Tips And Ideas For Inventors
You’re an inventor.
Even if you haven't patented anything yet, you are an ideator and you have it in you. You're an inventor in the womb.
What defines you as an inventor?
You're probably imaginative, creative, thorough, intellectual; a problem-solver. Some might say you are brilliant, even... and tenacious to boot.
If this explains you (and I'm sure there are more wonderful things that didn't make the list), there is a great chance that you will be a successful inventor.
But when you’re new to the world of inventing - new to the process, the intricacies, the steps, etc. - you might not know what to expect or how to get started.
The only thing you might know right now is that you have an idea that can help solve a problem.
Beyond that, you probably just have a goal: Sell it. Make money.
No worries, genius friend; we want to see you succeed as an inventor, so we put together some tips and ideas to help you fill in the gaps between idea and profit.
Tips For New Inventors
When you’ve got a great idea for a new invention, the world wants to hear it; some folks probably need to hear it. So out of the gate, before we even get to the tips, just know that the goal here (at the highest level) is to help you do a few things:
But there are a ton of intricacies within those overarching goals.
Especially as a newer inventor, try to keep in mind that slow and steady wins this race. Don’t rush anything; your patience will pay off as long as you are careful.
Investing in each step of the invention process reciprocates in both the short term (your first patent, etc.) and the longer term (an understanding of how this process is repeatable).
Tip #1: Don’t Tell The World About Your Invention Idea…Yet
I received an email recently that looked like it was from Wal-Mart. Turned out to be a scammer looking to turn me into a victim.
Last year, my credit card was reported as used in Florida when I was in New York – for $4,000.
There was even a Vice President at one of my old companies who took my idea for an analytics reporting system and shared it with the entire company as his own.
What’s the point of these stories?
The world is full of people looking for a shortcut or an easy way to get rich.
They are probably heartless compared to you; predators.
Don’t let someone capitalize on your idea – who knows, it could be a million (or billion) dollar idea!
The last thing you want is to see it on the shelf knowing it was your brainchild, but you don’t get a penny in royalties for it. So try to keep your idea under wraps, especially in the early stages of the invention process.
Here are a few deeper articles to elaborate on this tip:
Tip #2: Research The Demand For Your Product Idea
At some point or another, we’ve all had great ideas…or so we thought.
In third grade I would have sworn that a double sided toothbrush was going to save the world about 25 seconds of their morning.
That was until I broke a toothbrush and glued the head to the back of another full toothbrush. When I stuck it in my mouth I realized that I was mostly brushing (or stabbing) the inside of my cheeks.
I passed on that one, thanks - It was much better to watch the other kids explode volcanoes full of food coloring at the science fair.
I was lucky though.
The research it took me to realize my invention was not a potential invention was only about 10 minutes.
The truth is, if you really want your invention idea to materialize, you'll need to invest time and resources in researching the idea to determine if there is a market for your product.
Here are just a few of the questions you'll want to answer when you're getting started:
Too many inventors skip this step and I completely understand why they do.
I get it. You're excited about your product so you feel like the world will be excited - of course there is a need, you're solving a problem!
All that time and all that money invested in research and answering questions will only prove what you already know, right?
The ones who succeed are the ones who do their homework.
Those who fail to invest up front are delivering the proverbial death sentence to their invention. As an inventor, you need to understand if the market demands your solution.
Tip #3: Document EVERYTHING
From the moment that idea precipitates, it's paramount to keep track of every aspect of the idea.
It doesn't matter if your idea changes a hundred times over, you always want to be the owner, the proprietor, of every thought that went into the invention and ultimately became the product.
So, exactly what should you be documenting?
Why you should document your invention
So...how do you document everything? Great question!
Documenting Your Invention Idea
Apart from what you document as it pertains to your new invention idea, you'll want to consider where to document it!
Despite the advances in technology and the fact that just about everyone's native and go-to option for writing just about anything is with a keyboard and not a pen, a paper-bound book with page numbers (front and back) is still the standard for keeping an inventor's journal or invention notebook.
This is the defacto and it's what will hold up in court.
A meticulously kept journal (especially one that you occasionally get notarized) will help you prove a successive, progressive trail from beginning to end of your idea.
The handwriting will be yours as well, something that can be proven in court if needed.
Why you can't use an electronic notebook or other digital method of keeping documentation of your invention:
Despite the history and cases made above, my gut is that electronic documentation will move into place as the standard for invention notebooks and documents.
If you do decide to go electronic or digital (maybe you have issues writing/drawing, I don't know...), I have two recommendations:
Tip #4: Seek Expert Help With Patents
If you are new to inventing, you'll want to learn as much as you can about patents (as well as trademarks and copyrights, but that is a later lesson).
Research should be a daily activity for you.
Patents are vast topic; it's the ocean of the invention process.
It's also a subject in which oceans of information are available...and not all of it is true.
If you don't do your own recon, it's actually kind of easy to get misled or, even worse, taken advantage of. And we all know crooked folks are a'plenty.
One great resource is always the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). However, in full disclosure, their website can be somewhat difficult to navigate and follow. It may behoove you give some folks there a call to ask specific questions (though I'm not sure how long wait time is on their call center).
Something else you can do is talk to a patent attorney.
So here's a free life hack for you, some patent advice you probably won't find elsewhere:
Most patent lawyers are willing to take a free consultation. Try to set up an appointment with a few of them. There is a pretty good chance you can walk away with a boatload of new information for free. List out questions you want to ask the first one. With those answers, try to ask smarter, more informed questions to the second one...and so on - you get me.
If you think you're ready to talk to someone about patents, we can definitely help you out.
Tip #5: Learn How To Present And Pitch (yes, I mean SELL!)
When I watch Shark Tank, I always keep a close eye on the case each participant makes to the Sharks for their invention or product.
There are certain characteristics I look for and in my head I usually rate each entrepreneur weak or strong on each (or, sometimes, just awful).
The characteristics fall into two categories:
The proprietor of the idea or invention, the presenter, should display some innate qualities if they want to be perceived as someone a Shark can do business with. Before I list those traits, I just want to point out "innate"... meaning, some people are natural at certain things.
What I wouldn't condone is trying to completely be something you aren't.
If presentations and sales aren't your strong suit, I recommend training.
I've recently added an article about pitching your idea, whether its to a shark or other investor, to a company, or to a potential partner.
To me, the strongest presenters are confident.
They make eye contact, speak eloquently and believe in their words.
When you do that, when you control the room fearlessly, you begin to command the audience pay attention to what you're saying.
Once you've "hypnotized" them, you can start to throw off subliminals (such as a nod when you want the potential buyer, investor, or Shark to think "yes" in their head).
If you display confidence as a presenter, your delivery will always go from a 6 to an 8, respectively.
Another quality of a great presenter is going to be patience.
You exercise patience by listening, absorbing, and thinking through things as you are giving your presentation.
Don't immediately look to be heard; you'll get your chance.
Slow down, listen to what a potential investor is saying, and see how you can empathize.
The strongest presentations should be stories, animated by using the brand image, look and feel.
Stories have a beginning, middle and end, and they always have a point.
Also, props should be used as needed.
I once saw a guy who invented a water bottle that opened on both sides (for better cleaning). It was obviously geared toward the athletic community and sports players.
When he came on Shark Tank, he had Bill Walton as his mascot - what a sensational idea! (Especially if you consider that Marc Cuban is a Shark...and he got a deal with him).
If you have an invention and you want to sell it, just remember that you ultimately have to sell it somehow.
You'll need to pitch the idea perhaps hundreds of times before it starts to materialize. So work on that elevator pitch and never stop improving it from there.
Tip #6: Learn About Valuation, Equity, Accounting, And Business Finance
You want to be fiscally responsible with your invention idea. I can't say it any simpler than this:
As the proprietor of an invention, you absolutely must know what the invention is worth.
Know your numbers.
And when you do, you sure better know why it's worth that.
I have mentioned research a couple times in this post, and it's a popular thread throughout this site for a reason: If you're not well-informed, you can pretty easily end up on the wrong side of a bad deal.
I suggest you do some reading about accounting, personal finance, business valuation and other fiscal topics.
If time is too much of a commodity, figure out how to absorb information other ways - podcasts could be a good method.
You'll want to be a master of numbers.
First, it ensures you aren't taken advantage of.
Second, when you do go pitch this idea or invention to investors, you'll likely be prompted on-the-spot to talk numbers. You better know them. And when someone starts to make an offer, you want to make sure the numbers they are offering are in the range you valuated your invention or business.
Valuation of inventions is crucial when ascertaining overall value.
But valuation is a pretty complex topic; this is hardly an intro to Valuation 101.
And the truth is that valuation can come down to a blend of complex calculations, exhaustive forecasts, and a peppering of plain old gut intuition.
For instance, if you can prove out that your invention fulfills and unmet need or overcomes a common challenge that seems to irk a large number of people, then you can make a fairly strong case for an economic benefit (and a good one for buy-in from investors)... but that doesn't mean an actual value can be established.
With gray areas, the best thing a new inventor can do is sharpen their skills on the financial side of things. Math ninja would be good.
Tip #7: Be Realistic. You Will Need To Invest Time & Money To Make Money
It takes a lot of personal investment to succeed as an inventor.
That investment comes in a number of ways: You'll be investing time into developing your idea; effort into your patent; money into your prototype; personal space and/or family time to make ends meet... you get it.
This isn't an easy road. But nothing worthwhile was really ever that easy.
And as much as you're an optimist, be open to the potential of not making it, especially with your first invention.
It's OK to fail.
In fact, a great inventor once said "An inventor can fail 999 times, and if he succeeds once, he's in. He treats his failures simply as practice shots."
We hope that's inspiring and that you new inventors learned a thing or two today!