MAKE Asks: Turning Pro

MAKE Asks: Turning Pro

MAKE Asks: is a weekly column where we ask you, our readers, for responses to maker-related questions. We hope the column sparks interesting conversation and is a way for us to get to know more about each other.

This week’s question: Sometimes we have ideas or build prototypes that might be suitable for the consumer market. Be it bootstrapping, crowdsourcing, or VC funding, how would you go about turning your project into a product? And if you’re a reader who has done this, please talk about your experience.

I have a couple of ideas that I’d like to put to market, and I think the best way to raise money and get the word out would be a crowdsourcing campaign through Kickstarter. I have a network of tech-savvy folks who could contribute and help spread the word, plus if my product is good enough, the Kickstarter campaign could gain attention through outside media outlets.

Post your responses in the comments section.

2 thoughts on “MAKE Asks: Turning Pro

  1. Danny Staple says:

    I have attempted this with my robot shop orionrobots – selling robot kits, which used to be simply a blog/wiki for me to talk about my tinkerings. It has been interesting – I’ve learned a great deal by doing it, but I still have a lot to learn about business, or perhaps to rethink before it would make money. The problem with makers and tinkerers – is we tend to have a product and not a market, and the theory goes that you should find the market then develop the product – I just don’t work that way, I build what interests me.

    I have had moments bogged down in financial reporting, understanding postage charges, dealing with exports, following up stock orders etc. I have also realised that writing up my projects (which I am not as good at as I should be) is now far more important. The amount of time actually playing with electronics, or designing things is far less than all the other bits. If you found the right product and hit the right niche, you could perhaps try to outsource a load of the boring stuff, or sell it through retail channels – but then you are also in the rough market of markups and not loosing money – which turns out to be harder than I thought when I started. If you have a bit of money to try something like this – I recommend it for the learning – but you may need a lot of learning, luck or thought to consider it a strategy to retire from a day job – I am nowhere near that point.

    Other pro routes may be to actually study electronics courses to go into employment as an electronic engineer – I am less attracted to this as I already have a career in coding.

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In addition to being an online editor for MAKE Magazine, Michael Colombo works in fabrication, electronics, sound design, music production and performance (Yes. All that.) In the past he has also been a childrens' educator and entertainer, and holds a Masters degree from NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program.

View more articles by Michael Colombo