When getting help during the invention process, look for these people and services
Inventors rarely understand all the issues when they are not an end user.
BY DON DEBELAK
When performing the many functions needed for a successful invention, you may need more people (and the right people) than you think.
Inventors typically have some but not all of the skills needed to launch their product. Consider the help you need:
- Someone who understands the needs of the end user. Inventors often observe a need in others, such as an inventor who notices that a spouse struggles getting items off the top shelf of a cabinet. In these cases, inventors often assume they understand the needs of end users. But inventors rarely understand all the issues when they are not an end user.
- Someone who can do product design and engineering drawings. This allows you to take rough drawings and turn them into professional looking materials. These drawings help you appear professional to a manufacturer and can cut down on patent expenses. Plus, the engineering help will often reveal flaws in your product design or come up with improved ways to produce your product. If you can’t afford product design firms, consider sites such as Upwork, Fiverr, Toptal, or Crewscale.
- Small business startup assistance. Most inventors don’t know if they should be a sole proprietorship, LLC or corporation. Try a Small Business Development Center, located around the country and sponsored by the Office of Small Business Development Centers: sba.gov/offices/headquarters/osbdc.
- Patent assistance. Before going to a patent attorney or patent agent, you can learn a lot about patent basics from the United States Patent and Trademark Office website. Check out uspto.gov/patents/basics and the USPTO’s Inventors Assistance Center. Or try a local inventors club.
- Prototype help. There are many advantages to making a prototype. It will help you work out design flaws, cut your set-up and design costs when you go for a license, dramatically improve your chances of getting a license deal, and can help you raise money either from investors or from a crowdfunding platform. You might be able to make a prototype at a library with 3D printers.
- Social media help. Facebook groups are great sites for market research and focus on your project, as well as a good spot to start selling your product. In addition, if you are doing a crowdfunding campaign, you need to know how to work social media to generate interest in your product to build momentum for the fundraising. Social media groups also can help you find representatives and retailers.
- Manufacturing interface. Find a quality control engineer or a production engineer who can protect your interests. Your inventors club might have someone, or you can use sites such as Upwork to find a freelance engineer.
- Sales and marketing help. LinkedIn is a good source for finding experienced people in a certain market. That said, I recommend someone with social media experience to find someone in a social media group.