How to Succeed as an Inventor: What Does an Inventor Do?

becoming an inventor

Inventors have been around…forever. But in today’s fast-paced innovation-driven economy, there are more opportunities for independent inventors and innovators to make a living from their inventions. With the increasing popularity of the open innovation paradigm, more and more companies are looking outside of their own in-house R&D departments for new ideas.

The Role Of A Professional Inventor Today

There’s this cliche notion that sees inventors as frizzy-haired scientists spending hours a day on revolutionary breakthroughs in technology, usually some kind of giant electric machine with plenty of coils. The reality is that inventing is both a career and a hobby pursued by ordinary people in all kinds of industries. Most inventions aren’t for world-shaping technology and gadgets, but for innovative products and innovative products that make life a little bit easier, more enjoyable, or more fun.

There are more professional inventors nowadays than ever before. They are everywhere around us, creating next-generation products or services. They come up with new and better ideas, improve them over time and realize the best solution to problems.

What inventors don’t often do is manage – they invent. That makes them different from founders and CEOs, CTOs and even CMOs. Running a business is a pretty different sphere of activity than developing new ideas and turning them into viable inventions. While many inventors decide to launch their own companies and transition into management roles, many continue to operate exclusively as professional inventors. And that is the world of product licensing. 

In other words, inventors are the carriers of the new innovations. Making it as an inventor, as opposed to as an entrepreneur, means living a licensing lifestyle. They enjoy being first-comers to the market and enjoy having other people test and get to know their products.

Do you feel the calling to live the inventor’s life, but don’t know where to get started? Well, Cad Crowd works with inventors all the time. Here’s our two cents on how to make it work.

How To Become An Inventor: 8 Steps To Making Your Role Official

1. Verify Whether Your Invention Is Marketable

The reality is that the vast majority of inventions never make it to store shelves. We’re talking like almost all of them. Only the most marketable inventions succeed in today’s hectic marketplace. For that reason, the first thing you need to do is determine whether your invention is realistically marketable. best way to do this is to ask around for advice and thoughts on your idea from your friends or relatives – or even get a formal evaluation by a business consultant or a university.

A good place to start is to ask around for advice and thoughts on your idea from your friends or relatives – or even get a formal evaluation by a business consultant or a university. This can help to give you a sense of your business prospects, but this is just the beginning. A fair amount of market research is required to get this right. A big part of being a successful inventor is knowing what ideas to pursue, and when to move on. 

2. Give it Some Personality

For a new invention to succeed, it has to be an innovative and effective solution to a real experienced problem. It has to do what it does better than what’s already out there. This takes imagination and creativity. But it also has to do more than that. Truly successful products connect with people. Successful products are personable, relatable, and desirable. You can accomplish some of that with branding and marketing, but it’s best if you can incorporate some of that personality into the design itself.

For example, if you like to see yourself more in the informal or formal world, giving your company a hip and friendly spirit is exactly what is going to separate you from the competition. At the same time, your own flair can be your best competitive advantage. People like companies, products, and brands that they can relate to.

3. Focus on Specific Markets

There is one truth you should know if you want to sell your invention.

It is all about limiting the industries you want to penetrate into. Instead of breadth, a lot of inventors focus on the depth of their inventions which actually makes a lot of sense. That way, they develop expertise and familiarity but also narrow their skills into a more targeted industry which they get to know more personally.

In other words, being a thought leader in one to two industries will give you a greater chance to dominate them as an inventor. The audience will respect you, get to know you and be proud of you. On top of that, you will be able to adapt to trends in a quicker way and capitalize on the power of your business relationships. It’s better to master one or two industries rather than a jack of all trades.

4. Hold On To Your Dayjob

It’s important to remember that the process of inventing a new product is a long one, and it can be quite expensive. A fair amount of investment is required to get an idea to a marketable state, even if you plan on licensing rather than selling it yourself. We’re talking prototypes, iterations, materials, possibly staff… The bills add up. And it can be quite a long time before you start seeing returns on those investments.

If you have a day job that helps you support you and your invention, it is maybe better if you hold on for a while. Having a reliable source of income gives you the stability you need to make the right decisions for your product, rather than to try to grasp desperately at whatever you can get. It means you don’t have to rush.

Holding down a day job will almost certainly slow you down, but it’s better to go a bit slower but to do it right than to go all in half cocked.

5. Understand the Competitive Nature of Licensing

You have to develop a bit of a thick skin to be an inventor. These days, more and more companies are relying increasingly on independent innovators. This is a great thing for professional inventors, as product licensing is becoming more and more common. However, it means that there is a great deal of competition.

No matter how great your idea is, you never have a guarantee that a prospective licensee will take it. You have to be ready to be told “no” and to not let it get you down. You have to keep trying through other channels or know when it’s time to move on and try with a new invention.

6. Test The Market

If you’re going into business to sell your invention yourself, you need to do your homework. The more research you do, the better equipped you will be to promote your product and adjust to the fluctuating market. This is a process you want to start right at the beginning, well before you’ve gotten a patent. In fact, a preliminary patent search is an important early opportunity to seriously analyze the state of the market for your product.

Avoid invention marketing scams. Compare your product to the competition. Identify your target audience. Figure out your price points. You only need to deep-research the market trends and customer demographics you are aiming at as well as find your best manufacturers, suppliers, and distributors. Do your homework!

7. Create A Prototype

A lot of times you wouldn’t actually know the pros or cons of your invention – until you make it tangible and official. That is why most inventors create prototypes. Iterating prototypes is an important part of the invention process. Luckily, additive manufacturing and rapid prototyping technologies make it easier than ever to quickly create functional prototypes from the same materials you will use during full production. This is something we would be happy to help you with. 

8. Be Persistent

No matter what happens, learning how to become an inventor demands persistence.

Failures are very common in the world of inventions. Not everything works – as simple as that. Of the things that do work, most of them aren’t marketable. Being an inventor is not about coming up with one single great idea: it’s a practice, a hobby, a profession, and a skill. It takes practice, it takes mistakes, and it takes effort. That’s why we aren’t all inventors. We all have great ideas, but only inventors follow through.

You should never spend too much time or money on one idea as an inventor. There may be zero interest and you need to move on. Ideas can be like your babies, and as much as throwing them away hurts, you need to be ready for it. This is the same process creatives of all kinds face, whether it’s the author editing her novel, or the songwriter abandoning those lyrics. Sometimes things don’t work — but you have to keep going. 

A Final Word

In the end, we can all agree that the drive to invent is one of the most powerful forces in nature. Whether you are a born leader or just a piece of the puzzle, inventing something can make your life turn 360 degrees and put you to a position you have never dreamt of. Ideas are easy: it’s the inventing part that’s hard. Becoming an inventor can be difficult. It takes investment and a lot of late nights. But the payoff can be huge — both personally and financially. 

Cad Crowd is here to help. We specialize in helping independent innovators and inventors realize their visions. We’ll help you connect with the engineering, industrial design, or 3D modeling expertise you need to make your invention happen. Get in touch for a free quote.