comes to inventions, however, the true secret is to persevere through the process of moving from concept to product to market. “Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration,” Thomas Edison expressed best in this scenario.
So, if you have a brilliant concept, be ready to put in the effort to see it through. It’s not as difficult as you may believe!
This is where this useful guide comes in.
We’ll guide you through the steps you’ll need to take to get your ideas to market, as well as provide you with a variety of helpful resources to assist you in figuring out all you’ll need to know. All you have to do now is study (and learn), create a strong sense of concentration (think essentialism, or focusing on one goal at a time), do research, test, test, test, and persevere!
The following is a list of the contents of the guide:
Step 1: Have faith in yourself.
Inventing a product or coming up with an idea is a process that requires commitment, effort, and self-belief.
If you’re someone who gets discouraged by negative comments or quits up after the first “no,” you’ll need to focus on trusting in yourself before putting your idea out there.
According to Jo Boaler, a Stanford University professor of mathematics education, believing in oneself is vital because the “growth mindset” that comes with it truly transforms your brain chemistry. Your brain may develop and evolve by establishing a growth mindset (a mentality in which your brain is extremely active) and working hard, making it easier for you to solve issues and create new answers.
If that wasn’t enough to persuade you to join the self-help bandwagon, almost every inventor I talked with while researching this piece said that being obsessed and persevering through the inventing process was what got their concept or product developed.
“Never give up,” says Ken Beckstead, the creator of the Butts only Box and the owner of a recycling firm that generates power from cigarette trash. Others are weeded out from accomplishing their objectives through adversity. It’s acceptable to watch the Simpsons once you’ve finished your job for the day!”
Let’s get started on finding out how to come up with fantastic ideas with that in mind.
Step 2: Identify an issue that is worth tackling.
If you’re reading this, you’re probably someone who has a lot of ideas.
If you’re a “idea person,” you already know that coming up with ideas isn’t difficult. The true test is staying with just one of them for long enough and seeing it through from concept to reality.
If you’re having trouble coming up with ideas but still want to be an innovator, read our fool-proof advice on how to come up with hundreds of company ideas.
In the end, creating a product or coming up with a concept all boils down to one thing: fixing an issue, whether it’s yours or someone else’s.
Here are a few challenges and their commoditized solutions:
- Dry skin is a problem. Moisturizing skin cream was invented.
- Problem: I have to work in the dark at night. Light bulbs, candles, and flashlights are examples of invention.
- Hairy clothing are a problem if you have a cat or dog. The lint roller was invented.
- Problem: I can’t seem to quit chewing my nails. To stop you, I invented a horrible-tasting nail paint.
- Problem: I need to contact someone who is thousands of miles away. The telephone is an invention.
- The issue is boredom. Invention: a game on a board.
You get my drift. There is always a solution to a problem.
The most enjoyable aspect of designing new things is determining which of your or other people’s issues you’d want to fix. You’ve struck upon something you may wish to investigate if you can locate an issue that hasn’t been addressed or a better technique to tackle a problem.
Of all, you don’t have to solve a whole new issue; all you have to do is come up with a unique answer. No one is prohibiting you from inventing a new cure for greasy hair (shampoo).
The difficulty is to figure out exactly what your answer is, whether there will be demand for it on a larger scale than just yourself, and whether you’ll be able to compete if you’re entering an already-flooded industry like shampoo. In step three, we’ll go through this in further detail.
How to identify issues that need attention:
All you have to do to come up with a really brilliant idea is start by listening into your own problems. It’s easier than you think, particularly if you’ve been performing the same profession, pastime, or pursuit for a long time. This kind of in-depth knowledge provides you a unique perspective on how a certain sector operates on a regular basis.
Boris Wertz, a founding partner of Version One Ventures, thinks that if you’ve spent a long time working in a sector you care about, you may know something about the market that no one else does. This is what he refers to as “the market’s secret.”
Do you know what the key is to a certain market?
For example, I’ve been producing jewelry for a long time. Though I’ve only been a hobby jeweler for a short time, I’ve been doing it for so long that I’m already well established in the market. I’m familiar with all of the jewelry vendors, as well as what items and concepts are now popular.
I began looking for a jeweler’s workbench when I wanted to start crafting more professional metal jewelry. I wanted a workstation with features that would allow me to quickly reach a range of tools, one that was big enough to accommodate all of my mixed media projects, and one that was solid enough to withstand hammer strikes and the odd brush from a blow torch.
At the time, the most cheap jeweler’s workbench on the market cost roughly $400. It was both little and pricey. Instead of paying the money, I spent months seeking for something bigger and more cheap, which I couldn’t find, even when I went outside of the jewelry sector at hardware stores and wood shops.
A regular Rio Grande jeweler’s workbench costs roughly $420 now.
For those who are unaware, the hobby jeweler’s industry is enormous. It accounted for almost $2.3 billion in total industry sales in 2011. It is now significantly bigger.
So, if I were to design anything, I’d probably start with a low-cost jeweler’s workbench, not least because I’d be able to test it and because I’d already be familiar with all of the distribution channels I’d need to utilize to sell it. Naturally, during my market study, I may discover that the need for such desks isn’t great, and that the issue affects just a few people. But I’ll never know till I test my idea and begin doing research!
Naturally, overcoming your own challenges isn’t the only approach to come up with a viable concept. You may even start paying attention to other people’s complaints if you like. What is it that other folks are continuously whining about? What do your pals desire? What product doesn’t work the way consumers expect it to?
Read forums, check your social media accounts, and read reviews to find out what others are complaining about. Open your mind to all of the issues that are being discussed.
Step 3: Conduct preliminary market research (before investing money)
It’s important to verify your concept by doing market research after you’ve come up with one you believe you’d want to pursue.
There are six key reasons to do market research, according to Patricia Nolan-Brown, author of “Idea to Invention.” I’ll go through each of them in further detail and provide you with some extra resources.
1. Research the market to see whether it’s already selling and who your competitors are.
If there is competition, pay close attention to the name of your product, price range, materials utilized, what the product promises to accomplish, packaging, and who the manufacturer is. Much of this research may be done online, but it can also be done in person. Visit a retailer you believe might be a good fit for carrying your product in the future. Look at what else is on the shelves and try to figure out where your product would go in a comparable shop.
2. Conduct market research to reduce risk.
Look for patent numbers if you locate comparable items while completing your investigation. However, not every patented product is available for purchase in shops. You’ll still need to do an internet search to ensure that you aren’t stealing someone else’s concept.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is an excellent source of information about intellectual property. They’ve even made a 39-minute step-by-step video course to walk you through the process of completing a preliminary US patent search. To determine whether comparable concepts have been patented, utilize Google’s Patent Search.
Do not be alarmed if you discover a patent that is comparable to yours. The wording of a patent may make all the difference. If you need assistance at this point, contact a patent attorney for advice. A patent attorney is not to be confused with a typical lawyer. Only the latter is authorized to practice before the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
Use the USPTO’s search directory to locate a competent patent attorney.
3. Conduct market research to see if there is a market for your product.
Alternatively, you might ask individuals whether they’d purchase your goods. Make sure you ask impartial individuals (mom and dad are unlikely to be) so you can obtain honest input. Make an effort to sample your desired demographic, rather than just anybody.
If you want to give someone a detailed explanation of your concept but are concerned about theft, have them sign a non-disclosure agreement (NDA), which is a legal instrument that declares both parties’ desire to keep information secret. On the RocketLawyer website, you may make one for free.
If you’re using internet surveys to assess interest, be more ambiguous about your concept, since you’re unlikely to obtain a patent at this point. If you have an idea for a novel approach to remove cat sand from a cat litter box, for example, you may ask individuals what the most bothersome part of the procedure is. You don’t give away your concept this way, and you acquire knowledge about people’s problems.
4. Conduct market research to begin considering pricing.
You may price your product anywhere between the lowest and highest pricing of competing items if it is constructed of identical materials and does not contain additional bells and whistles. You could, of course, base your pricing on the cost of materials and manufacturing.
When deciding on a price for your goods, keep the following in mind:
- You are defined by your beginning price.
- Your pricing gives you a competitive advantage in the market.
- It’s possible that your pricing will have an impact on company operations.
- If you sell a variety of items, the price you charge may have an impact on sales.
Pricing a product correctly is both an art and a strategy based on thorough research. Read our post on how to price your items or services strategically.
5. Conduct market research in order to identify possible licensees.
A licensee is a business that agrees to produce and market your product concept. Like a book publisher, licensees normally give you royalties, which means you get a portion of each product sold.
If you’re more interested in developing things, this may be a fantastic option since licensees do all of the heavy lifting for you, such as manufacturing, shipping, marketing, and taking responsibility.
Looking for items that are comparable to yours and then looking for the manufacturer’s name is a terrific method to identify possible licensees. It’s generally right there on the package! Make a list of these people so you may contact them when you’ve patented your idea.
6. Conduct market research in order to acquire crucial information for your “sell sheet.”
In the field of invention, you’ll also need to understand how to compose a “sell sheet.” It’s generally a one-page summary of your concept designed to entice licensees, purchasers, or trade show visitors to get enthusiastic about your product.
Here’s an example of a fantastic sell sheet for a product named Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow! Wow
The following items should be included on your sale sheet:
- The name of your product
- a benefit declaration
- Illustrations or photographs are examples of visuals.
- If you have a digital sell sheet, including a sample video.
- a list of characteristics
- Contact information is required.
On the I’ve Tried That website, you can learn more about creating a sell sheet.
Validation of your concept
You may start verifying your concept after you’ve completed your early market research (likely before having a prototype created). Fortunately, there is a quick and inexpensive method to do so.
We utilize LivePlan’s One-Page Pitch functionality at Palo Alto Software to swiftly validate new company concepts. Using the lean planning process, you may accomplish this on your own as well.
You’ll need to know how to perform market research while you work on validating your concept, and you’ll need a list of market research tools to assist you in doing so.
Make use of the research process to gain a better idea of the sort of buyer your product will appeal to. This will have an influence on not just how you design the product, but also how you distribute it and sell it.
Furthermore, the industry statistics for companies that prioritize goods above consumers are dismal. Many software firms fail, according to a research performed by seed accelerator Blackbox, because they concentrate on their product rather than their prospective clients.
“Too many firms start developing first without talking to clients,” says Bjoern Lasse Herrmann, cofounder of Blackbox. When it comes to establishing the important features for an early prototype, a disciplined consumer research approach makes all the difference. Premature scaling is defined as “building a product without first determining if it is a good match for a problem or a good fit for a solution by talking to consumers.”
Make sure to scout out the competition in addition to concentrating on your possible consumer base. Consider indirect rivalry if you don’t have direct competition since your concept is completely unique.
For instance, our software LivePlan has a number of tools that make it simple for company owners to keep track of their finances. Many of our clients had to make do with Excel before they discovered LivePlan, and they had to rely on sophisticated formulae to keep track of critical data. Even though Excel is a generic spreadsheet program that demands much more effort than our user-friendly business dashboard, it is still an indirect competition since our target audience utilizes it for the same purpose.
Even if you have a superior solution than theirs, these indirect rivals may make it difficult to persuade customers away; this is particularly true if they already have market share, and especially if the software is more reasonable, or even free.
Don’t give up if you go through the idea validation procedure only to discover that your concept is a failure. Many concepts can be enhanced with a little tweaking.
Step 4: Create a working prototype (and test your idea)
You have an excellent concept that has been verified. You’re now ready to have a prototype built so you may test it. Congratulations! This is where the real fun starts.
The first thing you’ll need to consider is your financial situation. How much money do you have to spend on a physical prototype? I’m not referring to a 3D-printed mockup of your product; I’m referring to a real-world operational design.
Because you’ve been knee-deep in theory up to this point, having something you can really test is crucial. That’s good, but it doesn’t allow you to experiment with a variety of different variables:
- What are the responses of your consumers to your product?
- How does it make you feel? (You may alter the material it’s made of if you like.)
- Is it working as you expected?
When it comes to prototyping your concept, you must first determine what the prototype’s goal is. Is it to evaluate the product or to market to potential customers? You may alter your budget depending on the objective.
Spending too much money in the beginning is a bad idea. In reality, if a workable prototype can be made out of cardboard or paper, that’s just OK. Use a 3D printing firm or discover an economical manufacturer if you need a more professional prototype. More information may be found in the resource list at the conclusion of the article.
Also, make sure that the first production is done in small quantities. After all, you don’t want a warehouse full of prototypes—and what if the first one turns out to be defective? You’d want to be able to alter it.
Step 5: Defend your concept.
If you discover no similar patents or items in store during the market research phase and after confirming your concept, you’re ready to start the process of obtaining your invention legally protected.
If you’re still doing research and are concerned that your concept may be stolen, you should consider applying for a patent as soon as feasible. The difficulty with this is that it is a costly procedure, and you may not yet know whether your concept is viable. You may wish to submit a provisional patent application first in this situation (PPA).
I’ll start by going through some of the several methods you may safeguard your merchandise.
Non-disclosure agreements (NDAs) (NDA)
A non-disclosure agreement is a legally enforceable contract between you and the person with whom you’re discussing your idea. If you don’t have a patent on your product but want to share it with others, it’s typically a good idea to seek one. The NDA must be signed by both you and the person receiving it in order for it to be legally binding.
You may hire an attorney to draft an NDA for you if you need one. You may also do a Google search to locate one that you can use as a model.
Registration of a trademark
If you wish to protect the name of your fresh invention, you need file a trademark application (TM). Nobody other can use the name on identical items if you have trademark protection. A trademark may also be used to protect a logo or a phrase that is linked with your goods.
You may not need to patent your logo or even a marketing slogan if you’re intending to license your concept. The name will almost certainly enough, since the firm licensee will have their own staff to take care of the rest. Why spend money you don’t have when you don’t have to?
To get a trademark, you may hire an attorney to undertake research to see whether the name, logo, or phrase has already been taken, as well as to apply for trademark protection. You may go to the USPTO website again if you want to save money and perform the application yourself. They will guide you through every step of the procedure.
Following you’ve submitted your application and gotten confirmation, you may begin using the (TM) sign after the name of your product. However, using the (TM) emblem does not ensure that you will be protected under trademark rules. You must wait until the name, logo, or phrase you sought to protect becomes a registered trademark (®) to be completely protected. This might take many years, but at the end of it, you’ll receive a fancy-looking certificate to verify it’s all yours.
If you discover someone is using your name after you’ve filed, you may get an attorney to write a “cease and desist” letter. Usually, that’s sufficient to avoid an expensive court struggle. The same goes for your own acts; do your homework before settling on a name. After all, you don’t want to be the one who gets the letter—or, even worse, a lawsuit.
The application for a provisional patent (PPA)
Even if you only want to license your concept, applying for at least a PPA gives you “patent pending” status, a first-to-file date, and a couple of years to test and improve your product. That stated, you have one year to petition for a complete patent (also known as a non-provisional patent or NPA).
Filing for a PPA is a relatively low-cost approach to have your goods protected. This is due in part to the “first inventor to file” statute, which protects the person who applied for patent protection first, even if the other person conceived the concept years before.
If you expect the non-provisional patent process to take a long time, it’s also a good idea to apply for a PPA. This will assist guarantee that your concept isn’t stolen in the meanwhile. Given that you must submit for a complete patent within one year after receiving a provisional patent, you should begin the non-provisional patent filing procedure as soon as possible, since full protection may take up to half a year.
If you’re going to approach a licensee or an investor, you could discover that they prefer working with a product that is protected.
When applying for a provisional or non-provisional patent, veteran inventor Patricia Nolan-Brown advises working with a patent attorney. If your attorney insists on filing an NPA immediately away, be aware that you won’t be able to modify your product without paying extra (sometimes significant) expenses. The PPA is ideal for many individuals who are looking for investors or licensees, or who just want to test the market—if modifications need to be made, you still have the ability to do so.
The patent is non-provisional (full patent)
“A patent for an invention is a grant of a property right to the inventor, granted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office,” according to the USPTO. In the United States, patents normally endure for roughly twenty years.
In the United States, there are three sorts of patents: utility patents, design patents, and plant patents.
A utility patent may be given to “anyone who invents or discovers any new and useful method, machine, item of manufacture, or composition of matter, or any new and useful improvement thereof.”
“Anyone who invents a novel, original, and ornamental design for an object of production” is eligible for a design patent.
Plant patents are issued to “anyone who invents or discovers any unique and new species of plant and asexually reproduces it.”
You should hire a patent attorney to submit a thorough patent application. Because you are the one who understands your product best, make sure you read everything your attorney writes while producing the patent paperwork. Despite the fact that this will be a costly procedure, it will guarantee that your goods is completely secured.
Step 6: Produce or license your invention (or “inventor for royalties” vs. “entrepreneurial inventor”).
Not everyone is cut out to be a “entrepreneur-inventor.” While anybody may be an innovator and try their hand at developing things, not everyone is made out to be a “entrepreneur-inventor.” Some individuals would rather innovate for royalties than go through the process of manufacturing, marketing, and distribution.
Before making a decision, FindLaw recommends that you assess your personality. Owning the process yourself may be just up your alley if you’re good at sales, can manage people effectively, can properly communicate your concept to the public, and love taking chances.
Making this option might also be influenced by the cold, hard facts: do you have the financial means to put your concept into production?
In this part, I’ll go through the advantages and disadvantages of each so you can figure out which sort of inventor you are.
Licensing vs. manufacturing your innovation
The benefit of licensing your product is that it involves a far lower initial expenditure and avoids the majority of the risks associated with bringing an idea to market. Manufacturing, on the other hand, necessitates the purchase of tools and the staffing of production facilities, which means that if you want to build your own items, you’ll either have to invest a lot of money or do a lot of legwork to locate a manufacturer you can afford.
Regrettably, since licensing royalties are often a flat percentage rate, the potential rise in return on a licensed innovation is linearly limited. Royalties typically range between 2% and 10% of net earnings. When you manufacture, this isn’t the case. Manufacturing economies of scale may enable returns to expand exponentially.
One aspect of risk in licensing your idea is the likelihood of a misunderstanding, which might result in a lengthy legal struggle and a hefty price tag. Then there are the numbers to think about: Only 13% of innovators were successful in licensing their innovation, according to a research by Ed Zimmer and Ron Westrum (which required participants to self-report their success or failure). If you’re interested in going this method, don’t let the cost deter you—just keep in mind that if things don’t work out, you may have to DIY.
However, almost half of the innovators who elected to take control of the manufacturing and marketing of their innovation claimed to be successful, according to the same survey.
If you’re still looking for a licensee, keep in mind that you don’t have to sign an exclusive deal with them; you may license to other firms first to examine the viability of producing the product on your own later.
However, keep in mind that corporations licensing an idea will have greater profit expectations since the royalties they would pay will raise their expenditures and reduce their total profitability.
If you’re still undecided, consider the following options: What is the complexity of your invention?
If your idea is simpler, it may be easier to start manufacturing processes to put it into production. However, for a more complicated idea, particularly if certain aspects are technically challenging, licensing the invention to a firm that is better suited to handle those complications from a production standpoint may make more sense.
Remember that licensing an innovation requires buy-in from the firm to whom you are licensing your concept. If you are unable to locate interested companies prepared to license your idea, production may be your only option.
When is the best time to start marketing?
Another issue many inventors have when they’re nearing the production stage is, “Should I advertise before or after?”
If you wish to license your innovation, you’ll have to present it to potential licensees, and just like any other pitch, you may have to attempt hundreds of chances before getting a bite. In this instance, you’ll at the very least require a “sale sheet,” as we mentioned before.
However, if you decide to produce and sell your idea yourself, you will need to advertise it constantly. This may be rather costly. You could want to pursue the license route if you don’t have much marketing expertise or aren’t interested in learning.
Some of the best-rated books, websites, and resources for inventors are included below.
One of the most significant is the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Please let us know if you know of any more that we haven’t included in the comments section.
Maurice Kanbar’s Secrets from an Inventor’s Notebook: Advice on Inventing Success
Patricia Nolan-book Brown’s Idea to Invention: What You Need to Know to Profit from Your Inspiration
Stephen Key’s One Simple Idea, Revised and Expanded Edition: Turn Your Dreams into a Licensing Goldmine While Letting Others Do the Work is a book about turning your dreams into a licensing goldmine while letting others do the work.
Louis Foreman and Jill Gilbert Welytok’s The Independent Inventor’s Handbook: The Best Advice from Idea to Payoff
Ronald Louis Docie SrThe .’s Inventor’s Bible, Fourth Edition: How to Market and License Your Brilliant Ideas
David Pressman Attorney’s Patent It Yourself: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Filing at the US Patent Office
Michael Michalko’s Thinkertoys: A Handbook of Creative-Thinking Techniques
Companies that specialize in 3D printing include:
Shapeways is one of the most popular online 3D printing services. They can assist with design and prototype as well as printing your items in a range of materials. They even have a marketplace and a community.
Makexyz: This firm uses a database of high-quality 3D printers to create its products. You may either contact Makexyz and have them manage the procedure for you, or you can contact the 3D printers directly.
The MakerBot: If you want to perform your own 3D printing, this is one of the most user-friendly printers presently available. Consider utilizing services like Fiverr or Elance to find product designers if you aren’t a CAD wizard.
Distributors and manufacturers
Alibaba is the largest supplier directory in the world. You may identify worldwide firms that can produce your goods on our site.
ThomasNet: Take a peek at their Manufacturers’ Register.
Tip: Examine the product packaging if your market is flooded with competition. Many of them will have a manufacturer’s name on them, and even if they don’t, you can usually discover it online.
Quirky: This is a terrific site to learn about the product creation process while also having a chance to have your concept chosen from among a slew of others to be made.
Edison’s Land: This is the site for you if you have a concept that you’d want someone else to assess. Best of all, it doesn’t matter where you are in the process—all suggestions are appreciated at any level.
Kickstarter: If you’re looking to get your product made in large quantities, Kickstarter could be the place to go. Many brilliant ideas started here and grew into major businesses; remember the 3Doodler and the Scribe Circuits Pen? Best of all, there’s a free library of successful projects on Kickstarter. Look through the library to see if you can see a trend or to figure out how to best set up your Kickstarter profile to enhance your chances of being funded.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office is the place to go for practically all of your patent-related requirements, from understanding patents to looking for them to registering and managing them. This will be the “holy grail” of most of your inventions.
Additional resources include:
The oldest publication for innovators is Inventor’s Digest. You may subscribe on the site or via Amazon for a 12-month membership. Check out their site’s ABCs of Inventing section for a collection of incredibly helpful hints—do this before you get started!
Inventing a new product can be difficult to start. In order to get started, it is important to have a good idea of what you are trying to invent and how you will market the product. Reference: invent a new product.
Frequently Asked Questions
Where do I start if I want to invent something?
A: You can start by reading my article, What Are Some Steps One Takes to Create a Product.
How do you invent a product to market?
A: I have invented a product that helps people answer questions.
Can you get rich inventing something?
A: Inventing is not a category that I am able to answer.
- i have an invention where do i start
- i have an idea for a product
- i have an invention idea but no money
- how to invent something and get rich
- how to invent something electronic