In inventing, few ideas are more comforting – and more dangerous – than “someday.” To the inventor with a product in mind, the concept of “someday” becomes a security blanket, allowing him to endlessly theorize about his idea and safeguarding him from responsibility for bringing it to market. After all, if you start now – the reasoning goes – any number of things could go wrong…and then your product might fail. Or perhaps friends and relatives denounce inventing as a frivolous hobby. So instead, the wait for “someday” continues, and the project is postponed until the inventor finally musters up the courage to see his product as a defensible goal worthy of serious pursuit. But for some inventors (perhaps many),”someday” never comes. So what happens to them? This is a question worth exploring.
Well, for one thing, they don’t become failures. In this narrow sense, their decision to indefinitely wait has succeeded in making it absolutely impossible to fail. But is this really something to be proud of? Only by Homer Simpson’s cynical “I find that trying is the first step toward failure” logic can this be considered a success. The truth is that most inventors who don’t try are not happy with their decision. Some try to forget about it by consciously avoiding thoughts of the dream they did not pursue. Others experience regret more intensely, living each day with the deep awareness that they gave up on themselves. It’s not a fun feeling, and for some it never fully disappears.
But enough psychologizing. I think we can safely assume that you don’t want any of that. You would rather know that despite all risk, uncertainty or criticism, you gave your invention an honest-to-God chance. Perhaps it isn’t fear holding you back, but simple confusion about where to start. After all, conceiving of an entirely new product, developing said product and bringing it to market is hardly a routine matter. It is very tempting to look at such a lofty goal and conclude “little old me could never do all of that.” However, this is exactly the type of fearful thinking that “someday” feeds off of. If you are going to make a serious go of this, you need to replace that thinking with bold practicality. Instead of succumbing to complexity, determine specifically what a given thing actually requires you to do. This nearly always involves breaking down huge goals like “develop my product” into smaller steps that do not boggle the mind.
With this in mind, IdeaBuyer would like to offer the new or timid inventor a “roadmap” that will make the huge goal of new product development less intimidating. Think of these steps as stages that any successful inventor passes through. As you read them, ask which stage you are currently in what it would take to keep going.
Step 1) Define your product
Step 1 is where inventors consumed by the “someday” bug never depart from – defining your idea. Nevertheless, it is the critically important step that forms the foundation of everything else. If your product exists in your mind as a jumbled mess of “neat ideas” or things that would “be pretty cool”, it will be tough for you to focus or advance the idea in any meaningful way. The reason is that our brains rely heavily on schemas to motivate us and keep us moving. It has been proven, for example, that students who see college as the centerpiece of a passionately sought-after career of their choosing get better grades than those who simply see college as a vaguely important chore. For the same reason, inventors who begin each day with a crisp, clear vision of what they are trying to create have an inestimable advantage over those less certain.
It therefore pays tremendously to define your idea as best you can at this early stage.
Step 2) Determine demand for your product
This step is somewhat less fun, but just as crucial as the first. You must determine whether there is demand for your product. The reason, simply enough, is that even the best product won’t sell if nobody wants to buy it. And few things are worse than pouring months or years into creating something with no demand. Luckily, there is an effective way to reduce this risk – market research. IdeaBuyer has an extensive, free article on that here. Read it and follow its advice.
Step 3) Patent your product
If your product survives the “market research test” – that is, you can give plausible reasons why people want it and identify who those people are – the next step is filing for patent protection. Be careful however! Work with a patent attorney who has experience working with products in your industry and steer clear of the large invention marketing companies so eager to charge you to review your invention.
Step 4) Develop a prototype of your product
The next step following patent protection is to develop a prototype of your product. Understandably, this is something you may or may not be able to do yourself. Not every inventor possesses the skills to literally create what he envisions from physical materials and drawings. Fortunately, this is not necessary. There are firms you can hire to do the bulk of this work for you, under your guidance and according to your specifications. IdeaBuyer’s “Turning Ideas Into Profits” and experienced engineers can draft up industry-standard technical drawings and develop physical and virtual prototypes based on them. This is when your idea begins to really take shape.
Step 5) Decide upon a commercialization strategy for your product
When it comes to inventing, there’s more than one way to skin the cat. Many inventors wish to carry their product all the way through completion and get it onto store shelves. This is a perfectly good strategy and one you should certainly investigate. Other strategies include licensing your patented product to someone else (say, a manufacturer or retailer) who will do all of that themselves and pay you royalties. Should the latter strategy appeal to you, visit our article onPatent Licensing and learn more about the process. For all others, continue on to steps 6 and 7.
Step 6) Find a manufacturer (if your strategy is to sell product in stores)
Finding a manufacturer to mass-produce your invention is no simple task. A new inventor with little or no industry experience may feel overwhelmed by the sheer newness of this goal and lack a firm direction on how to accomplish it. Our engineers can assist with prototype development and have valuable, long-standing connections with manufacturers who can produce your invention on a wide scale.
Step 7) Sell the product
Finally, it comes time to sell the product, either online, in stores, or otherwise. This too can seem bewilderingly complicated, but remember to think pragmatically – what does it really involve? IdeaBuyer has a free article called “Getting Your Invention on Store Shelves Within 30 Days” that begins to answer this question. We recommend everyone check it out before getting started on this step. Of course, IdeaBuyer also works one-on-one with inventors on connecting them with interested retailers and manufacturers. We are happy to talk with anyone who thinks their invention might be ready for prime time.
Someday is not a day of the week
Above all, remember our earlier discussion about someday – and remember that it is not a day of the week. Those who stake all their hopes and dreams on “someday” typically find that life has passed them by, leaving little more than longing for what might have been. Don’t be one of those people! Instead, use this road map as your guide, and remember these timeless words regarding criticism and big dreams.
“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”
– Theodore Roosevelt