It's easier than ever to become an entrepreneur. Creative people have unprecedented access to new markets, to capital, to the public at large. Still, trying something new is intimidating. If you let yourself, you'll always be able to find a reason not to get started. I've been writing about product development online for nearly 10 years now. And really, I feel like a lot of the advice I provide could be summarized as 'myth dispelling.' When it comes to inventing, there are just so many persistent fears -- some pernicious.

Fear is really just misunderstanding. One misunderstanding is this: That you have to be successful at inventing to be taken seriously. People think that potential licensees will care whether they've licensed other ideas before. Not only is this somewhat nonsensical -- everyone has got to start somewhere -- it's just plainly not true. Companies don't care about your resume. They don't want to see your portfolio. They're concerned with the concept you bring to their attention, the idea on the table.

Don't believe me? I've been coaching product developers for more than 15 years now. Of the thousands of students I've mentored, potential licensees have asked less than five for their portfolios. It just doesn't happen. And for good reason! It's not important whether you've licensed one idea or one hundred ideas, because that's in the past. That does them no good. Potential licensees are intrigued by benefits. Does your invention have a strong one? Is your sell sheet clear? Do they get it? It always comes down to benefits. Benefits are what you're selling. Some people think, well, "Once I've licensed a few ideas, that'll speak for itself. Companies will listen to me. They'll want to check out my website." Prior success is not necessary; it doesn't even help.

That's not to say experience isn't useful. Of course it is. Especially when it comes to negotiations, for example. If you've never negotiated a licensing contract before, you absolutely need someone who has at the table with you. That insight is priceless. In my experience, the side with the most knowledge tends to win. The relationships you establish with companies (which you can also do by continuing to invent for the same industry) are also extremely valuable. But the idea that you'll be judged based on what you've done or not done in the past is without merit. It makes no difference.

If you conduct yourself professionally on the phone and over email, companies will want to work with you. You don't need to be perceived as already having been successful. Put your best foot forward, yes. Act like you've been doing this for a decade. Cite your other licensed concepts? No. They need to know you'll be easy enough to work with, that you'll help them get the information they need if they ask for it, but that's about it.

No more excuses. If you haven't gotten started but want to, make today the day.

Published on: May 27, 2016
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