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I remember when I first saw the scene in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.
I decided then and there that everything in my house would be a Rube Goldberg machine that would make my meals, pick out my clothes and organize my day — I would be an inventor.
But then, life got in the way. School, work, other priorities, and soon I was an “adult” — who didn’t think in such foolish ways.
But now, through The Loot Chutes, being an inventor is an actual, viable possibility.
So with this post, we will go through the different processes of making money as an inventor, as well as the best practices and the to-be-avoided pitfalls, according to the testimonies of actual inventors as well as inventor hubs
- The Process
- Potential pitfalls
- Tips and Tricks
- Final Words
I’m assuming, if you clicked on this post, that you already want to invent things. If you already want to invent things then you don’t need to be told why.
You don’t need me to tell you of the prestige of being considered an inventor who actually sold product (and isn’t just saying that to cover up the fact that they don’t have a job).
You don’t need me to tell you about how temporal boundaries will wobble as you reach back and give your kid-self a radiant high-five of glory that shuts pandora’s box.
And you don’t need me to tell you of the financial pleasantries of an actuated inventor’s success in the realms of either, fulfilling entrepreneurship or total freedom of choice — with a recurring bank deposit.
So, instead of convincing you of any of this stuff, that you already know, let’s just get right into it.
The traditional route of the inventor is no longer a good way of going about all of this. There are new laws on the books in our favors and there is technology that we can utilize for efficiency and research.
The Wrong Way:
Design it > Patent it > Prototype > Take to market
This is probably what popped into your mind when you thought about inventing. But this is wrong. Bob Dematteis, as well as the guys at InventRightTV, do not suggest that you get a patent any time before you are actually making money or atleast have the market research to back it up.
The Right Way:
Design it > Test for a market > Prototype > Patent it > Take to Market and Build the business
This way makes sure that your patent fees will either be taken care of, if it’s successful, or be unnecessary, if it’s received in a way that’s similar to sticking your hand under a school desk and finding wet gum. And there’s no need to worry about people stealing your idea and patenting it because since 2011 and the “first to file” rule, your idea is protected for one year after you first disclose it and as long as you keep working on it.
So, following these steps, we’re going to outline this process of succeeding into business with your invention, as well as explain a little bit more at each step.
Computer assisted drawing. CAD.
Do you need to know it? No. Would it probably help? yes.
To get your idea off your mental canvas and onto something tangible, you will need to draw it. Start with a napkin or a loose-leaf sheet of paper, to get the jist. But then, or eventually, you are going to want to have it rendered in 3D.
There are a few different ways to get a 3D rendering of your drawing done:
If you’re going to pay for pro software for this, you’d better already have the skills and ability. Not worth buying if it’s a pain to learn and you can’t even get it right.
If you’re into the one-man-show enough or you can’t afford the outsourcing, you could get some free CAD software and try to do it yourself with less-to-lose. Check out some free CAD software by SketchUp, which I’ve linked to the CAD – free bullet point up there.
With the do-it-yourself options, you don’t always have to start from scratch, sometimes you can find pre-existing CADs and alter them to fit your invention.
Or, another option with caveats, outsourcing. Whether you’re hiring through a freelancing site (Upwork, elance, etc…), hiring an engineering firm, or hiring a neighbor, communication is key and you get what you pay for. After the first drawing you get back you will not have any idea what they drew for you. Just re-iterate and change what needs to be changed, it may take a few “trips” before you work all of the kinks out.
Testing for a Market
This is easy. Pick up Will it Fly, by Pat Flynn (affiliate link) for a more in-depth look at engaging with and testing your market.
Go to the forums and online communities of the peeps that you think are in your market. Bring up your idea to them and ask them about it and gauge their interest.
Or, for a more exact approach, create a sales page with a description of your product, maybe a video, some testimonials and the 3D rendering and then give them the option to pre-order. Drive traffic to it with advertising on Google, Facebook and wherever else your market may be. If you get enough pre-orders, it is a viable option, if you don’t, then it isn’t.
Or go the crowdfunding route and post it to kickstarter, crowdpatent or fundanidea and watch it take off or flop.
Whichever way you do test the market for your product, this is a very important step. Proof of concept. Patents cost in the thousands of dollars range. The traditional route has left many inventors paying $10,000 for a patent that they never see a return on.
With this way, you can test it’s viability without spending thousands to find out that it will never work.
You can also outsource all of this marketing stuff, if you don’t want to do any of it.
Bob Dematteis suggests that you fill out a non-disclosure agreement with the marketer, if you are still holding on to your idea and haven’t disclosed it yet, so you can milk all of the time out of the process that you can before you disclose it.
Now for the pièce de résistance.
(…)The first-to-invent laws of the United States protect us. In summary these laws state that the inventor who is first to conceive of an idea, then reduce it to practice (that is, prove that it works the way you say it does) will be acknowledged as the legal inventor. The only other issue that an inventor should keep in mind is that if work on the invention has been abandoned, then he/she will lose those rights. In other words, you have to proceed with due diligence in your development and cannot let large amounts of time elapse. The best way to track your day-to-day activities is by using a legal, bound journal.
-Bob DeMatteis, Invention Expert
(…)You have two options to protect your idea, and each gives you only a year to work out the specifics:
- …publicly disclose the idea (such as via a blog post), and the law gives you one year to file a patent application.
- …file a provisional patent application, and the law gives you a year to turn it into a permanent application.
— Maryalene LaPonsie, MoneyTalksNews
This is what we were saying before. That you have a year to file before you’re out of luck and that you have to be working on your idea/invention enough to show that you care. And in the meantime you will be testing the market and getting some sales.
So keep a record of relevant events from idea to patent if you want to be smart.
Then file your patent and become the proud owner of intellectual property.
This next step you can do before the patent, or even before you test the market, as it may help with patenting and testing the market, though it isn’t actually necessary until now.
Now you make it real.
You can do it.
You can outsource again.
If you want to do it, find the materials that you may need — and make it.
(Shapelock is plastic that you can heat up and mold into what you want. Check it out if your invention has plastic parts and you are making it yourself.)
If you’re outsourcing, you have some options. You can go through a rapid prototyping firm, a machine shop, an engineering firm, or a neighbor. As with the outsourcing before, communication is key and you get what you pay for.
At this point you have to have decided where you want to go with this.
You have three options:
- Sell the patent to your invention.
- License your invention.
- Make and sell it yourself.
Selling the patent is probably the least hands-on way of making money through inventing. Once your invention idea is protected by a patent, you can decide to sell the patent to an interested company, who will then begin prototyping and producing and marketing. You will need all of the marketing data that you got as well as your sales and potential sales figures in order to make a reasonable pitch to a company. If you go this route you will get a one time sum for the exchange and will have no more control of your invention idea after that.
Licensing your invention is kind of the same thing. In this case though, instead of just a one time exchange, you would receive royalties. So you license your patent to them, they produce and sell, and you get royalties. The royalty payments are usually pretty low, percentage-wise and especially for first time inventors, and can be expected to be somewhere around 3%.
And finally, the way that comes to mind when we think inventor. Seeing the person at the top of the booming business that invented the product that the business is selling.
For the first two, you would get your patents and market research and stuff. Then put it all into a nice package/presentation and present to companies and see if they want a piece.
Company R says I want in. You say, oh wow yeah so does company Q. Then the battle begins, the person in company R wants to show the bosses that he is competent and the person in company Q embarrassed himself in front of the boss the other day so desperately wants to make up for that. They duke it out, you mediate back and forth, watching the contract numbers grow, checking back and forth as the alphas keep pumping their chests out more and more. And so on until one buckles and you reach your hefty contract. Do this by yourself if you are an expert negotiator or lawyer, or bring along a lawyer that you can trust and who is on your side.
And for the do it yourself inventor’s business model.
Find a manufacturer and dance the dance until you’re operational. Then:
- You can go for retail.
You will need the same presentation stuff as before. Think Shark Tank, the show where people present their ideas to millionaires for investments. You’re going to want to be able to answer the questions that people ask when there is money involved. What are your prospective sales, how big is the market you are in, how many sales have you already gotten.
Come at retailers with a good presentation and see if you can get a deal to get on the shelves.
- You can raise more money
Going through investors, offering portions of the company or going through crowdfunding and offering t-shirts, trinkets and orders of your product. Raising money with growth in mind, eyeing a much bigger prize than just retail.
- You can one-man-show it
Make a website (or outsource it). And run it all through a small home-office. Manufacture in your basement if it’s a small enough operation.
- Or whatever
With any of these options it would be highly advisable to consult a business strategist.
Some helpful sites are listed below:
–SBA. The small business association. Great tutorials in their “learning center” tab.
–Score. Free business advice.
End of Part 1
That’s all for now!
In part 2 we will get to:
- Potential pitfalls
- Tips and Tricks
- Final Words
Thanks for reading!
Part 2 coming soon!
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