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Invention development is a fast-paced and risky venture that produces many highs when a new idea strikes. It can also be full of lows, especially when those epiphanies hit a snag in the planning or execution phase.
Although mistakes and learning curves are an inevitable part of the process, a truly innovative spirit can get you through most of them. But for those who aren’t sure where to start, there’s also the option of hiring an invention development consultant.
An invention development consultant is someone who provides ideation, research and development assistance to inventors without accepting rights or ownership. They help entrepreneurs navigate the path from initial idea to functioning product.
There are many things to consider before using capital to hire a consultant. Below you’ll find a few of the questions every inventor should ask themselves before hiring a consultant.
Related: 5 Steps for Turning Your Invention Idea Into a Product
1. Do I know enough about the industry and its trends?
A great idea starts with a problem. In my case, the problem was missed deliveries caused by outdated intercoms as a renter. After dealing with this problem too many times, I was inspired to fix it by streamlining property access with smarter, smartphone-powered intercoms. However, the desire to improve something doesn’t mean that you must have a background in that industry (though it certainly helps).
If your invention or idea happens to fall within an industry that’s not your expertise, what do you do? In this case, you could consider speaking with a consultant who specializes in the field — or you can do your own research and reach out to subject matter experts.
If you go with a consultant, they could help you work through logistics. Or they could help you understand the jargon and technical aspects that might be time-consuming to learn yourself.
2. Is my perspective too narrow?
All creative processes have blocks, and perspectives can easily become narrow without feedback. An entrepreneur’s biggest asset is self-awareness, including knowing when their own creative wells have been tapped.
For instance, if you know that you’ve reached the end of your ability to view your project outside of the box, it might be time to call someone who can help. This could come in the form of a trusted colleague, friend or invention development consultant.
3. Do I have enough time and resources to do it alone?
Everyone is busy — it’s a result of the fast-paced world we live in. No matter how much you may want to devote your time and energy to a new project, it’s not always feasible. You may find yourself lacking the time or even the resources to flesh out a new invention.
If this is the case, hiring a consultant could make all the difference. They can help you by advising resources, choosing a task completion style that works for you and setting a schedule that makes it easier to meet deadlines.
Related: You’ve Got a Great Invention. Now How Do You Get People to Buy It?
4. Can I figure out what comes next?
Inventing a product is one thing, but carrying it through various stages of production is different. Every new entrepreneur, including myself, faces a learning curve. With new inventions, it’s not enough to just have a winning idea. There are several steps along the way to invention fruition.
5 steps from idea to product:
Documentation: If you’ve spent time developing an idea, then you obviously want to patent it. But before you can do that, you have to document your process in order to prove your date and time of invention.
Research: There’s no worse feeling than spending time and energy on a project just to find out there’s already a patent. Do your research to make sure it’s not only a conceivable idea but that it’s not already taken.
Prototype: Prototyping is a crucial part of seeing your invention through to the final stages, and this will likely take a lot of sourcing and creativity. You’ll need to sketch, create mockups and get your hands on the materials needed to create your prototype.
Patent: Now that your idea is a physical reality, it’s time to file your patent for legal recognition. This is where some knowledge of trademark laws will come in handy.
Marketing: Everything relies on marketing nowadays. It’s nearly impossible to get the word out without some form of marketing. And if you’re not a marketing professional, you’ll need to learn the basics fast if you want to make the process worth it.
During the development stage, an invention consultant could help you:
Make valuable connections
Learn more about patenting
Create relationships with the right people to advance your idea
Keep and organize records
Related: Inventors, Here’s How to License Your Idea and Make Money
The case for developing an invention yourself
While humble entrepreneurs know they need friends, successful entrepreneurs understand their own abilities. When I was developing my company, ButterflyMX, I didn’t use a consultant, and I’ll explain why I made the case for not hiring one.
First, the internet is full of information these days, and it doesn’t take much to find everything you need. On top of that, there are so many skill-sharing sites that can help further develop your knowledge in any given area of study.
Second, passion makes up for a lot when you’re excited about what you’re doing. If you have sincere passion, everything else you can cherry-pick. For example, if you’ve figured out your whole plan but need help with patenting, find someone who specializes in that alone without spending money on unnecessary services.
Lastly, utilize your network. If you’re friends with someone knowledgeable about something you lack, ask questions and observe. You’ll find that people are more willing to help than you think they are.
The decision about whether or not to hire an invention development consultant ultimately rests on you. Do you feel confident in your ability to amass knowledge and resources on your own? Or do you feel your final product will be better with the supervision of a consultant? There are no wrong answers, only what feels right for you.