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10 Resources for Today's Inventors You have no excuse not to get started.

By Stephen Key Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Like products? Enjoy being creative? Companies all over the world need your ideas to compete in today's fast-paced global marketplace.

You may not consider yourself an inventor, but then again, neither do I. In fact, I've never thought of myself as an inventor, although I've been designing new products for nearly 30 years. That word just carries so much weight. I think of Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers when I hear it. But the truth is, conceptualizing small improvements to an existing product is all it takes to succeed today.

Whatever you chose to call yourself, the good news is that there is an abundance of resources available to help you. Finding a home for your idea has never been easier, as more and more companies open their doors to us.

Related: 10 Free Online Courses That Can Benefit Every Entrepreneur

Here's a short list of resources to get you started. As always, make sure to read the fine print so you know what you're getting yourself into.

1. Edison Nation

Have an idea? Consider submitting it to Edison Nation, which reviews and evaluates idea submissions at any stage of development. If you are completely new to this process and want to get your feet wet, this could be a good option for you. Use the website's forum to communicate with like-minded people. Be prepared to wait, because their process takes time.

Louis Foreman, the company's CEO, advocates heavily for independent inventors legislatively.

2. Quirky

You should also consider submitting an idea to Quirky. The company is unique in that it relies on a community of influencers to help select which submissions to move forward with. Beyond having an idea of yours selected for manufacturing, which is statistically rare, you can learn a lot about the product development process simply by observing the submissions that succeed or those that fail.

Mattel, in addition to other corporations such as GE, have partnered with the company.

3. As Seen on TV

The direct-response television industry is staggeringly large. I mean, most big-box retailers have space devoted to "As Seen on TV" products these days. It's only going to grow.

Because this industry is dominated by a handful of major players, such as Telebrands, I recommend that you submit an idea to one company at a time. You'll get a response back quickly. Most of these companies don't require ideas submitted to them to be protected by intellectual property, which is progressive. You should make sure to file a provisional patent application anyway, though.

I recommend checking out Allstar Products.

4. Shark Tank

Have you heard of it? Sure, your odds of appearing on the show -- let alone receiving an offer from a shark -- are slim, but you can still learn a great deal watching.

If you prefer to go it your own way, like I do, you should know that companies are increasingly relying on online submission forms to manage their open innovation programs. In other words, you don't even have to pick up the phone to get in -- although I still think that's a good idea, because it helps build trust. In my opinion, establishing relationships with the companies you want to license your ideas is crucial to your long-term success.

Related: 8 Great Tools and Resources for When You're Ready to Build a Business

5. Crowdfunding

I think running a campaign is a great way to test an idea. In fact, several of my students have signed licensing deals ideas based on the interest their campaigns generated. If you're going to go this route, you had better have a working prototype. You will also need to devote a significant amount of time and energy to the creation of an effective marketing plan.

Campaigns live or die by word of mouth. Running a successful campaign is a lot of work!

6. Etsy

I absolutely love this website. When I started out, I sold my handmade goods at art fairs and street festivals. Today, you can upload your designs for the entire world to see.

7. Elance and Fiverr

To be successful at this, you will need to wear a lot of hats. Play to your strengths and outsource the tasks you're not an expert at -- such as graphic design -- by hiring a freelancer via Elance or Fiverr. Nearly every task you can think of, including voiceover and CAD drawings, can be outsourced affordably these days.

When freelancers are able to make designs look so real that companies will want to order them right then and there, there's no reason not to.

8. 3-D printing

Making a prototype has never been easier. Find printing resources near you here.

9. The Inventor's Bible by Ronald Louis Docie Sr.

This book is a classic of the genre, and extremely thorough.

10. Patent Pending in 24 Hours by Richard Stim and David Pressmen

David Pressman has been writing authoritatively about intellectual property and independent inventors for years now. This book offers a highly detailed and useful overview.

This is a good time to mention that I've written two books about licensing, both of which are more strategic than how-to guides. They are One Simple Idea and Sell Your Ideas With or Without a Patent.

I'm more excited about innovation than I ever have been because inventing has truly become accessible. All the support and information you need is out there! Jump in, and make sure to have fun.

Related: How a 'Quirky' 28-Year-Old Plowed Through $150 Million and Almost Destroyed His Startup

Stephen Key

Co-Founder of inventRight; Author of One Simple Idea Series

Stephen Key is an inventor, IP strategist, author, speaker and co-founder of inventRight, LLC, a Glenbrook, Nevada-based company that helps inventors design, patent and license their ideas for new products.

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