Are you new to inventing? Have you just had your first (or fifth) aha idea?
Welcome! I'll bet you are asking, “How do I get started? What should I do first?
Don't forget. Grab your free PDF – 4 Books for Inventors – now.
Inventing: A Journey Without a Map or GPS
The dilemma is that inventing is a creative endeavor for which there is no clearly defined ‘correct' path to follow moving forward. It is a bit analogous to leaving Los Angeles to drive to Miami without a map or GPS to guide you on your trip.
So, you look for a popular, well-traveled route to follow.
There's I-5, let's give it a try. Two days later, you arrive in Seattle and you get the sense you're going in the wrong direction: you're still on the west coast – and you are much further north than Miami. That can't be right! You switch onto I-90 and head eastward. Three days later, you arrive in Minneapolis – it seems closer to Miami than you were, but it is too cold, you need to head further south.
Next, you take I-35 south and 3 days later you find yourself in San Antonio where it is much warmer and further south, but you are still a long ways from Miami, so you decide to head east on I-10 (your best decision so far) and 2 days later, you are in Jacksonville. Finally, you swing onto I-95 south and a long day later you arrive in Miami.
What is the point of this story?
My point is that most inventors find themselves in a similar dilemma with their inventing journey. They have a general sense as to where they'd like to go, but no clue where to start and what to do first. So, let's get you off to a good start on your inventing journey.
I'm going to give you a metaphorical map to guide your endeavors.
Step 1: First Find Your Why
Simon Sinek wrote an excellent book titled Start With Why. Check it out by grabbing the free PDF.
To paraphrase the book, Sinek says that most people and companies focus on what they do, many can explain how they are better or different, but most really don't know, specifically, why they are doing what they do. They have it in reverse, instead of focusing on what they do and telling their customers all about it, they first must determine their why, then the what and how will follow naturally. Apple has always been laser focused upon their why and it is in all of their advertising such as, Think Differently.
As an inventor, you must first discover your why before you do anything else.
Why are You Choosing to Invent? Are You a Tinkerer… or an Inventor?
Are you a tinkerer?
Tinkerers tend to enjoy fixing things that are broken or perhaps making tweaks or improvements to things to make them work better in some way. Their why is simply that they enjoy the challenge of seeing the way things work, then making them work just a bit better or differently.
They are typically weekend warriors, not looking to change the world, just wanting to change some aspects of their personal lives with items that work a bit better. They are not going to spend thousands of dollars in pursuit of their tinkering endeavors. My dad was very much a tinkerer his entire life.
Perhaps you are truly an inventor – a person who doesn't just tinker with a few items for personal fulfillment, but, instead sees a bigger picture.
You may really want to change the world, at least in a small way – much as I did by inventing a better thin, flexible wallet that holds lots of cards, but is comfortable to sit on. It just works better and makes people's lives a bit more enjoyable and comfortable.
As an inventor, you want to create something that solves a problem for thousands or millions of people. It is about something much bigger than you and your world. So, you are willing to commit a lot of time and a lot of money (within your budget limitations) to get your invention out there into the world for others to use and enjoy.
Lastly, you wish to profit from your endeavors. If you truly solve a problem in an elegant, simple way for millions of people, then you should enjoy a lucrative profit as a result.
As an inventor, you will choose to follow a much different course than will a tinkerer like my father was.
Step 2: Pick Your Path … and Commit to It
There are two paths forward for a serious inventor like you to profit from your invention: either to venture your product or to license it.
When you venture it, you choose to do it yourself (DIY) – everything from setting up manufacturing, packaging, marketing, coordinating all shipping, distribution, etc. It can be an Herculean task. I know, because I did precisely that with my thin wallet invention – then called Savvy Caddy – for over 8 years. I truly didn't know what I was getting myself into when I first chose to venture my product.
After 3 years, attempting to license it wasn't going well, so I simply decided to switch courses and ‘make some wallets and test the market.' It led me to take my invention onto QVC and to subsequently leave my job and become a full-time inventor. I didn't realize what a huge challenge it would be to make a living from selling a $30 product. I was soon working 7 days a week, very long hours, just to pay the bills each month – not a fun journey.
When you license your invention, it is a completely different choice from venturing.
When you license your invention, you turn the reins over to a large company in exchange for receiving a royalty check. The royalty is typically a small percent of wholesale sales – perhaps 5% – that the company (the licensee) will pay you each quarter. They have many years of manufacturing expertise, pricing and packaging knowledge, plus distribution already established with key retail stores. It is easy for them to simply offer all their retailers and new product.
In the process, you must agree to relinquish a bit of control. Your licensee may choose to use cheaper materials for your product. They may package it differently, call it a different name, and price and market it quite differently than you would.
But, in the process, you may gain a degree of time freedom few people have. If the product is successful in the marketplace, you will receive a royalty check every quarter without having to do anything except to check your mailbox. You can use your time however you like – to invent other products and, in some cases, you may be able to quit your job if you choose to do so.
When I licensed my product to Allstar Products in 2015, it was a game changer for me. While I had previously struggled to sell about 30,000 units, Allstar sold over 1 million Wonder Wallets during the first year of production. It freed up my time to take some nice vacations and to develop an e-commerce business to help other inventors.
Step 3: Stay the Course
I lost years of time in the wilderness because I simply did not know my why in the beginning and I was way too focused on the what and the how.
Every time what I had been doing didn't seem to be moving the needle in my favor (this happens a lot for inventors), I decided to try something else. I always knew, honestly, that my true goal was to license my thin wallets. But, when I ran into setbacks and no one seemed interested, I changed gears and decided to manufacture and venture my product.
Only years later was I able to tack back towards licensing via DRTV (direct response TV) and then to successfully license my invention to Allstar Products as the Wonder Wallet.
I wrote this lengthy blog post in hopes that you might avoid spending years seeking a destination without a map or GPS as I did.
- Spend time in the beginning and discover your why.
- Then pick your path (licensing or venturing) and commit to it.
- Finally, stay the course. Don't give up just because it is difficult and there are many setbacks.
Don't forget. Grab your free PDF – 4 Books for Inventors – now.