Get All Access for $5/mo

How to Take Your Product From Idea to Reality Whether as a primary business or a tantalizing side project, product development requires specific resources and planning to be successful.

By Onega Ulanova Edited by Matt Scanlon

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Successful entrepreneurs are strategic, and know that it is one thing to conceive an idea, quite another to bring it to the market. In a competitive world, you must learn to think ahead of other entrepreneurs; it's the only way to stay on top of your game.

A guide to how you can pursue that great idea.

Non-primary business product idea development

Not every product developer or inventor designs products for a living. It may be the case that product development is a side-hustle for you, however, you should look before you leap. It is never in your best interest to dive straight into development without first mapping out a plan.

The first step is to carry out comprehensive research on the product you want to design. Online, there will likely be an abundance of information on similar concepts, through which you will see companies that have tried and either succeeded or failed. Take a notepad and pen down why on both counts.

Related: How to Research Your Business Idea

The next step is to determine how you can include such a project in your schedule. You must be able to keep track of the progress and also set milestones. In addition, new developers must learn to measure gaps in their skills and resources, so you also need to establish what you need to do to cover these lapses.

After you have learned these basics, talk to experienced developers (make sure that your notes and reference materials are organized prior to such a meeting). This is also a good time to develop a plan with milestones, and to define your responsibilities — both one-time and recurring tasks, to see what can be delegated or outsourced.

Determining if an idea is worth it

It is unwise to spend time, energy and resources on a project that will most likely not materialize. Hence, you should probe its potential and know if the idea is worth pursuing.

Firstly, new developers ought to do a proper guestimate on market size — both the total addressable market (TAM) and serviceable addressable market (SAM). Once that is done, estimate potential sales and profits, which will be a smart way of decoding what amount to pump into a project as capital. And don't hesitate to check out market data about trends that are looking upward.

If your products have already been developed, try to sell them on platforms like Etsy or launch a Kickstarter. This process is called "pretotyping," aka a pre-sale launch wherein you are testing the interests of potential customers and their acceptance.

How to develop a creation plan

Having a plan helps you achieve goals faster. If you are set to draw out a plan for your project, using a product-development map is a good idea. Also, some pre and post-production activities and expenses will go a long way in determining success, including investments in legal and marketing.

When entrepreneurs find it hard to succeed, it's typically not because they lack drive or creativity. In most cases, new ones simply lack consistency. So, you must determine how much time you can allocate to a project per week and ensure you meet that target. An additional piece of advice is that you talk to potential engineers and manufacturers to find out their lead times. This will put you in a position to establish the best moment to launch (you may decide to hit the Christmas sales season or other strategic times).

Finally, don't beat yourself up if it's taking longer than anticipated. Turning in excellent products, particularly if you are not yet a professional in this realm, requires time.

Related: Why Consistency Is the Key To Success, Learn From These Entrepreneurs

Finding development providers

Winding up with a winning product is very difficult to do alone. You need partners whom you can collaborate with, whether in marketing, accounting, sales, engineering or all four. So a next vital task is to write a job description for each of these potential partners/suppliers — a clear understanding of what you need from each of them. At this stage, make the internet your best friend: Open your PC and search for the partners via Quora, Reddit, LinkedIn, Facebook, you name it. Don't forget to also rely on word-of mouth references from colleagues concerning professional developers, accelerators and incubators as well as potential partners.

Defining end goals

Before committing to product development, there are metrics and other indicators you need to set. Knowing when to stop product development, for example, is critical in the event that an idea is not sustainable. At such a moment, pre-determined by metrics established early, you will know that shouldn't consider making an endeavor your primary source of income. You also need to estimate the lifetime of a product, and when will you need to raise additional capital, if need be. Likewise, you must determine what it means to you and your other business(es) if the project is successful.

Related: 5 Goals New Product Prototype Development Will Help You Achieve

Position yourself for success

Funding is the backbone of any successful project. Hence, you should be on the lookout for investors and clearly evaluate your monthly allowances (like spare cash). It's easy to waste resources as a result of lack of such attention. Your energy should be channeled towards actualizing goals as a developer; I cannot overemphasize that point.

And, of course, things might not go as planned. It's a given that entrepreneurs experience challenges in their journeys. There will be bad days and good days, but tough times don't last — only tough people do — so stay motivated and keep your head in the game.

Onega Ulanova

Product Development and Commercialization

Onega Ulanova is the co-founder of a product design and development company. Ulanova loves designing, prototyping, manufacturing and bringing news products to markets daily.

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Editor's Pick

Side Hustle

This 26-Year-Old's Side Hustle That 'Anybody Can Do' Grew to Earn $170,000 a Month. Here's What Happened When I Tested It.

Stephen Alvarez was working at a dental supply company and following his passion for cars on the side — then an Instagram ad changed everything.

Science & Technology

AI Marketing Secrets: 3 Game-Changing GPT-4 Use Cases to Make Money with AI

Learn how to harness AI to generate leads and increase sales, even with limited resources and a small social media following.

Business News

Mark Zuckerberg Says an Upcoming Meta Product Left Testers 'Giddy'

Meta is almost ready to show this gadget to the public.

Business News

Over 10 Billion Passwords Have Been Exposed in the Largest Password Hack in History

The data is thought to have been collected over the past two decades.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.