How to Be an Inventor: What It Takes to Create Inventions Full Time
Do you have a wonderful idea — a million dollar idea — that you have been holding onto for years? Are you waiting for the perfect opportunity to build up a company around that idea, or perhaps find the right company to share that idea with? Do you dream of becoming the next big inventor, able to disrupt almost every industry with your single invention?
If you answered yes to any of these questions: congratulations! You’ve made your first step into becoming an inventor. Part of being an inventor is simply having a ground-breaking idea, and sometimes coming up with that idea can be the hardest part. However, there is still a long road ahead of you.
What exactly are the steps that you might need to take to become an inventor? How does invention translate into disruption and innovation? What does it take to invent disruption and to see it into action? Experts and disruptors all have some advice to give on the subject, but Fiscal Tiger will try to help you understand the ins and outs of making your dream into a reality.
The Steps to Becoming an Inventor
There is no exact, one-size-fits-all answer for how to become an inventor, but there are some loose guidelines that you can follow that might help you along the way. Most importantly, you’ll need to follow these steps if you want to ensure your invention becomes a reality and remains unique to your business:
- Have a very creative idea. Something no one else has considered before, and something you are very passionate about. When looking at the inventors of the past century, all of them were passionate about their craft, and always wanted to figure out how things worked. Consider how your idea will work for others.
- Improve upon your idea. Brainstorm, research, and flesh out that idea even more. Ask yourself how this will fulfil a need for customers. How will you market it? Essentially you will want to make sure it’s original, and then build a business model for it.
- Turn your idea into reality. Figure out how to build it, who can help you, and what materials you will need. Make a prototype and work on perfecting the design before you finalize a version for sale. Consider how you will receive funding (often times crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter work well for inventors) and start building interest around your product.
- Protect your idea. This step is optional, but comes highly recommended: research your options for patents to protect your invention. The last thing you need is for someone to steal your great idea and make a profit off of it. You’ll want to check out the US Patent and Trademark Office and search for patent offices and lawyers near you that can help you flesh out the legal papers.
Lastly, to help you become a great and dedicated inventor in your field, research previous inventors and learn their secrets. Many of them were passionate about their research, but many of them were also obsessive and often failed. Thomas Edison and Nikola Tesla are two examples: both driven by their DC versus AC power — the “War on Currents” — and both struggling as a result of their passion. Be aware of the line between ambitious dedication and a dangerous obsession. If you can learn from the failures of others, you could be better prepared for your own.
In the long run, your invention will be key in building your business, but how does your invention turn into a disruptive business? How can you make your invention the cornerstone of an entirely new industry?
First, you will need to understand the difference between regular, incremental innovation (about 70% of innovation is incremental) and the difference between disruptive innovation.
Innovation Management states: “Incremental innovation focuses on an existing product or service and makes upgrades and small improvements as the company sees fit. This is why you see an iPhone every 6 months and a new formula in your breakfast cereal every other year. Incremental innovation is not always groundbreaking, but it’s far more common than you think.”
Disruptive innovation, however, is the type of innovation that creates an entire new industry for an otherwise unknown market. Examples of this are Netflix creating a platform for online streaming, or Skype creating a platform for video calling. Prior to these companies, those ideas were never considered, or were thought of as science fiction. Now, however, they are staples in our modern culture.
So what does that mean for a prospective inventor? How can you make your invention into a successful disruptive innovation?
First, you will need to study markets that are similar to the one you want to create. What gaps are there in the customer’s needs? How could your invention fill those gaps? Alternatively, you could also expand on existing products, and potentially even merge two markets together.
Once you’ve created a market all on your own, and have found to make it successful, then you can consider yourself a disruptive innovator.
How Inventors Make Money
With the advances of social media, crowdsourcing, and other online marketing platforms that can help promote tinkerers into full-time inventors, many have dubbed the modern era the golden age for small and independent inventors. However — and unfortunately — not all inventors or inventions are successful. In fact, for every invention that has succeed, another thousand or more have fallen flat in their prospective markets. You can never really know how your audience will receive your product; sometimes even if you do thorough market research.
So, why it is so hard to be a successful inventor, and why it is worth it to try?
Just as with many other things in life, one of the biggest challenges for becoming an inventor is the price. Simply getting a patent through a lawyer can cost anywhere from a couple hundred (if you apply for the patent yourself) to $10,000 (if you use a lawyer). Simply getting your invention protected can require a small business loan. Plus, not all patents are the same, and some offer easy loopholes for anyone else to make a similar product with slight modifications, for a cheaper price.
However, it’s not impossible to cover those large costs and find the perfect patent, and for some inventions the investment can pay itself off within a few years. Just be prepared for the patent renewals you might have to pay, and the other additional costs that will come along with creating, marketing, and expanding your product line.
If you want to become an inventor, and create your own disruptive innovation, there’s no better time than now to get started. Encourage your creative side, tinker with everything, and embrace the challenges of invention. Maybe someday soon your wild ideas will become reality!
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Katie McBeth is a researcher and writer out of Boise, ID, with experience in marketing for small businesses and management. Her favorite subject of study is millennials, and she has been featured on Fortune Magazine and the Quiet Revolution. She researches SEO strategies during the day, and freelances at night. You can follow her writing adventures on Instagram or Twitter: @ktmcbeth
This post was updated December 7, 2017. It was originally published October 30, 2017.